Gambling on prevention

Alex Passarelli admits he’s felt the lure of the slots – the anticipation of players on a crowded floor, the lights and sounds of machines coming to life, the excitement of a winning spin, wrote the Toronto Star Nov. 28. But unlike a significant number of his peers, the 19-year-old, who has played the slot machines a few times at Woodbine race track in the past year, set a $20 limit each time he went with his buddies and called it quits as soon as it was gone.

“If I go, it’s all in pure fun, not with any hope of winning anything,” the York University geography student said yesterday after a between-class visit to a booth on gambling addictions. Going to school, I can’t afford to gamble. It’s not like I have a salary.”

But a new study by the Responsible Gaming Council has found that twice as many people aged 18 to 24 develop moderate or severe gambling problems – 6.9 per cent versus 3.4 per cent – as the overall population. It’s being fuelled in large part by a dramatic rise in young people playing online poker, which rose fourfold between 2001 and 2005, according to the study, one of the largest ever done.

“This is a group that is more prone to taking risks,” said Laurie Bell, director of prevention programs with the council, sponsors of this week’s visit to York by Know the Score, an interactive gambling awareness program for students. “There’s a belief that everything happens to somebody else, not them.”

Know the Score, which will tour about 30 university and college campuses across the province this school year, is one of three campaigns the Responsible Gambling Council uses to target those most at risk of developing a problem.

 Alum Peter Van Loan replaces Michael Chong

York alumnus Peter Van Loan (LLB ‘87), MP for the Ontario riding of York-Simcoe, is the new federal minister of intergovernmental affairs, reported Canadian Press Nov. 28. Van Loan, 43, replaces Michael Chong, who quit cabinet Monday rather than vote for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s motion declaring the Quebecois a nation.

The new minister was first elected to the Commons in June 2004 and was re-elected in January. He’s a lawyer and former president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative party. Since February, he’s been parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. Van Loan is a graduate of the University of Toronto and York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

Does province really want electoral reform?

Right now there is a body called the Citizen’s Assembly on Electoral Reform working at York University, wrote Geoff Rytell in a letter to the editor of the Orangeville Banner Nov. 28. If the assembly recommends a change in Ontario’s election policies, the government has agreed to a referendum on the issue, which would be on next October’s general election ballot.

Recently, the Liberals announced that the passing threshold for this vote would be 60 per cent. The irony of making such a threshold – 10 per cent higher than the usual 50 per cent plus one – should not be overlooked. Most MPs and MPPs are elected by percentages often well below 50; sometimes at 40, or even 35, or less. The Ontario government says it wants change, but it clearly doesn’t want change badly enough to be reasonable about it.

Right-wing reefer: John Tory admits smoking up in youth

Conservative Leader John Tory used marijuana as a high school and university student, once favoured lighter sentences for pot traffickers and even drove while “stoned,” reported The Toronto Sun & The Ottawa Sun Nov. 28. The revelations are contained in a 30-year-old newspaper column that Tory wrote as a law student for Obiter Dicta, the official student newspaper of Osgoode Hall Law School. A copy of the article was provided to the Sun by a Liberal source, the newspaper said.

Tory, 52, said in an interview yesterday that he was writing honestly about his experiences with weed, but he hasn’t used it since those early days. “That was then and this is now,” he said. “I’m 30 years older, hopefully a lot wiser. I think these are experiences that kids often have that help them to learn lessons and shape their attitudes when they get older.”

Student learns there’s no credit agreement between York and private institute

Yi Wang, 25, said she gave the Toronto Institute of Technology $8,800 for tuition along with a $2,200 deposit for a university preparation program, reported The Toronto Sun Nov. 28. Wang said a school agent promised her the institute had a special relationship with York University and credits could be transferred to the university after one year. After two semesters, Wang said she learned there was no credit agreement with York and demanded her money back. It took several weeks and repeated requests before the school refunded $1,900.

On air

  • Ian Roberge, political science professor at York’s Glendon campus, spoke about the byelection in a London, Ont. riding, on Radio Canada (Toronto) Nov. 27.

  • Federal Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon said he does not want to get involved in a debate about whether Ottawa should contribute to subway expansion to York University, reported CBC Radio Nov. 27.

  • Fred Lazar, economics professor in York’s Schulich School of Business, spoke about the federal government’s proposed Blue Sky international air policy that would introduce changes to Canada’s air transportation agreements, on CTV Newsnet, Nov. 27.

  • Ananya Mukherjee-Reed, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, participated in a panel discussion about the vote in Parliament on Québécois as a nation, on TVOntario Nov. 27.