Social rights under attack, says Broadbent

The following is excerpted from a speech delivered by former national NDP leader Ed Broadbent Thursday night at the Avie Bennett Historica Lecture at York University, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 21 on its editorial page:

Since 1990 it has been apparent in North America, Britain and most of Western Europe that average families have not been reaping the benefits of globalized trade. The top fifth of earners are getting virtually all the income benefits from globalization. Average families might ask, why shouldn’t they pay a greater share of the income tax burden?

By and large, in the Anglo-American world, governments have moved in a regressive direction. In Britain, New Labour, in comparison with continental Europe, has maintained a low tax and low social service policy.

According to the October 2008 OECD report, after 10 years of a New Labour government, the gap between rich and poor in the UK remains greater than in the majority of OECD countries. Indeed, while inequality remains high, the tax system has been made even more favourable to the rich. In the US, (George) Bush picked up where (Ronald) Reagan had left off, with another round of substantial tax cuts favouring the richest Americans.

Here in Canada, the Harper government simply continued the Liberal government’s economic policy of favouring regressive tax cuts over social spending. Canada’s top 100 CEOs, whose annual income averaged $10 million in 2007, need not worry about federal taxes.

The architects of the modern democratic state knew very well that a commitment to equal social rights is the philosophical source from which flows universal access to health services, education, pensions and housing. When market-based incomes are balanced by such rights, we all can lay claim to the life of dignity laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 60 years ago. We also know that such rights are essential to social cohesion.

However, experience has also shown that these benefits depend on sufficient taxes being paid by all of us. It also means that those whose incomes have benefited most from changes in the globalized economy should be paying even more.

Taking the MBA plunge

When the business world slows down, applications to MBA schools go up, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 2 in a feature package on MBA programs. It’s no secret these are difficult times in the business world.

Joseph Palumbo, executive director career development centre at the Schulich School of Business at York University, puts it this way: “In times of economic slowdown, there’s no better time to invest in yourself. We’re teaching people how to accept and understand various points of view so they can make better decisions; we’re teaching listening and flexibility; we’re teaching team-building and how to go forward in a very uncertain world.”

Regardless of the economy, getting the degree sends a message. “It tells people that this is somebody who’s willing to learn” and to invest in himself “for life,” said Palumbo.

  • At the Schulich School of Business at York University, the emphasis is on helping students define their own jobs and to look for work outside of the traditional on-campus recruiting, said Joseph Palumbo, executive director of the career development centre at Schulich School of Business at York University, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 21.

“Some of the mid-size companies are not pulling back. If anything they may even need more people and they see this market as an opportunity to pick up some talent. As long as the students are flexible and open to a plan B or even a plan C, I think it’s going to be a very good job market.”

  • Students who are willing to return to school after they have started their career are often looking to pursue a specialized degree, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 21.

At York University’s Schulich School of Business, the MBA program offers 19 different specializations, including real property management, arts and media administration, health industry management and business and sustainability. “These people are doing their research, there are lots of options out there for them,” says Charmaine Courtis, executive director of student services and international relations at Schulich.

The students applying to these programs are looking for niche degrees, Courtis says. She notes the average age is about 29 and that a student needs at least two years work experience to apply to the York MBA program. “They’ve already been out there; they know what they don’t want to do,” she says.

Seeking a solution for a problem that might not exist

While many areas of the criminal justice system are subject to intensive and extensive study, bail has, in the words of Alan Young, criminal law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, “remained largely invisible to empirical research,” wrote The Vancouver Sun Feb. 21, in a story about bail reform in British Columbia.

Labour-sponsored venture funds down but not out

Calling labour-sponsored venture capital corporations’ (LSVCC) performance dismal in a recent column in the Financial Post, Douglas Cumming, of York University’s Schulich School of Business, said “their eventual demise will open the door for greater involvement on the part of private investors and investment firms south of the border,” wrote the National Post Feb. 21

Cumming added that entrepreneurs have expressed confidence that they could access capital from sources other than LSVCCs including other venture-capital providers, banks, leasing firms, trade customers, working shareholders and angel investors.

Sault filmmaker explores a ‘slice-of-life’ with short

Filmmaker Candice Day (BFA Spec. Hons. ’00) wants to shine a little light on Shadows of the Mind Film Festival, wrote the Sault Star Feb. 21. The Sault Ste. Marie native credits the annual event for inspiring young people to follow their creative dreams.

The festival, which runs until Sunday, is celebrating its 10th anniversary with more than 20 films including Milk, Four Minutes and I’ve Loved You So Long.

Day, a St. Basil Secondary School graduate, had two of her student shorts (Missing and Between the Lines) screened at the first Shadows festival in 2000. A third effort, Angela, earned an honourable mention at Montreal World Film Festival that same year. It was shown at Shadows in 2001.

