Subway extension only a matter of time, says Sorbara

It’s only a matter of time before the Toronto Transit Commission gets the green light to build its long-awaited subway to York University, says Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 7. “The question is when we’re going to start,” Sorbara said in an interview Tuesday. “My preference would be earlier rather than later. We’re working on financial issues with other levels of government, notably the TTC and the federal government.”

Sorbara said the provincial Liberals would be financial partners in the York University subway line – estimated to cost $1.5 billion – and York Region’s 15-year, $1.6 billion plan to widen Highway 7 and Yonge Street to create bus-only lanes. “Certainly, we will be partners in the next phase of this and obviously in the subway,” Sorbara said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony hailing the arrival of Viva, York Region’s new bus rapid transit system, which began operating Sunday. “The subway linkage is critical to making not just the city of Toronto’s transit system move more effectively, but Viva as well. It [the York campus] will become one of the major hubs for a better GTA transit system.”

Sorbara, a York alumnus, has long supported expanding the Spadina line north through the University to Steeles Ave., although these were his clearest public statements on the issue since he became finance minister in 2003, said the Star.

TTC deputy chair Olivia Chow said it’s up to the provincial and federal governments to pay for expansion. By the end of November, she said, the TTC will have a better idea whether an extension is feasible – after it sorts out the income figures, including new gas-tax revenues.

Meanwhile, the city is building a $30-million, bus-only route between Downsview station and the University, which should be ready next year. And an environmental assessment for subway continues, with the TTC expected to announce its preferred route in October. The subway route will include stops near the University commons and north of Steeles Avenue, where York Region plans to build a major Viva station and 3,000-space parking lot.

In related news:

  • Viva is operating on two routes: Yonge Street between Bernard – north of Elgin Mills Road in Richmond Hill – and the Finch subway station, and along Highway 7, starting at York University and ending at Town Centre Boulevard in Markham. More routes are to begin operating in the next few months, reported the Star and The Toronto Sun.
  • Toronto Star columnist Christopher Hume hailed Sept. 3 the advent of Viva. It’s an idea whose time has most definitely come, but one that still has to prove itself here in the heart of Car Country, he wrote. Viva vice-president Mary-Frances Turner admits that if Viva succeeds, the Yonge corridor north of Finch – already served by GO Transit and York Region Transit – will be completely clogged with buses, let alone cars, by 2008. But if the subway were extended to York University, as promised, it would be a huge boon for the region.

New soccer stadium comes to Downsview

Downsview Park has been chosen as the site for a 20,000-seat soccer stadium, and its main tenants could be Canada’s first Major League Soccer franchise, reported Canadian Press Sept. 7. After months of uncertainty over where the $60 million stadium should be built – and with the 2007 FIFA world youth championships looming – the Canadian Soccer Association has decided to focus its efforts on the site at Keele Street and Sheppard Avenue West in Toronto. The soccer association had been looking for a site since previous deals to build at the old site of Varsity Stadium and at York University fell through.

Naked Archeologist interviews York profs

In the first episode of Vision TV’s “The Naked Archeologist” Toronto curiosity seeker and documentary filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici quizzes some passers-by on a wintry Toronto street about what they know about Biblical history (not too much, as it turns out) then heads to Israel, where he buttonholes university professors, museum curators and other assorted pointy heads about truth and fiction, fact and legend. Featured York experts on the light-hearted and jovial show, reported the CanWest News Service on Sept. 6, include humanities professors Carl Ehrlich, coordinator of the division’s religious studies program, and Steve Mason, Canada Research Chair in Greco-Roman Cultural Interaction. CanWest’s Fine Tuning columnist Alex Strachan was likely referring to Ehrlich when he wrote: A learned professor from York University likens people’s attitudes about “Bible people” to circus people [in the first episode], and it’s all very jovial and warm-spirited.

