Arthurs report on pensions points up need for ‘honest discussion’

Ontarians need to have an “honest discussion” about “pension adequacy” in the wake of this portfolio-battering economic crisis, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said in Windsor Friday, pointing out other provinces are mulling supplemental coverage, wrote The Windsor Star April 11.

Duncan said his government will introduce legislation in the fall in response to a report on occupational pensions it commissioned from Harry Arthurs, the former president & vice-chancellor of York University. The report recommended more stringent pension funding regulations and boosting the monthly payout to $2,500 per worker.

The Arthurs report also highlighted the precarious retirement position of tens of thousands of aging Ontarians, whose nest eggs have been badly bruised by a plummeting stock market. That hit to RRSPs – as much as 40 per cent in some cases – could be devastating to the one in three Ontarians who doesn’t enjoy a workplace pension.

Ontario says it’s not turning its back on pensioners amid CAW accusations

Tom Klassen, a pension expert with York University’s School of Public Policy & Administration, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies, said retirees’ pensions will be safe in the short term, even if GM files for bankruptcy protection, wrote The Canadian Press April 9.

“In the longer term, if as part of bankruptcy protection GM becomes a smaller company and isn’t able at that point to pay pensions, then that becomes a problem,” Klassen said. He said the $100-million fund would be “burned up pretty quickly” if the tens of thousands of GM retirees in Ontario were forced to rely on it, especially if other, smaller companies are using it too.

High rent, low income driving homelessness, says York esearcher

National estimates range from 150,000 to 250,000 homeless people, says Stephen Gaetz, associate dean, research and field development, in York’s Faculty of Education and a board member of Raising the Roof, a national organization devoted to fighting homelessness and raising awareness, wrote Canwest News Service April 12.

“The big misconception that many people have is that people who are homeless aren’t working but many homeless people are employed – some part-time jobs, some full-time jobs – but their income isn’t adequate to pay for affordable housing,” says Gaetz.

Getting people out of the state of homelessness has the potential to save public funds on health care, policing and other interventions that people on the streets use much more than the general population, says Gaetz.

York acting grad McAdams feels like ‘a kid in a candy store’

Rachel McAdams smiles as she recalls the leading men she has worked with since her film debut seven years ago, wrote the Toronto Star April 13 in a story about the graduate of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. “I’ve been really lucky. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve it,” said McAdams (BFA Spec. Hons. ’01).

The much-travelled Canadian actor has just returned from London where she was filming Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. She has The Time Traveler’s Wife with Eric Bana awaiting release and is due to begin work soon on Morning Glory with Harrison Ford. In her new film, the political thriller State of Play, opening Friday, she co-stars with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck. “I’ve worked with some of the greatest people in the world and I feel like I’m a kid in a candy store,” she said.

Since her US film breakthrough five years ago in Mean Girls, the London, Ont.-born, 30-year-old actor has been in constant demand and her star power at the box office has resulted in her being named 2009 Female Star of the Year by North American theatre owners last month.

Although she spends much of her time on film locations around the world, she returns home whenever she can. “I love my country and I love living in Canada,” she said. “My home is there.”

York-trained Fiat boss wants to ‘rescue’ Chrysler

It’s a clever deal Osgoode grad Sergio Marchionne (LLB ’83) is trying to pull off with his “rescue” bid for Chrysler LLC, wrote the Toronto Star April 12. The CEO of Fiat SPA has the backing of US President Barack Obama in Fiat’s proposal to take a 20 per cent stake in the 84-year-old legacy of Walter Percy Chrysler. After raising Fiat itself from the dead earlier this decade, Marchionne is widely seen as Chrysler’s best bet to avoid liquidation.

But in the guise of a turnaround artist, Marchionne is in fact offering Fiat only as a glorified supplier to Chrysler, not its rescuing angel. “I absolutely will not run” Chrysler, Marchionne declares. Fiat is to provide its small-car technology to Chrysler to fill a gap in a Chrysler product line dominated by gas-guzzling SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans.

And that’s it. Chrysler does not get Marchionne, but will continue to be run by the team that drove it into the ditch. It gets no cash from Fiat, nor will Fiat assume any of Chrysler’s debt. Fiat gets a North American foothold for its brands with access to Chrysler’s plants and dealerships, entirely on Uncle Sam’s dime. And at no cost Fiat gets that 20 per cent equity kicker, currently worthless but an upside reward if Chrysler does someday become valuable.

The small-car engines and transmissions for a new lineup of Chrysler minicars, Fiat’s sole contribution to the proposed deal, is off-the-shelf – the same technology Fiat uses in some three dozen alliances to gain cheap access to emerging markets in Russia, China, India, Poland, Turkey, Serbia and elsewhere.

In the name of the daughter a heartbroken dad takes on Big Pharma

On the day his teenage daughter died, Terence Young (BA ’75) made a deal with God, wrote the Toronto Star April 12. It was simple, straightforward, sworn just hours after her body was wheeled into a Hamilton morgue: If I expose the truth, You will let me see her again.

Believing that his tall, blue-eyed girl would be waiting for him somewhere helped Young endure her passing. Cheery 15-year-old Vanessa had dropped dead in front of him on March 19, 2000. Young, who was elected Conservative MP for Oakville last fall, believes a medication prescribed by the family’s doctor made her heart stop beating. It was the beginning of an obsession.

Every day Young spent hours at his computer, often well into the night, researching the drug he believed had killed his daughter. He found that Prepulsid, prescribed to aid digestion, was associated with irregular heartbeat and had been linked to heart attacks and sudden death, mostly in patients taking some other medications or with certain underlying conditions.

