A subway to Scarborough or York?

Sporting stickers proclaiming “I’m on track,” 300 newly feisty Scarborough citizens served notice that they want a full-fledged subway to the city’s eastern edge – and if the proposed Spadina subway extension to York University and York Region gets in the way, well, too bad for York, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 12 in a story about a public meeting last Thursday. The growing lobby for a subway through the heart of Scarborough is being pushed by Scarborough councillors. And a dozen or more members of Universal Workers Union Local 183 – who would work on any new line – were visibly backing the project from the audience.

Scarborough and the Toronto Transit Commission are feeling pressure from two sides. Firstly, the existing Scarborough Rapid Transit line (SRT) is bursting at the seams, with more riders than it can handle. Secondly, it’s aging. By 2015 the RT cars will be worn out. Since no one makes the small-scale subway-type cars any more, a new technology will probably have to replace it.

Proponents of the Spadina extension try to dampen the idea that it’s competing with Scarborough. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be building more than one subway line at the same time,” said Ted Spence, who has spearheaded York University’s lobbying for a subway. Premier Dalton McGuinty is now in China, he noted. “He’s going to see a country building hundreds of kilometres of subways all at the same time.”

York Region Chairman Bill Fisch says it’s a mistake to think of only one line at a time. On the other hand, he pointed out that the environmental assessment for the York line has been done, and planning is much further advanced than for Scarborough. Rick Ducharme, chief general manager of the TTC, said in an interview the commission could handle building two lines at once. “From 1995 to 2003 when we opened the Sheppard line, in those eight years we built six kilometres – six,” he said. “Madrid by coincidence, from 1995 to 2003, built 110. So you can build all you want. Once you put the machine in there, it just keeps churning. All it takes is money.”

Related coverage:

  • In a Nov. 13 account of the meeting, the Scarborough Mirror reported that Scarborough resident Sonny Yeung pointed out that an SRT extension might be more possible with the removal of former provincial finance minister Greg Sorbara, who was a major booster of the subway extension to York University. Scarborough Centre MPP Brad Duguid, parliamentary assistant on urban issues to municipal affairs and housing, called the SRT proposal “a very important initiative to look at”. As for the York line, which Sorbara had promised earlier this year to include in the 2006 budget, Duguid was non-committal. “I didn’t see anything about the York line in the last budget,” he said.
  • On Nov. 12, the National Post asked: How serious are certain Toronto city councillors about replacing the Scarborough Rapid Transit line with a real, honest-to-goodness subway? So serious that they’ve created their own letterhead. City Hall reporters this week received not one, but two media advisories emblazoned with the words “We’re on track: Scarborough Community Council Supports the Scarborough Subway,” along with a charming logo of a bright red subway car coming down the tracks. As the letterhead suggests, the campaign for a subway in the city’s eastern hinterlands is building a head of steam.

Still Young at 60

Neil Young has been a rock ‘n’ roll icon for almost 40 years, reported the Times Colonist in Victoria, BC, Nov. 12 in a feature marking the Canadian singer’s 60th birthday. He is the only Canadian who can be put on the same pedestal with musical icons such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, says Rob Bowman, an ethnomusicologist in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. “Arguably he is the most important Canadian in the history of rock ‘n’ roll,” Bowman says. “At this stage of his career, Neil Young is still making some of the best music of his life.”

Could race riots happen here?

As riots rage across France, troubling parallels emerge among children of Canada’s visible-minority immigrants, suggested The Globe and Mail’s Michael Valpy in a Nov. 12 column. Listen to the voice of 22-year-old Rahel Appiagyei, a third-year student in international relations attending Toronto’s elite bilingual Glendon College at York University, wrote Valpy. “No, I don’t feel accepted,” she says. “The one thing I don’t understand – me, personally, and for blacks in general – is why we’re still seen as immigrants.” In the Canada of her experience, she says, “the word ‘immigrant’ is used to mean coloured and the word ‘Canadian’ is a code word for Caucasian.” Her parents emigrated from Ghana in 1988, when she was 5. Appiagyei says the more engaged and involved in Canadian life she becomes, the more she encounters gaps between her expectations of what Canadian society should be and the reality she encounters. She tells of being often asked: “.’You’re from Africa, how come you know English so well?’ I feel I’m always being assessed with lions and tigers, with remoteness. Why is it we’re not allowed to feel we belong here?”

