When lotteries become addictive

During this economic crisis, gambling addictions and online gambling should be at the forefront of Ontario’s gaming discussion, a York professor says, reported The Toronto Sun Feb. 6.

"There’s been cases of people committing suicide because of gambling debts," Thomas Klassen, a professor in York’s School of Public Policy & Administration, said after Thursday’s release of Casino State: Legalized Gambling in Canada, which he co-edited and to which he contributed. "Especially with the economy becoming worse, buying a lottery ticket could be seen by some people like, ‘It’s the only chance I got’, and that’s not something we really want to encourage people to do."

This week’s report on Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation insider wins likely won’t stop people from gambling, but will cause them to consider "fundamental problems" with the gambling system, Klassen said. "The corner stores are basically becoming tax collectors for the government," Klassen said. "Whenever you have people collecting money for other people, there’s going to be scams; there’s going to be people trying to take an unfair cut."

Internet gambling is "the next frontier", Klassen said, adding it won’t be long before you can buy lottery tickets online. "That’s where you’re going to be able to reach a lot of people who might not want to go to the corner store," he said. "It also raises problems because then someone who is five years old can take their parent’s credit card and start to gamble away."  

While about "four or five per cent" of gamblers are considered addicted, "they’re the people who provide about one-third of the profits that go to government," Klassen said. The poor spend a greater percentage of their income on gambling, he added. "Poor people are the people who have the least money to spend on gambling, but they’re people who can see it as, ‘Well it’s my only chance,’" he said. "I think the current (economic) crisis is just going to make some of these social costs even greater."  

There has yet to be a comprehensive government study of Canada’s gambling industry, Klassen said.  

‘Red tape’ reduction strategy is disturbing, says prof

Almost as disturbing as the implications for the health, safety and environment of Ontarians of the province’s proposed "red tape" reduction strategy, is the stunning lack of imagination and vision in the underlying economic strategy it represents, wrote York environmental studies Professor Mark Winfield in a letter to the Toronto Star Feb. 6.  

The experience of other advanced industrial jurisdictions suggests that the degree to which manufacturing activities are going to survive and thrive in Ontario will depend on their ability to offer products of the highest safety, quality and value added to consumers, not the results of an attempt to win a regulatory "race to the bottom". A reputation for strong and effective regulatory and policy frameworks for product quality and the protection of the public good is an essential component of a jurisdiction’s capacity to capture such niches in world markets.  

If this is the best the agency of the government of Ontario charged with formulating an economic strategy for the province can come up with, then we are in more serious trouble than I had imagined, wrote Winfield.

Possible strike averted at U of T

University of Toronto students can breathe a final sigh of relief with the union representing contract faculty and teaching assistants overwhelmingly ratifying a tentative contract, which was hammered out last week, reported insidetoronto.com Feb. 5.

"The agreement reached with the university includes no concessions, a good monetary package and improvements to the quality of education at U of T," said Robert Ramsay, chair of CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) 3902, in a press release on Wednesday. "Given that the agreement was this good, our members voted 97 per cent to accept." The union had been without a contract since July. U of T students were jittery after a strike by a sister union local closed down York University for 12 weeks.

Thaw foreseen for chilly labour relations

This will likely be a peaceful year for labour relations as unions and employers adjust their expectations in light of the deteriorating economy, The Conference Board of Canada said Thursday, reported The Globe and Mail Feb. 6. The board, in its annual outlook on industrial relations, said more than half of the employers it surveyed expect a cooperative climate in bargaining.

"Labour peace will reign in the overwhelming majority of negotiations in Canada this year," the report said, suggesting that recent strikes at OC Transpo in Ottawa and York Universityare exceptions to the broader trend.

  • The Edmonton Journal noted in a similar story Feb. 6 that the report follows some high-profile and long-lasting strikes involving drivers for Ottawa’s public transit system and teachers at York University, which both had negative impacts on the public. Examples such as these where society’s most vulnerable members, including people who are poor, sick or students, are so profoundly affected show why there needs to be a revamping of how labour relations are handled in this country, said Prem Benimadhu, the Conference Board’s vice-president of governance and human resources management.

