Lone drivers would pay toll to fund bus rapid transit network

GO Transit vice-chairman Gordon Chong has a HOT idea that could fund a new $1-billion transit network while providing roads to relieve congestion throughout the Greater Toronto Area, reported The Toronto Sun July 7. Chong is advocating the creation of High Occupancy Toll roads as a means to create a 100-kilometre, trans-GTA bus rapid transit network. Pioneered in California 10 years ago, the HOT concept lets drivers who are alone in their cars pay a toll to drive in free-flowing carpool lanes. “You take the High Occupancy Tolling concept and use it for bus rapid transit to start across the GTA – we have a proposal that is sitting, waiting for funding – and actually solve the problem of congestion,” said Chong. “My real objective is to relieve congestion and move the mass public transit idea.” As it was initially proposed, GO’s rapid transit system would feature new construction of roads and highways for buses only. The roads would generally mirror highways like the 403, 407 and 401. The road system would connect Oakville to Pickering across the north side of Toronto, featuring stops in major employment centres, such as the airport, York University and Scarborough Town Centre. As Chong sees it, trucks and cars could use the new “busways” if they were willing to pay a toll. The province – or perhaps the still-to-be created Greater Toronto Transportation Authority – could use the money from the tolls to cover construction costs of the bus rapid transit line.

SARS quarantine was justified says survivor who lost relatives

York researcher Lesley Jacobs’ study that concluded more people were quarantined in Toronto during the 2003 SARS outbreak – and with less regard to their rights – than in either Hong Kong or Shanghai, does not sit well with a survivor of the disease who also lost two relatives to the virus, reported The Toronto Sun on July 7. Toronto’s quarantine was imperative to battle the disease, said Maria Samson, a SARS patient who lost both her grandparents to the disease. It was only after Samson’s grandfather’s funeral that it was determined he had SARS and 100 people had to be quarantined. “I disagree with the (York) findings. The quarantines were a necessity to deal with the disease,” Samson said.

Do economics studies harden the heart?

Where are society’s power mechanisms formed? What are the foundations upon which a new Israeli society is being built? How did the human element of that society get lost? A few sharp critics claim that the answers to these questions lead straight to the economics faculties at the universities, reported Israel’s national daily Haaretz (Tel Aviv) in its online edition, July 5. Mainstream economists sometimes call these critics the enemies of growth, and even the enemies of freedom, but this does not always bother them. “The concepts currently being taught at schools of economics may or may not increase growth,” says Ariel Rubinstein, of the Tel Aviv University School of Economics, “but along the way they are trampling other important values, such as security and participation in the effort.” Another critic of the way economics is taught is Shimshon Bichler, who has taught at various Israeli universities and is now teaching at Israel’s Jezreel Valley College. He disagrees with almost everyone. While Rubinstein does not believe there is an alternative theory being ignored by the universities, Bichler does. Bichler’s theory, developed along with his colleague, Jonathan Nitzan, professor of political economy in York’s Faculty of Arts, upends the accepted theories. “What drives capital is not the attempt to derive benefit,” says Bichler, “but rather the pursuit of power, which is always measured in relative terms. Capital is always trying to ‘beat the average’, to achieve a higher yield.” According to this concept, the big sin of economics studies is their isolation from other disciplines. If the essence of capital is power, in order to understand how capital works one has to understand the power games, and these are not played in the libraries of pure equations, but rather in the daring world of intrigues – the world of politics. It’s not that power is absent from the world of economics, explains Bichler: It is simply hiding behind such terms as “normal profits” and “bank interest.” Bichler contends that students are not taught to do empirical research, how to look at reality. Instead, they try to bring reality into line with the theories.

Goose Bay military site’s uses will be limited says York analyst

The Canadian military’s sprawling installation at Goose Bay, Labrador, which has seen decreasing use over the past few years, won’t likely have much of a military future despite promises by the government to rejuvenate the air base, reported The Ottawa Citizen July 7. The government is under the gun to follow through with promises it made during the May by-election in Goose Bay-Happy Valley to keep the Canadian Forces installation open. Goose Bay was once a key site for NATO low-level fighter jet training, attracting pilots from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and other allies. However, defence budget cuts, a shift in flight training practices and the high fees charged by the Canadian government for foreign air forces to use the base forced most of those nations to either leave the installation or wind down their activities there. Martin Shadwick, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and defence analyst with York’s Centre for International and Security Studies, said Canadian military uses for the base will likely be limited in the future. “As a training facility it’s useful to have, but Cold Lake, Alta., is the focus of CF-18 fighter training,” said Shadwick. Goose Bay might play a role in the Liberal government’s new emphasis on the Arctic and could act as a staging base for some military operations in the north. He noted, however, the current situation is not unlike the period from the 1960s to 1980s when the Canadian military presence at Goose Bay was limited.

York alumna will exhibit her art in Peterborough show

A work titled Connective Tissue by artist and York alumna Susan Spencley (BFA ‘75) will open as an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Peterborough (AGP) on July 8, noted The Peterborough Examiner in its July 7 edition. Spencley’s works can be found in the AGP, the Peterborough Civic Hospital Foundation and in private collections throughout BC, Ontario and Quebec as well in the US, England, Portugal and Japan.

