Just how much freedom should parents give their children?

"Kid Nation", CBS’s new reality TV show, features 40 kids living without adults in an abandoned mining town in New Mexico for 40 days, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Sept. 19. Sounds like a dream come true if you’re a kid. But CBS’s experiment in family entertainment has been plagued by controversy, including reports of children being injured during production and concerns about the exploitation of child labour. Worse, some experts worry parents watching the show may come away from it thinking they can just throw their own kids into similarly risky situations.

Jennifer Connolly, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, agrees children can be given more freedom and responsibility, but says it should be gradual. Throwing kids as young as eight into a situation where things could very well go wrong might make for great TV, but "it’s really the antithesis of what good parenting is about," she said. "I wouldn’t recommend the sink-or-swim approach. That’s just a recipe for disaster."

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Shortly after a federal panel published a sweeping action plan last year to modernize Canada’s telecommunications laws, a 456-page "model act" was issued in June by some of its members, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 19. It is not unusual for industry associations or public interest groups to kick-start legislative reform by proposing model acts. What makes this proposal unique is that it was produced by private sector lawyers and financed by the two biggest companies governed by the telecommunications act – Bell Canada and Telus Communications Inc.

"I’ve never heard of such a thing," said Liora Salter, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who specializes in public policy and communications law. Legal experts say the corporate sponsorship of the proposed act is believed to be the first Canadian example of a broader global trend that has seen governments in countries such as Britain or the United States outsource legislative drafting to the private sector. Salter said the corporate sponsorship shines a light on the political reality that most new laws governing the private sector are "fiercely negotiated behind closed doors."

Kill labour fund tax subsidy, says Schulich professor

Canadian governments should eliminate tax subsidies for labour-sponsored venture capital funds, which cost taxpayers $300-million per year and do little to support entrepreneurs, argues a new study from The Fraser Institute, co-written by a York professor, wrote the National Post Sept. 19. "These labour-sponsored funds rely heavily on federal and provincial tax credits, thereby draining millions of dollars from Canada’s tax system," said Douglas Cumming, co-author of, "Crowding Out Private Equity: Canadian Evidence."

"While the primary objective of these tax-subsidized investment funds is to help finance Canadian entrepreneurial businesses, empirical evidence indicates they don’t increase the overall amount of new money to entrepreneurs," said Cumming, Ontario Research Chair in Economics & Public Policy at York’s Schulich School of Business. "The gap between the amount of money raised and the amount actually invested is important. If venture capitalists are raising funds but not investing them, then the money is stranded and fewer new businesses are being created," Cumming said. He made similar arguments earlier this year in a report for the C.D. Howe Institute.

The findings of that report were dismissed by David Levi, president and CEO of Vancouver’s GrowthWorks, which has the largest labour-sponsored fund in BC. "It’s great in theory for someone who is already pre-decided what the outcome should be, but the statistics simply don’t back it up," Levi said. The Canadian Retail Venture Capital Association also disputed the report, saying "the author of the study has based his conclusions on weak and outdated research and has neglected the most relevant information."

On air

  • A study on bilingualism and brain function by Ellen Bialystok, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, was cited in a story on Montreal’s CINW radio Sept. 18.
  • Anne Bayefsky, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and director of its human rights treaty studies program, spoke about Ontario’s education system – which was declared discriminatory after she complained to the UN – on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” phone-in show Sept. 18.
  • York business student Tamara Gordon, who uses a wheelchair, was featured on City-TV News in a feature titled “The Liveable City”, Sept. 18.