MDA flap shows Canadians believe in space exploration, says York prof

Canada has a major satellite under construction and space instruments on a NASA probe approaching Mars, wrote the Ottawa Citizen May 13. But the government has also been criticized for lack of leadership in the space business, notably when part of the space giant MacDonald Dettwiler Associates Ltd. was nearly sold to U.S. interests. Prentice blocked the sale, saying he did not consider the transaction to be a benefit to Canada.

The MDA flap may have surprised the government by showing that Canadians care more about our space program than anyone realized, said Gordon Shepherd of York University, a veteran in space technology. “That’s what ultimately drives it – the public.”

“It’s really nice that, although this (the MDA sale) was conceived as a bit of a problem, the minister is now focusing his attention on it. And the public now are more aware of it, so this is a great opportunity to do something new…. They (the public) realized we do have this fantastic technology, and having made the investment we should get some benefit out of it besides Radarsat and so on.”

It’s dirt under the bridge

The Crawford Street Bridge over Toronto’s Garrison Creek received an indecent burial 45 years after it was built in 1915 when excavators digging out the Bloor Street subway line just filled the ravine up with dirt, wrote the National Post May 13.

“So dumb,” Ed Dosman, professor emeritus in York’s faculty of Arts, says of the bridge-burying. Dosman in his spare time works with the Garrison Creek Linkage Project, which has already done marvelous work using copper letters sunk in cement to label Garrison Creek along much of its length. Here at the Crawford Bridge, they’ve stuck plaques in cement depicting the fish who once swam here: northern pike, bowfin, white sucker, largemouth bass, brown bullhead, pumpkinseed and rock bass.

But Dosman won’t be content until backhoes undo the mistakes of the past, and unearth the bridge, our own local Teotihuacan.

“I have no doubt that in the next generation the bridge will be dug out,” he says. “We could have potentially a water feature in Trinity-Bellwoods park along the lines of Lafontaine Park in Montreal. In Chicago or Seattle this would have been done a long time ago, but we’re broke.”

WestJet grows up

Experts caution that WestJet Airlines Ltd. faces inevitable growing pains as it undergoes a transformation over the next two years, wrote The Globe and Mail May 13. “Many companies start well, but for one reason or another, they fall flat on their face,” said Fred Lazar, a business professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, who specializes in the aviation industry. “WestJet still has a distinct culture, but it’s a larger and more complex airline now, and it has to evolve.”

Osgoode alumnus receives market’s approval of Fiat’s turnaround

The world’s hottest car executive hit another high last week when Standard & Poor’s restored Fiat’s “investment grade” status, wrote Maclean’s in its May 19 issue. That amounts to the market’s ultimate seal of approval for the renaissance orchestrated by Sergio Marchionne (LLB ’83), the Turin automaker’s CEO. In less than four years, the dual Canadian-Italian citizen has upshifted Fiat from a joke to the envy of the car business.

Favouring sweaters over suits, his style is more casually Canadian than sleekly Italian. But under his leadership, Fiat has recovered its reputation for gorgeous design. Perhaps its sexiest car: the Alfa Romeo 8C Spider. Ontario is now vying for a new Alfa Romeo plant. Its beleaguered auto sector must wish the émigré turnaround maestro had never gone away.

Trust is key for workers

Workers who believe they are trusted by their bosses bring higher sales and better customer service ratings to their companies, according to a study led by York University and published today in the Journal of Applied Psychology, wrote Metro May 12.

“There is a big debate in management philosophy about whether controlling or empowering employees is the best way to go,” said York University Professor Sabrina Deutsch-Salamon, lead author of the study. “Our results support the notion that managers who communicate a sense of trust get the best from their employees.”

Employees who feel trusted are also more willing to take responsibility for the organization’s overall performance and work harder to please its customers, the study found.

“It’s clear that this is the sort of engagement organizations should be interested in, because it leads to much higher levels of cooperation among employees,” said Deutsch-Salamon, who teaches organizational behaviour in York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. The study, published by the American Psychological Association, is co-authored by University of British Columbia Professor Sandra Robinson.