Saskatchewan celebrates Dianne Martin

A special section in Saskatchewan’s Leader-Post in Regina and StarPhoenix in Saskatoon profiled the late Dianne Martin among 100 people to celebrate on the province’s 100th anniversary. Born in Regina in 1945, Martin became known as the rebel with a cause. She graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1976 and was among the first women in Canada to get into criminal defence. “She has been a passionate defender of social justice and she, of course, has been a champion of the wrongfully convicted,” said Patrick Monahan, dean of the law at Osgoode. “She had a tremendous passion and commitment for the underdog.” As a professor at Osgoode, Martin and colleague Alan Young founded the Innocence Project, a program for law students at York University that uses DNA and forensics to work on the cases of the wrongfully convicted. Of particular note was Martin’s role in the vindication of Romeo Phillion. Convicted of a 1967 murder in Ottawa and imprisoned in 1972, Phillion was released in 2003 following 32 years behind bars. At the time of her death in 2004, Martin was a director of Parkdale Community Legal Services in Toronto which works with people who can’t afford legal counsel.

Stelco seeks ninth life

Stelco’s court-appointed monitor is supporting another extension to the company’s bankruptcy protection, reported The Hamilton Spectator Sept. 3. In a report released yesterday, Ernst & Young vice-president Alex Morrison said “meaningful and productive discussions have been taking place” between Stelco and its squabbling stakeholders and should be allowed to continue. Poonam Puri, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said Stelco’s move to appoint a committee to review allegations that stocks are undervalued signals to the stock markets that the allegations are being taken seriously and being handled in a way that could forestall later lawsuits. “If someone does try to litigate later then the court will look at this committee and its process,” she said. “The company can say those forecasts were appropriately reached.”

Canada Post may launch home-style magazine

Canada Post is mulling a move into the magazine business, a step that one marketing expert believes is an attempt on the part of the Crown corporation to generate new sources of revenue, reported the National Post Sept. 3. “I think they’re beginning to investigate areas to use the database to replace lost revenues from the decline in mail,” said Alan Middleton, a professor of marketing at York’s Schulich School of Business. “I would say this is a very fraught experiment,” he added.

The multiple personalities of a board

Corporate board meetings have come under increased scrutiny and regulation in recent years but it has been based on very little knowledge of how corporate boards actually work, began a Globe and Mail mini-review Sept. 7 of the book Inside The Boardroom. But Richard Leblanc, a professor in York’s School of Administrative Studies sat inside board and committee meetings of 21 enterprises and interviewed almost 200 directors as part of his PhD thesis. In a book co-authored with James Gillies, the former Mulroney-era cabinet minister and founding dean of York’s Schulich School of Business, readers are taken inside the boardroom and offered advice on how those decision-making bodies can improve performance. The authors argue such improvement won’t come by more regulations governing the structure of boards – such as the number of independent directors on a board, or splitting the CEO-chair into two posts – but by directors, managers and shareholders accepting radical new criteria for the selection, appointment and evaluation of directors. The focus must be on the skills and behavioural characteristics of individual directors, and how they fit together as a board.

Labour lawyer studied at Osgoode

Labour lawyer Keith Oleksiuk acquired a respect for sweat labour and harsh conditions working summers in Chippewa’s Norton foundry near Niagara Falls, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 3 in Lives Lived. At York University he was an average arts student with an abnormal course load in political theory. He ignored the campus protests over co-ed dorms and marijuana laws, and quietly focused on bigger issues. After graduation Oleksiuk joined the front lines of social-justice advocacy, becoming director of the Toronto Unemployment Help Centre. It was storefront lawyers, getting dirty in the trenches, that propelled him to York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1980. It was there he met his future wife, Cathy Agnew. In 1983 he joined the United Steelworkers of America staff.

On air

  • Shamini Selvaratnam, a fourth-year sociology student at York, discussed student stress on TVO’s “More to Life” Sept. 6.
  • York undergraduate students Vanessa Gallo, Mike Levine and Paul Levine, cofounders of a used-textbook Web site, discussed tips to help university students save money, on City-tv’s “CityPulse” Sept. 6.