CUPE 3903 approves strike vote

York University’s teaching assistants [and contract faculty] have voted overwhelmingly to strike if labour negotiations fail to yield them a new contract by Nov. 2, wrote The Toronto Sun Oct. 18. Negotiators for the University and CUPE 3903 – which represents York’s 3,200 teaching assistants, contract faculty and graduate assistants – have been in talks since July. Their three-year collective agreement expired Aug. 31.

A conciliator has been named by the labour ministry to mediate the dispute.

Unlike bargaining in 2005, the two sides are "very far apart," said Bob Drummond, York’s dean of arts. The union is asking for a two-year contract that would deliver a 30-per cent wage hike, plus annual cost-of-living adjustments. The university is offering annual increases of 2 per cent in a three-year contract, wrote the Sun.

 "I understand this is a big number, but we are in a bargaining position," said CUPE chief negotiator Graham Potts, suggesting the two parties will meet somewhere down the middle.

  • Teaching assistants and contract instructors at York University have voted 86 per cent in favour of giving their union a strike mandate, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 20.

Fantino e-mail not out of line, says Osgoode prof

A controversial e-mail sent by Julian Fantino to a senior police officer came close but didn’t cross any professional lines, say criminal and legal experts, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Oct. 18.

"I think (the e-mail is) close to the line but doesn’t cross it," says James Stribopoulos, law professor in Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. Stribopoulos says the e-mail might put pressure on the officer to find a charge [against Caledonia protester Gary McHale], especially when followed with the equivalent of "don’t worry about those weak-kneed Crowns bailing on us later on."

Greens grow in rural Ontario

Ridings in the Conservative-voting hinterland saw huge gains for Green party candidates, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 19. Certainly, none was close enough to grasp victory away from established Conservative campaigns. But, in several cases, the Greens saw their support double or triple, shooting past disorganized NDP candidates and challenging Liberals as the go-to party for non-Conservatives.

The reasons are still unclear since post-election analysis is just starting. Some explanations include the dilution of these rural ridings by encroaching suburbs and hobby farms, the presence of universities and shifting demographics.

"These are younger, progressive voters looking for a home in relatively conservative parts of the province," said Mark Winfield, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, who studies voting patterns among Green supporters. He added that in many of these ridings the NDP and Liberals have only a marginal presence.

Burying yourself in snow to get warm is still a good idea, says York prof

What should you do if you’re stranded outside in  -15 C weather? According to survivalist lore, burrow into the snow, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 19. Weather researchers agree and they provided the supporting scientific evidence in a recent issue of the Bulletin of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS).

During most winters, York University buries electronic thermometers at ground level beneath snow at a campus weather station. This past Feb. 29, when the air registered -15 C, the temperature at the ground surface was a comparatively balmy 0. Three days later, when the air temperature rose to 12 C, the ground surface remained at 0.

This is nature’s thermostat at work. But the survivalist thermostat fails when air temperatures are really frigid, says atmospheric science Professor Peter Taylor of York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, in the CMOS Bulletin.

York also operated a weather station last winter at Iqaluit, Nunavut. The late February temperatures there were -25 to -30, both in the air and just beneath the snow surface. "If you are stranded, burrowing under snow is still a good plan to conserve body heat," writes Taylor, "but do not expect to find a -5 C layer after several months of -30 C temperatures."

A self-contained community

Successful in low-rise housing for years, master-planned communities embrace the necessary elements of a cohesive neighbourhood – residential, parks, schools and transportation, wrote the National Post Oct. 18. Now the concept is enticing condo developers with deep pockets and large tracts of land in established urban locales, with prime accessibility to the subway line.

"It’s like buying a virtual share in a community," explains Uzi Levy, chief executive officer of El-Ad ( Canada), which has created master-planned communities in Israel, Asia and Florida. Plans are well underway for four communities in Toronto and Montreal, adding 7,000 residential units to the current high-rise housing stock.

