York professor calls for ban on corporate campaign funding and limits on spending

As more and more candidates in the Greater Toronto Area mount campaigns free of corporate funding, one of the city’s leading experts on municipal elections is calling on Queen’s Park to ban the practice all together and tighten candidates’ spending limits to accommodate the change, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 3.

A study conducted by Robert MacDermid, political scientist in York’s Faculty of Arts, found that, in the 2003 municipal elections, more than 90 per cent of the $100 or more contributions for campaigns in the GTA came from corporations, with the majority of that from land developers. In the past, he said, this has led to poor planning and the depletion of environmental resources such as the moraine and greenbelt.

“The contributions are overwhelming. You can’t expect that a candidate be backed to that extent and not be swayed in the decisions they would make,” MacDermid told a group of about 15 Durham Region candidates, who signed a “developer-free pledge” by the Sierra Club promising not to take developer money to finance their election campaigns.

He said the province should effectively ban corporate donations to municipal campaigns and cap candidates’ spending limits at $10,000, because funding would come only from individuals. “How many signs does one candidate really need? I see so many these days that it feels like an arms race.”

With more than 40 candidates running corporate-free campaigns in the GTA, Municipal Affairs Minister John Gerretsen said in October that he will be looking at whether corporate and union donations should be banned in municipal campaigns.

Creative Arts Students Association holds memorial concert for Ben-Nathan

Just weeks after graduating, a York University student died from testicular cancer, and his fine arts family will remember him at a Nov. 12 concert, reported the North York Mirror Nov. 1. York music graduate Barak Ben-Nathan died June 24 and the university’s Creative Arts Student Association is hosting the concert to celebrate the man they said left behind a legacy of talent, spirit, courage, compassion and love.

Association members and faculty of fine arts will pay tribute to Ben-Nathan with a charity concert in the Accolade East Recital Hall. Proceeds will go to Alli’s Journey, a non-profit organization that raises funds for a network of support groups providing critical care, counselling and assistance to cancer patients between the ages of 18 to 35. A variety of musicians who knew Ben-Nathan personally will pay tribute at the concert, including CHRY 105.5FM radio personality and piano improviser Azure “Sky Blue” Janda, jazz vocalist Ori Dagan and bluegrass fiddler James McKie. Funds for Alli’s Journey will also be raised through a silent auction, featuring artwork by York University visual arts students and alumni.

Fans flock to hockey night at the movies

Hockey night at the movies arrived in a new joint deal between the Toronto team’s Leafs TV television arm and Cineplex Odeon theatre chain, which last night saw the first of seven Leafs away games shown in 25 cinemas in the Greater Toronto Area, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 3. Tommy Jun, a York University student, said he had tried several times to get tickets to Leafs games and lost out on the lottery. “For about $10? This is unbelievable. I’ll be going to every game from now on,” he said.

York student and volunteer firefighter runs for local council

York alumna Rhonda Campbell Moon (BA ’05) has spent over 25 years working in social work – which has made her somewhat of an advocate for various causes, reported the Orangeville Banner Nov. 3 in a profile of the candidate for local council. She says being an advocate is kind of like being a politician, which is why she is seeking a council position in Mulmur, Ont. “Very often the personal is political when you are advocating for people. I guess to be political is just part of me,” she explains. Moon, 45, has lived in Mulmur since 2003 but she was raised in the Hockley area. Along with being a social worker, Moon has her own private practice, is finishing an honours political science degree at York University and is a volunteer firefighter.

Vaughan candidate running in ‘Wild West’

Novice Vaughan politician Joe Levy thought he’d be debating about roads and sewers and taxes and infrastructure when he entered the race to become a city councilor, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 3. Instead, Levy says his email box has been filling up nightly with hair-raising allegations of payoffs, bullied and wrongfully fired civic employees, forged documents and sex scandals. “I call it the Wild West,” says Levy, 63, a former professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management who’s now trying for a seat as Ward 4 councillor. Others on the campaign trail ruefully call Vaughan, which proudly bills itself as “the city above Toronto,” the “city above the law.”

Donated papers reveal influential Jewish family’s days in Hitler’s Germany

Marcus Funck, visiting professor at the Canadian Centre for German & European Studies at York, has not seen the collection of family papers and rare books belonging to German newspaper editor Whilhelm Cohnstaedt and his family, reported the National Post Nov. 3. But Funck said the personal papers may be impressive because they reveal an influential family’s connection to Frankfurt in the early 1900s. The collection is being repatriated to the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt and the city’s archives at the request of Joy Cohnstaedt, a daughter-in-law Cohnstaedt never met.

The elder Cohnstaedt, a senior editor at the Frankfurter Zeitung, where his father, Ludwig, had also worked, was likely to have been in danger had he not fled in 1933, Funck said. “It was quite dangerous, referring to personal life, not to actively support the Nazi ascent to power in the press. There was a real danger to him, I am sure.” The paper was so highly esteemed in Europe, however, that Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister who was in charge of press control and censorship, protected the paper from being taken over by Nazi officials during the first year of Hitler’s reign, but forced Jewish writers to leave, Funck said.

“This was one of the most famous and important liberal, bourgeois newspapers in Germany.,” Funck told the Post. “As far as I know, it was the only newspaper that did not immediately change sides after Hitler came to power. They tried to remain politically independent as far as this was possible at that time,” he said. “The most famous thinkers and artists of that time wrote for the Frankfurter Zeitung, like Walter Benjamin and Thomas Mann.”

On air

  • Richard Fisher, York’s chief marketing & communications officer, spoke about Maclean’s  magazine’s university rankings on 680 News radio Nov. 2. “Because it doesn’t go down to program level, Maclean’s survey is missing the main element that would actually help students in choosing a university,” Fisher said. “We know that York students do not select a university because of rankings and York didn’t lose any students by its decision to not participate.”