Star says budget includes money for subway extension

Transit pass users get a break on fares, and the TTC may have its subway extension past York University into Vaughan, reported the Toronto Star May 3. The new federal government pledged up to $1.3 billion in support of public transit infrastructure – for projects like the subway – by entrenching programs created by the previous Liberal regime. As well, the Tories added their own twist with a $370 million subsidy in the form of a tax credit for individual commuters of all ages and regardless of income levels – students, seniors and adults – in what they call a “made-in-Canada climate change” program. “Canadians in cities are concerned about traffic congestion and the harmful emissions that come with it,” Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told the House of Commons. “This government appreciates the fact that investing in public transit infrastructure can help preserve our environment.”

In a separate story, the Star said Ontario will receive $1.13 billion of that money by September with much of it going toward the previously announced extension of the Spadina subway line from Downsview Station through York University and ending in Vaughan. But the budget windfall is offset by a one-time enrichment of the federal wealth-sharing equalization program to the tune of $255.4 million.

  • Toronto Mayor David Miller says the federal budget is on track when it comes to aiding public transit, but falls short in allotting cash for child care and the environment, reported the Toronto Sun May 3. It’s “good news” that the feds will boost funding for transit in Canada by $500 million, he said. “Our public transit system in Toronto needs the ability to grow and we’ve been fighting over the past two or three years to maintain the funding just to keep what we have,” he said. It’s unclear whether yesterday’s budget contains money needed to extend the Spadina subway line to York University, and beyond Toronto’s borders into Vaughan, Miller said. The provincial government agreed to put up $670 million to extend the Spadina subway line. Since the 10-year project will cost $2 billion, the federal government, Toronto and York Region will also have to contribute cash to make the project a reality.

Budget silent on money for new research centres

The federal budget was either a glass half full or half empty for Toronto, depending on your priorities for the city, wrote David Pecaut, Chair of the Toronto City Summit Alliance, in the Toronto Star May 3. A disappointment for the Toronto region and one partnership that includes York University was in the area of research and development. The Toronto Region Research Alliance, a coalition of business, university, college, hospital, and municipal leaders in the GTA, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Hamilton has been strenuously advocating for increased federal investment in the research infrastructure for the region.

The hope is to build on the Golden Horseshoe’s huge research strengths and create one of the pre-eminent high-tech regions in the world. One of the Alliance’s key complaints has been that the main federal research agency, the National Research Council, has 40 locations across the country but none in the Golden Horseshoe where more than 35 per cent of the research in Canada is performed. The research alliance has been supporting three major proposals for federal research funding including a National Institute for Convergent Technologies to be an NRC partnership with York University, the Town of Markham, and other partners. The Liberals announced they would support all these projects to the tune of $180 million.

Axelrod says teachers should reject Wikipedia as a source

In a letter to The Globe and Mail May 3, Paul Axelrod, dean of York’s Faculty of Education, wrote: Your benign defence of Wikipedia (Wikipedia’s World, And Where It Points Us – editorial, May 1) is misplaced and naive.   It is one thing to hail the Internet as a “democratic” venue for the expression of opinion, informed or otherwise. It is quite another for an “encyclopedia” with no academic standards and no discretion with respect to the choice of authors to pose as some kind of intellectual authority, and, worse, to be legitimized as such by The Globe.

I have some direct experience with the reliability of Wikipedia, Axelrod wrote. An entry gave me credit for having invented a “school” of educational thought, which, sadly, I have not done, and, among other inaccuracies, mistitled one of my books. I entered the Wikipedia site and corrected the errors; it was no more difficult than sending an e-mail. But the original gaffes have since found their way onto other Web sites and may float in cyberspace forever. I would advise teachers not to accept any student essays that use Wikipedia as a source, and I would advise The Globe to rethink its enthusiasm for a provably defective vehicle of communication.

