Look out, Stephen Harper

In 1993, while most of his friends were still playing with their Game Boys, York political science student Joseph Lavoie was following the federal election, reported The Gazette in Montreal March 19. "I got hooked on politics and news when I was 10 years old," said the Montreal-born 23-year-old, who won CBC’s "Canada’s Next Great Prime Minister" debate, which was televised last night. "From (the 1993 election) on, I was always wanting to read the paper, always wanting to watch the news, subscribing to Macleans when I was 12 years old," he said, laughing. His friends took it in stride, he said. "They just knew that’s who I was. And they knew that I may, potentially, have a future in public service in one way or another. It was just always understood."

Four former prime ministers – Brian Mulroney, Paul Martin, Kim Campbell and Joe Clark – grilled the aspiring politician during last night’s debate, which clearly validated his childhood ambitions. By the end of the hour, the studio audience had voted Lavoie the winner over competitors Alysia Garmulewicz, Graeme Cunningham and Balinder Ahluwalia. He went home with a $50,000 cash prize and a six-month internship with Frank Stronach’s Magna International (which originated the competition in 1995), The Dominion Institute and the Fulbright Program.

  • The contest was also covered March 20 in the Ottawa Citizen and the Windsor Star.

Ottawa’s real estate targets exceed market appraisals

The Harper government is hoping to sell nine buildings for hundreds of millions of dollars more than recent market appraisals as part of its controversial plan to lease back the office space for 25 years, the Globe and Mail reported March 19. An academic expert said the value of the buildings is related directly to the amount of rent the government is willing to pay to the buyers. In that context, a guaranteed 25-year lease would boost any market appraisal. "This is as good as buying a [Canadian government] bond," said James McKellar, a professor of real property at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

Who stands on guard for thee?

This engaging political tome by prolific author Jack Granatstein, York University history professor emeritus, is bound to be contentious – and he intends it to be, suggested a reviewer of Granatstein’s book, Whose War Is It? – How Canada Can Survive in the Post-9/11 World in the Edmonton Journal March 18. There are no warm fuzzy words to be found here. His premise is that successive federal Liberal governments have gutted the Canadian Forces to the point that the service can barely limp from one operation to another. He also attacks the belief that Canada’s international role is only one of peacekeeping; that we are purer at heart than our warmongering neighbour to the south; and that we are a loving multicultural nation.

Federal government should scrap blackout law

The contortions of logic and reason used by a slim majority of Supreme Court justices to uphold the vestiges of a 1938 law that regulates broadcast of election results only underlines the pragmatism and clarity of thought of the dissenters, stated an editorial in the StarPhoenix of Saskatoon March 17. Even though the justices, Bastarache, Morris Fish, Marie Deschamps, Louise Charron and Marshall Rothstein cited as highly relevant the testimony by York University political scientist Robert MacDermid, the 1991 findings of the Lortie commission on electoral reform and a 2005 Decima Research/Carleton University poll on voters attitudes, it appears they merely cherry-picked evidence that backed their conclusion rather than let the it guide their deliberation.

Commuting as meditation

Why would anyone enjoy the commute? asked the National Post March 17 in a story about people who drive hours to work. One explanation is that those commuters aren’t driving on congested roads, said David Wiesenthal, a psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health. The privacy of their in-car environment is also enjoyable. "People will use their car as a way to plan or think," said Wiesenthal. "People who commute may listen to books on tape." He himself listens to detective or crime stories on long trips. "It’s a way for people to be away from others, to meditate."

Outer-space matter?

It’s not every day you see a meteor streaking across the sky. For some Torontonians, the sight of a green fireball on March 11 was a surprisingly big event, reported the Globe and Mail March 17. Some were scared. Some were enchanted. Some braced for impact and some called the cops. However, as Constable Laurie Perks of the York Regional Police curtly puts it, space debris "is not a police matter. It’s an outer-space matter." "What you don’t understand immediately conjures up fear," said Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy at York University. Given what we know – or don’t know – about space, "It’s very understandable to say, yes, we’re being visited."

Street-style blogs are democratizing fashion

What real people are wearing is more predictive of trends than anything concocted in the design studios of Paris or Milan, reported the Globe and Mail March 17. But if you live in, say, New Minas, not New York, how do you stay in the style game? The answer is on the Web (of course): streetwear blogs. Retailers such as Holt’s are smart to pay attention, says Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York’s Schulich School of Business. "This is the era of rapid change, of fickleness. One size doesn’t fit all. It’s much more about variety and doing things differently," he says. "It’s going to become more difficult for retailers to stay in touch and cater to these needs. This is why the Gap’s hurting these days. You can’t stock up on singular looks." Middleton says, "Fashion hasn’t been a top-down process for a long time." But "you’ve still got what’s in, what’s out. That will weaken because of this. It will bless, or make legitimate, a much greater diversity of fashion. That’s the future."

