Germany needs a ‘grand coalition’, say profs

“As a nation facing its highest unemployment numbers in the past 40 years, confronted with five years of economic near-stagnation as well as massive economic challenges in Eastern Germany and in its own social-welfare programs, Germany urgently needed a stable new government to attack its problems boldly. Alas, last Sunday’s election resulted in a stalemate,” wrote political scientist and economist Kurt Huebner, of York’s Canadian Centre for German and European Studies, and Stafan Gänzle of the Institute of European Studies, University of British Columbia, in an opinion piece in The Globe and Mail Sept. 21. “One thing is for sure: German voters were unwilling, and perhaps mentally unprepared, to embrace a radical program of economic restructuring, along the lines of the Thatcher-era United Kingdom.” The writers suggested that “the likeliest outcome for Europe’s largest economy and most populous nation is a ‘grand coalition’ formed by the two big beasts of German politics” – Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union and Gerjhard Schroeder’s Social Democrats. “Whether both big parties are up to the challenge now remains to be seen,” mused the writers. “So here’s yet another possibility: a grand coalition, led by new party leaders.”

Stelco’s core woes need solving

Industry analysts remain cautious about Stelco’s plan to end nearly two years of bankruptcy protection, warning it won’t succeed if it doesn’t solve the company’s core problems, reported the Hamilton Spectator Sept. 22. The plan, which the company now wants to take to its creditors and other stakeholders, would see Stelco’s restructuring ordeal finish by the end of this year. Bernie Wolf, economist and director of the International MBA Program at York’s Schulich School of Business, said the fact the plan has no labour concessions is a major red flag. “Stelco is a company with a long history of bad labour relations, at least some of it stemming from bad management,” he said. “This is a case where all parties needed to make some concessions.” Even without wage and benefit cuts, Wolf said he still would have preferred to see a Stelco plan that included a long no-strike clause and concessions on work rules and productivity improvements. “If those things aren’t done, it’s going to be a lot harder for Stelco to emerge as a viable and competitive company,” he said.

Trial runs do not bode well for marriage

Anne-Marie Ambert, a sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, said her review of recent research shows that couples who lived together before getting married face as much as double the risk of separation as those who lived apart, reported the National Post Sept. 22. “If I were a young woman who wanted to get married and have children – which means by definition that I want to have a solid marriage – I would not cohabit before marriage or would cohabit only once I am engaged,” she said in an interview. Her new paper, published this week by the Vanier Institute of the Family, deflates the notion that living together as a trial run will produce a stronger marriage. “Those who cohabit have up to twice the rate of divorce after they’re married,” she said.

In other coverage

  • A Canadian Press story about Ambert’s study also appeared Sept. 22 in the London Free Press.
  • Ambert was interviewed about her findings for items aired Sept. 21 on “Global News” in Ontario and City-tv’s “News at Eleven” in Edmonton.

Business schools discover small is beautiful

Canada is undergoing a massive transformation in postsecondary business education. The reason is simple: we have to, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 22. During the past 20 years, the economic underpinnings of the country have changed dramatically. Canada is emerging as one of the most entrepreneurial nations in the world. Small and medium-sized businesses now account for well over 40 per cent of the gross domestic product versus just 25 per cent two decades ago.

Specialization is the future for MBAs, business school academics say. “While we focus on three main areas – the private sector, the public sector and not-for-profit – we offer 30 different specializations,” said Charmaine Courtis, executive director of student services and international relations at York’s Schulich School of Business. “What we are finding today is that personal fulfillment is often more of a motivator for MBA students than money.”

Snowdrops to greet the spring

Snowdrops are a passion of Brian Bixley, professor emeritus of economics at York’s Glendon College and an avid and very literary Mulmur, Ont., gardener, reported the National Post’s gardening columnist Sept. 22. In his Essays on Gardening in a Cold Climate (1998), he writes: “There is a moment in my garden, sometimes miserably protracted, sometimes miserably brief, which lies between the rustling thaw of dirty snow and the advancing furry green haze of spring, when we allow ourselves to imagine soft breezes and gentle invading sunlight and the garden’s acceleration. If winter is the icicle in the soul of the gardener, this is the instant when the icicle softens and we fall about with pleasant preparation and permit ourselves some larger hope. It is the interval when our gardens should be filled with snowdrops.”

On air

  • In the wake of police raids on gangs last week, “Global News” aired a story Sept. 21 about girls who belong to gangs. It featured an interview with former gang member Clara Locey, a first-year arts student at York.