The economy is about jealousy

The economy is mostly about jealousy, wrote columnist Jeff Mahoney in the Hamilton Spectator Feb. 5. A study once asked participants to choose, hypothetically, between making $250,000 a year and $50,000 a year. If you choose the $50,000 a year, you’re among the top 2 per cent of money-earners, even though you can’t buy as big a house or as nice a car.  

By far, most people would take the $50,000. It’s nuts. But it’s why we’re jealous of the teachers and their powerful union. It’s why we think it’s outrageous for teaching assistants at York University to strike when they’re already making $37 an hour. Yet, we don’t think it’s so outrageous that the people calling the shots for the University, on their boards of governors and in their executive ranks, make 10 times that. Or more. Who’s holding whom hostage?  

Elementary teachers should accept proposal, says student

As students all over the province continue bearing down on work and exams in the middle of the school year, politics has ruled the day in the elementary-school teachers union and in the back rooms of the Ontario government, leaving the interests of students out in the cold, wrote high-school student Mark Mancini in a letter to The Sudbury Star Feb. 6. Recently, the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario signalled it is prepared to strike in March, as a result of failed contract negotiations. 

But a 12 per cent wage increase coming over four of the most troublesome economic years in decades, plus some increases in support for teachers, is truly something that these elementary teachers should have recognized as the best option for students.  

It appears that, if this strike occurs, regretfully, the government will be forced to introduce back-to-work legislation, much the same as is happening at York University. We do not need another 80-day or longer strike, concluded Mancini.  

Part-time college teachers vote over joining OPSEU

Centennial College campuses played host this Wednesday to the largest union vote in Ontario history, reported the Scarborough Mirror Feb. 5. More than 9,000 part-time and sessional staff at the 24 community colleges in Ontario were asked to vote on whether they want to unionize as part of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).  

Centennial was one of the last colleges to participate in a voting process that has taken more than two weeks to complete. "The Ontario Labour Relations Board has never organized a vote of this magnitude before," said Roger Couvrette, who is a part-time worker and also president of the provincial organization of college part-timers and sessionals (OPSECAAT).  

The number of part-time and sessional staff at community colleges has been steadily increasing over the past decades and many of these workers are upset that they are not receiving similar pay, benefits and job security as their full-time counterparts. "We are basically a source of cheap and disposable labour," said Couvrette. "There is a turnstile effect in colleges today where you get these very talented people that stay on for a short period of time and are then cut loose."  

Though Couvrette said the vote is "the best thing we can be doing right now" and "it’s a win-win situation" for students and staff, some students are not so sure. Centennial College student Jonathan Browning doubts Couvrette’s claims of having quality of education in mind. He heard similar rhetoric about doing what’s best for the students at the recent strike at York University, which made him skeptical about the motives behind this union vote. The last thing Browning wants is to have his education delayed by a strike. 

Rising theatre star tapped to head Theatre New Brunswick

Theatre New Brunswick has picked a local rising star as its new artistic producer: stage actor and director Caleb Marshall (BFA Spec. Hons. ’01), who originally hails from Miramichi, reported CBCNews.ca Feb. 5. 

Marshall has spent the past few years based in the UK, though his training has included time at Toronto’s York University, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ont., Middlesex University in England and Moscow’s GITIS Academy. In addition to working at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, he returned home regularly over the past few years to write and direct productions such as Nights Below Station Street

In 2007, he was named emerging artist of the year at the annual New Brunswick Lieutenant-Governor’s Awards. "I have always committed to sharing our stories abroad and returning to New Brunswick to create and develop new work and new artists here," Marshall said.  

Web site offers unique view of the heavens

York University is offering everyone a look through its telescopes for two hours each week. And you don’t even have to leave home, reported the Ottawa Citizen Feb. 6. The live telescope feed will run on York’s special Web site in celebration of the International Year of Astronomy.  

"We think that’s a pretty neat opportunity for people who otherwise would never go to an observatory," says Paul Delaney, senior lecturer in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and director of the campus observatory.  

