Bracing for a TTC strike that didn’t happen

Toronto media speculated Saturday and Sunday about the impact of a possible transit strike and gave advice on alternatives to the Better Way – especially for York students writing exams – if talks failed between the Toronto Transit Commission and its workers and a strike were called for Monday. Here is a sampling:

  • The Toronto Star reported that York University was encouraging students to drive or carpool in the event of a strike. With fewer students at the University due to exams, the Star said the campus might be able to handle more cars. Those needing a ride were encouraged to go to the Web site to sign up, either to volunteer to drive or to hitch a ride through Smart Commute of Black Creek, a non-profit group organized in conjunction with the University.
  • City-tv reported that York and other universities would remain open as usual and student exams would continue as scheduled. It said York was encouraging students and staff to carpool. And it quoted Brian Shifman, executive director of Smart Commute Association of Black Creek, who said his organization was teaming up with York to provide students transportation to exams.
  • The Toronto Star said carpooling agencies reported a substantial spike in new registrations as transit riders braced for the uncertain and jammed road ahead. Demand was so strong, in fact, that Commuter Connections – a nationwide carpooling agency – set up a ride-matching service here. While the company normally works through partners like York University, Humber College and Enbridge, it had already signed up some 300 individuals.
  • The Toronto Star interviewed York theatre student Kyla Pugh about the impact a strike would have on her. Since moving to Toronto to attend York in September, Pugh has made public transit her lifeline – taking her from a dorm room at York to theatre classes, concerts, clubs and sunny Saturdays in the downtown core. The consummate commuter peppers those transit treks with shorter trips from the York campus on Keele to the Yorkdale Mall, where she works at the Roots store.
  • A Toronto Star analysis April 10 of the future of the TTC mentioned that, though Toronto loves its subways, they are expensive and bus-only roads will be springing up soon enough to York University and the north end of Yonge Street between Finch and Steeles.

Bellow inspired prof to ‘dream words’

“Saul Bellow, who died last Tuesday at age 89, was one of three writers who inspired me to write books, and talk ideas, to dream words and think, to read more, and go into classrooms, where I could ramble on, sharing the solitude of books with others,” wrote Bruce W. Powe in The Globe and Mail April 11. “There was Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward, Angel, Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain – big works vaulted with the ambition to make raids on consciousness and feeling. And then a whole series by Bellow: Seize the Day, Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, Mr. Sammler’s Planet, Humboldt’s Gift, The Dean’s December. All those people, in his fictions, more alive than some people I’d met: princes of the heart, their minds bursting with yearning, always broken somehow, yet talking on.” Powe teaches English at York The title of his book A Canada of Light was taken from Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March.

Intent is the key to hate-crime trial

With First Nations leader David Ahenakew’s hate-crime trial over and a decision looming in June, experts in the area of Canada’s hate-crime legislation say they will be watching closely to see what, if any, precedents will emerge from the tense and at times sensational event, reported Canadian Press April 10. “There certainly will be implications,” said Terry Heinrichs, a political science professor at York University’s Glendon College, who is published in the area of hate crimes. “Intent is the key element of the case.” Ahenakew was on trial for anti-Semitic remarks made in 2002.

Ad agency patronage has long history

Onetime Liberal strategist Jim Cooper provided the background to former advertising executive Jean Brault’s testimony at he Gomery Commission inquiry into the federal sponsorship scandal in a lecture delivered to York University’s McLaughlin College last month, reported the National Post April 9. The lecture was titled Nasty Little Secrets: How Political Parties Really Work. “Ad agency polling and research patronage has had a long history in other provinces,” Cooper told his audience. “For many years, two main Ontario ad agencies shared much of the Ottawa work for Tourism Canada, Trade Canada and other Ottawa departments. Coincidentally, they also formed the basis for Red Leaf Communications, the ad agency used for Liberal electoral communications.” Cooper said these relationships have existed for more than 150 years. The “dirty secret” remains, he said, because the chosen companies usually produce competent work without excessive fees. “This may be defined as patronage at an acceptable level,” he told his audience. “Or as the great historian, Michel Brunet, once said: Patronage is fine as long as it doesn’t exceed 15 per cent.”

Strong dollar and rising gas prices hurt auto industry

The auto industry is not quite firing on all cylinders these days, reported The Record of Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge April 9 in a report on Waterloo Region’s economy. The Big Three’s woes stem from relatively weak demand for their vehicles and the financial burden of their so-called legacy costs, said the newspaper. GM, Ford and DaimlerChrysler are footing huge pension and benefit bills for their aging workforces. For example, GM pays $1,500 in benefit costs for each vehicle it produces. Toyota pays less than $300. “They are weighed down by these fixed costs,” said Bernie Wolf, an economics professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

UN’s fate may be set by September summit on reform

The most massive package of reforms ever attempted at the United Nations is steaming along the diplomatic tracks for debate at an all-star September summit meeting in New York, reported the Toronto Star April 9. Whether it reaches its destination, or ends up derailed and discredited, will determine the future of the world body. There are rumours in UN corridors that Bush will not attend the summit or will make only a cursory appearance in September. Daniel Drache, associate director of York’s Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, said “the United Nations is much bigger than the United States. It has many members that have their own perspectives, and want to have a real voice. The world has changed a great deal since the UN was founded.”

Personal decor makes cubicles homier

Bringing in pennants, plants, rugs, waterfalls, stuffed toys, bobblehead dolls, seashells and cartoons to make those little grey cubicles just a bit more liveable is the modern worker’s cry for recognition, says behaviour management expert Ron Burke, reported the Toronto Star April 9. “People who do their own thing want to be seen as unique.” The simple act of putting up pictures from home makes most people feel happy and also serves as a point of connection between co-workers. “Being more of who you are at the workplace is a bonus,” Burke said. A personalized office “serves as a source of camaraderie and small talk.” Burke, who teaches at York University’s Schulich School of Business and consults widely in the corporate world, has added his own special touch to his office a pair of University of Michigan bookends and the school crest. These items from his alma mater remind him of his “wonderful years” in graduate school there and help make his cement-wall office at York a little homier. Bright, shiny objects help to cheer us up in the gloomy and sometimes ugly modern office buildings, he said. In his travels as a consultant, Burke has seen people haul in rugs and comfy armchairs.

Advantages of real estate investment trusts

The Toronto Star’s Portfolio Doctors quoted Arthur Heinmaa, managing partner with Toron Capital Markets in Toronto and a guest lecturer on real estate in York University’s Applied Investment Management program, on the pros and cons of property investment April 10. An alternative Heinmaa suggested was the real estate investment trust (REIT) sector, which lets someone else worry about tenants and leaking roofs.

Serial diners strike again

Most of the restaurant’s 70 seats were booked, but the ragtag table of walk-ins soon grew to 10, and then 20, with waiters dispatched to the basement to grab more chairs and tack on another deuce for each new arrival, reported The Globe and Mail April 9. They are the Serial Diners, and for the past 15 years, this motley crew has been working its way through the Toronto yellow pages from A to Z, hitting one restaurant each Friday. “The food is just a conduit to socializing,” said astronomer Patrick Hall, a professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering.