York pundits deconstruct the Ontario election results

On election day in Ontario and the day after, reporters turned to political scientists James Laxer (Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies), Robert Drummond (Faculty of Arts) and other York pundits for expert commentary. Here’s a sampling of what they said in stories published in newspapers around the province:

  • "I don’t think that any politician is going to be foolish enough in a major political party to want to revisit this issue and become the second John Tory," said James Laxer in a Canadian Press story published on election day. Polls throughout the 30-day campaign showed Tory’s pledge to extend funding to religious schools that opt into the public system to be deeply unpopular with voters. "Now that faith-based schools is off the agenda, I think that the issue is going to move back to ‘how do we establish permanent, long-term funding for the school system that is going to be manageable?’" he said.
  • Despite a recent Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey that suggested Green supporters across Canada are becoming increasingly less likely to abandon the party at the ballot box, James Laxer believes that’s exactly why the Greens have stalled, reported Canadian Press Oct. 11. "When people get close to election day or even when they’re walking into the polling place, some of them start wondering whether they’re wasting their vote and they have a tendency at the last minute to switch to other parties," he said. "Whatever [the Green party is] reading in public opinion polls, say a week before the election, that tends to decline on the actual day of the election."
  • According to James Laxer, the resounding referendum defeat of the proposal for mixed-member proportional representation was due to a lack of understanding by voters, reported Canadian Press Oct. 11. "They were kind of alarmed by it, so they rejected it," Laxer said. "The results are sufficiently strong that this issue in Ontario is not going to be revisited for a while."
  • As polls opened Oct. 10, CKOC-AM in Hamilton talked to James Laxer about how the Liberals appeared poised to win the election.
  • As the weeks went by and the New Democratic Party’s campaign failed to capture the public’s imagination, a frustrated Howard Hampton pointed his finger squarely at Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory’s unpopular religious-schools funding proposal – and the media, who let it dominate the campaign agenda, reported Canadian Press Oct. 11. The NDP relished the spotlight, but Hampton’s close-up only lasted a day – the inevitable plight of the third party, said Robert Drummond, dean of the Faculty of Arts at York University. "It’s disturbing to political scientists, but if you actually go out and ask voters, ‘Do you know who the current leader of the NDP is,’ you’d be surprised how many people won’t know," Drummond said.
  • Next year, contracts with tens of thousands of nurses, doctors, teachers and about 45,000 public servants will expire. And this time around, the Liberal government won’t be able to plead poverty with the inherited $5.6-billion deficit they used during the 2003 election campaign to score political points against the Progressive Conservatives, reported Canadian Press Oct. 11. "I think [McGuinty’s] going to be in a tough position to say, ‘Gee, inflation’s not very high – you shouldn’t get much of an increase’,” said Robert Drummond. "I mean, people are going to say, we took it hard in the days when money was tight, now it seems that the economy’s in better shape, we have to get what we can get while we can get it.”
  • "I feel somewhat sorry for [John Tory] because I think he is a person of considerable integrity," said Robert Drummond in a Canadian Press story Oct. 11 about the Progressive Conservative party leader’s defeat in his own riding. For a man who ran on the slogan "leadership matters," Tory’s campaign went the other way – especially after he tried to extricate himself from the faith-based schools morass by promising his caucus a free vote on the issue, Drummond said. "I think he felt he was doing the right thing, taking a principled position and making it clear to the electorate where he stood," he said. "When the electorate said, ‘We’re not with you on this,’ he found a way to back down from it somewhat gracefully, but nonetheless it looks like not strong leadership."
  • The Green Party claimed a breakthrough, even though, once again, none of its candidates won election races, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 11. Still, the Greens’ increased presence "suggests the emergence of a significant block of voters who are signalling their willingness to make voting choices around the environment as a public policy issue," says Mark Winfield, a political scientist at York University in the Faculty of Environmental Studies. "No other issue I can think of can make that claim."
  • On "CBC News at Six" Oct. 10, biologist Dawn Bazely, director of York’s Institute for Research & Innovation in Sustainability, commented on the commitment made by all the main parties to cut the greenhouse gas emissions they generate on the campaign trail.

Grad used digital technology to make interactive play

The Toronto Star profiled the master’s thesis of York University graduate Rebecca Rouse in its Deep Thoughts column Oct. 11. Rouse graduated this month from York’s Communication & Culture Program. Her thesis project, Woyzeck: Augmented Reality Performance Installation, used computer-generated effects to enhance the audience member’s experience. Using a headset and a hand sensor, the viewer walks around to various points on the installation space to view and hear scenes from the play. As the spectator moves, a tracking grid mounted on the ceiling sends out ultrasonic and inertial pulses to the sensors. The filming was done in chroma key on a green screen – the same technology used in weather broadcasts. "The audience can really act as a film editor," says Rouse.

York introduced Indian dance artiste to Canada

One of the anniversaries that Rina Singha is celebrating with a dance show this weekend is her 70th birthday, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 11. The classical Indian dancer has been looking back on her life lately, while choreographing and rehearsing Manzilen – A Journey, the show she’ll perform with guests Danny Grossman and Eddie Kastrau, a host of Kathak dancers and poet Uma Parameswaran. It marks Singha’s 40 years of dancing Kathak in Canada and her 45 years as a soloist. Grant Strate, founding Chair of York’s Dance Department, remembers the impact her dancing had on him when he first saw her perform. "She is so different from what we might call the technicians of Indian dance. She struck me as being an artist and not just a dancer. I was really impressed by the humanity of the woman and her social values." At Strate’s invitation, Singha came to York to run workshops for the dance students. "Eventually, with much thanks to her efforts, the mainstream came to include Indian classical dance."

York soccer player grabs CIS weekly honour

York University soccer player Stefania Morra and University of Manitoba hockey player Krister Toews are the Canadian Interuniversity Sport female and male athletes of the week, reported CanWest News Service Oct. 11. Morra, a first-year geography and kinesiology student from Toronto, had back-to-back two-goal efforts this past weekend as the No. 4-ranked Lions improved to 11-1-0 with a 3-1 win over Laurier and a 3-0 shutout of Windsor. The 20-year-old striker leads the nation with 17 goals in 12 games, five more than her closest CIS rival and seven more than any other OUA player, and is a big reason why York has clinched first place in the OUA West with two games remaining on the schedule.

The good, bad and ugly about York University

Here’s how the Toronto Star summed up York Oct. 11 in its weekly excerpt from the Star’s Insiders’ Guide to Colleges and Universities:
THE GOOD: Looking for free, out-of-this- world entertainment? Check out the York University Observatory. Every Wednesday evening, it’s open to the public to observe celestial objects through a 40-cm reflecting telescope. There is no cost for admission, but donations are appreciated.
THE BAD: Prepare to get goosebumps if you’re walking between Stong and Bethune colleges on a breezy day; there’s a wind-tunnel effect. "When the wind goes through it, it’s freezing," says Yumi Hotta, a professional writing student. On the upside, underground tunnels connect many of the buildings, so on a stormy winter day you don’t have to go outside.
THE UGLY: GO buses don’t go here on weekends and, for a commuter university, that’s a shame. It might be less of an issue when the subway is finally extended to York (though you’ll have to wait until 2013, at the earliest). 

School steers students to Schulich

Guidance teacher Rachel Stetter is proud to note that, two years ago, seven Emery Collegiate Institute graduates were accepted to the Schulich School of Business at York University, ranked among the top 20 business schools around the globe, reported the Toronto Star Oct. 11 in the special section Further Education. Last year, two were accepted.