Former Trudeau cabinet minister Bud Cullen was Osgoode alum

Osgoode alumnus Bud Cullen (LLB ‘56), a former federal revenue and immigration minister under Pierre Trudeau, died Tuesday at the age of 78, reported CanWest News Service on July 7. Cullen was born Jack Sydney George Cullen on April 20, 1927 in the northern Ontario community of Creighton Mine. First elected in 1968, Cullen sat through former prime minister Joe Clark’s short-lived minority government and was appointed to Trudeau’s cabinet in 1974, where he saw in the Unemployment Insurance Act and the Immigration Act.

The authentic magic of Voodoo art

Hollywood movies and popular culture have long vilified the Haitian religion of Voodoo, focusing on flesh-eating zombies, sorcery and black magic. Now Canadian international development expert Cameron Brohman is presenting another, more authentic, side of this ancient, syncretic religion and the brilliant art form it has inspired, reported the Globe & Mail July 7. They are called Voodoo or spirit flags – colourfully beaded creations depicting the pantheon of gods in meticulously hand-sewn designs. Normally these sacred works hang in the Voodoo temples that dot Haiti’s countryside: dirt-floor, open-air shacks with roosters running through them. But a selection by prominent Haitian artists are now on display at Brohman’s CREOS gallery, which opened this spring in a basement studio in Toronto’s theatre district. “They are to Haitian art what the Buena Vista Social Club was to Cuban music,” said Brohman, who spent 15 years in Haiti working on reforestation and potable water projects. “They are the illuminated manuscript of the religion.” CREOS is a member of UNESCO’s Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity, with a mandate to preserve art from endangered cultures. It has created a foundation to reinvest a portion of its profits into Haiti’s creative industries, and has partnered with the Harriet Tubman Centre at York University. The centre, which focuses on the preservation of cultures of the African diaspora, is planning a conference on endangered cultures next June.

Report urges shifting of property-tax burden to homes from business

Toronto businesses are paying almost four times the property-tax rate of homeowners, an imbalance that is out of sync with other municipalities – especially in the 905 belt – and it threatens the city’s competitiveness, a staff report says, reported the Globe & Mail July 7. The report, on the agenda today to be discussed by city council’s policy and finance committee, says the city should gradually tilt the balance back toward residential-property taxes over the next 15 years. The city’s proposals come after a report by the Canadian Urban Institute last month warned that Toronto was in danger of becoming a “bedroom community” for the 905 region if it did not lower property taxes for business. James McKellar, a real estate expert and professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, says that while the city’s plan to even out its tax system is laudable, no one should think that such a move will create jobs. McKellar said businesses choose their locations for a myriad of reasons, and getting a deal on property costs – which only account for an average 3 per cent to 5 per cent of business costs – is a long way down the list. Businesses often move to the 905 because they need a cheaper pool of labour, he said, and want to locate near where their employees live. The best thing the city can do to attract businesses is to keep the downtown condominium boom going, since businesses wanting to hire the people moving in will set up shop nearby. “You don’t attract businesses. You attract people, and people attract jobs,” McKellar said. Drastically lowering property taxes for businesses will help commercial landlords, he said, who will be able to charge the same rent (in which property tax costs are passed on to tenants) but make higher profits.

Osgoode alumnus elected Upper Canada Law Society treasurer

Ottawa lawyer and Osgoode alumnus George D. Hunter (LLB ‘72) has been elected by Benchers to lead the Law Society of Upper Canada as treasurer, its top elected official, said the society in an announcement published July 7 in the Globe & Mail. A litigation partner in the Ottawa office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, Hunter was called to the Ontario Bar in 1974. He is currently vice-president of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) and a Fellow of The American College of Trial Lawyers.

York alum nominated for fifth Dora Mavor Moore Award

Are Canadians funnier than Americans? Actor/comedian and York alumna Melody Johnson (BFA ’89) certainly thinks so, reported The Expositor (Brantford) July 7. “There are so many great characters in this country,” says the Brantford native, a Second City alumni who also enjoys a career in theatre. “I think that’s what inspired people like Martin Short and Jim Carrey.” Johnson, who juggles the twin demands of comedy and drama with ease, was recently nominated for her fifth Dora Mavor Moore Award – the Canadian equivalent of the Tony – for her role in the play Trout Stanley. Although she didn’t win for her portrayal of a small-town girl who falls in love with a lovable drifter, Johnson said she was almost too nervous to notice. She was co-hosting the awards show, held June 27 at the Winter Garden Theatre, with good buddy Rick Roberts, who was also nominated. “Rick and I were both so nervous about hosting that we didn’t have time to worry about whether we might win or not,” says Johnson, from her Toronto home. She’s already in rehearsals for a new play, which opens in the fall, and is the director of the Second City touring company, which plays at various Ontario resorts over the summer. Johnson spent four years at York University, where she graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre performance in 1989. Her first job was at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, playing Laura in The Glass Menagerie. “The director that hired me, Richard Rose, is still my mentor today.”

On Air

  • Environmentalist and York alumnus Eduardo Sousa (MES ’01) spoke on 570 News Radio (Kitchener) July 6 about a consultation on Great Lakes water being held in that city. Sousa is currently Ontario regional organizer for the Council of Canadians.