Toronto and York Region will share subway costs

Toronto and York Region have finally reached an agreement on splitting the hefty price tag for expanding the Spadina subway line to York University, reported CTV News online Sept. 16. The province announced in March that it would pay one-third of the cost and gave the two municipalities a deadline to figure out how they would split their third.

With that deadline approaching at the end of September, Toronto has agreed to pay 59.96 per cent of the municipalities’ third, while York Region will pay 40.04 per cent. The parties are now waiting on the federal government to come up with the remaining third of the cost of the $2.1-billion, 8.6-kilometre extension. The deal is still tentative, however, and must be approved by the respective councils. It will be presented to York regional council on Sept. 21 and to Toronto city council on Sept. 25.

  • Now the focus of the 8.6-km project – 6.1 km in Toronto – shifts to the federal government, the final funding partner, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 16. Yesterday’s agreement will increase pressure on Ottawa to pay their third share so that construction can begin next year, York Region Chair Bill Fisch said. “I think the federal government will come on board,” Fisch said yesterday. “I think this is the beginning of looking at transportation issues in a different way by all levels of government.”

  • York Region will also hand over a cheque for $30 million to pay for work the TTC has already done in preparation for the subway’s extension, wrote The Toronto Sun Sept. 16. “It’s a fair deal,” said Toronto’s budget chairman, David Soknacki.

University presidents fear writs will fly after top court rejects appeal

The Supreme Court of Canada has opened university presidents to possible lawsuits as public officials after refusing to hear an appeal by York University’s top administrator, reported the National Post Sept. 16. York University President and Vice-Chancellor Lorna R. Marsden sought leave to appeal the April, 2006 decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that a student can sue her for misfeasance in public office.

The top court on Thursday dismissed with costs Marsden’s application for leave to appeal the Appeal Court’s decision. York had hoped the Supreme Court would hear the case and close the door on this question. “It’s a matter of principle. Universities are independent. University presidents are independent. You can just decide it as a matter of principle,” said Chris Wayland, counsel for York in the case. Wayland said York will argue at trial that university presidents, as leaders of autonomous institutions, are not public officers in the sense of state actors and do not hold public office within the meaning of the tort of misfeasance in a public office. And in any case, Marsden did nothing wrong, he said.

University of Toronto law Professor Peter Rosenthal, who is representing York student Daniel Freeman-Maloy, said he wishes York would use this opportunity to settle the case. “Make a reasonable settlement now, and save taxpayers’ money,” he said. 

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling is binding in Ontario and persuasive in other provinces, particularly since it comes from the largest appeal court in the country, said the Post. But the fight over this question is not over. York University spokesman Alex Bilyk said the matter of whether the York president is a public official will be decided at trial. “We look forward to defending this case vigorously in the Ontario courts in the years head,” he said. The story also appeared in the Ottawa Citizen, the Victoria Times Colonist  and the Montreal Gazette.

  • The Supreme Court of Canada has cleared the way for a Toronto student activist to sue York University for “public misfeasance” after it barred him from the institution for three years because of his role in two noisy protests, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 18. The University’s lawyers had insisted that if allowed to proceed, the lawsuit could seriously impinge on traditional academic freedoms and “cast an unwarranted shadow of potential liability over Canadian universities and their presidents.”

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, reported the Globe, former York University president Harry Arthurs warned that great danger could flow from a university president being deemed to hold public office. “In my opinion, the issue of whether it is open for a court in Canada to find that a university president holds a public office is of urgent and national importance,” Arthurs wrote.

BMO Financial Group donates $1.25 million to Glendon

York University has received a $1.25 million gift from BMO Financial Group in support of Glendon College through the Glendon College Opportunity Fund, reported North York Mirror Sept. 14 . One million dollars of this gift will establish the BMO Financial Group Conference Centre and fund development of public affairs programming, especially through the newly created Glendon School of Public Affairs. The school – a first in Canada – will offer graduate students a high-level bilingual education that will prepare them for leadership roles in public life. The remaining $250,000 of this gift will establish the BMO Financial Group Scholarships; annually, 10 of the best and brightest first-year students at Glendon will each receive a $5,000 scholarship.

Are bilingual video gamers the fastest?

York University psychologist Ellen Bialystok, a professor in the Faculty of Health, studied whether people who speak more than one language react faster in a series of computer tests than people who speak only one language, reported CTV News online Sept. 16. While she discovered that bilingual people performed better on the test, the study also showed video game players also did better than non-video game players. “The video (game) players were faster on all the conditions and on all the tasks,” said Bialystok. “They’re very fast.” Regular video gamers performed better than non-players. But bilingual people outperformed the gamers on more difficult tasks. “What video game playing improves is speed, and speed is nice but it’s not everything,” said Bialystok.

Why do bullies get away with it?

Bullying is all around us, and not just on television, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 18. Government, business and sports all have successful bullies. Is it any wonder, ask those trying to curb bullying, that impressionable young people aren’t buying the message of peaceful cooperation? Jennifer Connolly, director of the LaMarsh Centre for Research in Violence and Conflict Resolution at York University, says, “Children are growing up in a culture that tolerates levels of bullying, meanness, verbal name-calling and, at the same time, is telling them to be non-violent. We need to crank up the volume on that (non-violent) message.”

York student joins those at Queen’s Park honouring veterans

As a Lancaster bomber droned and a Spitfire fighter buzzed overhead, a 30-metre-long granite memorial wall honouring Canadian veterans was unveiled on the front lawn of Queen’s Park Sept. 17. York University student Carmen Sanchez, whose mother’s family lived through the Nazi occupation of Alsace-Lorraine, said she was at Queen’s Park because, “I’m French. I want to remember the people who helped free my country. Those are the ones that I’m here for.”

