Still flying after all these years

“They brought me up to believe a girl could do anything if she put her mind to it,” says Daphne Schiff, reported The Globe and Mail June 13. That belief, and at times, other people’s skepticism of it, has propelled two major aspects of Schiff’s life: her flying career – now at 35 years and counting – and her academic career, which began far earlier and continues today at York University. At a ceremony Monday afternoon, York was to acknowledge the long-time professor, who used to land her plane on campus to inspire her science-of-flight students, with an honorary doctor of laws degree.

She has been a professor at York since 1967, and brought her passion for flight to the courses she taught and the studies she pursued, including meteorology, which enabled her to chart her own flights. She learned how to fly in the 1960s along with her husband, Harold Schiff, York’s first dean of science. Later, with flying partner Adele Fogle, she competed in major rallies. Their racing gave way to humanitarian work in 2000 when they joined France’s Air Solidarité on annual aid missions to Africa. As she does each year, Schiff, widowed in 2003, is beating the drum for donations to cover the $40,000 cost for her and Fogle to take a commercial flight to France, then lease a single-engine plane for their mission.

Star’s statements on York were premature, says Purves

“I was disappointed to read certain statements in the June 4 column by the Star’s public editor Sharon Burnside,” wrote Bud Purves, president of the York University Development Corporation, in a letter printed June 11 in the Toronto Star. Responding to Burnside’s examination of a complaint about the Star’s coverage of a York land sale, Purves wrote: “I believe the Star was right in its editorial of March 21 that the Honourable Edward Saunders should be allowed to complete a full review of York’s South Lands sale and arrive at his conclusion.

“Unfortunately, Burnside’s column asserts as fact many unsubstantiated claims currently before the Saunders review. In particular, she claims that ‘the University chose a process that appeared to strongly favour Tribute Communities.’ She states her role ‘is not to judge York, but to comment on whether the paper’s stories about the land deal were fair.’ Yet under the guise of this mandate, Burnside clearly comes to premature conclusions and implies wrongdoing.

“In the interest of accuracy, I would like to pass on these factual errors, identified by the University to me:

  • Joseph Sorbara did not sit on the Board of Governors ‘ex-officio’ at the time of the land sale. Sorbara is an honourary governor and, as such, does not have a vote on the board.
  • The agreement of purchase and sale for the land was executed in 2002. Howard Sokolowski became a volunteer member on the York University Foundation board in 2004, after the fact.
  • York is not a ‘public institution.’ Rather, it is an autonomous, not-for-profit organization. The land in question was not public land, but was bought by the University.
  • As Burnside suggests, any view on the monetary value of the land years after the fact is subjective at best. This is another issue before Saunders.

“I strongly believe that Edward Saunders, who has the complete co-operation of all the parties involved, is in the best position to determine the facts,” stressed Purves. “For this reason, it would have been more appropriate for Burnside to wait for the upcoming release of the Saunders’ report before pronouncing on the very issues before this review.”

What will be the impact of top court’s decision?

Debate has been raging about the future of Canada’s health-care system since the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling against Quebec’s ban on private health-care insurance last week. York academics have waded into the fray, notably Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School:

  • In a heated panel discussion following Senator Michael Kirby’s comments on Global TV Sunday that the ruling may be enough to ease the wait-list woes of the public system, Monahan said the decision will fundamentally change the way health care is delivered, reported the Calgary Herald June 13. “Over the next weeks, months and years, when people are faced with waiting times, they’re going to force governments to deal with it,” said Monahan.
  • The Supreme Court of Canada decision on medicare drew heavily from an unlikely source, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, reported the Toronto Star June 12. The decision, which struck down Quebec’s ban on private health insurance, referred to the 1988 Morgentaler decision, which itself struck down the country’s abortion law and opened the way to private abortion clinics across the country. Basing the Supreme Court challenge on the Morgentaler case was the strategy of the appellants from the beginning, said Christopher Manfredi, Chair of the department of political science at McGill University. The appellants adopted a 2002 paper for the C.D. Howe Institute by Stanley Hartt, former deputy minister of finance, and Monahan, which pointed out all the parallels between the cases, said Manfredi. “The logic is quite compelling,” Manfredi said. “The Morgentaler decision said there are administrative flaws in the abortion law. Those flaws led to delays, the delays threaten the physiological and psychological security of women and therefore the law violates Section 7 of the Charter. So it wasn’t a huge leap to apply it to waiting lists for other medical procedures.”
  • The court’s ruling does not create a stand-alone right to government-funded health services, said Monahan, one of four lawyers who represented Canadian senators intervening in the case, reported the Toronto Star June 11.
  • In a Toronto Star opinion piece June 12 warning that private health care could hurt the poor, Linda McQuaig cited the experience of Dr. Joel Lexchin, an emergency room doctor who teaches health-care policy at York University. Lexchin, who worked in an Australian hospital for six months, said that Australian doctors have gravitated toward the more lucrative private system and in some specialties – particularly surgical ones – many doctors no longer take patients who can’t pay extra.

