Post notes that the ‘subway ministers’ are York alumni

Two of York University’s most powerful alumni, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty (LLB ‘73) and provincial Finance Minister Greg Sorbara (BA ’78, LLB ‘81), gave their alma mater the best gift that taxpayers’ money can buy: a new subway stop at its door, wrote the National Post March 7. At yesterday’s news conference at the Downsview Park hangar, the two men joined Prime Minister Stephen Harper as he pledged $697 million to extend the subway to York University and onwards into York Region.

The province of Ontario will put up $670-million, with the City of Toronto and York Region contributing the rest, $400-million and about $300-million respectively, said the Post. But Adam Giambrone, Chair of the Toronto Transit Commission, said the project all hinges on the next federal budget. “If this money is confirmed, if the budget passes…we would begin to issue contracts, do design works of stations,” Giambrone said.

  • The funding announcement was also welcome news for Lorna R. Marsden, York president & vice-chancellor, who said the subway expansion will provide a much-needed public transit alternative for the tens of thousands of people who travel to the university daily, reported the North York Mirror March 6.

"By improving the inter-regional transportation links among the City of Toronto and the neighbouring regions of York, Peel and Durham, the federal government has made a significant contribution to environmental sustainability and continued economic prosperity in the Greater Toronto Area," Marsden said.

York alumnus Tony Genco (BA ’88), president & CEO of Downsview Park, also lauded the funding. "It serves as an important catalyst for the development of the Downsview Park sustainable community as mandated by the Government of Canada," he said. "It provides many excellent opportunities to partner with the Province of Ontario and City of Toronto to invigorate the local community and transform the park into an exciting transportation hub for the GTA and beyond."  

  • Development of the TTC subway into Vaughan will be the first expansion of the service beyond Toronto’s boundaries, wrote the Richmond Hill Liberal March 6. It will provide an extra option for students travelling to and from York University – nearly 20 per cent of whom live in Vaughan – and help boost tourism to attractions such as Vaughan Mills Mall and Canada’s Wonderland, said Vaughan Councillor Bernie DiVona.

In addition to federal and provincial funding, the region expects to spend up to 800 million on the subway expansion and transit-only lanes over the next seven years.

In addition to reporting details of the subway funding announcement, a number of media outlets carried commentary on the political aspects:

  • As a matter of pure partisan politics, it is possible to admire the elegance of the bank-shot that the Prime Minister pulled off yesterday, wrote the National Post in an editorial March 7. The parliamentary opposition, which sneered at Harper’s tax cuts for transit riders throughout the 2006 election, will have a much harder time attacking the PM on the same front now that he has underwritten the extension of the Spadina line to York University and provided major seed money for three regional transit systems in the Greater Toronto Area (along with a little dollop of cash for a fourth in Durham, Ont.).
  • Even some urban planners question Harper’s announcement, saying the money would be better spent improving Toronto’s beleaguered transit system in other ways, reported CBC-TV’s "The National" March 6. “Clearly [there’s] an agenda here which has little to do with transit funding and has more to do with solidifying support in a region which hasn’t been the strongest supporter of the government,” said Roger Kiel, director of The City Institute at York University.
  • Yesterday’s announcement of almost $1 billion in federal funding to extend Toronto’s subway and improve transit in surrounding municipalities bears all the earmarks of what could be a winning Conservative strategy: keep it simple, keep it tangible, keep the promises coming, wrote columnist Susan Riley in the Ottawa Citizen March 7. On the transit announcement, for instance, everyone can imagine what a subway extension looks like, especially students at York University who will benefit from the new line.
  • It is being hailed by federal and provincial politicians as a breakthrough in cutting commutes and greenhouse gas emissions across the Toronto region, wrote the Toronto Star March 7. But transportation experts were less enthusiastic about yesterday’s announcement of $962 million for Toronto-area transit, particularly the extension of the Spadina subway line into York Region.  "If we have limited dollars there are better ways to service more people and get more riders – or better serve existing riders – than the York subway," said TTC Chair Adam Giambrone.

Woman looks for help from Osgoode’s Innocence Project

Amina Chaudhary is seeking to have her 1984 murder conviction overturned on the grounds that she should have been acquitted of strangling the 8-year-old nephew of her former lover, wrote The Toronto Sun March 7. She hopes overturning the conviction will eliminate a 1992 deportation order.

