No way to help middle-income seniors

Stephen Harper has promised that a Conservative government would increase the amount of private pension income that can be received free of tax from $1,000 to $2,000, wrote Lisa Philipps, a tax professor and assistant dean at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a Toronto Star opinion piece Dec. 16. This move, Harper says, is designed mainly to help middle-income seniors whose Old Age Security benefits are clawed back once their incomes exceed about $60,000. But if the goal is to help middle income seniors, the Conservatives have chosen a strange way to go about it, wrote Philipps.

People should understand this does not mean deducting $2,000 from their tax bill, she noted. Rather, the $2,000 would first be multiplied by 16 per cent, the lowest tax rate under the current law. Raising the dollar figure from $1,000 to $2,000 will save an individual no more than $160 per year, or $13.30 per month.

It is also misleading to suggest this tax cut is aimed primarily at middle-income seniors, said Philipps. In fact, it is a broad-based tax cut that will be received by all taxpayers with private pension income. This is why the proposal is so expensive, at a cost of more than $2 billion. Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the $2 billion to help the target group directly? Surely those who rely entirely on public pension benefits include some of the neediest seniors in the country.

Use arbitration to settle commercial disputes, says new group

A group of Toronto’s leading commercial litigators and academics, who can often be found arguing on opposite sides of the courtroom, have banded together with a common goal: to promote the broader use of arbitration in commercial disputes and to promote Toronto as the location to do it, reported Ontario’s weekly Law Times Dec. 13. The Arbitration Roundtable of Toronto is composed of 10 members, including Janet Walker, associate dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. Besides holding seminars on arbitration for corporate lawyers, the group also wants to promote Toronto as an ideal location for arbitration hearings. “You could fairly say that Toronto is a secret that’s been waiting to get out in terms of a seat for an arbitration,” said Walker. “It’s not just skill, it’s our approach to dispute resolution generally and the fact that our approach to procedure is quite moderate. It’s in between American practices and European practices; we understand both,” she said.

Racketeer act built to trap Mob, now targets Black

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act – otherwise known as RICO – is a law that was originally intended to trap the Mafia, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 16 in a story about the US prosecution of Conrad Black. But not everyone charged under RICO is in the Mafia or similar groups, said Allan Hutchinson, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “While the genesis of the law was to get those in the Mafia,” said Hutchinson, “these days it’s used for those who commit a pattern of fraud.”

York Region still hopes for sports centre despite losing games bid

Losing its bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games yesterday will make it tougher to build a new sports training centre in York Region, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 16. But bid chief Bill Crothers hopes the centre can still go ahead. “I think one of the things we were successful in doing [with the bid] is demonstrating that this is something that would be extremely beneficial to York Region,” he said after Commonwealth Games Canada announced it had selected Halifax as the Canadian bidder for the 2014 Games. York Region officials had planned on using several Toronto facilities for the 2014 Games, including the Rogers Centre, the Air Canada Centre and York University.

Somali refugees – strangers in paradise

In many ways, they are strangers in paradise, reported the Hamilton Spectator Dec. 16. The Somali refugees who now live among us in Hamilton have escaped violence and pain and found haven in a land that welcomes them as equals. But their identities are in limbo. There is tension in the change, both positive and negative. “I don’t know how to measure it,” says Hassan Shire Sheikh, a Somali who studies both sides of the issue. He is the coordinator of the African Human Rights Defenders’ program for East Africa and the Horn of Africa. Sheikh started his current project out of York’s Centre for Refugee Studies, where he could be assured of safety. He returned in July to East Africa to continue his work, but while living in Canada he had a chance to witness the sometimes painful adjustments of the Somali newcomers.

Why more women don’t run for office

In an interview with Toronto Liberal candidate Deborah Coyne published Dec. 16, Maclean’s cited comments York President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna Marsden recently made to the Toronto Star about why more women didn’t run for office. Marsden told the Star she wouldn’t want to go into politics because it’s too hard on marriages. The response by Coyne, who famously had a child out of wedlock with former prime minister Pierre Trudeau and is currently single: “Ah…no comment.”

On air

  • John Picchione, an Italian studies professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, discussed secondary education as a federal election issue, on CFMT-TV’s “Studio Aperto” Dec. 15.