Toronto council votes to ban union, corporate campaign donations

Corporations and unions can no longer donate to Toronto municipal politicians’ election campaigns, wrote Sun Media Dec. 3.

Toronto city council voted 29-12 yesterday to ban both types of donations after debating the issue for most of the day. Previously, corporations and unions could donate a maximum of $750 to councillor candidates and $2,500 to those running for mayor.

It was an “historic day” for Robert MacDermid, a political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies who has studied municipal election finances for years and has lobbied for reforms as part of the VoteToronto group.

“The City of Toronto is showing its leadership here and it will be a sign to many, many other municipalities throughout Ontario who are yearning to have the same right,” he said. “It’s also a sign to the province – that the province has to do something about this, and make some serious changes and reforms to the Municipal Elections Act. It has been a long battle and I think many people are very thankful that it’s ended in this way.”

  • Robert MacDermid, professor of political science in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, said the reforms are about removing the potential for influence built into a system that allowed corporate owners to give twice, once in their own names and once through their corporations, wrote the National Post Dec. 3.

“I have seen candidates in Mississauga…who have maybe four contributions from individuals, and the rest are from developers. What were they doing for three years that only four individuals were giving them money?” he asked. “If a representative does their job, give voice to unvoiced need, they will have no problem [getting] money, and that’s true of most of these people [on Toronto council].”

  • MacDermid also spoke about the council decision, on CTV News and CP24-TV Dec. 2.

Fat can kill

Being seriously overweight will cut your life short, even if you experience no major health problems as a result of your condition, according to a new study by researchers in York University’s Faculty of Health, wrote the Brampton Guardian Dec. 2.

Researchers compared metabolically normal obese people with those who had multiple metabolic risk factors known to increase one’s risk for early mortality. Surprisingly, although both groups were at elevated mortality risk, there were no significant differences in the mortality risk between the groups.

“Our findings challenge the idea of a ‘healthy’ obese person,” says study lead Jennifer Kuk, a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health. “It doesn’t matter if you currently have no other medical problems. You are still at a similar risk level as someone who has the classic disease states triggered by obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems.”

“It’s important to note that metabolically normal obesity is an extremely rare subtype, but when it does occur, treatment is absolutely necessary,” says Kuk. “We already know that in addition to diabetes and heart disease, obese individuals are also more likely to die from trauma and have cancer diagnosed at more advanced stages. This research reinforces the seriousness of this condition, and highlights the need for both treatment and prevention,” she says.

The study, “Are Metabolically Normal but Obese Individuals at Lower Risk for All-Cause Mortality?”, appears in the December issue of Diabetes Care, published by the American Diabetes Association. It is co-authored by Chris Ardern, who is also a professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science.

  • Kuk also talked about the study on Global TV Dec. 2.

Drug company influence is subconscious, says York prof

The Canadian Medical Association is facing criticism over its decision to team up with a major pharmaceutical company to create an education program for physicians across the country, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 3.

Some members of the medical community say the association is heading down a dangerous road and warn that partnering with Pfizer Canada Inc. may cross a serious ethical line that could negatively influence doctors’ treatment decisions.

Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor in York’s School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health, said doctors and other health professionals are often unaware of influence coming from drug companies because it’s usually so subtle. But studies have shown that doctors are more likely to prescribe a particular company’s drugs if they have a personal relationship with someone from that company. “It’s not that the doctors are being bribed. It operates on a subconscious level,” Lexchin said.

Next stop Vancouver 2010

A York student will be participating in the closing ceremonies at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver this February, wrote the Collingwood Connection Dec. 2.

Lauren O’Neill White, 22, has been told she will be a volunteer dancer in the culture and heritage portion of the closing ceremonies. She applied online in the spring, and was selected out of more than 10,000 applicants.

White is currently studying dance at York University and is a former student of the Fleet-Wood Dancentre.

Track athletes recognized by Athletics Ontario at banquet this weekend

Athletics Ontario has announced the list of nominees for its annual Celebrating Excellence in Athletics recognition banquet and Toronto is disproportionately well represented, wrote the North York Mirror Dec. 2 in a story that included mention of four York students.

Representing the North York community are York University Track & Field Club’s Brooke Rowland (jumps/throws), Crystal Emmanuel (junior sprint/ hurdles), Cynthia Apiah, Elizabeth Petrov and Kristin Obrochta (throws), and Karl Jennings (senior men’s sprints/hurdles).

Municipalities reach out to younger voters with electronic options

Intelivote Systems Inc., which was hired to administer electronic voting systems for Cobourg in 2006, has helped numerous Ontario municipalities implement telephone and Internet voting, wrote Dec. 2.

Prior to adopting the technology, the municipality commissioned a risk assessment, carried out by a York University professor, which ranked voting methods according to their security. Electronic landed near the middle, while mail-in ballots came out as the least secure.

On air

  • Gregory Chin, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and an associate in the York Centre for Asian Research, spoke about Canada’s foreign aid contributions to China, on CBC Television’s “The National” Dec. 2. Chin also took part in a panel discussion, on TVO’s “The Agenda”, which aired Dec. 2.
  • A seminar at York University on the impact of demonstrations in Canada in support of Tamils in Sri Lanka was discussed on CBC Radio’s “Here & Now” Dec. 2.