Young got hooked on politics while at Bloor Collegiate Institute, when he campaigned for a history teacher running for school trustee. His next taste came in 1974 when, as a 21-year-old political science student at York University, he ran as an independent in Parkdale in the federal election. Young came fourth out of six candidates, collecting 144 votes and beating the Communist and Marxist-Leninist candidates.

“I always tell my friends who accuse me of being a conservative who is too close to the middle, ‘Listen, don’t tell me that because I’ve been fighting Communism since 1974!’” he says. After a one-year stint at Osgoode Hall Law School, Young turned to a career in business.

Always being a part of a ‘smaller world’

The Internet is only the latest technology to fulfil the human desire for connection, says Steve Bailey, a professor of humanities in York’s Faculty of Arts, and it fits into a long line of “ancestors” like the telegraph, telephone and ham radio, wrote Canwest News Service April 10. What makes it different is the sheer number of people it links, he says. “It’s bit of a cliché but there is in that sense a smaller world,” he added.

The biggest change in recent years and most likely future development of the Internet will be more mobile connectivity through cellphones, PDAs and the promise of city-sized wireless zones, Bailey says. GPS technology may also enable people to seek out others in their physical vicinity who share their interests.

Professor championed women in science

Rose Sheinin was a communist milkman’s daughter whose experience with rampant sexism in mid-20th-century academe led her to become a stern and relentless advocate of equal treatment for women in Canadian science, wrote The Globe and Mail April 10 in an obituary of the former scientist and university administrator.

People who knew her believed the sense of aggrievement these incidents engendered, coupled with Sheinin’s communist upbringing, created in her a will to bring revolutionary change to academic sexism. Former York University president & vice-chancellor Lorna R. Marsden described how this played out in practice. “Rose knew no fear and was quite determined to irritate people if that got her to where she was going.”

Test of time and of air sickness

Shortly after York grad George Vellathottam (BA Spec. Hons. /BEd ’00) gave the most emotional speech of his life and asked Salimah Alibhai to marry him, she threw up, wrote the Toronto Star April 11.

To be fair, it was his fault. Vellathottam had set out to make the proposal memorable. He designed the engagement ring and had secretly chartered a Cessna and a pilot to fly them over one of her favourite spots – Lake Simcoe – at sunset. Lucky for the 33-year-old Vellathottam, he already knew that Alibhai, 32, was the kind of girl who could overcome a hurdle or two.

Ajax GO rider satisfied overall

Although GO Transit makes life convenient for an Ajax resident without a car, some changes could make her commute to York University a little better, wrote the Durham Business Times April 11.

York student and GO Bus rider Karen Ash was one of 974 respondents to GO’s latest customer survey. “Overall, it’s pretty good,” Ash said, who gave it 7.5 out of 10.

Ash was pleased an additional express bus to York was added in the mornings this year as it has helped curb overcrowding. “That’s really annoying, standing on the bus to York,” she said. But there should be later express buses leaving from York to Durham in the evenings, she said, considering they stop at 5:10pm. That posed a problem for her last year since she had a class that ended at 5:20pm. “I’d always leave that class early to catch that last bus,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I lost some marks for that in the end.”

One of Ash’s suggestions: extend the bus that runs from Pickering to York to go as far as Ajax. “If I don’t get a drive (to and from the Pickering station) it takes forever,” she said.

Managing Without Growth subject of next IDEA meeting

The Interfaith Development Education Association (IDEA) of Burlington is hosting a talk and discussion on Managing Without Growth, to be given by Peter Victor of York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, wrote the Burlington Post April 12.

Victor will discuss how a move towards a sustainable economy doesn’t require perpetual growth. Topics including resource depletion, climate change and the constantly increasing needs of a growth-based economy will be discussed. The talk will be followed by a question-and-answer period. Burlington Seniors Centre

The session begins at 7:30pm on Tuesday, April 28 at the Burlington Seniors’ Centre, 2285 New Street.

Tamil protesters block road to Parliament for third day

Protesters shut down a portion of Ottawa’s Wellington Street Thursday as a demonstration calling for the Canadian government to help end the war in Sri Lanka continued into its third day, wrote April 9.

Ghormathie Thevaraajah, 21, goes to school at York University but came to Ottawa to support Tamils in the demonstration. “To outsiders it may seem like it’s a terrorist flag – it’s a Tamil Tiger flag – but I have news for you people, it’s not,” she said. “This is a flag that represents the Tamil people.”

Thevaraajah said demonstrators would be willing to adapt if the federal government would meet with them. “If the flag is the thing that’s holding them back from coming and meeting with us, we’re willing to fold our flag down – fold it down, not put it away,” she said. “What matters most to us is that Canadian government acts to implement a ceasefire in a nation that has no care for humanitarian issues.”

From slums to scrums, a scrapper’s life

Tempers flared over this winter’s messy, CUPE-led strike at York University, wrote The Globe and Mail April 11 in a story on Sid Ryan, Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. And Ryan’s record of comparing Israel to apartheid-era South Africa has been blamed by the Harper government for fostering racial slurs in “Israeli Apartheid Week” at York and other campuses.

Ryan could be a leading contender for the presidency of the Ontario Federation of Labour, representing all 700,000 organized workers in the province, should its longtime head, Wayne Samuelson, step down this fall as expected, said the Globe.

On air

  • Bob Drummond, dean of York’s Faculty of Arts, spoke about the exhibit “50 Years in the Faculty of Arts: A Retrospective”, on CFMT-TV’s “Studio Aperto” April 9.