In August, El-Ad announced the first of three upcoming master-planned communities. The third future community will be in Toronto near York University. "We’re in the zoning process now," says Netanel Ben-Or, senior director, development of El-Ad. "This community will look like a village in France with trees and huge parks. There will be 1,100 units in seven buildings."

Jane-Finch residents march against poverty

The Jane and Finch community rallied yesterday to combat poverty, wrote The Toronto Sun Oct. 18. "Poverty has plagued this community for so long and we’re here today so our issues aren’t ignored," organizer Sabrina Gupaul said. "We’re reclaiming our community," said the activist.

Gupaul highlighted efforts to change the area’s image, pointing to street banners emblazoned with the words, "University Heights," which were brought by City Councillor Anthony Peruzza. "They’re rebranding this area…this is not York University," adds Gupaul.

Michael Dytyniak, a second-year student at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said the clients who walk through the doors of the legal aid clinic he works at on York’s Keele campus share similar stories of being harassed or racially profiled. "There may be extra cops on the streets, but people don’t feel safer. They are picked on by the cops just for wearing a hoodie," he said.

  • CBC Radio also reported on the University Heights initiative Oct. 17.

Canadian writers tread bravely in describing time

We all use time every day and feel we understand it, even though the likes of Einstein have had their hands full in comprehending it, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Oct. 19 in a book review that included Soul of the World: Unlocking the Secrets of Time by York Professor Christopher Dewdney, who teaches creative writing at Glendon College.

Time, then, for a book on it. And we have two, both by Canadians, more or less simultaneously. Go on, make your own time joke.

Dan Falk writes about science, mostly. Dewdney doesn’t, mostly. There’s scope for both approaches here, and the funny thing about time is that you can’t divorce the science half of time from the human-experience half. These are not easy concepts, yet Falk deals with them surprisingly gently.

Along comes Christopher Dewdney – not a scientist, just a guy who spent many nights in childhood lying awake, worrying about the future. It got him interested in time.

He was fascinated early on by the relationship of time and space, as measured in childhood terms: Counting "one steamboat, two steamboat" to figure out how far away the lightning was, and how long a branch of it reached. Along the way he also became a writer, though not a science writer particularly. He has been a finalist for four Governor General’s Literary awards (twice for non-fiction and twice for poetry).

Boyden travels north to prepare for writing

Author and York grad Joseph Boyden (BA Hons. ’91) travels to the James Bay area four or five times a year from his home in Louisiana, wrote the Cornwall Standard-Freeholder Oct. 20. "I’m not an expatriate by any means…I think our world is such right now that you can live in very distant places and still keep close to family and the land," said Boyden, 41.

"I really like that kind of psychic and geographic distance I’m given by living in New Orleans and looking back. After the well fills up back home, I come back to New Orleans and start the fiction process."

While Boyden was raised in a suburb of Toronto, it is the remote communities of Moosonee and Moose Factory, almost 700 kilometres toward the Arctic from North Bay, Ont., that are the primary setting of his second novel, Through Black Spruce, one of five books on the short list for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

"That’s not my traditional homeland, that’s for sure," said Boyden, who spent two years teaching in the James Bay area after studying creative writing in York University’s Faculty of Arts and now teaches at the University of New Orleans.

Top 40 Under 40: Osgoode grad Bob Gauvin

Some fight crime on the street. Others fight it in a courtroom. Staff Sergeant Bob Gauvin (LLB ’98) a York grad, does both, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Oct. 20.

A drug cop with a law degree, he has pushed laws into new territory, using every legal mechanism at his disposal to shut down the city’s worst drug operations.

Unlike many who head into policing, Gauvin had no cops in his family. It was a turbulent upbringing with an abusive father that inspired him to go into law enforcement. While a Churchill Secondary School student, he walked into a police station and asked the front desk officer what he needed to become a cop. "Get an education," he was told.

After Gauvin completed his undergraduate studies, he found police services weren’t hiring at the time, so he got a degree at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

On air

  • Jose Etcheverry, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about ways of combating job losses due to climate change, on CIXX Radio (London, Ont.) Oct. 17.