2018: What will Canadian business look like 10 years from now?

Two York University faculty members imagined the world 10 years from now in articles in The Globe and Mail Dec. 28:

  • It is 2018, and the hollowing out of the Canadian economy is complete, wrote Peter C. Newman. The last surviving outer crust of the country’s corporate doughnut has long since been swallowed up by foreign investors…. Such a scenario is, of course, absurd. But is it any more unlikely than what has already happened?

James Gillies, professor and dean emeritus of York’s Schulich School of Business, puts it most bluntly: "We need to assure that firms considered strategic to the development of our economy are not taken over. The markets alone will not provide the optimum solution. If we relied on markets alone to determine our economic destiny, this country would not exist."

  • Following the bankruptcies of Ford and GM, the privatization of the US Interstate Highway System and the banning of commercial flights of less than 800 kilometres, high-speed trains dominate, wrote James Laxer, political science professor in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and author of the upcoming books Oil and Perils of Empire.

The demise of the US dollar as the reserve currency of the world heralds a triad consisting of the euro, the yuan and the yen, wrote Laxer. The US and UK are rebuilding their manufacturing sectors, since they are no longer able to afford costly imports from Asia, where labour costs have appreciated. A moratorium on private automobile traffic in most cities whose populations exceed three million has caused a mass exodus from the suburbs and into both city centres and densely populated satellite centres, clustered around railway stations. Suburban house prices have collapsed.

Arthurs recalls Le Dain’s role in changing Canadian legal education

Former Osgoode Dean Gerald Le Dain‘s respect for civil liberties went so far as to rouse John Lennon and Yoko Ono from their bed, wrote The Globe and Mail Jan. 3. It was 1969, the year of the couple’s "bed-in for peace" at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, and the year Judge Le Dain began chairing the much referenced but largely ignored Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs.

The Le Dain commission’s final report was one of the most politically explosive documents ever put before the federal government…[and] was delivered at a time when hysteria about the evils of pot was on everyone’s lips and many parents wanted the law to save their drug-addled teenagers, wrote the Globe. The report also made Judge Le Dain something of an unlikely counterculture icon and helped win him a place on the Supreme Court of Canada during the formative years of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In 1967, he left Montreal to become dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, where, said colleague Harry Arthurs, he presided over a revolution in Canadian legal education. "It was his responsibility to persuade York University, the Law Society of Upper Canada, and the world at large, that what we were doing [moving Osgoode Hall Law School to York] was not only the legitimate – not only the sensible – but the inevitable way forward," [said Arthurs, who succeeded Le Dain as dean of Osgoode and was president of York from 1985-1992].

York study finds drug firms spend more on marketing than research

Drug companies spend almost twice as much on marketing and promoting their products than on research and development, wrote The Canadian Press Jan. 3 in a story about a study by researchers from York’s Faculty of Health.

In their analysis of data from two market research companies, Dr. Joel Lexchin, associate Chair of York’s School of Health Policy & Management, Faculty of Health, and Marc-Andre Gagnon, a PhD candidate at the University of Quebec, found that American drug companies spent $57.5 billion on promotional activities in 2004.

By comparison, spending on industrial pharmaceutical research and development in the United States was $31.5 billion in the same year, according to a report by the National Science Foundation.

The findings, published this week in the journal Public Library of Science Medicine, confirm "the public image of a marketing-driven industry," the study authors say.

York psychologist’s team finds new explanations for boredom

In 2007, clinical psychologist John D. Eastwood of York’s Faculty of Health and his colleagues reported that students who scored high on scales of alexithymia – a deficiency in understanding and describing your own feelings, accompanied by an inhibited emotional and fantasy life – also scored higher on the Boredom Proneness Scale (BPS), wrote Scientific American Mind in a story on the subject in its December 2007/January 2008 edition.

Evidence that such a cause for boredom exists independently of attention problems comes from unpublished work by Eastwood’s group in which the researchers analyzed scores from 206 students on the BPS, a diagnostic for adult ADHD, and a scale of emotional awareness. They found that both higher levels of inattention and reduced emotional awareness explain a significant, but separate, amount of the varation in student’s proneness to boredom.

The article also cited Eastwood’s study, “A Desire for Desireness: Boredom and its Relation to Alexithymia,” published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences (April 2007).

