Marsden and panel colleagues release report on Toronto’s debt

The City of Toronto, which has insisted for years it cannot escape a fiscal straightjacket created by the province, could be debt-free by 2010, according to an independent panel, wrote the National Post Feb. 22. Authored by six eminent Torontonians hand-selected by the mayor, the report identifies up to $3.5-billion that could be squeezed out of city assets – either by selling them or finding other ways to extract more money from them – and urges council to axe $50 million in spending this year and $150 million in future years.

Mayor David Miller appointed the panel, which included York University president emerita Lorna R. Marsden, under pressure last fall from opponents who argued there were better ways to put the city on a stable financial footing than implementing new land-transfer and vehicle-ownership taxes.

  • Marsden also serves on the senior advisory panel to Canada’s auditor general and is the author of several books on economic sociology, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 22.
  • The 86-page document, produced by a six-member panel drawn from business, academia and organized labour, promises hundreds of millions in savings and new revenues in the short term, and billions in the long-term, if the city takes its advice, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 22., which also noted Marsden’s participation on the panel.

Subway cash is still stuck in transit

It’s the big question surrounding the Spadina subway expansion to York University and the 905, wrote The Toronto Sun Feb. 22 – where’s the money? A day after Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion ripped Ottawa for apparently taking too long to fund her city’s new rapid bus line, TTC chairman Adam Giambrone joined in the growing chorus of GTA politicians tired of waiting for the feds to pry open their purse strings.

"You heard Hazel McCallion’s frustration that it took a year for the federal government to actually fund the money – we’re having the same problems with the subway," Giambrone said. "We still don’t have the money they said they’d give us for the Spadina extension. We don’t have it. So we understand exactly where Mississauga’s coming from."

It’s been almost a year since last March 6, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stood alongside Premier Dalton McGuinty and then-Ontario finance minister Greg Sorbara at Parc Downsview Park to announce $4.5 billion for transit and roads.

Included in the announcement was a $697-million pledge from the feds to help fund the expansion of the Spadina subway line by 8.6 km to York University and to the Vaughan Corporate Centre. The province has already put up their $670 million for the extension. That money now sits in a trust fund for the subway extension.

Think tank, thinking tanks

I was a panellist at a York University Security and Defence Forum event last March, wrote Matthew Gravelle in a letter replying to a critic of research funding policies of the Department of National Defence, in The Globe and Mail Feb. 22. The views presented included the following: Afghanistan’s status as a "failed state" is a construction that allows Western agents to act with near-impunity; Canada’s policy of a "Responsibility to Protect" is incompatible with a trade policy that turns a blind eye to, for example, human-rights violations committed by Canadian mining companies abroad; and the Afghan mission represents a kind of unending "new war" that is compatible with state and industry objectives in a post-modern condition.

Academic jargon aside, these are hardly endorsements of DND’s policies and philosophies, despite being made possible by DND funding, wrote Gravelle. Moreover, isn’t it simply possible that academics funded by public money could come to believe that the mission in Afghanistan is in the Canadian national interest?

Grad’s research and perseverance nets a bestseller

Long-time Newmarket resident and York alumna Vali Stone (BA ’95) just seems to have a way with words, which is definitely a good thing, wrote the Era-Banner (Newmarket-Aurora, Ont.) Feb. 19. That talent certainly comes in handy when one decides to pursue a writing career.

Over the years, Stone got married, had a son and a daughter, and finished her degree in York University’s Faculty of Arts. Things were busy, but Stone said she devoted whatever time she could to writing and ensuring her skills remained sharp. The libraries in Toronto, Newmarket and at York became like second homes to her during the nearly three years she spent reading and researching her book Cops Don’t Cry.

After finally hearing from a publisher who wanted the book within nine months, Stone completed the work, which was well received by critics and families of police officers and went on to become a national best seller. The book became a teaching aide and Stone was also contacted to help turn it into a documentary, which has gone on to also become a teaching tool.

York composer’s work will premiere at choral festival

Composer Michael Coghlan, a professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, was commissioned to write a piece of music specifically for the third annual Mississauga Choral Festival, wrote the Mississauga News Feb. 19. He will be at the event to discuss the song, Three Songs of Pan, which will make its world premiere on Saturday.