End the strike at York, writes the Toronto Star

After a lengthy hiatus, York University and its striking teaching staff are set to get back to the bargaining table today. It’s about time, wrote the Toronto Star in an editorial Nov. 27.  

It’s been three weeks since 3,340 teaching assistants and contract faculty walked off the job at Canada’s third-largest university. The administration responded by shutting down the campus. Let’s hope everyone involved is finally serious about bargaining an end to the strike. The 50,000 students, watching their university year slip away, can’t afford to wait any longer.

When talks broke off, the two sides were far apart on wages, benefits and job security, but the union’s negotiating team now has a reprioritized list of demands and a beefed up mandate to reach a deal.  

Ideally, when the mediator meets with both sides this morning he’ll see enough change to re-engage them in full bargaining aimed at a quick agreement so that students can get back to their classes. But if that’s not the case, the province shouldn’t hesitate to intervene.  

This dispute has gone on long enough. Three-week strikes have happened at Ontario universities before, most recently at Windsor, and the time was made up by simply extending the university year. But there’s a troubling history at York, where students suffered through an 11-week strike in 2001 by this same union.  

There will have to be some class changes to accommodate the days already lost. The longer this strike continues, the more difficult those accommodations will be for students whose apartment leases are up or who have committed to jobs over the holidays to help pay their ever-increasing tuition.  

Law classes at York to resume

Despite the ongoing strike at York University, a second wave of students will return to class Monday, when Osgoode Hall Law School restarts classes for 870 students in its Bachelor of Laws program, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 27. 

Some 230 students at York’s Schulich School of Business returned to class this week to avoid disrupting international exchanges underway this term or planned for next term. The three-year law program has virtually no instructors in the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903, whose members walked off the job Nov. 6.  

Law is different, University spokesperson Alex Bilyk said, because it’s governed, in part, by rules set by The Law Society of Upper Canada and the National Committee on Accreditation. Also, some law students work at community legal clinics serving low-income clients, such as Parkdale Community Legal Services, so more disruption in timetables could cause a gap in those services. "First-year law students will be interviewed for summer jobs Feb. 17 to 19, and their grades need to be in by a certain time," Bilyk said.  

  • Alex Bilyk said those thousands of students not going back likely will face an extension of the fall exam schedule into the new year and the cancellation of spring break because of the length of the dispute, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 27. Also Wednesday, the York University Faculty Association said in a statement that it is in discussions with the CUPE local about their concerns regarding job security that would affect the faculty contract.  

Balancing freedom of speech and freedom of hate

In a Nov. 27 essay about striking a balance between freedom of speech and freedom from hate, Toronto Star columnist Haroon Siddiqui cited the Maclean’s article, "The Future Belongs to Islam," by Mark Steyn and the reaction to it by four students from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School.  

Backed by the Canadian Islamic Congress, the students took the magazine to the federal as well as Ontario and BC commissions, and were pilloried: they – and, more broadly, Muslims – had thin skins, didn’t grasp "our" fundamental value of free speech and were undermining democracy. In fact, the students were being very Canadian. They were following the law. It was Maclean’s that had broken the mainstream media consensus not to muck around in the swamp of religious bigotry.  

UCalgary errs in attempt to censor pro-life group

In a Nov. 27 editorial triggered by the University of Calgary’s decision to prohibit the Campus Pro-Life group from showing aborted-fetus images on campus, the Calgary Herald cited a similar controversy at York. The York Federation of Students recently voted to severely restrict pro-life campus organizations, but such militant political correctness has not yet reared its ugly head here, wrote Rob Breakenridge in the Herald.  

Rather than get caught up in the arms race of political correctness, the U of C has an opportunity to prove universities remain a haven for vigorous – even polemical – debate, argued Breakenridge. An unfortunate addition to this controversy, though, is a capacious amount of hypocrisy. It seems quite likely that a more politically palatable organization would encounter much less resistance. I doubt a display on domestic violence would be shunned if it included images of battered women. I’m sure animal rights groups are free to show images of animal testing and I don’t think an antiwar group would be forced to conceal images of prisoner abuse. There are times when troubling images can or even should be used to make a point – who gets to decide which are appropriate?   

  • Having seen first-hand at York University censorship at its worst possible extent towards similar groups, where is our precious Charter of Rights and Freedoms? asked Rob Allen in a letter published in The Calgary Sun Nov. 27. My parents did not move here decades ago to see Canada become a totalitarian state where free speech and difference of opinion are not upheld any more. Shame on you, University of Calgary.
  • It isn’t often that a university student association makes national news. But when it does something as ignorant and thoughtless as Carleton University’s did this week, the country pays attention, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Nov. 27. The student association made a bizarre decision to stop supporting the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and go in search of a more "inclusive" disease. The motion included the declaration that "cystic fibrosis has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men." University campuses, sadly, are vulnerable to extreme and misguided political correctness these days. A student association at York University cancelled a debate on abortion. Queen’s University has hired "dialogue facilitators" – secret police, really – to monitor conversations and make sure students don’t use any forbidden words in the hallways. Now, there’s the Carleton motion.

The problem with children who want to be perfect

It’s great for kids to set high goals and try their best. But what do you do when your child’s perfectionism becomes a problem? wondered Today’s Parent in its November issue.  

