Schulich economist joins the pump patrol

Bernie Wolf, economist with York’s Schulich School of Business, was featured in an item about gas prices, broadcast on CBC Television Nov. 8.

Research suggests Canadians are more obsessed about gasoline prices than Americans, more determined to find that fifth of a cent off, more willing to drive to avoid dropping an extra nickel – and in Canada, there is one place where the gas game has gone to an extreme level: in the Toronto area, pump prices can change eight to ten times a day and by as much as a dime a litre through the day, reported the CBC’s Havard Gould.

Gould: Professor Bernard Wolf plays the game he can’t quite explain. He does not post prices on the Internet, but he never buys gas in the morning and cruises carefully on his way home in search of that not-quite-understandable discount. You’ve actually been out around midnight as the prices go up and pulled out of a station?

Wolf: Yeah, absolutely. Why shouldn’t I wait? Look, if my tank is almost empty, I will buy 5 or 10 dollars’ worth, and normally what I do is fill the tank because, why should I do this more times than I have to? It’s not the most pleasant thing to do, to fill up a car.

Arbitrator questions witness testimony

Arbitrator Peter Cory, York’s Chancellor and a former Supreme Court Justice, questioned the credibility of testimony provided Wednesday by an expert witness at proceedings called to resolve a $100-million dispute between the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and the Beaverbrook UK Foundation, reported New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal Nov. 9. Cory was so incredulous that he interrupted cross-examination of Freda Metassa, an art consultant from London asked to appear by the UK Foundation, by David Young, a Fredericton lawyer representing the gallery, to question the witness himself. “I have a decision to make here, and would appreciate help making that decision if you could give it,” Cory said.

Joyce Zemans, professor emerita in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, director of Arts & Media Administration at York’s Schulich School of Business and a member of the Order of Canada, appeared as a witness Tuesday, and commended the gallery for its meticulous record-keeping. She also said it was her belief that Lord Beaverbrook had intended for the paintings to be a gift to the people of New Brunswick. Metassa did her own research, reviewed Zemans’ work and the catalogue that was prepared for the gallery’s opening, and came to an entirely different conclusion. Zemans examined the same catalogue and found it met industry standards at the time.

US sex-offender registries differ from Canadian databases

Many American jurisdictions make sex-offender registries available online and the public can find out where they live, reported the St. Catharines Standard Nov. 9. Alan Young, professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said the U.S. has more “shaming” aspects built into its sex-offender registry, while Canada’s registry was founded on the notion of public protection and the ability of officials to monitor the whereabouts and conduct of offenders.

“It’s for the police, not the public,” Young said, adding the idea is to integrate sex offenders back into society. “There’s no hope if they wear the mark of Cain, so I sometimes wonder in the name of community protection if we sometimes go too far and remove all hope from these people.” But Young said successful treatment of pedophiles is so rare that maybe information should be released for public safety.

Contender Pitfield outlines subway financial strategy

Councillor Jane Pitfield says Toronto can save $320 million over four years through “zero-based budgeting” and a hiring freeze at city hall, according to a financial statement released yesterday, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 9. In addition to those operating budget figures, Pitfield is also projecting $300 million in capital spending that she said would be needed to build the two kilometres of new subway lines each year over 25 years that she has promised.

As for new subway lines, Pitfield’s plan calls for the city, Ottawa and private-public partnerships to share the costs, though this model doesn’t include financing of the York University subway line, which is still awaiting federal approval. Some of the money for her plan would come through borrowing, an “incremental tax structure” and direct lobbying of the federal government, she said. “I would approach Finance Minister Jim Flaherty directly for money for subway building,” Pitfield said, adding she believes Ottawa “doesn’t trust financial information Toronto has been providing.”

Pitfield’s projection of $300 million a year for new subway lines is considerably lower than the projected cost of the 6.2-kilometre line to York University, which is tabbed at up to $484 million per year, including stations.

  • With four days left until Torontonians go to the polls, mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield yesterday released the price tag for her platform: $326.64 million a year, reported the National Post Nov. 9. The bulk of that money – $300 million – will be allocated to Pitfield’s plan to add two kilometres of track to the city’s subway system every year for 25 years, starting with the extension to York University.

Advocates pan Pitfield street plan

There’s no bylaw that can solve Toronto’s panhandling problem, outraged advocates for the poor said yesterday. Their prediction came as mayoral candidate Jane Pitfield presented her “Quality of Life” platform, which includes an anti-panhandling bylaw and heavier enforcement of Ontario’s Safe Streets Act, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 9. Making Toronto a panhandling-free zone has become an election pledge for Pitfield, who says begging has become such a problem that suburban residents have told her they don’t like to come south of Bloor Street.

Dennis Raphael, a professor in York University’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, said crackdowns on panhandling signal an overall decline of society. “It’s no great revelation that these kinds of attempts to…suppress the appearance of poor people always come to the fore when objective living conditions of a society are deteriorating,” he said.

Li Preti says he’ll resign if he wins by 15 or less

Toronto City Councillor Peter Li Preti, who denies accusations from his opponent that he, his family and other supporters voted improperly in advance polls in his own ward [which includes York University], pledged yesterday to resign his seat if he wins by 15 votes or less, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 9. “This is so ridiculous…If [Anthony Perruzza] thinks that I inappropriately have cast votes for myself…if I win by five, or if I win by 10 or if I even win by 15 votes, I’ll gladly give up my seat,” Li Preti said yesterday in an interview. The promise would appear to nullify the votes of his family – his two daughters attend York – and a handful of others in what is expected to be a tight race in Ward 8 (York West). Perruzza lost in 2003 by just 450 votes.

Local songwriter wins scholarship

York student Suzanne Schaafsma‘s songwriting talent earned her an opportunity to take her skills to a new level, reported the Chatham Daily News Nov. 9. In June, the graduate of Chatham Christian High School spent three days recording two original songs – “I will Never Forget You” and “Moonlit Dreams” at The Fire Escape, a professional recording studio in Toronto. Schaafsma received the opportunity by winning Kite-Flying: The Dan Steven Recording Scholarship for the quality of her two songs. The local school celebrated Schaafsma’s accomplishment recently with an assembly, which the winner was unable to attend because she’s studying music composition at York University.

On air

  • Lucy Gagliese, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, and a researcher at Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital, spoke about the goal of National Pain Awareness week, on CFRB radio Nov. 8.

  • Stephen Newman, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the resignation of US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, on Toronto’s AM640 News radio Nov. 8. Newman was also among a number of guests discussing the US election results on TVOntario’s “The Agenda” Nov. 8.