Canada-India round table will include York experts

Called “Building Bridges: The Role of the Indian Diaspora in Canada”, a round table set for on Jan. 30 in Toronto will include as many as 35 Indian and Canadian experts and stakeholders with first-hand knowledge of India’s emigrant history, wrote The Toronto Sun Dec. 27. The case study of the Indian diaspora will be "in-depth”, says Kant Bhargava, the former Indian ambassador to several countries. Now a Canadian citizen, Bhargava earlier co-authored the study, “Human Development, Human Security and Regional Collaboration in South Asia”, with Anaya Mukherjee Reed, a professor at York University.

Bhargava is also an external associate at York’s Centre for International & Security Studies, a member of the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto and a member of the Canadian Advisory Council for the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute.

York research finds the gung-ho character type can be counterproductive

Charisma can undermine a team leader’s performance and have a destructive effect on the team itself during meetings in which decisions have to be made, according to a study by two researchers at York University in Toronto, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 28.

"The study pokes a hole in the bias toward a charismatic leader as the knight who can come in and save the company that is in crisis, or lead the team to wonderfully effective decision making," says Len Karakowsky, an associate professor of human resources management, who did the research with Igor Kotlyar, an instructor in administrative studies.

"What we discovered, in contrast, is that a less flamboyant, no-frills leader can be more successful at engaging executive teams in brainstorming while keeping emotions and egos in check," says Kotlyar, lead author of the study, which was reported in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies.

"There is a danger with a charismatic leader because feelings and emotions play such a big role in their motivational approach," Kotlyar says. They generate strong emotions in others that can turn to personal conflict. By contrast, a leader who can keep the group focused on the task without putting their self-esteem and emotion on the line reduces the likelihood of the team degenerating into dysfunction.

The results of the York professors’ experiment were published separately in the journal Small Group Research. "We are not saying charismatic leaders are bad; we are just saying that in some circumstances they may not be the best leaders," he says.

Debate denied over Maclean’s Muslim article

On Dec. 4, the four of us announced that we had launched human rights complaints against Maclean’s magazine with respect to its October 2006 article, “The Future Belongs to Islam”, written by Mark Steyn, wrote Naseem Mithoowani (LLB ’07), Khurrum Awan (LLB ’07), Muneeza Sheikh (BA ’03, BA ’04, LLB ’07) andOsgoode student Daniel Simard, in the Calgary Herald Dec. 29.

On March 30, 2007, we met with Maclean’s senior editors and proposed that they publish a response to Steyn’s article from a mutually acceptable source. The response was that Maclean’s "would rather go bankrupt." And that response resulted in our human rights complaints.

What we have asked for…is an opportunity for the Muslim community to participate in the "free marketplace" of ideas. It is our belief that in its truest form, freedom of expression results in a lively debate among all interested parties – not just among those who play by their own exclusionary rules. If Maclean’s wants to publish articles alleging that "enough" Muslims are "hot for jihad" and share the basic goals of terrorists, then it has to provide them the opportunity to respond.

The authors are students and recent graduates of York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School (Toronto) who have filed human rights complaints against Maclean’s magazine, and have worked with the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) in filing complaints before the British Columbia and Federal Human Rights Commissions, the Herald noted.

Glendon professor comments on Bush, deceit and war in Iraq

It is always heartening to see a scholar tackle an important issue like the Iraq war, take a position contrary to those assumed by most academics in the field and do a fairly good job of defending it, wrote Terry Heinrichs, political science professor at York’s Glendon College, in a letter to the National Post Dec. 27. That said, it is simply incorrect to say, as Professor Bruce Gilley does [in his recent letter], that the Bush administration was "deceitful in its use of weapons of mass destruction as a pretext for launching the invasion" of Iraq. George W. Bush was no more "deceitful" than were the intelligence networks of Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the UN – all of which were as convinced as he that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction.

Nevertheless, Prof. Gilley is correct in saying that the argument in favour of the Iraq war is not undermined by the claim that "the absence of a UN Security Council resolution explicitly authorizing war" made the war "an illegal act", wrote Heinrichs. This idea, common among academics, is best described as silly…. More important, the idea that any nation could leave its judgment of the necessity for war in the hands of the veto power of countries hostile to its interests (i.e., the UN route) is a prescription for national suicide. It is puzzling that Prof. Gilley seems to believe this system to produce valid laws even as he would justify its infringement.