New study of Vioxx emphasizes need for caution, says Lexchin

Critics say the latest study in the Vioxx saga – which says the drug caused heart attacks far quicker than previously suspected – exposes the limited testing done before a new drug hits the market, reported CanWest News May 3. Vioxx was fast-tracked for approval, and the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported in an editorial last year that drug regulators in the US and Canada were aware of the increased risk of heart risks long before Vioxx was withdrawn from the market. “What this [new study] really demonstrates is the dangers of jumping into new drug use before all the data is really in,” says Dr. Joel Lexchin, an emergency physician and professor in York’s School of Health Policy and Management. “With Vioxx, I think there were 50,000 visits made by sales representatives in the first year it was on the market to doctor’s offices in Canada. There were a million samples of the drug left behind. “This reinforces that things happen that you don’t think about. You’ve got to be cautious in using new drugs.”

Making Canada a leader in medical marijuana

Stephen Harper has decided to turn marijuana law reform into a mere pipe-dream for 3 million pot-smoking Canadians, wrote Alan Young, law professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in the National Post May 3. This is a tragic mistake: Only in the world of science fiction can a plant become public enemy number one. But the oracle has now spoken, and Canadians will probably have to endure another decade of a misguided drug strategy that converts cannabis consumers into common criminals.

Fortunately, however, Harper’s regressive approach to cannabis prohibition should have no impact on the increasing number of Canadians who rely upon marijuana for medical purposes. In 2000, the Ontario Court of Appeal declared that seriously ill Canadians have a constitutional right to choose marijuana as medicine. To discharge this constitutional obligation, Health Canada has been compelled to manage and maintain a program that exempts legitimate medical use from the criminal law.

Contrary to the views of ill-informed detractors, medical marijuana use is not simply a reflection of the obvious fact that intoxicating substances can make sick people feel temporarily better. The cannabinoids present in marijuana plants not only lead to giggles and a deep appreciation of Pink Floyd; these unique chemical compounds can control and curb nausea, neuropathic pain, spasticity and inflammation. As an appetite stimulant, marijuana can combat the ravages of the wasting syndrome that plagues many patients undergoing chemotherapy and HIV/AIDS antiretroviral treatment. To date, the medical applications of cannabis have related to symptom control and not curative properties. But last year there was much excitement when Spanish and Israeli scientists both discovered that a synthetic cannabinoid can actually shrink cancerous tumours.

BC Lions wish York’s Ricky Foley well in NFL tryout

There might have been a time when the Canadian Football League relished its anonymity, knowing young players such as York Lions linebacker Ricky Foley could develop and flourish and remain Canada’s little secret, without registering on the NFL radar, reported the Vancouver Sun May 3. But recruiters are casting their nets far and wide these days, judging by Foley’s invitation to the mini-camp of the Baltimore Ravens, after he was selected by the Lions in the first round of the 2006 Canadian college draft. Foley’s speed, athleticism and varied skills made him the second of three CIS players selected by BC in the first round on April 20, and the decision looks like a smart one given the Ravens feel the 24-year-old from York University bears closer scrutiny. Foley received his invite to Baltimore’s mini-camp, May 12-14, a couple of hours after the NFL draft on Sunday.

“All along this is what I wanted to happen,” Foley said. “I just wanted a shot. The Lions have been awesome about it. I thought they’d be mad. ‘What’s this kid doing? We wasted a draft pick on him.’ But the first thing they did was offer congratulations.” He hopes to add his name to the list of first-round draft picks who never made it to the training camp of the Lions, but a lot still has to happen before Foley gets to sign a contract. “Technically, it’s just a three-day weekend contract that’s got an insurance waiver on it,” says Foley’s agent, Scott Mitchell. “It’s basically a tryout. Ninety per cent of those guys get released after the weekend’s over. I would be shocked if Ricky wasn’t here on May 18 [when the Lions’ rookie training camp opens].”

On air

  • Amin Mawani, accounting professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the federal budget on CBC-TV’s “The National” May 2.
  • Stephanie Venturin, a first-year student in York’s Faculty of Arts, gave her reaction to the federal budget on Barrie’s CKVR-TV May 2.
  • Ronald Burke, professor of organizational behaviour in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about a Swedish firm’s buyout offer to employees over 35 on CFRB Radio’s “Toronto at Noon” May 2.
  • Ellen Bialystok, professor in York’s Department of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, spoke about the brain-strengthening effects of being bilingual on CBC Radio (Ottawa), May 2.