Leaders share vision of decentralization

Stephen Harper and Mario Dumont are undoubted soulmates when it comes to decentralizing Canada’s federation, reported the Canadian Press in an article published April 2 by the Kingston Whig-Standard. Between them, the prime minister and Quebec’s new official opposition leader have certainly left the impression in the past that they’d love nothing more than to strip the federal government down to the bare essentials, ceding powers wholesale to the provinces. But even if Harper remains true to his past views on the subject, Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, doubts that Dumont does. He suggests Dumont’s talk of autonomy is strictly a "nod" to old-style Quebec politics, allowing him "to parade appropriate nationalist credentials."

But should Dumont become premier, Monahan predicts he would forget decentralization, focusing instead on his centrepiece promise to modernize the Quebec economy and dramatically scale back the role of the state. "Yes, Dumont was big on the Allaire report. But that was a different era, that was about big government, we’ve gotta have more Quebec programs, we’ve gotta have more powers," Monahan says. "Now, what Dumont is talking about is getting the state out of doing things."

Tension over Islam is ‘moral panic’, says prof

To urban political theorist Stefan Kipfer at York University, the primary fissure in multiculturalism is not the tension between reason and religion but "the eruption of moral panic about a cultural enemy." Islam. It is a panic, he says, created by a post-9/11 narrative that Islam is a threat to Western values, pointed out The Globe and Mail’s Michael Valpy in his March 31 column triggered by remarks made about "reasonable accommodation" by Mario Dumont, leader of Action Democratique du Quebec. When France passed its law forbidding the wearing of religious symbols in schools, "nobody was in a panic about Sikhs or about Jewish people or about Catholic crosses, and that situation was similar to what happened in Ontario," said Kipfer. "The panic was about sharia [Islamic tribunals], the panic was not about other religions" being given powers to resolve family disputes under the province’s Arbitration Act.

Kipfer rejects the suggestion that the controversy was more about the devolution of state legal powers to all religious groups than it was about religion. Why, he asks, is there not moral outrage about the Roman Catholic Church being the only faith allowed to have fully publicly funded schools in Ontario? "Why is the attention on Islam? I don’t think it is possible to say it has nothing to do with the fact that we happen to be in a geopolitical confrontation."

Cellphone providers make pitch for youth

With the arrival of number portability, cellphone service providers are stepping up advertising campaigns directed at younger users, reported the Toronto Star April 2. But securing long-term contract loyalty from the 18-to-35-year-old demographic is no walk in the park. It’s a group with an appetite for content that is all about "downloadables and heavy duty use," said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor with York’s Schulich School of Business. And it is a group that knows how to haggle. "There is no fixed price, everything is negotiable," he added, making the group attractive to service providers because of their download habits.

Middleton said cellphone service providers could find themselves being forced to form alliances with other media companies that appeal to the demographic – sites like Facebook or channels such as MTV. "It will depend on who forms the best alliances with content providers like music, fashion and entertainment, including sports, hot shows and movies," said Middleton. "Youth is the new battleground," said Middleton. "The next one will be retirees."

Italian Canadians detained at Petawawa during war

In a story April 1 about a wooden model ship carved by an Italian Canadian interned at Petawawa during the Second World War, the Toronto Star asked Roberto Perin, a York University history professor and co-editor of the book Enemies Within: Italian and Other Internees in Canada and Abroad, to provide the background: At the outbreak of World War II there were about 110,000 Canadians of Italian origin and most were British subjects. (Prior to 1947 and the introduction of the first Citizenship Act, there was legally no such thing as Canadian citizenship.) Italian consulates were active agents of fascist propaganda in the ’30s, he says, and brought Italian artists and athletes to Canada so people would favourably identify them with the fascist regime. The propaganda was effective: About 3,000 Canadian residents were members of the Fascist Party of Italy, he says. In the police raids that occurred after Italy joined the war as part of the Axis powers, innocent people were swept up with those perceived to be disloyal. Perin makes comparisons to provisions in today’s anti-terror legislation where suspects may be held without being charged. He says fewer than 1 per cent of Italian Canadians were interned during the war.

