Poor need affordable housing, not bike paths, says York professor

Life in Scarborough isn’t as healthy as life in Toronto’s downtown, a new study of Canadian cities suggests, reported Metro (Toronto) and The Scarborough Mirror Nov. 23. Improving the Health of Canadians: An Introduction to Health in Urban Places divides the city into four types of neighbourhood, ranked by how healthy its residents said they were. Scarborough neighbourhoods tended to lower numbers of university and college graduates and many had much lower incomes, more recent immigrants and more single-parent families.

“They don’t have money. The income variable swamps the effects of everything else,” said Dennis Raphael, professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, who warned there’s evidence this inequality is growing. “Conditions for the people at the bottom have really deteriorated.”

Raising the minimum wage and providing more affordable housing will do more to make Scarborough residents healthier than building new walking trails, he argued. “The solution is not bicycle paths or getting people out to walk or getting people to be nicer to their neighbours.”

Apple iPod users’ famous loyalty facing tests

Turns out, there is such a thing as iPod woes, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 27. The question is how normal are these – 67 million music players can’t all be bug-free; Apple sold 8.7 million iPods in the July to September quarter alone – and how is Apple handling them? “Apple customers are more loyal,” says Markus Giesler, professor of marketing in York’s Schulich School of Business. “They are also more forgiving of Apple products’ weaknesses.” But there are signs, he says, that “Apple is losing this ‘benign cub’ status with increasing commercialization of the device (iPod).”

Depending on how much an iPod is used, one can expect to replace the battery within two to three years. “The battery life in a way is eating away at the loyal base,” says Giesler, who owns six iPods, claiming it’s for “research purposes” only. “This is one of the things Apple should really listen to. People can’t keep up with buying a new one.”

Insurance business to grow

Just as farmers have been able to purchase crop insurance against what they call “the Great White Combine,” namely hail, people in other industries can now bet on the weather as a hedge against business performance, reported CanWest News Service Nov. 27. Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, says a great trend during the next 15 years will be the ability of people to purchase insurance on almost everything.

“What I see is the ability to hedge out or insure any risk that you face, whether it’s sequence of return risk or bear markets when you retire, or the real estate market collapsing, or your unique inflation rate,” said Milevsky. “For 50 years economists have been prophesizing that this is going to occur, called completion of markets.”

Milevsky says some of the innovations are going to be amazing. “There are going to be auctions you can buy on your house, so that if the market for the house falls, and you sell it for less than you bought it, you get a cash payment for the difference. You will pay a premium for it. But you will soon be able to do it because the institutional market has developed products that hedge real estate risk on the retail level.”

Life on the condo side of the guardrail

The Gardiner Expressway may be just beyond her bedroom balcony and yet Marie Blanchard never has trouble sleeping alongside the sound of endless traffic, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 26. Others who count the Gardiner as their front yards also say it’s not as bad as you might think. Such a scenario confounds scholars of urban planning. “You don’t know if the freeway works as a TV for them, or are we drivers on the freeway intruding into their privacy,” wonders Ute Lehrer, professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University. “Are you the viewer or are you viewed?”

That the condos keep going up is a worry for the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corp. The agency says constant development leaves less room (and makes it more expensive) to take the Gardiner down, which it proposes doing between Spadina Avenue and the Don Valley Parkway as a key to transforming the waterfront and removing the main “barrier” to it.  “We should not make the Gardiner responsible for not having access to the waterfront,” says Lehrer. “The reason we don’t have access is because of the condo towers that are going up right now.”

Cosentino’s latest book mixes mystery and faith

Former CFL quarterback Frank Cosentino is a household name to any football fan, but the retired York University physical education and athletics department head is also known in literary circles in the Ottawa Valley, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Nov. 26. Cosentino, who has authored and co-authored 12 other books, has published Hail Mary Heaven Sent (Lulu Press). This Cold War thriller – a mix of mystery and faith – poses the question: Do historical events unfold as a result of human or divine intervention and how much of anything can be attributed to coincidence or the supernatural?

Osgoode alumna becomes a voice for the children

British Columbia’s first representative for children and youth comes to the job with huge credentials, wrote the Times Colonist (Victoria) Nov. 26. But York alumna Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (LLB ‘85), whose appointment was ratified in the legislature Nov. 27, is aware there will also be huge expectations. The position, a new independent office of the legislature, was created as a result of former judge Ted Hughes’s scathing review of BC’s child-welfare system. As child and youth representative, Turpel-Lafond will be expected to advocate for children and families, monitor public agencies, and investigate and report on the deaths of children in care.

A sitting Saskatchewan provincial court judge, Turpel-Lafond will take a five-year leave of absence from the bench to accept the BC job. She and husband George Lafond, a former tribal chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council, and their four children, ages three through 10, will all be moving to Victoria. Turpel-Lafond said she can’t think of a more exciting position than BC’s first representative for children and youth.

“I have some background working in this area, particularly with respect to social development and community development and making sure that children are protected,” she says. “I have a good appreciation of the vulnerabilities that children either in care or at risk experience.”

  • In an earlier story, BC’s Maple Ridge News reported Nov. 25 that Turpel-Lafond had been nominated as BC’s new representative for children and youth. The BC legislature reconvened Wednesday to confirm the choice of a new independent children’s watchdog after a lengthy political battle. The NDP refused unanimous consent required to ratify the appointment Wednesday, a move likely to delay the appointment until Monday but not derail it, since the all-party selection committee unanimously endorsed Turpel-Lafond.

Kids suffer from stressful lives too

“Often when kids are stressed they exhibit some undesirable behaviors and many parents focus on that without thinking about where it may be coming from,” explains psychologist Dr. Harold Minden, York University professor emeritus, in a story in the Campbell River Mirror Nov. 24. Enough sleep, good nutrition and a stable, affectionate home life are strong protections against unhealthy stress. However even children in these optimum settings can suffer stress. Beyond providing these basics, parents can help their children if they can read the signs. But reading the signs is easier said than done. Some children when stressed just withdraw and become quiet. Others may act out.

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, an economist in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the federal government’s plans to cut taxes and reduce the debt on CBC Radio stations across the country, Nov. 24.

  • Jennifer Mills, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about women who feel pressure to keep their bodies fit on Global TV (Kamloops) Nov. 23.