Wounded Tory’s future now even more uncertain

Fighting back at charges he can’t make up his mind, Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory is defending his dramatic, late-night decision to remain at the helm of the party, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 25. Just four hours after telling delegates their support vote of 66.9 per cent might not be enough to justify him remaining as leader and he needed time to think, Tory suddenly decided he had a solid mandate to carry on after a flurry of consultations with family, advisers, party members and MPPs.

Tory is in a weaker position now than he would have been had he accepted the 66.9 per cent mandate immediately, said Bob Drummond, a political scientist in York’s Faculty of Arts, describing it as tenuous at best. "He’s got to do something at this point to strengthen his position from the two-thirds support he won," Drummond said in a telephone interview. "If he were in the Legislature, it would be easier."

  • In the Feb. 23 Star, before the PC convention vote, Drummond said, “I think 70 to 80 per cent would be the number he needs. Any less than that, he’s headed for a battle, but he may be prepared to fight it.”

Tories continue to target Dion with ‘bogeyman’ ad campaign

With an out-of-context quote, a goofy-looking image and some partisan number crunching, the Harper Conservatives have launched another phase in their year-long campaign to portray Liberal leader Stéphane Dion as unfit to lead the country, reported the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 23. Political parties concerned about their leader’s popularity invariably try to shift focus onto the opposition, said Fred Fletcher, political science professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Arts. "You try to discredit the only alternative to the governing party," he said. "It’s standard. But the language of the Conservative ad is unusual. The phrase [Dion is] ‘not worth the risk’ is normally associated with a long-standing government stabilizing it’s position, not one that has been in a minority situation for only two years."

Playwright says Relative Good is not a docudrama about Maher Arar

David Gow (MFA ’98) wants to make one thing perfectly clear. His play, Relative Good,  may be about a Canadian engineer of Middle Eastern background who is arrested at JFK Airport, flown to Syria, incarcerated, then tortured, but it is not a docudrama about Maher Arar, reported The Gazette in Montreal Feb. 23. Out of respect for Arar, rather than risk distorting his story in the wrong way "through the lens of biography," Gow chose to "distort it completely through a fictive lens and then refer to it as such." This would allow him to explore the wider issue of "what’s happening for people of Middle Eastern origin who find themselves in this situation" in his play now on at the Centaur Theatre.

Gow, who now lives in Montreal, was born in Cornwall, raised in Montreal, Ottawa and Russell, Ont. He studied theatre at Concordia University for a couple of years (he earned his MFA later, at York University), began his career as an actor, then made his playwriting debut at Centaur Theatre in 1996 with a play called The Friedman Family Fortune, starring Maurice Podbrey as the paterfamilias. But it was a later play, Cherry Docs (1998), about a Jewish civil rights lawyer who is forced to defend a racist skinhead, that went on to become an international hit. It was adapted into the film Steel Toes (2006), starring David Strathairn, who had performed in the US première of Cherry Docs in Philadelphia. The film was co-directed by Gow and Mark Adam. Gow also wrote the screenplay and was a co-producer of the film, which won the Alex and Ruth Dworkin Prize for the Promotion of Tolerance at the Rendezvous du cinéma québécois in 2006.

Councillors decry ‘inaccurate’ view of city hall culture

Toronto city hall’s political culture is not as poisonous as an independent report issued this week suggests, councillors on all sides say, reported the National Post Feb. 23. The report, released on Thursday by an independent panel appointed by Mayor David Miller, was highly critical of councillors’ behaviour, and said it wounds the city. "Criticisms go to the incivility of the political culture, its inefficiency, the lack of a will to change, and the ineffectiveness of council," says the report, which was written by six prominent Torontonians, including Larry Tanenbaum, the Chair of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, and Lorna Marsden, the former president of York University.

Building a house of cards

One of the more obscure tricks of the RRSP trade is to hold your own mortgage in your retirement plan, wrote the National Post Feb. 23. Moshe Milevsky, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, says he does not see the logic. "If you take out a mortgage, you want to get the best possible rate," he says. "If you have a RRSP you also want to get the best possible return on your investment. So right off, there is a conflict of interest between the two sides of your wallet." He adds a mortgage does not make sense for a RRSP, which should be made up of long-term investments in equities with a chance for appreciation. "There’s no free lunch. With a high rate, you are robbing Paul to pay Peter, except that Paul and Peter live in the same house," says Milevsky. "The only way this makes sense is for people who have a tough time qualifying for a mortgage anywhere else."

Conservative Party executive protest nomination process

Nine directors of the Mississauga East-Cooksville Conservative Party executive have resigned in protest over the hasty process used by party leaders to select their riding’s candidate in the next federal election, reported The Mississauga News Feb. 22. It was only when the process of selecting a candidate began to quickly accelerate, former Mississauga West Reform candidate Charles Conn said in an interview, that he and other executive members realized that the party intended to promptly install 32-year-old former beauty queen and former Bollywood Boulevard Omni-TV host Melissa Bhagat (BA ’98), who is bilingual, as its candidate.

Bhagat was born in Mississauga and lived here until she was 10, when she moved to Brampton. The Glendon College graduate is a former Liberal who was running for the federal Liberal nomination in 2004 in Brampton Springdale when the party appointed Mississauga resident Ruby Dhalla to be its candidate.

Bullies thrive on violence to satisfy a craving

In Canada, researchers Debra Pepler of York University and Wendy Craig of Queen’s University have found that bullies import abusive behaviour from the schoolyard to their adult relationships, reported The Vancouver Sun Feb. 25 in a series on bullying. They tend to abuse their spouses and their children.

Muslims who launched Maclean’s complaint seek right to reply

On Dec. 4, we launched human-rights complaints against Maclean’s magazine for its refusal to publish a response to its October 2006 article, The Future Belongs to Islam, by Mark Steyn, wrote Osgoode Hall Law School graduates Naseem Mithoowani (LLB ’07), Khurrum Awan (LLB ’07) and Muneeza Sheikh (BA ’03, BA ’04, LLB ’07) in The Gazette in Montreal Feb. 24, Since then we have witnessed a lively discussion about the role of media and the importance of free speech in democratic society. If our media exclude the communities in question while providing extensive coverage of inflammatory views about those communities, the results are evident and inevitable: more prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping, they argued.

On air

  • At Sault College nearly 30 per cent of first-year math students failed last semester. That’s in line with what’s happening in colleges right across the province, according to a recent study by York University, reported CICI-TV in Sudbury and other CTV affiliates in news reports Feb. 22.