The Web site — found at http://www.physics.yorku.ca/observatory/ — will run every Monday night of the year, though hours will shift depending on the sunset. During February, the site is open from 7 to 9pm.  

Visitors are going to see images from four telescopes: Most will come from a 40-centimetre telescope, some from a 60-cm instrument, as well as a wide-angle instrument, and also an odd gadget called an "all-sky" camera that sees from horizon to horizon.

"We’re anticipating four or five objects" each evening, Delaney says. "And we’ll explain what it is that you’re looking at," and ask viewers if they have any questions.  

Stocking up on grocery chain stocks

Often overlooked in stock portfolios because they may lack the sexiness of high-tech stocks or the prestige of blue-chip bank stocks, grocery food stocks have quietly posted double digit gains over the last year, reported the Toronto Star Feb. 5. 

Simple human need accounts for the sector’s success in difficult economic times. "Supermarkets sell consumer staples and are good investments in recessions because no matter what happens, people need to eat. They will still spend $100 to $150 a week at the supermarket. One of the first things they cut is going out to restaurants, but not their grocery shopping," said Theodore Peridis, professor at York’s Schulich School of Business.  

In a tough business with extremely tight margins, there are three big players in the retail grocery business in Canada — Quebec-based Metro Inc., Empire Company Ltd., which owns Sobeys, and Loblaw Cos Ltd. Their stock prices have posted an average gain of 20 to 30 per cent over the last year with Metro leading the pack, followed by Sobeys and Loblaw. 

Wal-Mart has not been able to make a major dent in Canada in the grocery business the way it has in the US, largely because the industry is not as fragmented here. Also, food prices at US Wal-Marts are 10 to 20 per cent lower, but in Canada the prices are about the same as the grocery stores. "There is a slight realignment in shopping habits but people are not flocking to them because the prices are not lower. People feel they can get better variety and selection at their grocer at a comparable price. To switch, they need to see a significant difference in price. The one-stop shopping has not happened yet," said Peridis.  

Exploring the health of women of colour

About 150 seniors, health-care professionals and community service providers gathered at the Canadian Coptic Centre Wednesday to discuss the health needs of senior women of colour in Peel, reported The Mississauga News Feb. 5. There have been studies on seniors and health care, but there’s never been a focus on senior women of colour.  

Merle Jacobs, a professor at York’s School of Social Sciences, spoke about health being a human right. "Rights is a two-way street," she said. "If you don’t do anything about it, you won’t have rights. You will be excluded because politicians, researchers and health professionals can provide you with information, provide you with some money and some advice, but you have to do the other part. You have to advocate, have knowledge and understand those rights."  

York student says attack turned her life ‘upside down’

Nicole MacDonald is sure of one thing. The next time mental health officials contemplate releasing Samad Dabiri, she wants to be consulted, reported the Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun Feb. 6.   

Yesterday a judge declared Dabiri "not criminally responsible" by reason of mental illness for randomly stabbing MacDonald with a five-inch blade as she stood waiting for a streetcar at Broadview and Danforth avenues last May.  

But six months before, Dabiri had been freed from mental health custody where he was held for a similar random attack in 2003, she says. That’s when he punched a 65-year-old man in Dufferin Mall.  

Now the 27-year-old York University student says she has three scars on her stomach and one on her arm, and a legacy of psychological damage, including post-traumatic stress disorder, to attest to the frailties of the mental health system.  

"My whole life has been turned upside down," she said in the hallway of College Park provincial court. "I’m never going to be the same person I was." 

Called Pet Heaven, but got ‘pet hell’, animal lovers tell court

They called in Pet Heaven. Instead, several animal lovers told an Ontario court Thursday, they got “pet hell”, reported The Canadian Press Feb. 5 and The Toronto Sun and Toronto Star Feb. 6. 

The testimony arose in the case against a Toronto-based company and its co-owners, who pleaded not guilty to charges of practising veterinary medicine without a licence and holding themselves out as licensed vets.  