York student kicks it in old-school karaoke style

Rhinoceros isn’t your average hip-hop hero, wrote Maclean’s Dec. 31. He’s 19 years old, brilliant and articulate, and has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild case of cerebral palsy, and a non-verbal learning disability. He studies political science and religion at York University, and most days he dresses in shirt and tie. To his family, he’s Noah Goodbaum.

But once a month, Goodbaum wears his shirt and tie down to The Boat, a bar in the city’s Kensington Market neighbourhood. There, he takes a turn on stage at Toronto’s hip-hop karaoke night, where he roars classic rap anthems into the microphone for a sweaty and delirious capacity crowd, who shout the lyrics back up at him. In front of an audience, Goodbaum is electric, ripping through songs like the Mash Out Posse’s Ante Up, a hyper-aggressive rant about robbing the rich and famous. "I project a bombast that I don’t project most of the time in my daily life," he says of his stints as Rhinoceros. "It makes me feel phenomenal."

Dreams and pain live on in violin

The Violin, which includes A Child’s Testimony, by Adam Shtibel, husband of fellow holocaust survivor Rachel Shtibel, is one of six books in the inaugural series of Holocaust memoirs financed by the Azrieli Foundation, which published them after creating an editorial board of experts with the Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, wrote The Toronto Sun Dec. 28.

Historians concentrated on documents, films and facts in their study of the holocaust, distrusting personal recollections, Sara Horowitz, director of the Centre for Jewish Studies at York, said. But she said without testimonials, the tragedy of those terrible losses and the survival of so many, against the odds, lacked "a human face."

Since the centre’s appeal for survivors’ memoirs in the 1980s, it collected 170 manuscripts, which are in York’s special collections section. "Our paramount concern is to preserve any author’s voice," Horowitz said.

Balfour’s wacky exhibit kicked off a good year at BC gallery

The first wacky exhibit at Richmond Art Gallery this year starred none other than a top-arts dog at York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, Barbara McGill Balfour, wrote the Richmond Review Dec. 26 in its look back on 2007. Her exhibition Selfish featured a front-and-centre blockade with standard issue caution tape. You know, something to scare away library patrons who happen upon a public art gallery for the first time. Balfour’s series of self portraits included a G.I. Joe-like action figure, Silly Putty body impressions and something with fingerprints. She also affixed images of her head on Emma Peel from "The Avengers" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer".

Vanishing wild bees will sting ecosystem

In a provocative paper delivered in New Orleans in October, Peter Harries-Jones, professor emeritus of anthropology in York’s Faculty of Arts, called on scientists to broaden their perspectives wrote columnist Cameron Smith in an article about the decline in bees, in the Toronto Star Dec. 29. Start looking at behaviour in ecosystems instead of searching for a single cause-and-effect culprit, he urged.

There’s a suspicion, he said, that global warming may be causing some plants to produce sterile pollen. It’s known that sterile pollen can result if temperatures are unusually hot when flower buds and pollen grains are forming. And if sterile pollen is a factor, Harries-Jones asks, when will mapping of ecosystem interactions begin?

Never forget, he warned, that ecosystems are intricate and complex networks, held together by "communicative interaction," and that timing is crucial to their functioning – for instance, in the way one flowering plant blooms after another, so there is always a food supply for pollinators.

In the view of Harries-Jones, bees are offering a wake-up call to the possibility that global warming could unravel networks and lead to ecosystem collapse much sooner than collapse would occur because of drought or flooding, or some of its other physical effects.

Local reader comments on York prof’s report to Brandon University

At a recent meeting of the Brandon University board of governors a document was released by the board to the public, wrote Bill Paton, in a letter to the Brandon Sun Dec. 29. This document was President Lou Visentin’s response to a report by Shirley Katz, humanities professor in York University’s Faculty of Arts. Visentin apparently commissioned this consultant to investigate allegations of discrimination and harassment made in a complaint under the Manitoba Human Rights Code filed by the former director of the First Nations and Aboriginal Counselling Program.

The recommendations…are very damning in my opinion and imply that Katz was of the opinion that the president was not performing his duties with due regard for Aboriginal culture and tradition. She also extends this opinion to other areas of the university administration.

