‘Mulroney’s children’ are poised for power

This is looking to be a historic federal election – the election in which “Mulroney’s children” take charge of the Canadian state, wrote political scientist James Laxer in a Globe and Mail op-ed piece Jan. 18. Two new parties spawned from the old Mulroney coalition – the Bloc Québécois and the Reform Party (now the Conservatives) – have very different political cultures and values, but they are united in their desire to dramatically lessen Ottawa’s role, suggested Laxer, a professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. People who assume that a parliament dominated by the Conservatives and the Bloc, with Harper as prime minister, cannot not last long, imagine wrongly.

Meanwhile, the Liberals and New Democrats contend against each other in a struggle that is dooming both, wrote Laxer, author of In Search of the New Left. The Liberals do this by treating social democratic voters as a spigot to be turned on at election time, and off when the Grits are safely in power. NDP strategy – to continually attack the Liberals, while scarcely mentioning Harper – has helped defang Harper, suggested Laxer.

The strategies of the Liberals and the NDP are in tatters as Mulroney’s children stand ready to inherit the kingdom. For those who have believed passionately in a Canada in which Ottawa plays a strong role in shaping the social policies of the nation, these are dispiriting days, said Laxer. Clearly, the parties that favour the Canadian system will have to be rebuilt from the ground up after Jan. 23.

Alberta’s clout to surge if Tories win vote

Alberta’s growing economic power could soon be accompanied by newfound political influence if the Conservatives – led by Calgary Southwest MP Stephen Harper – capture next week’s federal election, reported the the Calgary Herald Jan. 18. “A shift to the right means Alberta will have a bigger welcome mat in Ottawa,” said Daniel Drache, a political scientist at York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. “The Albertan ideas about a larger role for private sector, less taxes – all of this will have resonance in Ottawa.”

Here’s to the feminization of universities

While Canada remains the great frozen political north for women, half of the nation’s top universities measured by size are run by them, commented The Globe and Mail’s Jeffrey Simpson in his Jan. 18 column. They are, as you would expect, an exceedingly impressive group, he wrote, and listed among the six York University President & Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden. She was once a Liberal senator while she taught at the University of Toronto, where she specialized in sociology and women’s studies. The female university leaders are in the vanguard of an important trend: the feminization of universities. Of course, there are still more male than female faculty members and senior administrators, reflecting the gender balance that prevailed among students several decades ago. But women now make up the majority of students in medicine and law. They form a solid majority of undergraduate students in arts and science. And whereas only 35 per cent of all doctoral students were women in 1992, they represented 45 per cent by 2003.

Iran’s new president scares his neighbours

Iran’s new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “belongs to the young generation of Islamic hard-liners who are upset with their predecessors but also with the older guard of the Islamic regime,” says Saeed Rahnema, a Middle East specialist and professor of political science in York’s Faculty of Arts who grew up in Iran, reported Maclean’s in its Jan. 23 issue. “They want to go back to the time of the revolution in the early 1980s, with the hope that they would re-Islamicize the whole society. All of them are of the same type. They are young. They are zealots. And they would like to establish a truly fundamentalist Shia Islamic regime in Iran.” Rahnema said most of the governments in nearby Muslim countries are nervous, and disturbed by Ahmadinejad’s presidency. “Iran is a very powerful country,” he points out. “It is not Iraq. It is not a tiny Arab sheikdom. Having a zealous, confrontational character in power would make them scared.”

Workplace wagering: Everyone into the pool

Ron Burke, professor emeritus of organizational behaviour at York’s Schulich School of Business, sees no need for a policy about sports pools, reported The Globe and Mail Jan. 18. “So what if your employees talk sports at work?” Burke says. “People spend hours in any given week not doing work, so whether they’re talking about what they did on the weekend, the hassles involved in dealing with city hall or talking sports, it is no big deal. Most companies see it as the price they pay when any kind of work is being done.”

Professor conducts harassment probe

A harassment probe at Memorial University in St. John’s will be conducted by Shirley Katz, a humanities professor in York’s Faculty of Arts who has extensive experience with harassment and discrimination issues, reported the National Post Jan. 18. The audit is meant to examine Memorial’s reaction to allegations that the late Deepa Khosla, a political science professor, was being stalked by a student. Khosla’s family and friends have been critical of how the university handled the persistent harassment, alleging that the professor felt a lack of support for her safety and an unwelcoming environment for women at Memorial.

York helps students move from school to career

York University’s award-winning cyberguide (www.yorku.ca/careers) offers online workshops, passwords to job-listing Web sites and many other online tools designed to help its students create a unique career path, reported The Toronto Sun Jan. 18. Its walk-in employment resource service offers one-on-one career advising and more. “We help students be strategic about choosing a job and how to take a seemingly ordinary job and maximize your ability to get the most out of it,” says Cathy Keates, associate director of York’s Career Centre. “So many students want career-related experience. Sometimes, it’s about thinking outside the box.” She encourages students to be strategic in their career planning. “A lot think a job search is about sending out resumes, but most jobs aren’t found that way. It’s about investing time and learning to be strategic. You will feel more in control and start getting results.”

Few students or candidates at debate

What if they held an all-candidates debate and almost no one came – including the candidates? asked the Toronto Star Jan. 18. That’s what happened at York University Tuesday when the York Federation of Students hosted an on-campus debate for federal candidates from York West. One of five confirmed candidates, Conservative Parm Gill, failed to show after earlier telling student organizers he would attend. Then Liberal incumbent Judy Sgro left halfway through the debate, pleading a prior engagement. Sgro was accosted as she left by student activist Daniel Freeman-Maloy, who shrieked at her for not staying to answer questions on her record as a former immigration minister. A shocked-looking Sgro dashed for the exit as security staff blocked Freeman-Maloy. “The two main parties, one of which will form Canada’s next government, showed no real interest in the third largest university in the country,” a frustrated organizer Shamini Selvaratnam said about the debacle. “It was basically like pulling teeth to get them here,” she said.

The student turnout wasn’t much better. At its height, the crowd in the large hall at the Student Centre numbered fewer than 25 – some doing homework – and toward the 90-minute session’s end, the count dropped below 10. Selvaratnam said Tuesday’s low turnout reflects an understandable lack of interest in the election among students. “How can students be expected to care about the mainstream parties when they appear to care so little about them?” Selvaratnam asked.

On air

  • Astronomer Paul Delaney, York Observatory director, discussed the significance of NASA’s launch of a probe to Pluto, expected to arrive in 2015, and talked about human and robot space exploration, on CTV-TV’s “Canada AM” and “CTV National News” Jan. 17. He said: “The reality of the day is that this is a very, very tiny object. And if we found that object today, we probably would not label it as a planet because it is so small.”
  • Heather Lotherington, a professor in York’s Faculty of Education, discussed research she has done that suggests that playing video games may help young people increase their literacy skills, on “NewsTalk 1290 Today” on CJBK-AM in London Jan. 17.
  • Jim Alcock, a psychology professor at York’s Glendon College, longs for the ’60s, reported “CTV News at Noon” in Toronto Jan. 17, after the station showed clips of unidentified passersby who couldn’t correctly answer questions about Canadian politics.