Megan McGurk, who teaches English in York’s Faculty of Arts, said she called Pet Heaven in December 2007 because her beloved 15-year-old dog Jack needed to be put down and she wanted it done quickly and painlessly at home. “My dog was tortured for the last half-hour of his life and I paid dearly for that,” McGurk testified. The vet asked no questions about her dog, and gave the animal the euthanizing drug in the hip, which she said was unusual, court heard. “My dog started whimpering and moaning; he was clearly in stress and pain,” she told justice of the peace Kevin Madigan, adding she’s still racked by guilt.  

‘Muddled, anti-Israel rhetoric’ is too common

I am disappointed by Meghan Lenchyshyn‘s (BA ’07) column, wrote Murray Snider in a letter published Jan. 31 in the St. Catharines Standard. Characterizing Israel’s leaders as Zionist rulers misleads people to believe that Israel is a dictatorship. This isn’t true. Israel is a democracy in an area of the world void of any other.

Lenchyshyn says, "The Palestinian people are 100 per cent justified in their resentment towards Israel." Resentment is one thing, while attacks on civilians in the form of suicide bombings, rockets and other terrorist methods are not justified. Perhaps most misleading is saying, "Hamas has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term cease-fire, yet Israel refuses." It’s true that Hamas has declared its readiness to negotiate a "hudna" (a temporary calm), but this is in no way a lasting peace. Hamas’s charter still calls for the destruction of Israel and claims that all of Israel and Palestine is a Islamic waqf (religious endowment). Is this an organization ready to make peace?

I have really only touched the surface, concluded Snider. I find it fitting that Lenchyshyn begins her article with a summary of her experiences at York University. As a student at Concordia University in Montreal for four years, I know that one doesn’t have to look far to hear this kind of muddled, anti-Israel rhetoric.

York dance grad wants to get Sudbury fit

Ashley Burton (BFA Spec. Hons. ’07, BEd ’08) wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after graduating from York University in Toronto last spring with a teaching degree and a four-year dance degree she had earned the year before, reported The Sudbury Star Jan. 31.

Burton, 23, thought about doing choreography work in Toronto, travelling or teaching. But the Greater Sudbury native also gave serious thought to what she could do to boost the arts in her hometown. The concept Burton came up with – Arts North – was launched Jan. 28. It is a fusion of fitness, art and dance.

Artist’s series focuses on Canadian soldiers

Scott Waters (MFA ’04) didn’t decide to become an artist, wrote the St. Catharines Standard Jan. 30. For him, it was more like a last resort, something to do because the other options didn’t pan out. Fortunately, he’s quite good at it and has been exhibiting on a regular basis since 2002, when he completed his master’s degree in fine arts at York University. “When I did my master’s degree it was like I made the decision in my life where I said, I will take this seriously,” he said. “When I decided to be a full-time artist – I was 32 at the time – it’s been going well. The period before I was making work and showing from time to time, but it wasn’t directed.”

In the past six years, Waters’ work has been seen in group exhibits in Toronto, Chicago and Brooklyn, and in solo and one-, two- and three-person shows in Toronto, Calgary, Kelowna, BC, and here in St. Catharines.

Nineteen pieces from "It’s Great to Be a Man in Times Like These" are currently on display at Rodman Hall Arts Centre until April 26. The series features soldiers of India Company, Second Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment, as they trained for deployment in Afghanistan, through the Canadian Forces Artist Program.

Add zest to your life with lemons and limes

Sucking a lemon every day may be one of the best things you can do for your health, reported the Edmonton Journal Feb. 4. "There are over 200 phytochemicals that derive from the lemon, including limonene, and other bioflavonoids," says Toronto homeopathic practitioner and nutritionist Bryce Wylde (BSc Spec. Hons. ’98), who has just released a book on healthy, natural eating called The Antioxidant Prescription: How to Use the Power of Antioxidants to Prevent Disease and Stay Healthy for Life. Wylde has been studying phytochemistry – the science of chemicals derived from plants – since he graduated from York University with a degree in science and then took up studies at the Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine.