Professor sees changes in the way mothers perceive fathers

A motherhood conference this weekend at York University, that happened to coincide with a conference on fatherhood across the street, conveyed messages invoking revolutionary goals of maternal independence, creativity and spontaneity – all in an effort to push moms out of the house and onto the streets, wrote the National Post Oct. 25.

Andrea O’Reilly, a professor in York’s Atkinson School of Arts & Letters and the School of Women’s Studies who organized the conference, said that she faced an entirely different set of obstacles when she started a local motherhood movement. "We had to prove it was legitimate, when most people saw motherhood as biology or instinct." In contrast, she added, many perceive fatherhood as a choice, a novelty, a disembodied biological experience that many see as being inherently less instinctive. "You can step out of fatherhood at any given time, but with motherhood, you can’t."

Men once had to trust women that the baby they were carrying was theirs; now it could be verified, perhaps altering, on a subconscious level at least, a father’s sense of responsibility. Beginning with the emergence of DNA testing, however, several trends over the past decade have influenced the way that mothers and the motherhood movement look at their male counterparts – and vice versa. Invoking a phrase from Mary O’Brien’s influential book, The Politics of Reproduction, O’Reilly said that fathers would suffer from "alienation from the seed," but that might have changed with the advent of genetic testing.

Environmental concerns in Mississauga are affecting assessment rates

Roger Keil, director of the City Institute at York University, has a different hunch about the reason for a drop in tax assessment increases for Mississauga’s downtown area, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 26. He says one reason for central Mississauga’s lower assessment increases could be environmental concerns, given its proximity to the airport and highways. "You’ve got three highways in the area competing for traffic, not to mention the airport, so who wouldn’t consider the impact on air quality?" said Keil.

Meanwhile, just to the south, property assessments along Lake Ontario have increased by an average of six per cent for 2009 – almost a full percentage point higher than the city-wide average. "This is clearly an outcome of very specific and very directed planning policies on the part of the city of Mississauga, supported by Metrolinx," said Keil. "It’s clearly an up-and-coming neighbourhood and has a lot going for it."

Tabuns eyes Hampton’s job

MPP Peter Tabuns, a former head of Greenpeace Canada, yesterday launched his bid for the leadership of the Ontario New Democratic Party with a call for building a "new energy economy" in the province, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 27.

Tabuns, who represents Toronto-Danforth, said his priorities would be creating jobs and dealing with what he calls the environmental crisis. Tabuns is a former deputy mayor of Toronto who championed smoke-free restaurants and bars during his time in office. He lives in Toronto with his partner, Shawn Kerwin – she is chair of the Department of Theatre in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts – and his adult son Anton.

Halloween provides what we so desperately need

Halloween has become one of the biggest party nights of the year, especially among young adults, wrote The Gazette (Montreal) Oct. 25. The event is a $1.5-billion business, according to the Retail Council of Canada, with men aged 18 to 34 spending the most on Halloween items: An average of $72 each last year.

Nicholas Rogers, a cultural historian in York University’s Faculty of Arts, says there’s "cathartic release" in dressing up at Halloween, whether it’s for exhibitionist reasons or to evoke social commentary. In his book Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (Oxford University Press, 2003), he writes of the costumes of the 1970s, which parodied mass culture "à la Andy Warhol," with partygoers dressed as gasoline pumps, vending machines and tubes of Crest toothpaste. "Halloween could thus become a satire of the vacuity and banality of consumer society…even if the holiday itself was saturated with consumerism," Rogers wrote.

Putting kids first pays dividends, planner says

Richard Gilbert, research associate for the Centre for Sustainable Transportation, came to Langley on Oct. 9 for an all-day workshop regarding the development of "Guidelines for Child and Youth Friendly Land-use and Transportation Planning" at Langley Township hall, wrote BC’s Langley Times Oct. 25.

Gilbert has worked as a high-school teacher, a professor and researcher, as well as a municipal politician. Since the early 1990s, he has also worked as a consultant on transportation and energy issues, waste management and urban governance, with clients from North America, Europe and Asia. He has also taught graduate courses on planning and urban governance at both Toronto’s York University, and recently, in 2006, at Simon Fraser University’s downtown Vancouver campus.

Child pornography sentence is ‘in the ballpark’

The 20-month sentence, less 15 months and four days for time spent in pre-trial custody, given to Antonio Bono, 60, of Vaughan for a conviction on child pornography charges appears to be "in the ballpark", said Osgoode Hall Law School Professor Alan Young, in the Vaughan Citizen Oct. 24. Young said the sentence itself should not be attributed to leniency but the acknowledging by the court of the time Bono spent in pre-trial custody and discretionary sentencing for the offences he was charged with.

Fine art of fighting artsy-fartsy City Hall

You might say Darlene Richards-Loghrin has turned fighting City Hall – and the taggers who have repeatedly defaced her office building – into a fine art, wrote The Toronto Sun Oct. 25.

The real estate lawyer, ordered earlier this summer by Toronto East York Community Council to remove the mural adorning the side wall of the building she owns on Kingston Road, recently commissioned a new mural for the wall – from the same high school students who created the first mural. The community council, led by her councillor, self-professed art connoisseur and York grad Sandra Bussin (BFA ‘74), refused this past May to exempt the initial mural as "art" under the city’s graffiti bylaw, even though her wall had not been tagged a single time after it went up.