Chaudhary has enlisted the support of Alan Young, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and the school’s Innocence Project. Young told one parole hearing that Chaudhary ‘s apparent lack of remorse is "not unusual in cases where people have been wrongfully convicted." Young suggested the evidence in Amina’s case is based on a "shaky foundation." "We can establish that some of the claims made to convict her are now unsound," Young said.

Moghissi speaks on the divisions within Canada’s Muslim community

“Who speaks for Muslims in Canada and why the deep divide?” asked Peter Mansbridge, host of CBC TV’s “The National” March 6, introducing a feature documentary that included comments by Haideh Moghissi, social science professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. The segment began with Moghissi commenting on threats received by a Muslim newspaper publisher. Reporter Joan Leishman introduced Moghissi as “a long-time observer of the global debate within Islam.”

Moghissi: [Those who make the threats] have both religious and political justification for not tolerating difference and silencing dissenting voices. Also, there is this practice in Islam of ordering good and preventing or forbidding bad and this is something that basically allows Muslims to interfere in the affairs of fellow Muslims if they think that they are abandoning their faith or if they are doing something that is against Islamic moral code.

According to the Qur’an, the people who deviate from the path of Islam have to be corrected, if possible, and if not possible, to be punished, sometimes by death. So it is a very, very dangerous accusation, and when some of these moderate Muslims with whom you have talked are threatened just by the accusation or implying that they are not believers or they have deviated from the true path of Islam, they have every reason to be fearful for their lives.

Leishman: In her studies, Professor Moghissi has found most Muslims here are secular. They simply ignore sermons preaching hate. However, some people do take them seriously.

Moghissi: Of course we should always be concerned about the very tiny minority that take these words and warnings or threats very seriously, and they may consider it as their religious duties to act upon it.

[Referring to the new lobbyist for the Canadian Islamic Congress in Ottawa, Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, Chair & national president] When someone has a standing in a community and is in a kind of leadership position that, of course, is much more serious. It is not simply an opinion that’s being expressed. It is, I would say…might be taken as a warning, and it is very serious.

YMCA chairperson shows what active living is all about

Cathyann White‘s ascent to the general manager’s chair at the Markham YMCA began about 15 years ago with a tour and a helping hand, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun March 6 . After graduating from York’s Faculty of Fine Arts with an honours degree in dance in 1990, White, 38, was looking for a place to work out and took a walk around a brand new Y in Scarborough.

The building was nice, she remembers, but the program fees were too much. That didn’t faze the woman who took White on her tour. There were ways around that, specifically, an assisted membership. Not long after that, White, who is also a certified dance instructor, was volunteering with the organization, teaching two fitness classes a week. "It certainly changed the course of my life," White says.

Passion for teaching has far-reaching influence

For the past eight years, Veronica Robinson has been a principal at two Markham schools – Sir Richard W. Scott Catholic School, where she served for six years and Unionville’s St. Matthew Catholic School, where she is now the principal, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun March 6. When she came to Canada, there was a surplus of teachers and there were many layoffs, Robinson said. She worked at York as co-ordinator of periodicals at the Scott Library and returned to her main passion – teaching – in 1989. "I love working with kids, helping to shape them, learning from and about them," she said. "You can never tell where your influence stops. I’ve seen lots of students grow to become successful."

Selling fake DVDs hardly a model of sustainability

Nakuru, Kenya, is an interesting place to work and live, wrote York graduate Jacob Kojfman (LLB/MBA ‘03) in his ongoing column Kenyan Sabbatical in the National Post March 7. There’s a thriving black market on Kenyatta Avenue. The predominant product for sale is CDs and DVDs, all of which are illegal copies – movies and television shows downloaded from the Internet or recorded in the theatres on a handheld camera. These businesses are clearly not sustainable, not for the proprietors, and more important, not for the country’s economy. The Post, as always, identified Kojfman a graduate of York’s Schulich School of Business and Osgoode Hall Law School.

 Raiders football peewees appoint York alum as coach

The York Region Raiders Football Club recently announced coaching appointments for its three Ontario Varsity Football League entries, wrote the Markham Economist & Sun March 6. John Cripps (BA ’97) was named head coach of the peewee (under-15) squad. Cripps has played and coached at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level with the York University Lions squad. Last season, he directed the peewee squad, which was in its first season in the OVFL, into the playoffs during the fall season.