“It is such a healthy thing for the community to have access to a festival like Shadows,” said Day in a recent email. “I believe that the Sault has an extremely strong and talented community of local artists and budding artists. Exposure to things like the artistic/indie films at Shadows will hopefully reinforce the idea that there shouldn’t be anything stopping them from starting a band, making a film, staging a play/dance exhibition, etc.”

The York University graduate’s most recent effort, 106, will be screened with Eating Buccaneers Saturday at 7pm at Galaxy Cinemas.

Piano man Eisenman jazzes up London

Canadian jazz master Mark Eisenman, passionate about pianos and sound and the precise beauties to be heard when you combine them, is in the house tonight, wrote The London Free Press Feb. 21. “I told Catherine (McInnes), we didn’t need a sound check, but I might want a mic to talk into,” says Eisenman, a Torontonian who brings his fine trio to Aeolian Hall.

Not many mics tonight. Just beautiful acoustic music. “The last time I was in Carnegie Hall and heard Arthur Rubinstein, he didn’t need a PA system,” Eisenman says.

Born in New York City in 1955 and based in Toronto since 1972, Eisenman teaches at York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts and elsewhere. Among his former students is McInnes, a London singer-songwriter who has recorded with Eisenman. McInnes is also Aeolian’s production co-ordinator. He knows McInnes and the Aeolian crew have a fine piano waiting for his trio’s versions of Round Midnight, Django and other jazz gems.

“She told me the piano is good and I believe her. I don’t even have to think about it,” he says.

Eisenman is part of a 227-member Facebook group “the association for the resurrection of the piano” or ARP for short. Few music clubs have pianos any more. He’s outspoken about the subject – as he should be. “Music rooms do no service to music if they don’t have a piano which most of them don’t,” he says.

Senior wants compensation for investment losses

In a recent book and in marketing videos Manulife has on its Web site, Moshe Milevsky finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, argues that a mix of life annuities, segregated funds with an income guarantee and other investments are advisable to reduce the risk of financial ruin for those unlucky enough to retire before a bear stock market, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 21 in a story about a law suit by a senior who claims his financial advisor caused him losses by high-risk investing.

Jason Pereira, an MBA graduate who studied under Milevsky and published a paper about the value of income guarantees, said Swenor’s income expectations and exposure to stock markets put him at a high risk of running out of money. “I ran the calculations at severn per cent withdrawals (and 90 per cent equities) and the result is between 14 and 15 per cent probability of ruin,” said Pereira, now a financial consultant with Woodgate Financial Partners, IPC Investment Corp.

Osgoode prof says BC law on polygamy is laughable

More than 20 years ago, in Dr. Henry Morgentaler’s case, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down Criminal Code prohibitions on abortion in part because the rules governing hospital therapeutic abortion committees were so deficient they violated principles of fundamental justice.

In the Bountiful, BC, polygamy case, it would be no stretch for a court to find fundamental justice similarly lacking in the loosely constructed ban on polygamy, captured in sec. 293 of the Criminal Code, said Bruce Ryder, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in the Toronto Star Feb. 21.

The legislation is broadly drafted to apply to anyone who enters into “any kind of conjugal union” with more than one person simultaneously, whether or not it’s a recognized marriage. Proof of sexual intercourse is unnecessary.

“It’s impossible to read the text of sec. 293 and not laugh, because we’ll all be worried about friends and loved ones vulnerable to prosecution,” he said. “Of course, that’s not going to happen in practical terms but the issue becomes, from a Charter perspective, is that (wording) okay?”

Even if the law withstands a Charter challenge on grounds of religious freedom – it’s expected the main legal battleground will be religion – Ryder believes there’s virtually no chance it would survive an attack on its vague language, which potentially makes criminals out of a wide swath of Canadians. “It’s ludicrously broad,” he said.

While the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled in a 1937 case the provision does not apply to adultery, what constitutes a “conjugal relationship” under the law today is quite vague, and it shouldn’t be left to prosecutors and judges to define a “polygamous” union, Ryder contends.

Jewish icon’s son deemed not Jewish

Joseph Fackenheim is the focus of an international debate over how to define a Jew, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 21. In Israel, more than 40,000 conversions hang in the balance, with Reformers hoping the Fackenheim name will bolster their fight against Orthodox control of religion in the country.

Because Joseph’s mother was Christian at the time of his birth, he was converted to Judaism as a toddler in Toronto so he could be raised Jewish. But when Joseph was getting a divorce in Israel last summer, Orthodox Rabbi Yissachar Dov Hagar ruled that he was not Jewish.

Rabbi Martin Lockshin, a professor at York University, calls the case “very troubling,” not only for Fackenheim but for the thousands of others who have suddenly found their identity questioned. “It is a matter of great sadness for me to see how divided the community is.”

Songbird express

Biologists say they have been able for the first time to track individual songbirds from their North American breeding grounds to where they spend the winter in Latin America, and back again, wrote The Whitehorse Daily Star Feb. 20. And what they discovered by analyzing data from tiny light sensors attached to the backs of some of the birds “flabbergasted” the researchers.

