PM advising GG on election is not a matter for the courts, says Monahan

Patrick Monahan, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, was dubious about a court challenge, reported The Calgary Sun and Ottawa Sun Aug. 29 in an article discussing the fixed-date election law and Stephen Harper’s announcement he might call an early election.

Some experts say Harper is within his rights to pull the plug, because the fixed-date election law leaves intact the governor general’s power to dissolve Parliament at her discretion. By convention, the governor general acts on the advice of her first minister, so, were Harper to advise her to dissolve Parliament, she would likely do so.

"There is no legal basis for claiming the prime minister cannot advise the governor general, and no legal basis for constraining the governor general either," Monahan said. "The matter of the advice given by the prime minister to the governor general is not something the courts generally inquire into."

Pedestrian scramble could get people walking again

John Saunders, a research coordinator at the City Institute at York University, commented on the new pedestrian scramble in Toronto on CTV News Aug. 28. “I hope it leads to greater discussion about the role of cars and pedestrians in the city and around the city and gets people talking about walking again,” said Saunders.

Public safety in private hands a flawed design

York environmental studies Professor Mark Winfield discussed the issue of having the public’s safety in private hands in an opinion piece published in The Toronto Star Aug. 29. The Star noted Winfield is the principal author of studies of the Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA) for the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy and the Walkerton Inquiry.

Prior to the Sunrise incident, few Ontarians had even heard of the TSSA, wrote Winfield. Yet it is virtually impossible to go through a day without encountering something regulated by the TSSA – elevators, escalators, gas stations, amusement rides, even boilers in the basements of buildings where residents live, work or go to school.

A close examination of the application of the TSSA’s model in Ontario reveals three fundamental flaws in its design, said Winfield.

First, as a non-governmental entity the TSSA escapes the accountability structures that normally apply to government agencies carrying out regulatory functions. These structures include oversight by the provincial auditor general and ombudsman, the application of freedom of information and privacy protection legislation and the requirements of the Lobbyist Registration Act, and a host of other mechanisms that ensure transparency and accountability in government operations.

Second, the design of the TSSA was based on the flawed premise that it was possible and even desirable to separate operational and policy-making functions within regulatory agencies, said Winfield. 

Third, the design of the TSSA envisioned the authority as a self-regulatory partnership with the industries it was to oversee. Indeed, the TSSA’s board of directors continues to include strong representation from individuals with backgrounds in the industries it regulates. The risk of effective regulation being compromised by an excessively close relationship with the regulated industries is particularly acute in the case of the TSSA, where there are virtually no organized public watchdogs in its areas of responsibility.

York computer model predicts big payoff if Hamilton Harbour cleaned up

A York University computer model predicts a payoff of at least $1 billion for the city of Hamilton if the work to cleanup the toxic tar deposits on Randle Reef in Hamilton Harbour is done, noted The Hamilton Spectator Aug. 29.

Rookie quarterback is key building block for Lions

York University’s highly touted rookie quarterback Nick Coutu certainly doesn’t lack any of the physical traits or the passing credentials to get the job done, wrote The Toronto Star Aug. 29.

But jumping from his billing as a high school star to a university success story in one year might be a bit premature. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Coutu decided, just weeks before York’s training camp, to change his plans of accepting a partial scholarship to a California junior college. He not only wanted to try to help bring some football credibility to the Lions, but figured the opportunity was better in Canada.

While tabbed as York’s quarterback of the future, the starting job is in the hands of Bart Zemanek, who returned to York after a year in Finland, to pursue a master’s degree.

TTC increases bike-rack routes, including one to York

Cyclists will see a lot more buses with bike racks starting Sunday: 19 new routes for a total of 43. New bike-rack routes include the 106 York University and the 191 Highway 27 Rocket, wrote The Toronto Star Aug. 29.

On air

  • York Professor Emeritus Ron Burke talked about people’s views on working four days a week instead of five, on CBC Radio’s "Ontario Morning" Aug. 28.