On world stage, Canada is a best supporting actor

Canada is a middle power, Prime Minister Stephen Harper reminded us this week, but one with the intention of coming "back as a credible player on the world stage," reported the Toronto Star Sept. 29. Speaking in New York to the Council on Foreign Relations, Harper said the complexity of today’s global problems requires "middle powers who can step up to the plate to do their part."

"A major hallmark of a middle power was that it could always get a hearing from a major power but be trusted by smaller states," says David Dewitt, a York political scientist in the Faculty of Arts . "In that sense, Canada has never stopped being a middle power," despite Harper’s suggestion that it’s about to become more activist.

Streetscapes by Toronto’s former homeless

Earlier this year, a group of former Toronto street people were given cameras and sent to the streets to photograph where they used to sleep and where the homeless continue to make their beds, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 29. They came back with a portfolio of images both poignant and starkly beautiful. The project, called Asleep in Toronto, took eight months to come together, says Nancy Halifax, who helped co-ordinate the venture. Saturday night, a selection of the photographs would be on display as part of Nuit Blanche. Halifax, who teaches in York’s Critical Disabilities Studies Graduate Program, hopes the exhibition will open people’s eyes to those on society’s margins and help spur social change.

Service cuts at Ottawa’s archives rile researchers

For the past month, researchers, scholars, librarians, creative writers and ordinary citizens have tried to adjust to the newly reduced hours at Library and Archives Canada’s research facility in Ottawa. Frustration is growing by the hour, and both the Canadian Historical Association and the American Historical Association have fired off letters of complaint to chief archivist Ian Wilson, reported The Globe and Mail Sept. 29. Research that used to require one long day now takes two or three. CHA president Craig Heron, a history professor at York University, notes, "Users have to budget for stays in Ottawa hotels, which ups the cost of research, in some cases prohibitively."

Publication bans don’t fuel culture of fear, says prof

A total publication ban skews public perception and fuels a culture of fear, say some of the lawyers of the Toronto 18, suspected of being an Al Qaeda-inspired homegrown terror cell, reported the Toronto Star Sept. 29. That argument was brought into sharp relief this week when the preliminary hearing for the adults in the case was halted and the Crown decided to go straight to trial.

Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Alan Young , who supports publication bans at bail and preliminary hearings, doesn’t think it’s the ban itself that contributes to a culture of fear but the length of time it takes for a trial to get to court. Because terrorism allegations go to the heart of security and public order, people want details quickly, he says. But when proceedings, which are protected by a ban, take a long time to unfold, "it really allows for more rumour and innuendo to circulate than accurate information."

Trust fund set up in names of two York sisters

A trust fund for education and preventing traffic deaths has been set up in the names of the two Brampton sisters killed in a collision with a truck recently, reported the Brampton Guardian Sept. 30. Vanessa Diceglie, 19, was killed Sept. 13 while her sister, Isabel, 23, died two days later after their car was hit by a dump truck in the intersection of Mayfield Road and Airport Road, on the Brampton/Caledon border. The fund money will be donated to two separate causes – a portion will be donated to York University where both girls were students, and the rest will be donated to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, which designs, promotes and implements programs to help reduce traffic deaths and injuries.

New report agrees Alberta wages are lagging

Wages are lagging behind inflation in these boom times, new research shows, reported the Edmonton Sun Sept. 30. The average hourly wage in Alberta was lower last year than five years earlier, according to statistics released Saturday by the Alberta Federation of Labour and the Parkland Institute at a joint conference. Keynote speaker Sam Gindin, a former administrator of the Canadian Auto Workers union and now Packer Visitor in Social Justice in York’s Political Science Department, Faculty of Arts, said Albertans are beginning to get restless with the status quo. He pointed to recent labour unrest, with workers demanding changes to labour codes and the right to strike, and to the debate on the rate of royalties the province receives from the oil and gas industry.

House prices rise, making mortgage choice crucial

York finance Prof. Moshe Milevsky, executive director of the Individual Finance and Insurance Decisions Centre, divides homebuyers into four groups in a paper titled "Mortgage Financing: Should you still float?" reported Canadian Press in a story published Sept. 29 in the Sault Star.

The first-time home purchaser, particularly buyers with small downpayments, are the most likely customer for the long-term fixed rate mortgage. "These folks should not be taking any chances with a fluctuating interest rate," Milevsky wrote, noting if the value of the house falls they could be left with "negative equity." For the "risk-averse worry wart," Milevsky recommends splitting your mortgage in two halves, with one set at a variable rate and the other locked in. The "seasoned veteran," with more equity built up in the home and two incomes, is in a better position to take a risk with a variable rate mortgage, Milevsky says.

Labour-sponsored funds need second look

Despite good intentions, labour-sponsored funds have turned out to be a significant waste of tax dollars, costing Canadian taxpayers nearly $300 million per year and failing to increase the amount of funding available to entrepreneurs, argued Douglas Cumming, a finance professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, and Keith Godin, a policy analyst with the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Markets at the Fraser Institute, in a Windsor Star opinion piece Oct. 1. If Canadian governments wish to stimulate investment in entrepreneurial activity, then the elimination of labour-sponsored funds would be a good place to start.

On air

  • The federal government will use its surplus to help pay down the debt rather than give cities like Toronto more funds for transit, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told AM640 Toronto Radio Sept. 28. He said Toronto has already been given funds for a subway to York University.
  • Toronto city councillor Anthony Peruzza talked about bringing kids together and renaming the the Jane-Finch neighbourhood University Heights, which refers to York University nearby, in reports Sept. 30 on the "John Donabie Show" on CFRB-AM and Global TV.
  • York student Nicole Stuber was crowned Miss Oktoberfest Friday, reported "Weekend News"on CKCO-TV, Kitchener, Sept. 29.
  • Highlights of the York University Red vs Blue Bowl were shown on CTV and CP24 sports news Sept. 29 and 30.