Graduate student finds flying ‘cathartic’

The skies over Grand Manan, NB, were full of small airplanes over the weekend when 25 female pilots touched down on the island, reported New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal Sept. 18. The pilots are all members of the Ninety-Nines, an international organization of licensed female pilots. They were landing on Grand Manan as part of the Canadian chapter’s annual Gold Cup Rally. Jean Franklin Hancher and Marilyn Dickson were among the first to land on Grand Manan Saturday. Hancher, an attorney who is currently working on her PhD at York University in Toronto, was interested in aviation from an early age. “I was 15 when I had my first flight and I knew as soon as I had my first flight that I wanted to fly,” she says. “When my first husband left me, I knew I needed to do something for me – that’s when I learned to fly.” She calls flying cross-country with a group of women a cathartic and therapeutic experience.

Canada must lead in Darfur, writes Osgoode student

On Aug.31, the United Nations moved one step closer to bringing about an end to the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, wrote Ben Fine and Josh Scheinert, a student at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in the National Post Sept. 18. It passed Security Council Resolution 1706, calling for up to 20,600 troops and police to help stabilize the troubled region and protect its vulnerable civilians. To make this protection a reality Canada will have to answer the call. Resolution 1706 refers to Sudan’s “responsibility to protect” its civilians, a Canadian diplomatic initiative adopted by the UN’s General Assembly one year ago. Given that Sudan has manifestly failed to protect its population from ethnic cleansing, the resolution rightfully “invites” the Sudanese government to consent to the troop deployment, rather than requiring it, wrote the pair. Scheinert is communications director for Students Taking Action Now: Darfur (STAND), Canada.

York student impressed with Pitfield’s campaign promise

Toronto Councillor Jane Pitfield, David Miller’s chief rival for the mayor’s job in November’s vote, chats for more than 10 minutes with Andrea Kissendal, 34, a York University student worried about what she calls police harassment of black youth and the lack of recreation facilities for local kids, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 18. Pitfield tells her she wants the city to pay school boards to use their pools and gyms after hours. “We can’t afford to build even one gymnasium, we are managing our money so poorly,” she says. “A lot of politicians make promises. If I don’t deliver what I promise, I won’t seek re-election.” Kissendal, who had never heard of Pitfield, is impressed. “It’s very good that she’s here,” she says.

Former Lions lineman coaches at Ottawa school

They’re expansion teams but the enterprising coaching staffs at the Ottawa Technical Learning Centre and Immaculata are taking a university approach to creating high school football programs, reported the Ottawa Citizen Sept. 17. And the enthusiastic group of 40-plus players of varying skill levels on both teams are quickly benefitting from the knowledge of young head coaches, who were successful university players, as the two schools prepare to enter the National Capital Secondary School Athletic senior A league. “We’re trying to run our program and practices like we did at university,” said York alumnus Ntare Bainomugisha (BA ‘01), the Ottawa Tech head coach who was a York Lions lineman for five years and the 2004 Ontario University Athletics nominee for the Russ Jackson Award for academics, athletics and volunteerism.

Stratus decides to step out of the ring

With her World Wrestling Entertainment career in its final hours, Toronto native Trish Stratus, a former kinesiology student in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, doesn’t mind tackling menial tasks after spending the past six-and-a-half years as one of World Wrestling Entertainment’s most recognizable, not to mention attractive, faces, wrote The Calgary Sun Sept. 17. Her run with the company was to end Sunday night at “Unforgiven”, where she wouldl face arch-nemesis Lita for the WWE Women’s Championship. At 30, Stratus remains in her physical prime. But years on the road have taken their toll on the blond beauty, the first woman in WWE history to hold the women’s title on six different occasions.

Stratus’ contract expires this month, and the timing couldn’t be better: She’s due to be wed Sept. 30, and retiring after today’s event allows her to say goodbye in front of her hometown fans. “I actually read one comment where a fan said she had followed me throughout my entire career. She asked, ‘What do I do now?’ It’s pretty crazy to think of that.” Stratus’ path to the WWE was even crazier. It began in 1997, when she was attending York University in Toronto, studying biology and kinesiology with hopes of becoming a doctor. A faculty strike that winter sent Stratus looking for work, and she found it at a local gym.

Canadian university degrees are valuable, writes Schulich student

I take great exception to the comments of letter-writer Heinz Klatt, wrote Annesley Hatton, a student at York’s Schulich School of Business in a letter to the National Post Sept. 16. For a professor emeritus to argue that “Canadian university degrees signify…little about education” cannot be construed as anything more than the prose of a particularly discontented higher education apostate.

As an experienced consumer of Canadian post-secondary education, with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, a graduate degree in materials science engineering and currently a part-time student in the Schulich MBA program, I’ve never asked for or wanted “high marks for poor work.” Only a fool would. But for my money, time and full effort, I expect that professors will metaphorically sweat to create a dynamic, fully informed and experiential learning environment that brings out the best in me, my fellow students and the academic community at large.

My university learning led to my current role as a nuclear engineer. Occupying university seats beside, behind and in front of me throughout my years in post-secondary education were legions of international students paying full freight for the Canadian degree program. The evidence is in. If Prof. Klatt participated in doling out “meaningless degrees,” then shame on him.

On air

  • Laurence Packer, professor of entomology in York’s Department of Biology, Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about bees and wasps in the fall season, on Global TV Sept. 15.