Why we can ‘feel’ spring’s arrival

We know that the arrival of spring is not just a date on the calendar, reported the Toronto Star March 20. People “start to shake off winter and look forward to feeling better,” said Rick Bello, a climate geographer in York’s Faculty of Arts. But what’s really happening to us when we feel as if we’re ready to bloom? Most obvious is the sun’s heat. By mid-March, it’s intense enough that a cold Arctic air mass doesn’t pack the punch it did December or January. A less obvious signal is the sky is a paler shade of blue. That’s because warm air holds more moisture than cold. The moisture creates a haze that scatters sunlight, Bello said. We react, too, to the pace of weather change in spring, said Bello. “It may be that our sense of spring has something to do with the rapidity with which things are changing,” said Bello. “You’re sort of being forced to accept that tomorrow will be very different from today for many, many days.”

 Star welcomes York investigation of land deal

York University’s Board of Governors has taken a welcome step to deal with a recent controversy stemming from the sale of unused land, said a Toronto Star editorial March 21. “York’s board has appointed Edward Saunders, a highly respected retired Ontario judge, to undertake a private investigation of the 2002 land sale.”

As he undertakes his probe, the Star continued, “The review is a positive step; Saunders is a former judge with an unimpeachable reputation. Unfortunately, he also happens to be a colleague at the same law firm as York’s chancellor, Peter Cory, who is also a retired Canadian Supreme Court justice. They are undoubtedly both people of the highest integrity, but it is, at best, an unhelpful context for someone undertaking an independent review.

“Nevertheless, on the basis of Saunders’ sterling reputation, we are confident his review will bring to light any irregularities that may have occurred in the land sale which, unusual for a major public institution, was not put up for open public tender,” said the newspaper. “York, which insisted on strict development conditions as part of the sale, is utterly convinced it got full value. Critics disagree.”

The Star said, “the trouble is that we will never know for sure, no matter how thorough Saunders’ investigation. The reason is every piece of land is unique, all the more so when development conditions are imposed, limiting options for its use and therefore affecting its value.

“Saunders’ task is not merely to probe the inner-workings of the Toronto real estate market in 2002 in an effort to verify York’s assertion that financially it received the best price it could. The primary focus of his investigation should be to lay bare for public scrutiny the process that governed the land sale. Saunders should determine whether York erred in failing to proceed with a fully public tendering process,” said the Star.

“What is not at issue here are York’s strict criteria for ‘an aesthetically pleasing, low-rise, environmentally sensitive housing development’ on the 42-acre parcel of land ( 7 acres of which were conveyed to the city for roads and storm water sewers),” said the newspaper. “There is every reason to expect that this carefully planned mixed development of low-rise housing will turn out to be an asset to both the campus and the broader Jane-Finch community.”

The editorial continued, stating, “Nor is anyone taking issue with the credentials or professional track record of Tribute. And nobody is alleging that [Joseph] Sorbara, a hardworking volunteer for York who openly disclosed his connections to Tribute, received any personal benefit from the deal.”

“We await the outcome of Saunders’ review with interest,” said the Star.

London’s lesson for Toronto: Just do it

As much as one might sympathize with Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara as he struggles to deal with the $23-billion gap, it’s difficult to understand why he doesn’t just build the subway extension to York University that he has promoted so enthusiastically,” wrote The Globe and Mail’s John Barber in a March 19 column on how Toronto should copy London, Ont.’s, development-positive example.

New York Muslim woman follows York student’s lead

In a story about a woman leading an Islamic prayer service in Manhattan Friday, Associated Press referred to Maryam Mirza, a 20-year-old York University student, who delivered part of the Eid al-Fitr sermon at the United Muslim Association mosque last November to mark the end of Ramadan. The AP story appeared March 19 in the Toronto Star.