Job hunting for the new millenium

The job market is moving at a faster rate with e-mail applications and Google background checks – keeping up isn’t easy, which is why many job hunters are creating portfolio Web sites, wrote Metro May 12.

“Finding that first job is a daunting task, especially if you’re looking for something specific,” says recent graduate and innovative job hunter, Michael Sefcik (BA ’06).

“I wanted to go beyond the traditional one-page resumé and provide potential employers with more information about me,” he explains. “I wanted to stand out from other applicants and showcase all of my past experiences in an innovative way.”

Sefcik, 25, recently graduated from Lund University in Sweden with his masters and previously received his bachelor of arts at York University. Disheartened by the way traditional job sites present online resumés — which are only available to recruiters who are registered to the job site — Sefcik wanted more.

Yorkville semi-detached was perfect for downsizing musician

Two years ago, when pianist, graphic artist and author Christina Petrowska Quilico was looking to downsize, she mentioned it to friend Janet Stubbs at the Christina and Louis Quilico Fund competition for young opera singers, reported the Toronto Star May 10. Petrowska Quilico spoke of her desire to live once again in the Yorkville area, where Stubbs lives. A heritage home across the street from Stubbs just happened to be for sale.

It turns out the owner, familiar with the Quilico name, offered Petrowska Quilico such a good deal, she bought it even before selling her large abode on Oriole Parkway.

The Julliard graduate is one of Canada’s foremost interpreters of 20th- and 21st-century music. She’s a professor of piano performance and musicology in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. She’s featured on the Eclipse CD, on Centrediscs. On Wednesday, she’ll launch her 20th recording, Ings, a two-CD compilation of live performances, with a mini-concert in Yorkville.

Specialty under siege

The latest campaign by the Ontario Occupational Health Nurses’ Association may seem ill-timed, in light of Ontario’s current economic downturn, wrote the Toronto Star May 10. But association President Marlene Demko suggests OHNs make more sense than ever, considering our aging workforce and demands for higher productivity.

To prove its case, the association asked the Schulich School of Business at York University to analyze the costs and benefits of employing occupational health nurses. The results make a powerful argument for employers. The Schulich study concluded that one full-time OHN can save a company with 2,000 workers about $220,000 per year – well worth the $75,000 annual cost of employing the nurse.

A public square that isn’t public

James McKellar , a professor of real property at York University’s Schulich School of Business, argues that great cities are judged not by new private buildings but by public development, of such things as parks, transit, sidewalks and public schools, wrote the National Post May 10. In building the public realm, he says, “ Toronto has no idea of what it is doing.”

A number of people describe Toronto’s planning department as a troubled place, whose senior planners, feeling disempowered, have left, leaving juniors who have little experience, wrote the Post. Meanwhile, empowered councillors cut random deals with developers, forcing them to hand out transit passes with new condos or give money to local picnics.

McKellar suggests that, to clean up the mess, Toronto needs a global search for a new head of plannning, someone on the scale of Vancouver’s Larry Beasley, who became a household name while bringing planning innovation to that city. That’s not what Toronto is going to get.

Have Buzz Hargrove and the Canadian Auto Workers turned soft?

If CAW President Buzz Hargrove, the head of one of Canada’s largest private-sector unions, is perceived to have given up on unions’ traditional role as aggressive defenders of the working class, wrote the National Post May 10, can other labour leaders be far behind?

“The fact is that Canadian unions increasingly seem as disoriented as their American counterparts and Canadian unionism generally seems no less frozen in the headlights,” Sam Gindin, a former CAW economist, concluded this past week in an analysis piece in The Bullet, a collection of opinions published by the Socialist Project group.

“There are of course sporadic and impressive struggles,” wrote Gindin, the Packer Visitor in Social Justice who lectures in York’s Faculty of Arts. “But these occasional bursts of militancy do not add up to a reversal of direction.”