Early in childhood a certain kind of perfectionism is part of normal development, says Gordon Flett, a psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health. Between ages two and four, many kids have strong preferences, even little obsessions — like always having toast cut in triangles or wanting their stuffed toys arranged just so at bedtime. But most kids outgrow these quirks as they develop a greater understanding of the complexity and diversity of their world.  

True perfectionism goes beyond strong preferences, of course. In young kids, says Flett, it’s often rooted in a combination of high levels of ability, personality and emotional development. “A lot of the kids we see are very capable but have a low tolerance for frustration, an anxious personality or are more prone to emotional upset than other children,” he says.  

Gifted children often have a perfectionist streak, says Flett. They can do a lot of things very well, so they expect to be good at everything. He says perfectionism can also be one way children react to serious family problems, such as alcoholism, abuse or neglect. “Some children try to compensate for a far-from-ideal situation by becoming ideal themselves,” he says.  

Some of the ways parents contribute to perfectionist tendencies are obvious: being overly critical, overemphasizing high achievement and being very upset by or self-critical of one’s own mistakes. Overscheduling and not leaving enough time for free play may also promote perfectionism, Flett says. 

BCE’s $52-billion leveraged buyout is moribund

The $52-billion buyout of BCE Inc. appears destined to die with a whimper – or more likely a sigh of relief – after auditors said it was unlikely they would sign off on a so-called "solvency test" needed to complete the transaction, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 27.  

Some wondered whether the buyers may have influenced the accounting firm’s outlook as the rationale for doing the deal waned. "There has to be discussions behind the scenes," said Theo Peridis, a professor of strategic management and international business at the Schulich School of Business at York University. "I’m sure that there were people burning the midnight oil, running spreadsheets and that sort of thing."  

Cottages are ‘luxury items’ that can turn a big profit

A cottage can be a relaxing retreat, but is it a wise investment? Well, the answer depends on who you ask, reported the Toronto Star Nov. 27. James McKellar, a professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, says a cottage should not be considered an investment. "Cottages are luxury items," says McKellar, who is director of Schulich’s Real Property Development Program. 

Cottages often have high maintenance costs because they’re "subject to a lot of wear and tear." If owners decide to do maintenance work they sometimes find it’s very expensive. It costs more to bring materials to a remote location, McKellar says. The amount you can sell a cottage for won’t necessarily offset the maintenance costs, including repairs and taxes. A cottage is "a luxury item that you enjoy (but) it will cost you money to buy and money to maintain," McKellar says. "Assume that the rate of appreciation will not be sufficient to overcome your annual costs."  

Law grad turned TV producer finds success

Veteran Canadian producer Anne Marie La Traverse (LLB ’83) says her career has been a slow build to the breakout success of “Flashpoint”. And the key, she insists, was finally learning to go with her gut when it came to building a successful TV franchise, reported Playback Nov. 24. "The one thing I’ve learnt is to trust my instincts. That’s hard to do where a lot of decisions are made by committee," says La Traverse, 49, who founded her production shingle Pink Sky Entertainment in 2003. 

Originally from Montreal, and a graduate of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 1983, La Traverse practised law in Toronto and was director of legal and business affairs for Sunrise Films before she landed at the former Atlantis Communications in 1991 in the business affairs department. After a year, La Traverse began to executive produce, initially with mainstream TV movies. La Traverse easily made the transition to Alliance Atlantis when Atlantis merged in the late ’90s with Alliance Communications, the country’s then-largest production company. Her Alliance Atlantis credits included "Eleventh Hour", a dramatic series that she developed and executive produced, and numerous CTV Movies of the Week.  

After she unfurled the Pink Sky banner, La Traverse continued to produce for CTV with “Tripping the Wire”, which won the Gemini for Best TV Movie in 2005, and “Hunt for Justice: The Louise Arbour Story”, the Gemini’s Best TV Movie of 2006.  

Invest in Brazil, suggests business prof

Latin and South American countries are promising emerging markets that New Brunswick companies should pursue, reported the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal Nov. 27. The Halifax-based think-tank Atlantic Provinces Economic Council lists Brazil, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Panama, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, the Bahamas and Barbados as prime markets for companies based in the Maritimes in a new trade report.  

Brazil, which is among the world’s fastest growing alongside Russia, China and India, should be at the forefront of plans among New Brunswick companies that can offer resource development services, says Preet Aulakh, the Pierre Lassonde Chair in International Business at York University’s Schulich School of Business. “All of these countries have been really hungry for resources, in terms of mining and natural resources,” Aulakh says. He warns that exporters might face more frequent fluctuations in currency among Latin and South American countries.  

Punishing economic crime

Mindelle Jacobs’ "Penney-wise, we’re foolish" (Nov. 25) struck a cord with me as a former victim of a fraud and the failure of the justice system to dole out more appropriate penalties, wrote Parker Gallant in a letter to The Toronto Sun Nov. 27. York University sociologist Margaret Beare is right – police resources should be shifted to police against economic crime where "there’s documented massive harm." As an interested and affected observer I can only presume the police are reluctant to do so as economic crime is harder to document and results in very light sentencing by the judiciary.