Subway story prompts extensive reaction

The March 7 Toronto Star story speculating that funding for an extension of the Spadina subway line to York University would be announced in the next provincial budget generated stories in all the major daily newspapers and Toronto radio and television stations on March 8.

A subway line to York would relieve severe traffic congestion in northwest Toronto, help regional commuters get downtown and take pressure off the jammed Yonge subway, Toronto Mayor David Miller told the Star. “There’s no question it’s an extremely critical link in the Greater Toronto Area,” he told reporters. “It just connects everything together.” But Miller cautioned that unless some of the city’s budget issues are addressed, such as the downloading of costs by the province, it “won’t be in a position to expand the system.”

Provincial Transportation Minister Harinder Takhar told the Star he would not confirm or deny the report. But he acknowledged that a Spadina subway line extension was consistent with the government’s goals. “Public transit is our priority and we want to make public transit a viable alternative for commuters and that is one way we feel we can address the issue of congestion,” he said.

The Toronto Sun noted that Bud Purves, president of the York University Development Corp., estimated as many as 40,000 students would use the subway daily. “There currently are 1,500 buses a day coming to the York campus,” he said. “That would be reduced substantially in the future. The bus traffic would be off the roads. The car traffic would be off the roads.” It would take construction crews until 2013 to complete the project, TTC officials said.

Sean Hamilton, a spokesman for Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, told The Globe and Mail there is no need for an investigation into the Star story as a possible budget leak. “Nothing has been finalized,” he said. “All of this is rumour and speculation.” Miller said he had no knowledge of a possible subway announcement in the provincial budget. “The speculation in [the Star] is a little premature,” he said. “All I can say is that we have been continuing the discussions we have had with the province for a couple of years.”

While TTC General Manager Rich Ducharme said on CTV News that he has told the province he has other priorities, TTC Commissioner Howard Moscoe put it in harsher terms in the National Post. Ontario can take funding to build a subway to York University and place it “where the sun doesn’t shine” unless the province also provides money to operate the new line, Moscoe said. “If the premier [Dalton McGuinty] wants to build a subway and also offers sustainable funding for the TTC, then I will give him a big hug, break out the shovels and we can start digging together,” Moscoe said.

The subway speculation also sent reporters out looking for people’s opinions about the need for a subway. “They can’t build it fast enough,” York University transit users told the Star. Most students noted they won’t be there by the time the line opens, but still greeted the news with enthusiasm. “It’s a great idea,” said student Melissa Walker. “A subway line from Downsview will be much more direct than the buses. York is one of the biggest universities in Ontario and needs the subway.” The third-year student in York’s Faculty of Arts will be going to teachers college and possibly taking her master’s degree at York, so the subway could be built in time to help her get to school, she said.

First-year languages student in the Faculty of Arts Alexandra Misan hoped the subway will be built in time to benefit her, as she waited patiently in a long line for a bus. “I always take public transit. I really think it will help with the traffic congestion on campus – people will find it much faster getting here by subway than by car,” Misam said. Brunetta Jessop, who relies on public transit to get to York, said the subway line will be especially welcome during the winter, when she freezes at bus stops. Daniel Laviola, a second-year accounting student in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, has access to a car but doesn’t always use it “because the traffic here can be a hassle at peak times,” and a parking permit costs almost $1,000 a year. “The subway line is on the route from my house so it would be a benefit for me.”

York alumnus Dr. Anthony Radford (BA ‘95) of Lethbridge, Alberta, wrote to the Star March 8, saying: I am a native Torontonian, and from 1991 to 1995 I was a student at York University. To get to school, I rode the buses for hours, stood in traffic and, on occasion, parked two kilometres away from where my class was being held. My father [John Radford, professor in the Department of Geography], who teaches at York, has been doing that for 36 years. This expansion was needed 15 years ago, but let’s hope the leaders of Toronto and Ontario have started to become a little more visionary, anticipating the needs of the city rather than reacting to problems when they become untenable.

Toronto’s CFTO-TV took a poll of viewers opinions March 8 on whether the York University TTC subway line is a priority and found 73 per cent of respondents said “yes”.

Student summer business can develop transferable skills

In a season when many students are scooping ice cream, flipping burgers and hanging out with friends, others are testing the entrepreneurial waters, reported The Toronto Sun March 8. Running their own summer business allows them to earn not only a paycheque, but employable skills that will boost career prospects. “Everyone has his or her own motivation, but students …who want to run their own summer business often know they have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to be their own boss,” says Jenny Peach, programs co-ordinator at the York University Career Centre. “When you are your own boss you will have to know all aspects of the business,” she says. “Students will develop many transferable skills that are essential to any career. Some of these skills include communication, time-management, problem-solving, critical thinking, relationship building and risk-taking.”

Fax problems will cause review of all bank systems, says Middleton

CIBC, already the subject of several embarrassing privacy breaches, is at the centre of another fax mishap, this one a bizarre tale involving the brother of one-time hockey enforcer Marty McSorley, reported The Toronto Star March 8. Gerry McSorley – the former NHLer’s sibling and owner of Flite Hockey, which makes skates and other equipment – says the bank told him several months ago it had inadvertently been faxing confidential information intended for him to someone else, even though he had told CIBC about his new fax number after he moved the business. “This latest development is going to be reverberating through the offices of all the banks,” said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University. “It’s not good news for anybody. Everybody’s going to be looking again at what systems they have in place.” But CIBC stands to lose the most, Middleton said.

‘We’re in a dark period,’ Young says of Tory plans to stifle tokers

Potheads beware, Canadian Press warned in a March 7 story that noted the Conservative government has no plans to relax marijuana laws. Public toking became more common in parts of Canada as the former government moved to loosen laws. But police in some areas are once again cracking down. “I think we’re in a dark period right now,’” said Alan Young, a marijuana activist and professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. “They’re going after growers and seed dealers, and more people are being charged with simple possession.” Young says pot activists fighting to keep the cause alive are out of luck, but not forever. “It’s dead – for the time being,” he said. “This issue goes in cycles.” Young predicts that Ottawa won’t be able to indefinitely ignore a growing number of pot users. “We’re a drug-consuming culture and we’ve got to start regulating it.”

York authors’ book on strategic planning puts focus on flexibility, creativity

Most managers have been exposed to enough strategic planning formats and change management formulae to last them to eternity, said The Globe and Mail March 8, in a review of a book co-authored by two York writers and a consultant. For authors, the trick is to come up with something that sets them apart but is still workable, while touching all the familiar, and usually requisite, bases. The authors of Strategic Organizational ChangeEllen Auster, a professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, Krista Wylie, a consultant, and Michael Valente, a York PhD student – handle that challenge adeptly. They bring together the emotional and practical elements of a strategic change program – often authors only concentrate on one or the other – and add an important focus on flexibility, creativity and spontaneity that’s often missing.