Katz recommends, "regular and on-going university-wide educational initiatives be undertaken with respect to human rights and equity matters in general, and Aboriginal traditional and cultural practices in particular. Those educational initiatives should, in the first instance, be directed to university administrators, faculty and staff."

Would it not be easier if the president and administrators at Brandon University were expected to comply with human rights legislation and treat people fairly?

It’s good, n’est pas?

Calling the results "pretty dazzling," Toronto researchers have found bilingualism can delay the onset of dementia by four years, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 29, in a look back at Ideas of 2007. Examining the diagnostic records of 184 patients with cognitive complaints, psychology Professor Ellen Bialystok, of York’s Faculty of Health, and colleagues studying through the Rotman Research Institute determined the mean age of the onset of dementia symptoms for the monolingual group was 71.4 years compared with 75.5 years among lifelong speakers of two languages. The difference remained even after considering the possible effect of cultural differences, immigration, formal education, employment and gender, the study found.

  • The Star also took a look back at a York researcher’s study of veteran professional golfers that found the game may help keep you young – as long as you keep teeing it up. Analyzing results in various categories of the game for 96 professionals who had played on the PGA tour for at least 12 years, researchers from York University and Queen’s University found that while more strength-related aspects of the game, such as driving distance, declined over time, the mind- focused ones, including putting and driving accuracy, actually got better.

The study shows "that cognitive, perceptual and motor skills are really resistant to decline, but you’ve got to stay involved," said lead author Joe Baker, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health.

York students help tutor homeless youth

At Youth Without Shelter, the full-time students live in a separate part of the building where IBM-donated computers are available, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 22 in a story focusing on a Rexdale shelter for homeless young people. The students are given all their school supplies, like backpacks and pens, and get tutored on weeknights and Saturdays with the help of York University students.

Living the Canadian dream

When Karl Subban, father of Montreal Canadiens draft pick PK Subban, was 11, his parents emigrated from Jamaica to Sudbury, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 26. It didn’t take long for Karl Subban to wrap his arms around the neighbourhood’s passion for hockey and the Canadiens. His oldest daughter Nastassia (BA ’04, BEd ’05), 26, is a middle-school teacher and former York University basketball player.

Another tribute for a ‘Black Ace

Herb Carnegie loves it when visitors to his apartment in a North York seniors’ home "ooh and aah" at the statues, trophies, plaques and photos that fill his living room, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 2 in a story about a York Region school being named after him. There’s his Order of Canada, membership in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, an honorary law degree from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, and a Planet Africa Lifetime Achievement Award.

There are dozens of other tributes for his achievements in hockey, golf and community service. Awards surround him, but some he has never seen. Carnegie, considered by some as the greatest player never to play in the National Hockey League, is 88 years old and blind. "Basically I’m in the dark," says Carnegie, who lost his sight eight years ago to glaucoma. And still, the awards keep arriving.

York scholarship recipient hopes for political career in the Bahamas

Aaron Henry, 19, is a winner of a $2,000 scholarship from the For Youth Initiative, a program run by youth from the Keele Street and Eglinton Avenue West area, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 26. Henry has completed his first semester at York University and is working toward a bachelor of arts in Latin American & Caribbean studies and political science. His goal is to study law, perhaps get into politics in the Bahamas, where he grew up, or work as a diplomat.

Henry, who immigrated to Canada with his family in 2006, feels a responsibility to give back to the Toronto community that embraced him with the scholarship. "This is my second home and it’s quite natural and sensible for me to start here," he says.

About an author writing much closer to the bone

Vancouver-based writer and Osgoode alumus George K. Ilsley (LLB ’82) had about a year to prepare for and anticipate spending three months here as part of the Berton House Writers’ Retreat program, but he was expecting it to be colder, wrote the Yukon’s Whitehorse Daily Star Dec. 21. He’d planned to be a lawyer, and he graduated from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School after undergraduate work at Acadia University, but was sidetracked and became a writer instead.

Chilean brought his art here

Osvaldo Reyes lived art, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 27 in an obituary. As a young man, the painter studied under some of the 20th century’s most influential Latin American masters. Reyes’s work – a mix of landscapes, still lifes and portraits, all in his trademark social realist style – has graced exhibitions and gallery walls around the world, including the permanent collections at the Art Gallery of Ontario and at York University.