The Tao of the script

Amnon Buchbinder is a Toronto screenwriter, story editor, director, York fine arts professor and now the author of The Way of the Screenwriter, a how-to guide that nods from title onward to sixth-century Chinese sage Lao-tzu, wrote novelist and screenwriter Lesley Krueger in a Nov. 12 Globe and Mail review. Open the book and you’ll find Buchbinder staking out his territory with a blunt assessment. How-to books, the Web, and day and night classes all pack an avalanche of advice on writing screenplays that lies ready to fall on aspirants’ heads – and the number of hopeful screenwriters seems to increase exponentially ever year. “But despite all this, there has – at least as far as I can tell – been no increase in the number of great screenplays,” he writes.

In seeking to improve this lack of quality, Buchbinder takes the high road of explaining why he thinks some things work better than others, rather than just setting out formulas. His way suggests that Buchbinder must be an excellent teacher, someone who’s thought his way around his subject from a whole algebra of angles, read widely, watched a million movies, walked the walk himself, then come up with some guidelines that he’s learned to communicate effectively through a series of thoughtful examples.

Gloom in the land

“Before the Chrétien Liberals were elected in 1993, trust in government was way down,” says York political scientist Ian Greene, reported CanWest News Service in a story about the national mood published Nov. 14 in The Ottawa Citizen, The Windsor Star and The StarPhoenix in Saskatoon. “By 1996, trust went up again because ethics had been a central part of Chrétien’s platform and he had managed to keep the lid on corruption. The overall mood is gloomy again because the nature of so many things has changed. Canadians seem to be lacking in hope and struggling to find a way forward.” Greene says Canada has survived enough political scandals to suggest better moods may be ahead. “We’re going through another bad patch,” he says, “but we’ll get out of it. New ethical rules will come out of Gomery, even though they should have been in place 30 years ago.”

A pro-dope optimist

Vancouver newspaperman Ian Mulgrew, in his new book, Bud Inc. Inside Canada’s Marijuana Industry, chronicles the legal battles of several dope crusaders who flaunted their disregard for prohibition and are paying for it. One of the most amazing things about this book is the author’s access to this semi-underground industry, wrote York humanities lecturer Christine Sismondo in a Toronto Star review Nov. 13. A self-described long-time “consumer” himself, Mulgrew has on-the-record interviews with defence lawyers who specialize in this kind of business; small and big-time growers; specialist fertilizer manufacturers; legalization activists and, of course, distributors. Just about the only major players who aren’t on record in Bud Inc. are the Hell’s Angels. Widely rumoured to control much of the trade in Quebec and Ontario, the gangs who control the seedier side of drug trafficking are obviously the primary reason anybody concerns themselves with the enforcing of marijuana laws at all. However, as is painfully obvious to any rational, even casual observer, the elimination of prohibition would eliminate (by definition, even) the criminal element. Mulgrew feels that a happy ending is close at hand. He argues that despite the drug’s bad rep for being the gateway drug for every unmotivated slacker on his way to chip-related weight gain or smack (whichever you believe), the fact that the drug is empirically pretty harmless, combined with its nearly universal usage and medically proven benefits in specific circumstances, will eventually lead to its decriminalization.

Stalin vs. Otis Redding

He teaches “death and destruction” – and does it with such flair that his students remain enthralled for all two hours of his class. He’s 40-year-old Arne Kislenko, Ryerson University hotshot historian and winner of TVOntario’s Best Lecturer competition, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 13. The contest was an academic slugfest that began a year ago, when students from colleges and universities across the province sent TVOntario the names of more than 300 of their most adored teachers. The list was chopped down by the network’s panel to 10 finalists. Viewers graded the lecturers by phone or Internet, and Saturday’s show declared a winner: Kislenko and his lecture on Russia during World War II. For the contest, he addressed Russia’s Cold War mentality as shaped by World War II. His talk aired against a York University musicology professor’s rockin’ analysis of an Otis Redding song. By rights, Kislenko should have been massacred. “Stalin vs. Otis Redding,” laughed one Ryerson student, Anna Bridges. “It seems like Otis should win hands down.” In his lecture, York musicologist Rob Bowman worked the room in a patterned hippie shirt that had big, billowy sleeves. His joy in his subject matter had him blasting like a furnace in the face of his students, running out from behind an improvised DJ booth to tell them how to feel Otis Redding in their intellects as well as in their guts.