New products, ads reflect our diversity

Canada’s largest cable TV company, which is carrying this year’s Cricket World Cup on its ATN specialty channel, is just one of many mainstream companies trying to reach out to Canada’s increasingly diverse population through new products and marketing schemes, reported the Toronto Star March 31. Sometimes it’s a matter of simply translating an existing offering into another language. At other times, it’s a question of adding more diverse faces to English- language advertisements. If companies make only cosmetic changes, for example in their ad campaigns, without following through on the service or product side, they won’t get the business, cautions Ashwin Joshi, a professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business. "If you give a segment what they want, you get their loyalty," Joshi says.

EMBA programs compete for high-paying students

Costing as much as $95,000 for an 18-month program, EMBAs are easily the most expensive degrees on the market, reported the National Post March 31. Students study part-time, remain in their jobs and graduate with an MBA. Canadian business schools offering EMBA programs are locked in stiff competition for these high-paying students. As the nation’s business capital, it stands to reason that the most active scene in the battle of the business schools is Toronto. Battling for market share in Hogtown are the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management and York University’s Schulich School of Business.

Lawyer’s conduct ‘deplorable’ in condo fraud, says prof

Imagine being able to buy an $11,000-parking space in a classy Markham condominium project and then getting a mortgage on it for $185,000. Or buying a storage unit assessed at $31,000 in a Toronto condominium on Spadina Ave. near Queen St. W., and getting a bank mortgage of $201,650, noted the Toronto Star March 31. In total, TD Canada Trust shelled out $1.9 million in mortgages on condominium units that were actually worth as much as 90 per cent less than the financed amounts. The strange story of the overpriced parking and locker units came to light recently in a discipline decision released by the Law Society of Upper Canada. In January, a society hearing panel found Toronto lawyer Steven Michael Mucha guilty of professional misconduct. During the six-day hearing last summer, Toronto lawyer Reuben Rosenblatt testified as an expert witness for the Law Society. Rosenblatt teaches real estate law as an adjunct professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and is regarded by many of his colleagues as the dean of the real estate bar in Ontario. In testifying before the Law Society panel, Rosenblatt described Mucha’s handling of the 16 real estate files as "deplorable."

RRIF rules put some retirees in ‘risk zone’

Poor investment returns and inflation exacerbate the impact of systematic withdrawals that exceed an inflation-adjusted 4 per cent or 4.5 per cent of the first year’s portfolio balance, suggested a National Post columnist April 2 in a column about government-set mandatory withdrawals on Registered Retirement Income Funds that are too high. Such portfolios are in the "retirement risk zone" cited by Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business.

Synchronized skating team soars to world bronze

Like most of her teammates, Londoner and first-year York University student Allison Proudfoot made the committed commute to Burlington and Waterloo every day for skating practice, reported the London Free Press April 2. But obstacles such as injuries and distance don’t deny desire or destiny – a lesson the Canadian champion Nexxice synchronized skating team proved with a stunning bronze-medal performance at the world synchronized skating championships before 6,530 wild fans at the John Labatt Centre Saturday.

Husband gets life for killing York grad

Teacher Aysegul Candir (BA ’97) was stalked, ambushed and shot to death by her estranged husband in the parking lot of the Bramalea high school where she taught, a jury has concluded, reported the Toronto Star April 2. The seven women and five men, sequestered since Friday, deliberated about 17 hours over three days before returning their verdict of first-degree murder just after 10: 30am in Erhun Candir’s eight-week trial. Since coming to Canada from Turkey, Aysegul also graduated on the dean’s honour list from York University with a history degree.

On air

  • Michaela Hynie, research dean and psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, talked about the evolution of the April fool’s prank, on CBC Radio’s "Metro Morning" March 30.
  • Louise Lewin, associate principal of student affairs at York’s Glendon College, talked about professors’ complaints about plagiarism and the Internet, at a Windsor conference, on Radio-Canada’s CJBC-AM in Toronto March 30.
  • York’s Glendon College hosted a conference on bilingualism, reported Radio-Canada’s "Info Windsor" March 30.
  • Tamara Gordon was permanently injured in an accident five years ago. But that hasn’t stopped the fourth-year administrative studies student at York from succeeding in areas where others have failed, reported "CTV Weekend News" in Toronto March 31.