Elections Canada partly to blame for low turnout, says MacDermid

People tend to blame voters for being too busy, too ill-informed or too isolated to exercise their democratic right, said York political scientist Robert MacDermid, in a Toronto Star story Jan. 24 about why the mostly immigrant population in Poll 37, Etobicoke North, doesn’t vote. But this view ignores the responsibility of political parties to help organize and represent the interests of new citizens in precarious economic positions, he said. It also lets Elections Canada off the hook. Research shows one of the most common reasons for not voting is not being on the voters’ list and not receiving a voter’s card, he said. “There are people out there in the community trying to help with voter education and Elections Canada should be assisting,” said MacDermid.

In other pre- and post-election coverage:

  • After delivering no seats to the Tories Jan. 23, Toronto and Mayor David Miller probably shouldn’t count on a Conservative government to help finance expansion of the TTC, including the proposed extension of the Spadina subway line to York University, wrote Toronto Star columnist Ian Urquhart Jan. 24. In their election platform, the Conservatives signalled that they will target new infrastructure funding at roads and highways, not transit.
  • The Barrie Examiner profiled York law student Geoff Hunnisett in a Jan. 21 feature on election volunteers. The first-year Osgoode Hall Law School student took a constitutional law exam Dec. 21, then immediately drove to Barrie MP Aileen Carroll’s office. Since then, he has been working the equivalent of a full time job at the office, while occasionally attending classes in Toronto. “It’s worth missing a couple weeks of school just to push through to election day,” he said.
  • Soccer-playing New Democrat Marco Iacampo, 25 “and full of energy”, is a Downsview native who graduated with a bachelor of business administration in 2003 and emphasized his background in community work – and lost to Ken Dryden in York Centre, reported the Toronto Star Jan. 24.

Jewish exhibit was Andrea Bronfman’s greatest achievement, says Abella

Andrea Bronfman, wife of former Seagrams chairman Charles Bronfman, was killed Monday in a traffic accident, reported the Associated Press out of New York in a story published in the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette, The Globe and Mail and the National Post Jan. 24. “It’s a tragic catastrophe,” said historian Irving Abella, a close friend of the Bronfmans and Shiff Professor of Canadian Jewish History at York. “She and her husband have done so much not only for Jews and Israel, but for Canada. They’ve funded a whole variety of cultural and academic endeavours.” Abella called Andrea Bronfman’s greatest achievement a travelling exhibit of Canadian Jewish history called A Coat of Many Colours. He told the Globe that the early 1990s exhibition of Jewish artifacts from Canadian life that toured Israel, New York and Canada was significant for Canadian Jewry because “it told the story that nobody knew,” that Jews have been in Canada for more than 250 years.

Abella also remembered Andrea Bronfman in interviews aired on CFTR’s “680 News” and CFRB “News” in Toronto and CHED “News” in Edmonton Jan. 23.

‘Dumbing down’ math condemned

First-year engineering student Roman Mleczek hopes the provincial government doesn’t dilute Grade 12 high school math courses because he says he’s already at a mathematical disadvantage compared with the international students sitting beside him in class, reported the Windsor Star Jan. 21. University-bound students are no longer taking Grade 12 Discrete Math, which is geometry and algebra, partly because Grade 11 math doesn’t give them an adequate foundation to be successful in the course, said Walter Whiteley, director of applied mathematics at York. But guidance counsellors have also discouraged students from taking it to improve chances of getting into university, Whiteley said.

Film grad joins This Hour Has 22 Minutes

He’s been known as a standup guy, but right now Ron Sparks is sitting at the table of comic relief, reported the Chatham Daily News Jan. 21. The Chatham native has racked up awards for his sketch and standup comedy. But since graduating from York in 2002 with a BFA in film production, Sparks is moving into a direction he’s craved – writing. He’s on the joke writing team of the Canadian television show This Hour Has 22 Minutes for the remainder of this season.

Nature’s call, waiting

Activist Andrea Winkler of Planning Action complains about the general decline in “public space” in the city, and sees toilet use as more of a right, reported the National Post Jan. 21 in a story about the lack of public facilities in Toronto. “A public washroom is one of those essential spaces in a city, because everyone needs to go sometime, no matter who you are,” says Winkler, who is studying for a master’s degree in environmental studies at York. In the recent book uTOpia: Towards a New Toronto, Winkler and other Action Planners write about public washrooms’ utility as a place to clean out a stain on your favourite shirt, take your meds, or have a good cry. “I’ve had to wash clothing items in a public washroom before, including boots and socks,” says Winkler.

More muted post-deal pleasures in Canada

Most Canadian financial institutions have sought to pre-empt the scandals that seem rife in America with codes of conduct on post-deal gifts that put a damper on wretched excess, reported the National Post Jan. 21. That’s not to say all companies enforce their code of ethics or that there isn’t a lot of wiggle room, says Mark Schwartz, a professor of corporate governance, law and ethics at the Atkinson School of Administrative Studies at York. “The culture within the investment banking community is such that expensive gifts or entertainment are used to woo or maintain client relationships.”

Sportball franchise helps youngsters develop all ways

Lee Richardson is an entrepreneur and educator with a nifty new business for Victoria that gets young kids and their parents connected to sports in all the right ways, reported the Times Colonist in Victoria Jan. 21. Sportball focuses on developing gross motor skills and teaches fundamental skills and sportsmanship in a non-competitive environment. “The goal of the program is to help youngsters develop both mentally and physically,” says Richardson, 26. He earned his education degree in 2005 at York and bachelor of science at Royal Roads. Other franchises have been set up in Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton and Austin, Texas.

Professor details the joys of taxes

“I like paying taxes,” Neil Brooks wrote in a recent paper sponsored by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, reported The Calgary Herald in a business news item also published in The Fredericton Gleaner Jan. 21. “Taxes spent on goods and services provided by government itself generally increase our freedom, including, for example, the freedom to travel by using publicly financed roads and other transportation systems, the freedom to learn and think critically, freedom from concerns over crippling heath bills and the freedom to enjoy public libraries, beaches and parks,” Brooks writes. He adds that “taxes also allow us to discharge our moral obligations to one another.”

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, an economics professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed Ford Motor Company’s expected job cuts, its problems and its future, in interviews aired on CBC Radio’s national “World Report”, “Ontario Today” and “Here and Now”. Wolf, also director of Schulich’s International MBA Program, said the cuts in southern Ontario are necessary and not as bad as they could have been.