“The flight times were amazing,” said Bridget Stutchbury, a biologist at York University’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, who led the study. “We had a purple martin that over-wintered near the Amazon River in Brazil, and it flew back to its breeding colony in the northern US in only 13 days. This is incredible. I had no idea that songbirds could go this fast.” She said the ability of some migrating birds to fly 500 kilometres per day was totally unexpected.

  • It’s a date: The timing is opportune for today’s public lecture by Bridget Stutchbury about dwindling songbird populations, wrote the Toronto Star Feb. 22. The York University biology professor in the Faculty of Science & Engineering has just published surprising findings about the long-distance migration of forest songbirds.

Cross-country-bound, he runs to control anxiety, depression

York grad Wayne Cho (BBA Spec. Hons. ’98, BA Spec. Hons. ’08) runs away from his worries, wrote the Sault Star Feb. 23. The Toronto man has general anxiety disorder. He used to worry about almost everything from the weather to fretting if his car would break down if he heard a strange sound. “It would stop me from doing things that I dreamed of doing,” he said Sunday.

Cho started running in 2004. He discovered being active “felt good” and his worries were “not as bad” when he started his days. The York University psychology graduate started running across the country in May 2008. His goal is to encourage people to talk about anxiety and depression and spark others to get moving too. “Just move around,” said Cho. “You’ll benefit from it.”

His run, which started in Newfoundland, stopped short on New Year’s Eve near Thunder Bay. Cho, who was averaging 42 kilometres a day, was wearing himself out. Travelling solo, his focus was keeping his feet moving. There was little time to speak with media or others bothered by depression or anxiety.

Energetic McLuhan disciple broadcast the power of new media

’At the speed of light, policies and political parties yield place to charismatic images.” When Canadian media luminary Marshall McLuhan wrote these words, it was as though he foretold the work of his disciple, York grad Liss Jeffrey (MES’87) , wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 23 in an obituary. Jeffrey was director of the McLuhan Global Research Network at the University of Toronto. She taught graduate seminars in “Understanding McLuhan and Media,” “Communications, History, Theory and Technology” and “New Media and Policy.” But this barely scratched the surface. Friends and colleagues sometimes referred to her as a force of nature when speaking of her work history.

Liss was a brilliant child, although one with an attitude that often required her parents to “take tea” with the headmistress at the private girl’s school, Bishop Strachan. Once, her Grade 7 teacher became so annoyed with Liss’s interruptions that she said, “If you think you can teach this class better than I can, you can come up and teach it.” She did.

In Toronto after graduation, Jeffrey became a journalist, working at the newly started CITY-TV under the direction of Moses Znaimer. In 1976, she became the first producer of the investigative public-affairs program The Shulman File, hosted by Dr. Morton Shulman. She also worked with Stephen Lewis on a show called 4 Quartets. While attending a 1984 New Year’s Eve party, Jeffrey met her future husband, Fraser McAninch. Meanwhile, she attended York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies and graduated in 1987 with a master’s degree in environmental studies and communication & media analysis. She and McAninch were married at her sister’s farm in Unionville, Ont., in 1989.

Mary Elisabeth Jeffrey was born in Nakuru, Kenya, on June 28, 1951. She died Dec. 18, 2008, in Toronto from cancer. She was 57. She leaves husband Fraser McAninch, sister Jennifer Jeffrey Deacon and brother Stephen Jeffrey. She also leaves mother Jane Jeffrey and sisters-in-law Carolynn and Patricia. She was predeceased by father Paul Jeffrey.

The Internet; Questions of privacy

It is quickly becoming evident that the “personal” in personal computer isn’t particularly personal at all, wrote The Windsor Star Feb. 23 in an editorial. In fact, it may only be a matter of time before the police have unfettered access to your computer’s memory and private e-mails.

The courts weighed into the debate earlier this month when Ontario Justice Lynne Leitch ruled that there is “no reasonable expectation of privacy” in subscriber information kept by Internet service providers.

James Stribopoulos, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, said from his standpoint “there is no confidentiality left on the Internet if this ruling stands.”

Stribopoulos says that it’s not just your name that can be found through your IP address, but “your whole Internet surfing history”. That’s because your IP address – a 10-digit number – is left as a record everywhere you go on the Internet.

Women’s hockey Lions beat Laurier

In women’s university hockey, York University stunned the previously undefeated Laurier Hawks on Saturday afternoon, wrote the Waterloo Region Record Feb. 23. The No. 2 Hawks suffered their first loss in their final regular-season game, a 3-2 defeat to the home-ice York Lions in Toronto. “They beat us at our own game,” said Hawks coach Rick Osborne. “They had the power-play goals (two), the team defence and the goaltending.”

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about bailout plans for the Canadian auto industry on CTV Newsnet and 680 News Radio Feb. 20.