York prof approves of new election rules but wanted more

On the eve of another municipal election season, Queen’s Park is tightening rules for fundraising and barring incumbents from rolling over their campaign surpluses to the next election, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 28. But it’s not ready to do what Toronto has considered: outlawing all corporate or union donations.

“It’s a good step,” said Robert MacDermid, a York University professor who has analyzed the influence of donations by developers on municipal elections. “But I had hoped for something more, such as a ban on corporate or trade union donations.”

MacDermid believes the influence of the development industry, especially in 905 municipalities, is “unhealthy for a democratic society”, but the province is unwilling to ban corporate donations because provincial parties depend on them.

  • With municipal politicians already gearing up for next year’s vote, Attorney General Chris Bentley is expected this afternoon to introduce several changes to the election rules in time for the 2010 vote, wrote Durham Business Times Oct. 27 in a story that included a reference to research by a York professor that helped prompt some of the changes.

Research by York University’s Robert MacDermid, political science professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, found that corporate donations – in particular by developers – were far more prevalent outside Toronto.

Vaughan politician urged to come clean by political expert

Vaughan politician Peter Meffe should not vote on any development issues after conflict of interest allegations were levelled against him this week, a municipal affairs expert says, wrote the Vaughan Citizen Oct. 27.

Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies who specializes in election financing, said “right now, the best thing for Peter Meffe to do is say he won’t vote on any development applications that have even the remotest connection to his corporate world and he should now divulge all of his financial and corporate entanglements.”

The longtime Maple/Kleinburg councillor and chair of local utility company PowerStream Inc., was served with court papers this weekend that allege he broke conflict of interest rules when he voted on a number of development issues from 2004 to 2006.

Development issues are crucial to the way people live, MacDermid said, adding the votes in question are significant. “These are key votes which have huge remunerative implications. In other words, there’s a lot of money involved in these votes,” he said. “Changing zoning bylaw amendments, draft plans of subdivisions and condominiums, all these things have million-dollar implications for developers.”

MacDermid said these votes are important because they directly impact residents.

Usurping of Qur’an’s message worries York professor

Like with so many other verses of the Qur’an, Islamists have usurped the inherent good faith of the word of God and turned it into an instrument of authoritarianism to spread fear among the faithful, wrote the National Post Oct. 28 in a story about Somali-born, Saudi-trained cleric Said Rageah of Toronto.

Haideh Moghissi, professor of sociology in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, says, “This particular verse [enjoin good and forbid evil] has been used by Islamist radicals to stifle any debate and to attack the individual freedom and liberty of people living inside Muslim majority population[s]. It is scary that they are now invoking this in Canada. The primary victims of this attack on personal liberties have been women and youth.”

Popular teacher trained at York

Sharon ‘Sherry’ Hanson instinctively knew she had a greater purpose, wrote her son and husband in an obituary in The Globe and Mail Oct. 28. In [1986 to 1991], she updated her teaching qualifications at York University’s Faculty of Education. With no expectations, she applied for a job with the [Toronto District] School Board and wowed the administration team at Amesbury Middle School. So began her 20-year career there.

Teaching children was Sherry’s purpose, and she gave all her energy to it. Her impact was immeasurable. Every year the kids at Amesbury, many from economically challenged or emotionally troubled homes, lobbied to be in “Miz Hanson’s class.” To most they were problem kids. To Sherry they were her “little dolls”. Her belief that you “catch more flies with honey than heartlessness” usually succeeded.

Poor children likely to be hit hardest when trustees decide which schools will close

A majority of the Toronto schools recommended for review due to falling enrolment are among the most needy in the city – sparking fears that school closures could hit poor kids the hardest, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 28.

“You have to be really, really careful to consider the demographics of school closings, because schools in these neighbourhoods have all sorts of after-school homework clubs and sports and services that you would be taking away from the community,” says Ranu Basu, geography professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, whose research has shown poor neighbourhoods often lose their schools more than richer areas.

‘Linc’: A man for all the people

Lincoln Alexander (LLB ’53) could hardly believe where life had taken him, wrote The Hamilton Spectator Oct. 28 in an update about him. “I just know this is something that I never thought could happen to me,” he told The Hamilton Spectator in a Sept. 5, 1985, feature about being named Ontario’s first black lieutenant-governor.

“My father was a railroad porter, and that’s as far as he could go because he was black. My mother was a maid, and that’s as far as she could go because she was black.”

Alexander went on to graduate from Osgoode Hall Law School, and was elected as Progressive Conservative MP for Hamilton West in 1968 – Canada’s first black MP. He won four successive federal elections and was labour minister in the short-lived Joe Clark government.

Today, Alexander is 87 and living in Atrium Villa retirement home on Main Street East, said the Spectator.

Osgoode grad is appointed to the bench

Dan Cornell (LLB ’78), a partner of the firm Cornell Mortlock & Sillberg in Lindsay, has been appointed a judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in Sudbury, wrote The Sudbury Star Oct. 28. Cornell completed a bachelor of laws degree from York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1980.

York buildings evacuated in bomb threat hoax

Two buildings at York University’s Keele campus were evacuated earlier this afternoon after a bomb threat was called into the school, wrote TorontoStar.com, Oct. 27.

The call came into the university around 3pm and York officials promptly called police, said Staff Sgt. Ian Lamond. The threat was later determined to be a hoax and the buildings were reopened by about 5:30pm.

Emergency crews evacuated the Ross Building and Vari Hall. Lamond estimated that potentially hundreds of students and staff members were affected by the evacuation.

Keith Marnoch, associate director in York’s media relations department, said that similar threats have been made in the past. He said that York does not try to distinguish between real and fake threats. “We take every threat of this type very seriously and do our due diligence for all types of emergencies, even when they turn out to be less than that,” he said.

Lamond agreed, saying that every threat must be treated as if it’s potentially real. Lamond said threats to the school are fairly common and tend to spike during certain parts of the year, such as exam season.