Saunders is above political influence, says York

The retired Ontario judge chosen by York University to review the sale of University lands is a member of  the same legal firm as the University’s chancellor, reported the Toronto Star March 16. Both the retired Ontario judge, Edward Saunders, and York’s chancellor, Peter Cory (a retired Supreme Court of Canada justice), are affiliated with the Toronto law firm Osler Hoskin & Harcourt’s dispute resolution centre. While nobody is questioning Saunders’ credentials, some York academics say his appointment is not the independent review the university promised, the Star reported.

York media relations director Nancy White said Wednesday: “Mr. Saunders will continue to undertake this impartial and independent review and will arrive at his own conclusion.” White said Saunders “has reached the highest level of Canada’s judicial system by being above political influence.” Saunders and Cory are respected jurists, admired for their time on the bench.

Economics Professor and University senator Ricardo Grinspun said he hopes to raise the issue at the March 24 senate meeting, reported the Star.

David Noble, social science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed Saunders’ appointment, on CBC TV’s “Canada Now” in Toronto March 15.

Auditor general says she’s no watchdog

“I am not a government watchdog,” Auditor General Sheila Fraser told a luncheon meeting of the Canadian Club in Winnipeg Tuesday, reported Canadian Press March 15. Nor is it her job, Fraser said, “to expose waste or so-called boondoggles.” Instead, Parliament is the watchdog and the major role of her office is to give parliamentarians “unbiased information on how programs are delivered and how they can be delivered better.” Ian Greene, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, said the abuses Fraser exposed in the sponsorship scandal were so blatant that many Canadians now look to her as someone who will expose and rectify all government waste and corruption. “That’s really far beyond her role,” Greene said. “She can’t be that saviour.”

Little attention paid to monitoring drug safety, says prof

Health Canada doesn’t keep a list of drugs removed from the market for safety reasons, nor is there clear information on what should trigger a safety withdrawal, says Dr. Joel Lexchin in a commentary published Tuesday in Canadian Medical Association Journal, reported Canadian Press March 15. The CP story about Lexchin’s findings was picked up by regional newspapers and CBC Radio news programs across Canada.

The lack of information underscores how little attention is paid to monitoring drug safety after a product is approved for sale in this country, Lexchin said. ”We have no good mechanisms for looking at the safety of drugs once they hit the mass market,” said Lexchin, a professor at York University’s Atkinson School of Health Policy and Management. ”And maybe the products are safe, or relatively safe. Maybe they’re not. We don’t know. And that should disturb us all.”

Transparency is relative

“You can always pick pluses and minuses for any report,” says Robin Schwill, a bankruptcy lawyer who teaches financial statement interpretation at York’s Schulich School of Business, reported Canadian Business March 14 in a story about annual reports. Schwill added that different investors will have different information requirements. “When people call for transparency in financial reporting, the big question is: Transparency for whom?” He also noted that even if the quality of corporate reporting suddenly improved, many investors wouldn’t take advantage of it. “The reality is that few investors actually read annual reports,” said Schwill.

On air

  • Andrea O’Reilly, director of York’s Centre for Research on Mothering, discussed myths and truths surrounding motherhood, on TVO’s “More to Life” March 15.
  • Alexandra Rutherford, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, talked about a University of Alberta study suggesting the size of men’s fingers decides their personalities, on Citv-tv’s “News at Five” in Edmonton March 15.
  • Judy Hellman and Stephen Hellman, political science professors in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed the role of monarchy in Canada, on OMNI Television’s “OMNI News: Italian Edition” in Toronto March 15.