Bank-fee showdown

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has raised the issue of whether customers should pay $1.50 to use automated teller machines at banks where they don’t hold an account, noted the Toronto Star March 17. In the fractured political landscape of a minority government likely heading into an election, it is one of the few issues where the NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives are on the same page – more or less. "It’s a good issue for them (the Conservatives) to resolve for the electorate," said Daniel Drache, a political science professor at York University. "They’re often perceived, as they drift to the right, of giving the corporate agenda a leg up. They need issues that have a more direct impact on individuals and families."

$52M pledged for crime victims’ services

Ottawa’s $52 million plan for improving services for crime victims includes the first ombudsman’s office for Canadians victimized here or abroad, reported the Toronto Star March 17. The Friday announcement garnered mixed reaction. "All the federal government has done is address the post-conviction scenario. But the vast majority of problems with the system for victims is in the pre- trial and trial process," Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Alan Young told reporters. "There has to be collaborative effort between the provincial and federal governments to make sure that the pre-trial and trial process is acting fairly for victims."

Police hunt new leads in year-old murder of Chantel Dunn

Toronto Police believe a third gunman might have been involved in the murder last year of 19-year-old Mississauga resident Chantel Dunn, reported the Mississauga News March 16. Toronto Det. Wayne Fowler, lead investigator in the case, said March 15 that police are possibly looking for another culprit in connection with the much-publicized killing in February 2006. For months, police believed there were two shooters. Dunn died from gunshot wounds to her torso, an autopsy showed. Her boyfriend was hit in the shoulder, but has recovered, police said. Police believe he was the intended target. Dunn was in her second year studying business and economics at York University and hoped to practise corporate law, her friends said. She was excelling in school while holding down a job.

Student’s magazine counters pop culture image of girls

Society’s obsession with pop culture’s bad girls, skinny supermodels and young women famous for being famous can overwhelm teens and tweens, reported the Toronto Star March 17. It’s a common parents’ lament that very little is offered girls that is positive and makes them feel good about themselves. Teenagers can be their own support systems and role models, says Nicole Cohen, 26. Four years ago, as a journalism school project, she co-founded Shameless magazine. The title came from Cohen’s belief that a lot of mainstream media were about shaming girls into being mindless consumers. "I challenge the idea of a role model," says Cohen, now in graduate studies in communication and culture at York University. "We take inspiration from each other. These are our role models – each other."

Unethical to use cash seized at drug busts to pay accused person’s lawyer

Between 2001 and 2006, Kingston Police handed over about $163,000 of the approximately $285,000 they seized in drug investigations to defence lawyers, reported the Kingston Whig-Standard March 17. Margaret Beare, a criminology professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said it’s a "bizarre" process that allows the proceeds of crime to go toward legal fees. "If the argument is that legal aid isn’t able to give adequate defence in those situations, then I would argue that it’s legal aid that needs to be changed," said Beare. She argues that money obviously earned illegally should go toward balancing the harm done by the offence, such as helping victims of crime and prosecuting criminals. Giving it to the convicted criminal is "self-defeating" and perpetuates the existence of a two-tier justice system where criminals with wads of cash can buy a better lawyer than those with less money.

Cory may testify on Black’s behalf

Former Liberal cabinet minister Allan Rock might be headed to Chicago to testify as a character witness for Peter Atkinson, a former Hollinger Inc. executive accused of bilking the company of millions along with co-accused Conrad Black, reported the Windsor Star March 17. Windsor-born retired Supreme Court Justice Peter Cory has also been called on to testify on Black’s behalf. Cory, who served on Canada’s highest court from 1989 to 1999, is the chancellor at York University.

Waxman son takes up Death of a Salesman mantle

A decade after Canadian acting icon Al Waxman won acclaim as defeated everyman Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, his son Adam Waxman (BA ’97) is taking on a role in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, reported CBC.CA News March 18. Adam will play Willy’s son Biff in a production of Arthur Miller’s iconic work at the Western Ontario Drama League Festival. He made his debut in the role in February at the Little Theatre in Guelph, Ont. Waxman only began his acting career in the past few years. After studying political science and mass communications at York University, he travelled abroad and ran through a series of different jobs.

On air

  • Yvonne Bohr, a psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, talked about how some Chinese Canadians are forced to send their children halfway around the world to let their extended family raise them instead of in Canada, on CBC radio’s "Metro Morning" March 19.