Municipal election laws need urgent update to curb abuse, writes York prof

You would think that the parade of municipal representatives to the courts for violations of campaign finance law would have spurred Municipal Affairs Minister Jim Watson to reform the Municipal Elections Act, wrote Robert MacDermid, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, in an opinion piece for the Toronto Star Oct. 14.

If that isn’t enough evidence of the need for changes, he has petitions from municipalities urging reforms to the Municipal Elections Act, and he has Toronto’s reform package ready to go to council for approval.

The need for reform is obvious. The City of Toronto auditor’s report showed that 29 of 45 elected members of council violated the campaign finance reporting laws. And the Star’s long-running campaign has pointed out abuses in municipal elections.

In municipalities outside Toronto, the situation, if anything, is worse. In the GTA and even beyond the Greenbelt, campaign finance rules on spending and contributions are frequently violated.

The minister also has evidence that, among a few elected municipal representatives, there is a culture of neglect, evasion, non-compliance and even abuse of campaign finance laws.

There is evidence of the pervasive influence of the development industry in electing municipal council members. In Brampton, Mississauga, Oshawa, Pickering, Richmond Hill and probably Vaughan more than 50 per cent of the money for council members’ 2006 campaigns came from the development industry. And 28 of 132 winners in 10 inner-GTA municipalities gathered more than 66 per cent of their campaign cash from the development industry.

The Star noted MacDermid is a founding member of

York honours actor

Actor Woody Harrelson will be one of five recipients of honorary degrees from York University this week, wrote The Toronto Sun Oct. 14. The American actor and environmental activist will receive an honorary doctor of laws from the University on Saturday. York says Harrelson has used his celebrity and led by example in promoting environmental causes.

  • The other honorary degree recipients are: Timothy Price, chair of Brookfield Funds at Brookfield Asset Management Inc.; Rev. Brent Hawkes, a gay rights activist; Alvin Curling, former envoy to the Dominican Republic; and Shelagh Wilkinson, a women’s activist, wrote the Penticton Herald Oct. 14.
  • Several Toronto radio and television stations also reported on Harrelson and convocation, including Citytv, which also mentioned honorary degree recipient Rev. Brent Hawkes.

Implications of farming trends are ‘too severe’, says York policy expert

Control of Canada’s food supply could fall into even fewer hands, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 14 in a story about an innovative solution to the current generation’s declining interest maintaining family farms.

That’s a scenario many Canadian policy-makers just don’t want to contemplate, says food policy expert Rod MacRae, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. “The implications are too severe.”

According to MacRae, the Ontario government has focused its succession planning on encouraging children of farm families to enter the field – and few want to. Leona Dombrowsky, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, said the Ontario government has committed to establishing a young farmer’s program but, so far, there is no sign of it. “We’ll be doing something, when the resources are available,” she said.

MacRae says governments lack urgency on the matter. “Agriculture never gets its due in terms of its importance unless there’s a huge crisis.”

York grad wins chance to choreograph the best

It’s hardly surprising that when Toronto Dance Theatre artistic director Christopher House (BFA Spec. Hons. ’79) put out an open call for Four at the Winch he got more than 30 applications from choreographers across the country, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 14 in a story about the dance company’s innovative methods of staying afloat by using young choreographers.

York grad Robert Kingsbury (BFA Spec. Hons. ’06) majored in music at York University and also works with film.

Osgoode grad gets top job with BC Securities Commission

York grad Brenda Leong (LLB ’88), previously executive director of the BC Securities Commission, was named by the BC government Tuesday to replace the regulatory body’s long-serving chairman, Doug Hyndman, wrote The Vancouver Sun Oct. 14.

Leong’s appointment takes her to the top of the commission’s ladder in a 17-year career that has seen the lawyer and Osgoode Hall Law School grad pause at several rungs, including director of legal and market initiatives. Leong was appointed executive director, the agency’s top administrative position, which also carries responsibilities as chief enforcement officer, in 2004.

Kelly determined to make the rounds

Last Sunday’s Bright Lights page in the Herald showed a photograph of York grad Paul Kelly (MBA ’84) dressed in high-heeled shoes, wrote the Calgary Herald Oct. 14. It’s a lot different than how he was dressed when I went to meet the new president and CEO of First Calgary Savings.

Kelly participated in the YWCA’s Walk a Mile in her Shoes event and proudly showed me the red, sparkly shoe award he won as highest individual fundraiser, collecting $7,325.

It’s not surprising, as he is a keen community volunteer serving on the board of the Epilepsy Association of Calgary, and Heritage Park Advisory Board, and is a member of Safe Haven Investment Committee. He was top fundraiser for the Sheriff King Home, and teaches in junior high schools in the Junior Achievement Dollars with Sense program.

He has big shoes to fill in his new role at First Calgary Savings. Dave Gregory retired from that position after 18 years, during which the company rose to be the second-largest credit union in the province, with assets under administration of more than $2.5 billion.

Kelly hails from Ontario where he earned an MBA from the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Candidate for McMaster president succeeded York president

McMaster University could name its next president as early as tomorrow, wrote the Hamilton Spectator Oct. 14 in a story looking at several possible candidates.

McMaster’s vice-president responsible for research, Mo Elbestawi, is also former dean of engineering. His predecessor in both positions was Mamdouh Shoukri, who went on to become president & vice-chancellor of York University, creating a path that makes Elbestawi a natural candidate.

On air

  • Bernie Wolf, economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the surging value of the loonie in interviews on CBC Radio stations in Toronto, Windsor, Fredericton, Regina, Winnipeg and Yellowknife.