Schulich tells premier to spend boldly or be gone

“As I boarded the 196 Rocket express bus from Downsview station to York University Tuesday, I couldn’t help thinking about an opinion that Seymour Schulich, benefactor of York’s Schulich School of Business, recently expressed about politicians,” wrote The Globe and Mail’s John Barber in a March 30 column. “The bus was a rattling old General Motors ‘New Look’, a model out of production for decades, most likely scavenged by the cheeseparing TTC out of some other transit agency’s scrap heap to be rebuilt here – and almost certainly, along with the other ancient New Looks still “rocketing” up and down Keele Street, one of the oldest city buses still in service anywhere in North America.

“Thus I was reminded of Schulich’s e-mailed eruption in response to a recent column that documented the general paralysis of initiative in shabby Toronto the Good Enough – and included, as one example, dithering on the question of whether to extend the Spadina subway line to York or to order another container of baling wire in hope of keeping the old buses banging along. ‘Our politicians have the vision of snails!’ the esteemed businessman and benefactor (more than $70-million so far, mostly to Canadian universities, most of all to York) declared. And his proposed remedy was straightforward. ‘Premier [Dalton] McGuinty should go into the 30-year-bond market (cost under 6 per cent) and borrow $10-billion to $20-billion. Then, build the roads, subways, waterfronts and infrastructure that Ontario needs.’

“Up on the ninth floor of the grim Ross Building, overlooking the new heart of a campus now dominated by buses from three agencies making 1,200 appearances every day, York President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden may think along the same lines, but dares not say so,” continued Barber. “The logic of a subway extension ‘just seems so clear,’ she said. But ‘people have got to be comfortable on the money side.’

“Obviously, they’re not,” concluded Barber. “Despite Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara’s enthusiastic endorsement of the subway extension, the TTC continues to muddle ahead with an allegedly temporary solution to speed up the 196 Rocket by stitching together an exclusive, bus-only route through industrial Downsview and along the Finch hydro corridor into York.

“Thus the snails slide on,” wrote Barber.

“But the subway logic remains, according to Marsden and her staff. In their view, York will be only one of dozens of beneficiaries of the new line. Among other wonders, they promise that it will fundamentally transform regional travel patterns, provide critical relief for the Yonge line, revitalize underused industrial lands and help bring the residents of the Jane-Finch area closer to jobs. Marsden promised the new line will act as a catalyst for rebuilding a neglected area. All it would take is a few billions. What’s not to like?

“Unconcerned with the inertial politics that encumbers the president as she laboriously ‘raises consciousness’ about northwest Toronto, Schulich offers a cunning rationale for his proposed fiscal daring. By raising that much debt on its own nickel, he maintains, Queen’s Park tells Ottawa, ‘ “You may control the printing presses, but if you don’t want your biggest province to go broke, you better start giving Ontario dollars and not dimes.” Meanwhile, Ontario gets the infrastructure it so badly needs.’

“Marsden gently encourages Sorbara, her famous alumnus, to recognize that ‘this is a really important part of the new Toronto’ and to give it the subway it needs. Schulich, on the other hand, is decidedly ungentle. ‘They don’t build statues to cost-cutters,’ he noted. ‘The gang of wimps at Queen’s Park better wake up or they’re going to be one-term footnotes in the history books.’”

Check list could prevent tragedies

Does he have outbursts of violent anger? Does he abuse drugs? Has he threatened to commit suicide or harm the children? Those are a few of the questions experts believe could help flush out potential cases of murder-suicide involving children before they happen, reported Montreal’s Gazette March 30. Desmond Ellis, a senior scholar at York University’s LaMarsh Research Centre on Violence and Conflict Resolution, believes this may soon be possible with the Domestic Violence Evaluation program. DOVE would do for family court what danger assessments do in criminal court or parole board hearings. “Some politicians say there is nothing we can do – if a man is determined to kill his wife or child, he will,” Ellis said. That may have been true the day Alnoor Amarsi threw his 5-year-old daughter onto a highway. “But had we intervened six months ago, perhaps he never would have been on the bridge.”

