York grad expected to head Toronto police board

With the Toronto Police Services Board locked in a showdown with the union over contract talks, a new Chair will step into the difficult and oftentimes mine-laden post, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 14. Vice-Chair Alok Mukherjee is expected to be named the head of the civilian body that oversees police as councillor Pam McConnell resigns as Chair after a year at the helm. Mukherjee, who sees himself as a peacemaker, will be walking into a job that often means dealing with one crisis after another. Mukherjee has taught at York, where he completed a PhD in English in 2003, and is a human rights and equity facilitator. He is a former acting Chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and member of the Ontario Civilian Commission on Police Services, the provincial tribunal that oversees policing. Board member councillor John Filion said people should not underestimate Mukherjee. “He has a soft-spoken manner, but people should not interpret that for lack of strength,” Filion said. “Alok would be a good choice for Chair. He’s hard-working, he has integrity and he works well with people.”

Better governance doesn’t improve corporate performance

The current obsession with improving corporate governance does nothing to protect investors and has no correlation to performance, says a report released by York University, reported the National Post Oct. 14. That means the billions of dollars spent by Canadian and US companies to comply with measures introduced in response to a wave of corporate scandals, are “a waste of time and money,” said one of the authors of the study. Governance rankings are creating “a smokescreen” that obscure the real issues for corporate Canada, said David Wheeler, director of York’s Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability, who co-authored Why Corporate Governance Rankings Do Not Predict Future Value.

The report shows that many recent governance regulations, which are focused on forcing businesses to conform to rigid organizational structures and make chief executives sign compliance certificates, are “irrelevant,” Wheeler said. “Enron had fabulous corporate governance arrangements. They had all the right committees. But it didn’t stop them stealing from their stakeholders,” he said. “Things like separating the role of chief executive and chairman don’t really matter if both of them are incompetent,” Wheeler said. The corporate governance “bandwagon”, including governance rankings, may actually be damaging shareholder wealth by obscuring other issues around company performance, he said. The trend also diverts funds from investment and research and development.

Wealthy Canadians not overtaxed, report says

The rich are not overtaxed, argues a new report, which says that the main reason they are paying a greater proportion of the total tax bill than in the past is that they are getting a bigger share of the income pie while the rest are getting less, reported the National Post Oct. 14. “Despite recent reports to the contrary, Canada’s high-income earners do not pay a disproportionately large share of personal income tax,” said the report by economist Neil Brooks, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

The report, released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, takes aim at what it charges were widespread but misleading reports on a Statistics Canada study earlier this year that found that the top 10 per cent of income earners paid 52.6 per cent of the total tax bill in 2002, up from 46 per cent in 1990. The main reason for the increase was that the share of earned income going to those top earners increased by 12.6 per cent over that same period to 35.7 per cent, while the share going to those on the bottom half of the income ladder declined 11 per cent to 16.9 per cent. “In fact, the increasing inequality in the distribution of income in Canada is the real story of the Statistics Canada analysis,” Brooks said. “Canada is becoming a much more unequal society.”

Son of Brubeck ‘landed’ at York

In an Oct. 14 story about jazz pianist David Braid teaming up with cellist Matt Brubeck for a concert in Dundas, The Hamilton Spectator reported that 44-year-old Matt has been working toward a graduate degree in composition at York University since 2003. “York seemed to me the best program,” said the son of jazz legend Dave Brubeck over the phone from his parents’ home in Connecticut. “York had a pretty broad definition of what composition was and they seem very open to the use of improvisation in composition. And specifically, I wanted to study with David Mott, whom I respect a lot as an educator – and as a musician, too.” Matt, who’s finishing up his thesis, also runs York’s New Music Ensemble and is also contract faculty. “I work very closely with Casey Sokol, who is a great, great pianist, improviser,” said Matt. “I started out working as a teaching assistant with him last year. And now that I’ve ‘landed,’ as they say, I teach singers, guitarists, flute players, all sorts of people. I give them ideas about improvisation.”

Single transit authority would help solve congestion

At a public meeting on traffic congestion in Richmond Hill, York University senior policy adviser Ted Spence made the case for a subway extension to York Region, reported the Richmond Hill Liberal Oct. 13. The University is the “centre of gridlock in the GTA”, according to Spence. “A subway extension would be the major gateway to York Region.” The school has a population of 65,000, including 49,000 students, and handles 35,000 car trips per day, although there are only 11,000 parking spaces. It’s already a major transit gateway, Spence said, with more than 1,500 daily bus trips to the campus. And he held out hope that some action on the subway extension might be forthcoming.

Student counsels fellow amputees

Laura Cutrone is a mentor to a nine-year-old boy who recently had his legs amputated after contracting meningitis. It’s a condition the active 20-year-old Woodbridge university student knows all about, reported Richmond Hill Liberal Oct. 8. Now a junior counsellor for War Amps, Cutrone was eight years old when she developed meningitis, a dangerous inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. “I wasn’t feeling well. I woke up and my mom took me to the pediatrician. He sent me home with the flu,” said Cutrone, who is studying psychology and sociology at York. “Later in the evening, I started hallucinating and passed out.” She survived a three-week coma but doctors told her parents they would have to amputate her legs below the knees to save her life.

It’s all about making music

Dylan Bell walks into the Osprey Woods Public School gym whistling “if I only had a brain”. Carl Berger, Ross Lynde and Kevin Fox, the other members of the a capella group Cadence join him, reported the Markham Economist & Sun Oct. 4. After the performance, Berger, 31, explained that Cadence was formed in 1998, during his final year in music at York University, when he convinced a couple of musicians in his old school choir to form an a capella group.

On air

  • York researchers [psychologist David Wiesenthal and grad student Christine Wickens] say that when traffic dies down, commuter stress levels actually go up and a survey found the results are the same for male and female drivers, reported “680 News” on CFTR-AM in Toronto Oct. 13.
  • Heather Lotherington, a York education professor, talked about her research into how the Internet is changing the way we spell, talk and communicate offline, on “Call for Help” on G4techTV, an on-air and online network dedicated to the world of interactive entertainment, Oct. 13.
  • Aspiring actor Lindsey Blake commented on her time with movie star Rachel McAdams (BFA ’01) at York where the two took theatre classes together, on Global TV’s “ET Canada” Oct. 13.