No need to change Canada’s disaster-response model, says prof

The bungled US government response to Hurricane Katrina exposed flaws in emergency management that could lead to significant changes in how Canada handles major disasters, reported the Ottawa Citizen Sept. 17. “If Canada got hit by a huge disaster like that, we’ll be in just as bad shape,” said David Etkin, coordinator of the emergency management program at Atkinson’s School of Administrative Studies. Part of the problem, Etkin said, is that “terrorism has become the focus to such a degree that we are not looking at other hazards as much as we can.” But he said Canada should not change the disaster model just because the US is contemplating changes. “It is a good model that works 99.9 per cent of the time. If you take away the responsibility (for emergencies from local communities, then in other ways it becomes a bad thing because you get cultures of dependency and cultures of dependency become vulnerable cultures,” Etkin said.

Court’s Charter decisions benefit ‘strange group’ of interests

Although privately funded health care would be a radical step for Canada, Allan Hutchinson, an associate dean at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, challenged former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow’s claim that the Supreme Court’s Chaoulli decision, striking down Quebec’s ban on private health insurance, is an “aberration”, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 17. The Supreme Court has used the Charter repeatedly to uphold conservative principles, he told a legal forum Friday on the implications of the June ruling. Despite all the talk by Romanow and his political counterparts in the early 1980s of a “people’s Charter,” the court has used the Charter to protect tobacco companies and deny treatment to autistic children, Hutchinson said. “It’s turned out to be a very strange group of people who have benefited by the Charter,” he added. “There’s nothing new about the Chaoulli decision. Nothing new. This is a case where all the conservative chickens have come home to roost.”

In a Sept. 16 Canadian Press report, Hutchinson said the Charter of Rights has become a political weapon used to benefit vested interests. “The Supreme Court is not suggesting that as a matter of politics maybe we should revisit health care. They’re suggesting that as a matter of constitutional law, the interest of private and affluent individuals should be given precedence in this debate.”

Virus writers don’t just target universities

Universities are the top target of cyber-criminals wielding computer viruses and worms, according to the latest biannual Internet Security Threat Report released by Symantec Corp. Monday, reported the Toronto Star Sept.19. But a York official doesn’t agree. “I don’t think universities are being specifically targeted,” said Chris Russel, information security manager at York’s Computing & Network Services. “I think everybody is essentially a target, but universities have exposure to all these uncontrolled and unmanaged computers.” He noted there were certainly a lot of viruses out there, and that the universities have large, open residence and wireless networks. However, he said universities with the resources to do so take significant steps to limit viruses.

For example, computers in York computer labs are automatically refreshed when they reboot, erasing any changes to the hard drive. And beginning this year, student computers must pass a virus and security check before they are allowed to connect to residence networks.

Podcasting heralds radio renaissance

This month, CBS began offering its daytime show “Guiding Light” as a podcast – a regularly updated sound file that can be received on a personal computer over the Internet, then listened to at leisure or transferred to a mobile music player such as an iPod, reported the San Diego Union-Tribune Sept. 18. “We’re seeing a renaissance of audio, which is at odds with all those theories that say video killed the radio star,” said Markus Giesler, a marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business who studies consumers’ use of technology. As Giesler speculated, “[There’s] the cult aspect of it, to be able to have a soap opera in podcast format, so that you can take it with you, discuss it with your friends. It’s not so much, ‘Oh, I know the entire story [of the show].’ It’s this playful thing about carrying it with you.”

More than Mrs. Tory

So you’ve never heard of Barbara J. Hackett? How about Mrs. Richie Rich? Still not ringing any bells? Well, try this: Mrs. John Tory, began a Sept. 18 Toronto Sun profile of the York grad and wife of the provincial Conservative leader. Hackett is also the mother of four, has an MBA (and BBA from York) and is the president of her own design-build construction business. “I think I have a bit of an enthusiastic personality,” she told the Sun’s Queen’s Park reporter Christine Blizzard in an interview last week. “I am very independent, with a career and kids and corporate husband before and political husband now, and so there is lots going on in our lifestyle and family.” Hackett grew up in the west end, in Etobicoke and Mississauga. She was a legal secretary for three years after high school, then she went to York University. It was there she met her soon-to-be husband. He was in law (LLB ’78). She was in business. They met in a French class. They were engaged within months and married in a year. “That was 27 years ago,” she recalled. “I took a business degree (BBA ’79) and an MBA (1980) after that – and the children splattered along,” she explained cheerfully. “I’ve always worked.” She added: “It’s funny, when you are achieving and accomplishing what your goals are, you really find that all the details just sort themselves out.”

Flags: lowering standards

Top vexillologists – who study flags – in Canada, the United States and England confirm when a flag is flown in mourning, it should be lowered one flag depth only – not halfway down – from the top of the pole or mast to symbolize the invisible flag of death flying above, wrote a Victoria Times Colonist columnist Sept. 18. It’s a tradition that was born at sea, in the Royal Navy to be exact, and stretches back hundreds of years to wooden sailing ships. The position has always been referred to as half-mast, although a flag wasn’t actually flown there since it would have been caught in the rigging. Jack Granatstein, former York University history professor and retired director general of the Canadian War Museum, says flying the mourning flag one width down has always been a tradition in Canada. “I do think traditions are important, but this isn’t one I’d go to war over.”

Beware of very high dividends

Beware companies that have a very high dividend yield, because that’s often a signal investors are worried about the company, says Dale Domian, a professor of finance at Atkinson’s School of Administrative Studies. When dividend yields are in the stratosphere, dividend cuts may not be far behind, he told the National Post for a Sept. 17 “Gen X Investor”.

Canada’s chance to join the tennis elite

Canada has enjoyed fair to low results on the world tennis stage over the years, climbing as high as the top World Group and falling back among the also-runs, reported The Toronto Sun Sept. 18. Next week, Sept. 23-25 to be exact, Canada meets the strong Belarus team at the Rexall Centre at York University for the Davis Cup and the right to climb back into the elite group.

On air

  • York University Lions beat University of Toronto in university football action Saturday with a 44-33 overtime win, reported CP24-TV “News” in Toronto Sept. 18 and “CKCO News” in Kitchener Waterloo Sept. 17.
  • Carl James, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education, a proponent of black-focused schools, reacted to Premier Dalton McGuinty’s rejection of a proposal for such schools, in an interview on CFMJ’s “The John Oakley Show” Sept. 16.
  • Eric Armstrong, a voice professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, was interviewed by CFMJ’s “The Stafford Show” Sept. 15 about his ability to detect accents from different parts of the Greater Toronto Area.