P. Diddy on road to global retail empire

Officially, rap impresario Sean “P. Diddy/Puff Daddy” Combs was in town Tuesday to mark the Canadian launch of his urban clothing line, Sean John, reported the Toronto Star March 30. But the 35-year-old New Yorker isn’t just selling apparel. He’s a one-man conglomerate peddling everything from food to tire rims on the basis of a trendsetting, uber-cool persona. Diddy, the record company intern who got fired and decided to start his own label, is a top-tier personality – an icon, says Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “Those are the people that move beyond the role or the environment we know them from – the classic examples would be Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Madonna. “You get few people who reach that level and what’s remarkable about Puff Daddy is he’s arguably the first black American to have done it from the entertainment side.”

New cleaning products mean robust economy

In the wacky wonderland that has become the household cleaning aisle, there’s a cleaner for seemingly any consumer need or whim, reported The Hamilton Spectator March 30. Much of that marketing has tapped into our fear of germs, bacteria and bad smells. Louise Ripley, a business professor at York’s Atkinson School of Administrative Studies, said the growth in new cleaning products is just part of a huge surge in consumer product merchandise and a symptom of a robust economy. “As we have more to spend, marketers come up with products to an absurd amount. “It’s about more: more specialized products to wash the bathroom walls, clean the grout out between the tiles. I see it as taking advantage of the wealth in our society.”

Dissection debate not worth fuss

A motion that gives students the right to opt out of dissecting frogs and fetal pigs, and instead use a computer simulation or model, was to go before a Toronto District School Board committee Wednesday, reported the Toronto Star March 30. Some board officials were wondering why the committee or the board would spend any time on the matter. “We’ve taken up endless hours of debate on this on email and staff time,” said trustee Patrick Rutledge, who Chairs the committee but won’t be at the meeting due to a personal matter. “When it comes to a $4 or $5 or $7 million item, we spend 10 minutes on it.” A York University student himself, Rutledge said it’s come to his attention that there is a significant lack of interest in science among students. “To me, we should be doing all we can to engage students in science, not dissuade them from science,” he said.

Switch to cocktails suggests move to moderation

“I think we are looking at a resurgence of cocktails and cocktail culture,” says Christine Sismondo, a humanities lecturer and researcher at York University, reported Canadian Press in a story picked up by The Ottawa Sun, Regina’s Leader-Post, Montreal’s Gazette, Timmins’s Daily Press, The Peterborough Examiner, and The Sault Star March 29 and 30. The 34-year-old former bartender has just written a book, Mondo Cocktail, that will be published by McArthur in the fall.

She poses an interesting observation on the upswing in cocktail consumption. “I think they fit into the new trend to moderation,” Sismondo said. “There are so many reasons to drink less, whether it’s weight gain or having to get up early the next day. We all have just more responsibilities.” But Sismondo predicts that society may be facing a campaign against drinking alcohol at all. “This side of the temperance coin worries me because I wonder if as a culture we are moving away from any tolerance to drinking at all. The early successful Prohibition, the anti-saloon league, was headed up by Rockefeller, who worried about productivity and liability in his factories. And Ford joined on to the early Prohibition movement because he, too, was seeing liability with his cars.” Sismondo believes that the question of liability (drunk driving and a social stigma akin to the anti-smoking movement) is quite similar. “I think if the moral reformers have their way it will be based on liability,” she says. “I have my fingers crossed that we don’t go down that slippery slope again.”

On air

  • Biologist Norman Yan discussed the damaging impact of new invasive species on land and water systems, in a report aired on CBC Radio in Sudbury and Thunder Bay March 29. The professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering said they are costing the economy $30 billion a year.
  • Ryerson Christie, a researcher with the York Centre for International & Security Studies, appeared before the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence March 21 to answer questions about Canada’s national security policy. The Canadian Parliamentary Channel (CPAC) aired committee proceedings March 25 on “Canada Morning.”