Gindin and others claim Hargrove, considered by many to be one of the country’s smartest labour leaders, has taken union weakening to a whole new level. The latest deal with Ford, Gindin argued, is the latest and clearest example yet of what he calls Hargrove’s re-orientation “from taking on power, to accommodating it.”

“That many workers may now be relieved – it could have been worse – doesn’t speak to the larger question of how the union got to the point of a leadership with no intent to fight and a membership passively waiting to see how bad things might get.”

“The problem, it seems, is that once the union accepts the argument that competitiveness is a goal workers must conform to … the union ends up with no agenda independent of the corporations,” Gindin said. “Mobilizing the workers to fight the corporations is then largely irrelevant.”

Censorship vs. ‘unreasonable demands’

Your May 2 editorial asserts that [our complaint] against Maclean’s magazine was “tossed out” by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and that this was a “setback” that forced us to make a modified settlement offer to Maclean’s, wrote Osgoode alumni Khurrum Awan (LLB ’07), Naseem Mithoowani (LLB ’07) and Muneeza Sheikh (LLB ’07) in a letter to the National Post May 10.

In fact, the outcome of the Ontario proceedings was a historic victory for minorities, who have consistently been at the receiving end of the right-wing media stick. For the first time, a respected public institution condemned the persistent denigration of the Muslim community in mass media. The commission, however, was unable to hear our complaints due to a technicality.

In response to the commission’s statement, Maclean’s published a 2,500-word editorial, claiming that it had always been prepared to consider a reasonable response but that we made unreasonable demands.

Our demands have always been the same: run a mutually acceptable response of adequate length from an agreed upon author. We put the editors’ sincerity to the test through a settlement offer: run the aforementioned response in return for the withdrawal of the complaints.

  • I was rendered virtually speechless when reading the plea penned by the three Osgoode Hall Law School graduates in the Saturday edition of the National Post, wrote Wayne McCracken in a letter to the National Post May 13. For some time, that same crowd has been pressing for the “right” to publish material in Maclean’s. In that regard, I should have thought that, if one strings together the text of all of their various letters published hither and yon over the past months, they would be satisfied in terms of content and numbers of words. But apparently not — they still want more.

The express blackmail proffered by the authors in the last paragraph of their letter – to wit, give us our way and we will stop having the Ontario Human Rights Commission and its ilk harass you – leaves one breathless with its arrogance and presumption.

It’s time for a change, for God’s sake

This morning, seven men will lie prostrate on the floor of St. Michael’s Cathedral, wrote the National Post May 10. And in front of the Roman Catholic Archbishop, an audience and all the saints, ask to be accepted as the newest priests for the Archdiocese of Toronto. These fellows don’t have pristine, God-driven pasts. One was York alumnus Joe Gorman (BAS ’93), 31.

Unlike some of the other soon-to-be-ordained, being a priest was always in the game plan for Gorman. Even before he really knew what it meant. “I remember writing in my journal in Grade 2, ‘When I grow up I want to be a hockey player and a football player and a priest’.” Done, done, and done: Football quarterback for York University, member of the Flying Fathers Catholic hockey team, and, tomorrow, he’ll be one of Toronto’s newest priests.

The huge but gentle Gorman says he learned leadership in the game. “You can’t have someone sitting on the outside, and have that team be successful,” he says. “So I said – we all said – ‘Let’s build this team together. So, our faiths are different…but let’s be able to openly share it’.”

  • Joe Gorman gave up the gridiron for the pulpit yesterday, wrote The Toronto Sun May 11. The former York University football quarterback was one of seven priests – who included a mechanic, a theatre school grad and a doctor of economics – who were ordained by the Archdiocese of Toronto at St. Michael’s Cathedral yesterday.

“Since I was born, I have had many priest role models. Through their example and my family’s support and encouragement I was able to listen to what God was calling me to do,” said Gorman, who did a little dance like he just made a touchdown as he exited the church as a priest.

On air

  • Joan Gilmour , professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the legal and ethical dilemma of a family who want to stop their son’s treatment for leukemia, on CBC Newsworld May 12.