The Star said Ryerson students decided the school wasn’t doing enough to promote their professor in the competition, so they launched a campaign to drum up support on campus. They hung posters done in the style of Soviet propaganda with Kislenko’s face on them. One poster read “Join the Kislenko revolution.”

Prof documented the psychoanalytic movement

Paul Roazen, 69, a historian of the psychoanalytic movement and the author of numerous books on Sigmund Freud and his followers, died Nov. 3 at his home in Cambridge, Mass. He had complications from Crohn’s disease, reported The Washington Post Nov. 12. An emeritus professor of political science at York, he was the author of 22 books and hundreds of articles, reviews and essays. In 1965, Roazen set out to interview all of Freud’s surviving patients, pupils, colleagues, disciples, friends and relatives in the United States and Europe. Much of his work grew out of his hundreds of hours of interviews. The first of his books to draw on them was Freud and His Followers (1975), essentially an oral history of psychoanalysis. A decade later, Roazen published Helene Deutsch: A Psychoanalyst’s Life (1985), an authorized biography that relied on letters, papers and many hours of interviews with one of Freud’s original disciples and a brilliant psychoanalyst in her own right.

Cowardly massacre

York biology student Michael MacKechnie, who recently returned from an internship as a volunteer medical worker in Jordan, wrote about his shock over the suicide bombings in a letter published in Nov. 12 in the Toronto Star.The bombings were not only a cowardly and horrific massacre of a number of innocent people of many different nationalities, but also a swipe at Jordan’s forward-thinking and self-improving policies,” he wrote. “Jordan’s peace agreement with Israel, a rarity among nations in the Middle East, has focused much anger from the surrounding countries on King Abdullah’s policies. As shocked as I was to see the unfolding coverage of the attacks in Amman, I believe that the international community will be able to look to Jordan in the coming months as a prime example of a country working to overcome terrorism.”

One-time Bay Street lawyer delivers prayers by proxy

Batya Burd, 31, who gave up a future as a Toronto corporate lawyer for a pious existence just steps from the Western Wall, has a novel suggestion. For a price, she and her team of 25 impoverished ultra-Orthodox Jewish worshippers are ready to pray at God’s last known address, for that which ails you, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 12. Not just any spiritual whim passes muster at www.westernwallprayers.com, the Internet-based prayer-by-proxy service Burd established last year. For those whose intentions are deemed genuine, be they Christian, Muslim or Jew, Burd will dispatch a “prayer agent” through the warren-like streets of Jerusalem’s Old City on a mission to God. For 40 consecutive days, she will do this. Burd describes her own circuitous journey to Jerusalem as a wayward road in search of herself. Raised in Toronto as Lisa Fefer – she later Hebraized her name – Burd studied at University of Western Ontario and Osgoode Law School (LLB ’98) before climbing to the 44th floor of First Canadian Place to what is today Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP, Canada’s leading corporate tax firm. “I had the right car, the right friends, the right job, the right income,” she remembers. “But I had a hole inside me this big.”

Student filmmaker wins award

For her work in directing In A Perfect World, Chelsea McMullan won the award for best documentary at the YoungCuts Film Festival Oct. 24-30 in Toronto, reported the Langley Times in BC Nov. 11. McMullan’s 17-minute movie takes an inside look at the world of beauty pageants from the perspective of a contestant: her sister Kylie McMullan (Ms. Fraser Valley and finalist for Ms. World Canada). Chelsea was also nominated for best director at the prestigious festival for young filmmakers. She is a fourth-year film student at York.

On air

  • Susan Mann, former York University president and author of a biography about the head of Canadian military nursing during the First World War, discussed family stories about the war, on CBC’s “Radio Noon” Nov. 11.