Working as hard as Americans not worth the money, says tax prof

Neil Brooks is a professor of tax law at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and the author of a recent report published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives comparing 19 industrialized nations on a variety of social and economic indicators, reports Maclean’s in its March 19 issue. "Aiming for US per capita GDP [gross domestic product] appears to be totally misguided," he says. "On nearly every indicator we looked at, the Americans were at or near the bottom. They have the highest rates of poverty, the greatest degree of insecurity and inequality. Their health outcomes, on average, are the worst. So are their education outcomes. They may have more obscenely rich people than we do, but that doesn’t make the typical family any better off."

"I can’t imagine why anyone would want to work as hard as the Americans," opines Brooks, an ardent supporter of taxation and public spending. "At the end of the day we should be concerned about whether we are enjoying life and leisure. Working harder to get an extra $12,000 a year isn’t going to make anyone any happier or more satisfied with their life." 

Conrad Black and Edward Greenspan attended Osgoode together

When Conrad M. Black pleaded not guilty to criminal fraud charges in December 2005, a federal court in Chicago granted his request that he be defended by Edward L. Greenspan (LLB ’68), one of the most famous criminal defence lawyers in Canada, where he is known by the nickname Fast Eddie, began a story in The New York Times March 12. But the court made Black sign a waiver acknowledging that he understood that his lawyer, for all his renown in Canada, does not know American law. If he loses, Black, who faces more than 90 years in jail if convicted, cannot appeal on the grounds that it was his lawyer’s fault. "I love that I’ve been certified as stupid by the Illinois judge," said Greenspan, who plans to frame a copy of the court document and hang it in his law office here. "So stupid," he added, "that no matter how incompetent I might be, Conrad can’t rely on it." The Times noted later that Greenspan’s place at the defence table is fitting for the latest chapter in Black’s odyssey. The two men attended their first year of law school together at York University in 1965, although Black dropped out but later completed the degree in Quebec. Greenspan, who grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario, also went to high school with Black’s wife Barbara Amiel.

More service means more riders

If you build it, they will come. By the tens of millions. That’s the tale told by a chart showing the roller-coaster ups and downs of ridership on Toronto’s streetcars, buses and subways. It marks the milestones in transit investments – and the perils of service cuts, reported the Toronto Star March 10. Slowly but surely, the federal government is coming around to the idea of writing cheques to support local transit. Prime Minister Stephen Harper stoked hopes this week when he pledged $697 million in one-time federal funding to extend Toronto’s Spadina subway line north to York University and into Vaughan. Another $265 million was earmarked to improve transit around the Greater Toronto Area. That’s a far cry from the paltry $7 million Ottawa chipped in as its offering in 1996 to build the $875 million Sheppard subway.

  • For most of the people who actually use and rely on public transit in Toronto, this week’s announcement of federal support for the Spadina subway extension is no good news, wrote John Barber in his March 10 Globe and Mail column. On the contrary, it is a virtual guarantee of further corrosion and thickening crowds on that part of the system real people actually use. In the annals of politically motivated subways to nowhere, a local specialty, this one’s a peach. Except for York University, there isn’t a single destination or actual neighbourhood on the entire line. Most of the six new stations will serve as nothing more than parking lots for years to come. The terminus is a Wal-Mart store reputed to become something called the Vaughan Corporate Centre.

  • With 1,650 buses a day, accounting for more than 40,000 daily trips, it’s easy to understand why having an extended Spadina subway line serving York University makes sense, editorialized The Toronto Sun March 11. The fact you have to tunnel through five km of dead, industrial territory to make it to the campus, is the dud part of the plan. "The York University subway was one of our priorities," said TTC Chair Adam Giambrone. "If it’s the only money that’s coming, we would have put it elsewhere." The TTC’s goal is to put transit where it’s both needed now and there’s the most potential for future expansion. Rob MacIsaac, chairman of the new Greater Toronto Transit Authority, said the transit system in the city resembles a wagon wheel, with everything emanating from the middle – either Union Station or Yonge and Bloor. It needs to become more like a spider web, with lines criss-crossing all across the city. He called the $2.1 billion expansion to York U and Vaughan "bare essentials and just the beginning."
  • Callers discussed the long-anticipated subway extension to York University on the "Leslie Roberts Show" on CFRB-AM in Toronto March 9.

Dramatic rise in "bad" children, says sociologist

A new report from the Vanier Institute cites a dramatic rise in the number of children with behaviour problems today compared to 30 years ago, reported the Edmonton Journal March 11. As many as one in five young people are now demonstrating serious behaviour problems – that includes a range from defiance, lying and truancy to more aggressive acts such as fighting, bullying and social exclusion. That’s compared to one in 20 children with these behaviour problems about 30 years ago, writes Anne Marie Ambert, author of the study and professor of sociology at York University. The study makes important reading in this city, which is still deeply shaken by the murders of three teenagers last fall, violence by young people on Whyte Avenue and on a city bus, said the Journal.