Jack Layton: The man in the middle

NDP Leader Jack Layton (MA ’72, PhD ’83) will contrast his “new thinking” with the “old thinking” of Liberals and Conservatives when he takes the floor Sunday at the end of his party’s three-day policy convention, wrote The Globe and Mail Aug. 14.

He will try to convince voters that he offers something they haven’t seen before – and that he is the man of the middle.

It could be a tough sell for a guy who has led the federal New Democratic Party for nearly seven years and through three elections, and who spent the full $20 million allowed in 2008, yet walked away with just a handful of additional seats.

But Layton sees a gap opening for New Democrats in Canada’s political centre, as Michael Ignatieff moves his Liberal Party further to the right.

James Laxer, a political science professor at York who once ran for NDP leader, took Layton to task in a magazine article last year for abandoning socialism in pursuit of an elusive election victory.

Laxer still feels that way. “When it comes to differentiating the NDP from the other parties and presenting a clear progressive alternative, I think the federal NDP hasn’t really done the job,” he said.

New interest in ancient art

It was definitely love at first sight with gatka for Jacob Maxwell, wrote The Mississauga News Aug. 13 in a story about the traditional Sikh martial art dating back to the early-17th century, which has seen a rejuvenation in the past few years, thanks largely to South Asian immigrants to Mississauga and Brampton.

The 21-year-old York University student was having lunch at the student centre when he peeked outside and saw men in colourful turbans, holding sticks and swords, form a circle.

He watched intently as they performed mock duels with acrobatics and a bit of wrestling. The same evening, Maxwell enrolled in a gatka class. “It’s the most fantastic thing I’ve ever done,” he says, three months and dozens of classes later.

Thornhill Rose celebrates roots in two countries

Sarah Sullivan and her family will leave their very Canadian home to step back in time and place to a tradition-steeped festival called the Rose of Tralee, wrote the Richmond Hill Liberal Aug. 13.

The 24-year-old has been selected to represent Toronto in the 50th anniversary of the Rose of Tralee International Festival, a competition which is celebrated among Irish communities all over the world.

The festival, which runs Aug. 21 to Aug. 26 in Tralee, Ireland, was inspired by a love song written by a 19th-century wealthy merchant who fell in love with his maid, Mary O’Connor.

Like Mary, Sarah Sullivan has long dark hair and delicate skin, but she’s also got a lip ring, a Canadian birth certificate and a thoroughly modern life as a York University student of environmental studies and geography.

She admits that sitting down to an introductory tea, as part of the Toronto contest, was a bit of a lark. “When did I ever have afternoon tea? Never in my life!” And yet it’s not such a stretch from contemporary Canadian to Irish maid. Miss Sullivan’s mother was also selected as Toronto’s “Rose” more than 30 years ago.

Home not where the heart was

Former York Lions player Mike Benevides understands that his old friends think he’s an idiot, wrote The Toronto Sun Aug. 14. He understands that his parents are upset and his grandparents are hurt.

All this because Benevides, a Toronto guy, a former Central Technical School player, a former York student and coach, a Scarborough minor football coach, turned down the offer to coach the Argonauts.

“When you say dream job, absolutely this was the dream job,” said Benevides, who has grown into real coach from football vagabond with the BC Lions. “I remember as a kid crossing the tracks to go to Dominion and paying two bucks to get one of those tickets to watch the Argos play. They were my team.”

Until he had a chance to be their head coach.

“It was the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my life,” said Benevides, whose defence will line up against the Argos tonight at the Rogers Centre.

“My inner voice and my gut said: ‘Don’t do it.’ Ultimately, it came down to things just didn’t feel correct for me. It’s easy now to say the timing wasn’t right. I felt very good early on (in the interview process). The people were great. David (Cynamon) and Howard (Sokolowski) were great to me. But, at the end of the day, I felt saying thanks but no thanks was the right thing to do.”

“I still think about it,” Benevides said. “My friends think I’m an idiot for not taking the job but the people in the business understand. They said: ‘Good for you for not doing it.’”

But tonight, there may be a wistful feeling of what could have been. “It’s the Argos. It’s the team I grew up cheering for,” Benevides said. “There’s always a little something for me in that game.”

HoJoe is to host Brooklyn Doran event

Brooklyn Doran has never had a show just for her, wrote Kenora’s Daily Miner & News Aug. 13.

She plays at the Farmer’s Market, in the parks and on the streets in Kenora and she has been featured in vocal groups such as the York University a cappella and local Good Fortune choirs but she has never hosted an evening where she was the headliner.

On Saturday night, HoJoe Coffee & Books is giving her that chance. She and her best friend Jason Carrie will be playing a few songs together, leading into a solo set each. “I’m very excited about it,” she said. “Most of the time I play events but this time, it’s a Brooklyn Doran event so that’s exciting for me.”

Her single Inhale (The Dolphin Song) is available from iTunes as part of the Tunes for our Town fundraiser.

BC Lions defender’s career was launched by mad cows

Seven years ago, Ricky Foley hadn’t played a down of football, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 14. He was a decathlete at York University, aiming for a US track scholarship. Then mad cow disease struck the family farm in Courtice and a football star was born.

Foley, who will take the field tonight at Rogers Centre for the BC Lions, stands third in the league in sacks with four and he has helped make the loss of all-star Cameron Wake a lot easier to swallow.

Convicted Woodbridge teacher dies in jail

A former Vaughan high school teacher, convicted of sexually exploiting a female student, had been condemned by his profession and estranged from his family before he died last week, wrote the Vaughan Citizen Aug. 13.

Terrence Thomas Lithgow (BA ’77) died Thursday inside the Toronto West Detention Centre, a source close to the jail said. Lithgow taught at Father Bressani Catholic High School in Woodbridge.

In 2007, Lithgow was sent to jail after he pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation and Internet luring involving a girl when she was between the ages of 14 and 18. Lithgow was in his 50s at the time.

Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services officials would only confirm that an inmate died at the Toronto West jail last week.

Lithgow was certified to teach in 1978. He attended York University and the University of Toronto and was qualified to teach physical education, accounting and religious education, among other subjects, according to the teachers’ college Web site.