Being fired gave former Barrick CEO a fresh perspective

After he was fired as Barrick Gold Corp. chief executive officer, Randall Oliphant found himself at home one night with nothing to do – no bulging briefcase, no travel plans, no pressing files to keep him awake until 1am, reported The Globe and Mail in a story about how fast-rising executives need some kind of Plan B, a fallback position in case they get tossed out on the street. He agrees he had no safety net because he felt contingency planning would hurt his ability to do his job. “I don’t think you can serve an organization 100 per cent if you are thinking about alternatives for yourself.” Since that February night two years ago, Oliphant has made his way back into the real world. About a quarter of his time now is spent as president of Silver Bear Resources Inc., the Russian silver venture, and a similar amount helping advise Metalmark Capital, a private equity group in New York. The rest is a combination of private investment, directorships and non-profits, including the boards of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs and York University. He chairs a capital campaign to build a new emergency ward for the Scarborough Hospital.

Centre donates books to China

Everybody in Toronto – including the student centre of York University – seems to be chipping in to help Bill Shane, a retired glass engineer, collect used and new books to set up the first public English library in China’s island province, Hainan, reported the Toronto Star June 13. York’s student centre has donated about 1,200 books.

MPs’ queries won’t deter candidates for top court, jurist says

Supreme Court of Canada Justice Jack Major says contenders for his job would not be scared off if the Martin government allowed MPs to publicly question them before being named to the high court, reported the Ottawa Citizen June 13 in a story about the low-key, plainspoken Albertan whose retirement will create a vacancy for a Prairie jurist by next fall. Jamie Cameron, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, described Major as a “reserved, steady and stable” presence who, unlike more flamboyant colleagues, has not sought the limelight.

Welsh juggernaut rumbles over Canadian rugby team at York

Canada’s coach Ric Suggitt put on a brave face and tried to be humorous after his team was pummelled 60-3 by Wales in an international rugby test match played in the scorching heat at York University Saturday, reported the Toronto Star June 12 in a story widely covered by Toronto media. “Maybe we should have called the game at the half when the score looked a bit more respectable,” said Suggitt, in reference to Wales leading 15-3 after 40 minutes and the Canadians putting up a good fight against a team ranked No. 5 in the world.

Better to hire a fool than a jerk

A survey of 10,000 work relationships in five corporations concluded that the lovable fool trumps the competent jerk as the favoured work partner, reported the Toronto Star June 12 in a story about a Duke University study printed in the new issue of Harvard Business Review. But Julia Richardson, professor of organizational behaviour at York’s School of Administrative Studies, suggests managers shouldn’t rush to promote a fool. “If I was put in a position because I was nice versus competent, I would be insulted,” says Richardson. If someone is promoted to a position and it’s clear he or she lacks ability, Richardson warns the fool’s popularity could quickly wane. She suggests increasing the competence of the fool to round out the qualities of the employee.

GTA cities vying for soccer stadium cash

The York University stadium plan may be dead but other municipalities in the Toronto area are looking to start building – and take over the millions in government funding originally promised for the project, reported The Toronto Sun June 11 in a story that continues to reverberate in the metro media. “We’re hoping that the federal and provincial governments will capitulate and provide us with the same funds as they would provide for York University,” said Frank Miele, spokesman for the City of Vaughan just north of Toronto. Toronto and Mississauga are also interested in a stadium that would allow them to help host the 2007 world under-20 soccer championship.

On air

  • Bruce Ryder, public policy professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, commented on same-sex marriage legislation and callers’ concerns over protection of religious freedom, on Calgary’s call-in show “Dave Rutherford” on CHQR-AM June 10.