Treat an interview like a first date

Job applicants should approach The Interview much the way they would a first date, say the authors of a book for young job seekers, reported The Globe and Mail March 19. “An employer should not sense that your whole world revolves around getting that one position. As in the dating game, they should be left with the impression that you’re interested, but wondering whether you might have other offers, too,” said John Dwyer, a social science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and co-author of A Practical Guide to Getting a Great Job After University. It’s important to be yourself, adds co-author Thomas Klassen, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts. On reality-TV shows, the successful candidate sometimes realizes that the prize wasn’t worth the effort. “In interviews, you have to be wary of the same thing – trying too hard, tailoring your personality to a job that isn’t really for you. If you’re hired, you’ll be miserable,” Klassen says. The professors say they wrote the book because their students, anxious about employment prospects, are constantly seeking advice about how to break into the job market.

Drug firm’s violations of ethics ‘unprecedented’

The Canadian branch of AstraZeneca, the country’s second-largest drug company, has been put on probation and fined by its own industry association for an “unprecedented” number of violations of the group’s code of ethical conduct, reported the National Post March 19. The breaches are related to the marketing of drugs to doctors with perks that in one case included an “educational” trip to a luxury hotel in Jamaica. Dr. Joel Lexchin of York University’s School of Health Policy & Management said he knows of no other action like it being taken by the industry association, Canada’s Research-based Pharmaceutical Companies. But he questioned whether the measures would have much impact on a company that had sales of more than $1 billion last year and said they should have been announced publicly, not leaked anonymously to the media. “It does go further than Rx&D has gone before, but I don’t think it really gets to the problem,” said Lexchin, who is also an emergency-room physician. “Maybe this means something, maybe it doesn’t.”

Retiring judge was Charter-friendly

It is no small feat to dwell atop the legal pantheon for 13 years and remain invisible, but Justice Jack Major of the Supreme Court of Canada has done it, reported The Globe and Mail’s Kirk Makin March 19. But Major was deemed the leading Charter “activist” on the Supreme Court, according to Patrick Monahan, dean of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who calculated that he’d voted in favour of 42 per cent of all Charter challenges.

Lewis’s health message echoes York prof’s research

The Toronto Star’s Jim Coyle cited poverty research by Dennis Raphael, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, in a March 19 column on Stephen Lewis’s latest appointment on a World Health Organization panel to study the social determinants of health. “As [Lewis] gets down to work, one of the volumes he’s likely to be reading (if he hasn’t already) is Social Determinants of Health, Canadian Perspectives, a book published last year” and edited by Raphael, wrote Coyle. “In addition to advising citizens not to smoke, to exercise, to eat a balanced diet, to drink in moderation, to use sunscreen, to practise safe sex, to drive carefully and learn first aid, there are other rules of thumb for optimizing health, Raphael notes. Don’t be poor. Don’t have poor parents. Don’t work in low-paid, manual jobs. Don’t live in damp, low-quality housing. Don’t become unemployed. Don’t live near major highways or environmentally dubious factories,” wrote Coyle.

Stability makes happy marketers

In its first annual report on the Canadian marketing sector, March 8, Strategy magazine reported  a sense of optimism. Budgets have blipped upwards, staff numbers are staying intact or growing and even the influence of the marketing department is perceived to be on the rise. Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at York’s Schulich School of Business, has noticed it, too. “The [Canadian marketing industry] has been optimistic for about six months now. [It’s] tied to the fact that for the last few years sales numbers haven’t been bad. Everyone is feeling quite bullish.”

On air

  • Airline analyst Theo Peridis, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, commented on discount carriers in the wake of Jetsgo’s demise, on CP24-TV’s “AM News” in Toronto March 19.
  • Environment Canada scientist and York grad Tom McElroy discussed how global warming is affecting the northern Arctic more than any other part of the world, on CBC North’s “Canada Now/Northbeat” in Yellowknife March 17. McElroy, who earned a PhD from York in 1985, was attending a summit in Iqaluit to discuss global warming and climate change.