At the time Bussin, who has a fine arts degree from York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, declared she believed the mural was "not great art". She also insisted Richards-Loghrin accept funding from her ward’s beautification budget to have a "new expression" done on the wall, something "afresh," with more thought.

But the feisty lawyer – who was tagged eight times (once with ketchup) after she painted over the mural this past June 21 – decided to have something new painted the weekend of Sept. 20 instead. She said she went to the same five students and asked them if they wanted to try again – which they agreed to do. "I still think the kids got a raw deal the last time," she said. "I think it (the first mural) was art and it did have artistic merit."

Durban 2: New site, same debacle

The United Nations’ second World Conference Against Racism, scheduled for next April, is proving to look a lot like the first [held in Durban, South Africa], wrote the National Post Oct. 25. "This is the new dimension of Durban 2, which in many ways makes it a greater threat than Durban 1," says Anne Bayefsky, a York University professor and human rights lawyer who attended last week’s Geneva conference. "It’s really setting up a war of ideas that has rough implications, between Islamic states and everybody else…. Durban 1 was called an assault on Israel; a demonization of Israel as racist and analogous to Apartheid South Africa." Durban 2 looks as if it will have all that, too, she says. "But in addition, Durban 2 is an assault on freedom of expression and other essential democratic rights and freedoms." The irony, she says, is that Asian and Middle Eastern countries pushing for tougher restrictions are often the world’s worst rights abusers.

What happened to my dream job in finance?

For Canadian business students on the cusp of graduation, dreams of lucrative jobs in the financial sector are unravelling as fast as the global economy, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 27. Gone are the expectations of big bonuses, counter-offers and permanent jobs they had when they started school. The new reality: lower salaries, heated competition – and muted prospects for any aspiring investment banker.

Many Canadians who were working or studying in the United States "are running back to Canada, so big banks are picking up the talent," said Joseph Palumbo, executive director at the Schulich School of Business’ Career Development Centre. The war for talent has certainly not stopped. Palumbo is nonetheless telling finance students to accept offers early, rather than waiting and hoping for multiple offers.

Economic plan needs to change

A growing number of economists and political scientists warn the federal government’s own ideology may be the biggest obstacle to helping Canadians get through this financial crisis, wrote the Hamilton Spectator and the Toronto Star Oct. 27.

Ricardo Grinspun, economics professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, says "it’s completely responsible for the government to go to the assistance of the banks," as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have done. But Grinspun sees no sign Ottawa sought assurances that "the banks will make credit available to the public" and stimulate the real economy.

Says Grinspun: "The leverage of the money is that the government has a stake in ensuring the banks are responding to the urgent need for credit from the public." Instead, he says recent deals are "murky, rather opaque" and there’s no way to determine if the public is protected.

"Taxpayers are assuming risky assets and giving away safe ones," Grinspun says. The problem, he adds, is that Harper and Flaherty haven’t addressed the major issues that exacerbated the crisis in the first place, including the lack of transparency, greater deregulation and the philosophy that the markets know best.

Ladies rock their socks off

A concert was the finale of a weekend-long rock band workshop for women that doubled as a fundraiser wrote the Peterborough Examiner Oct. 27. Members of one band had originally planned to call themselves the Mellow Yellow Chicks but two of the members weren’t feeling too mellow after a sleepless night at their hotel, so they changed it to Short Fuse.

"We stayed at the Motel 6 and it was a gong show," said Jen Taylor, a York graduate student who travelled from Burlington with her mother for the Women’s Rock Weekend. "There was some kind of sports team, wedding guests, students…. Around midnight on Friday night we decided we weren’t so mellow anymore."

Taylor, a musicology student at York University, is basing her PhD research on rock camps for girls, and she came to Peterborough to experience it for herself. "I’m looking at how they use rock music to help girls with their self-esteem, and I wanted to have as part of it my own experience observing as well as participating," said Taylor, who is a trained pianist, tried out the bass for the first time. "I was nervous, but when you only have two days it lets you kind of let go," she said. "It’s really cool when you realize you did it."

Dollar-cost averaging is debatable, but for now, lump sum suits me

Dollar-averaging is an investing strategy and not just a method of payment, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 25. For Moshe Milevsky, professor of finance at the Schulich School of Business at York University, whose book Money Logic: Financial Strategies for the Smart Investor contains a whole chapter on the drawbacks to dollar-cost averaging, examples of success are missing the point – he calls them "selective cherry-picking of history."

"There are always going to be periods in which dollar-cost averaging actually beats [lump sum investments] but it tends to be in those periods that you would have been better off with your money under a mattress," writes Milevsky.

Over time, Milevsky says, dollar-cost averaging just isn’t a winning strategy. In the long run, markets tend to trend upward and equity-based investments increase in value. He even advises people he calls "bonds" – with stable jobs and salaries – to borrow at low rates and invest a lump sum rather than investing a small amount from each paycheque.

Most of all, Milevsky objects to the characterization that dollar-cost averaging somehow makes investing less risky. "At the end of the year, you might be in just as risky a position," he says. "You reduce risk by really reducing risk – buy more bonds."

On air

  • Joan Gilmour, professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, took part in a discussion of a report on the death of 12 babies at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre, on CJOB-AM Radio (Winnipeg, Man.) Oct. 24.