An unholy alliance on the right

“Religions are on the offensive throughout Canada,” wrote political scientist Saeed Rahnema of York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, in an opinion piece in the Toronto Star May 10. “In addition to the majority Christians, Canada now enjoys a growing presence of followers of the religions of the world Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and many others.

“While non-Christian religions form a very small minority – a combined seven per cent of the Canadian population – their leaders are growing more active and vocal, lending support to conservative and anti-secular voices among the majority Catholics and Protestants. In turn, right-wing politicians, hungry for votes, support them without regard for long-term consequences.

“Non-Christian religious groups increasingly demand privileges similar to those originally granted to Catholics. The controversial Arbitration Law of Ontario, which allows the use of Jewish halacha and Muslim sharia law as the basis for arbitration, represents a religious encroachment on secularism and universal rights in Canada.

“Though spearheaded by majority Christians and supported by conservative politicians, the present concerted effort on the part of all these religions to derail same-sex marriage legislation is another example of an (un-)holy alliance against secular democracy.”

A question of non-confidence

Although the Liberals insisted Tuesday’s motion calling on the government to resign is not one of confidence, experts said the government would be expected to schedule a clear confidence vote in coming days if it lost the vote, reported The Globe and Mail May 10. Patrick Monahan, the dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and author of an authoritative text on constitutional law in Canada, agreed that Tuesday’s motion was not a no-confidence matter in the strict sense, but could raise a question about confidence that must be resolved soon.

What’s the down side of rising oil prices?

Historic St. John’s, capital of Newfoundland and Labrador, is basking in the glow of a hot real estate development cycle fired up by more than $1.6-billion in offshore oil and gas revenues pumped into the city’s economy since 2001, according to a recent study cited in The Globe and Mail May 10. Economists anticipate a mixed blessing arising from the hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and other revenues pouring into the treasuries of oil-producing provinces. “Where is the tipping point? How much higher do prices have to rise before we see some adverse effect?” wondered Perry Sadorsky, a professor of economics at York’s Schulich School of Business. If oil prices reach $60 or $80 barrel, the spike in car and airplane fuel costs could have a “huge impact” on tourism, he said. An anticipated “super spike” in oil prices beyond $100 a barrel could damage the economy even more heavily, affecting businesses, manufacturing and real estate development, oil and gas spinoff.

Curtail prescription drug promotion, says prof

With spending on prescription drugs at a record $18 billion a year in Canada, a national system is needed to monitor medication use and evaluate whether newer, more expensive drugs are any better for patients than older, lower-cost alternatives, reported Canadian Press May 9. Dr. Joel Lexchin, a Toronto emergency physician and professor at York’s School of Health Policy and Management, said: “What we do is we approve new drugs, we don’t require that they be shown to be any better than existing products, and then we let the drug companies market those products as much as they want,” Lexchin said. A 2003 study he co-authored showed that when patients exposed to direct-to-consumer advertising asked for drugs by name, doctors would pen a script for that medicine about 70 per cent of the time. Lexchin estimates pharmaceutical companies spend up to $2 billion a year in Canada alone to promote their products to doctors – through office visits by sample-toting drug reps, advertising in professional journals and financial backing of medical conferences. “We need to impose much stricter controls on promotions of drugs, both to doctors and to consumers,” Lexchin said. “And we need to be willing to spend the money to provide doctors with the kind of information around comparative safety and efficacy of drugs.”

Parkdale’s upgraded school library links to York

In addition to books, the new Parkdale Collegiate Institute library contains video conferencing and broadband technology that will connect students and staff to the York public school board, York University, the University of Alberta, the Banff Centre of the Arts and other learning centres, reported the Toronto Star May 10. It’s the kind of technology that could never have been housed in the old, smaller facility, the school’s new principal, David Freedman, said Monday.

Student stress busters

Fourth-year York University students Danae Peart and Chris Jai Centeno try not to let the stress of school interfere with getting involved with university life. The two were profiled in the May 10 issue of Metro. Peart is in the urban studies program at York University. She is also the programmer and assistant news director for the campus radio station, and is a student board member as well. Over the past two years, she has mastered the craft of behind-the-scenes planning and on-air programming for the station. When she’s feeling stressed out from working on campus and keeping up with her school work, she has a plan. “I re-prioritize, and deadlines actually help keep me focused,” she says. “I don’t drink or smoke, so I don’t have that type of outlet. It’s always good to know where you want to end up when you start school. Choose your course load and extracurricular activities according to your desired end result.”

Centeno, the editor-in chief of York’s Excalibur newspaper, is in the final lap of a four-year study program in communications and anthropology. “I’ve got a list of future plans,” he says. “Top on my list includes becoming a senior editor of a major lifestyles, entertainment or even political magazine.” When he’s feeling the pressure from school and work, he has one remedy: “I call up my friends and we go for coffee, dinner or we go clubbing. In all honesty, when stress bites you, the best thing to do is to get out of the situation and just relax.” To survive life as a student while holding a job, he has the following advice: “It’s really tough to do but keeping a schedule and an agenda is number one on my time management list. The other thing is don’t take on too much.”