Toyota recall could hurt future sales, says Middleton

Marketing experts warn that the recent recall of 270,000 Toyota vehicles due to a potential gas-pedal problem could have an adverse impact on future sales, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 28.

“If this was the first big one it would be not so bad. But, unfortunately for Toyota, there have been little bits and pieces of problems emerging over the last year,” said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University. “They’re no longer No. 1 in quality. This is sending out signals at a bad time for Toyota.”

The automaker, which manufactures some of the world’s top-selling cars, has been hurt by the general economic downturn, Ford Motor Co.’s resurgence and aggressive moves by South Korea’s Hyundai brand to capture more market share, Middleton said. “I don’t think it will impact people who have been Toyota buyers before," Middleton added. “But I think people who are leaving GM or Chrysler or Saab, because of the problems they’re having, who might have automatically gone to Toyota, may be looking around now at other brands. I think that’s the big threat.”

Canadians have a lot to learn about taxes

“Canadians know very little about taxes. And they don’t know that they don’t know,” says Daniel Collison, who teaches personal finance in the MBA program at the Schulich School of Business at York University, in the Toronto Star Jan. 28.

“Some people have basic concepts, but they don’t know the true tax system,” he says. “It’s not taught anywhere, not formally.”

What Canadians need to understand, first and foremost, is that we have a graduated tax system, so that as incomes rise so do tax levels, says Collison, regional director of Investors Group in Markham.

Learn about the graduated tax rates, Collison says, by looking through the Web site at Revenue Canada or any sizable accountancy firm. You will discover at what level different types of income are taxed, starting with your employment income, then investment income such as interest, dividends and capital.

“The tax return is probably one of the best tools I use for tax planning since it has all the opportunities to look at deductions and tax credits,” he says. “There isn’t a better single tool to work with than tax return.”

While the tax system is complex, Collison believes that it’s not beyond the understanding of the average person to pay attention to deductions and credits when filing income tax.

Reasons why some people choose to rent their house

Renting your home avoids the risk of having most of your wealth in one basket, wrote Canadian Business Online Jan. 26 in a story about the top 11 reasons why some people would rather rent than own. As York University Professor Moshe Milevsky of the Schulich School of Business at York University writes in his new book Your Money Milestones: “Buying a house for an investment has strong similarities to someone being convinced stocks are a good investment for the long run, but they decide to buy only one stock for their portfolio. I don’t care how reliable that one stock is, or how large are the dividends, that stock portfolio is not diversified. The same goes for housing.”

Housing is not only a “completely undiversified” investment, in the words of Milevsky: it’s also a highly leveraged one, say other observers. While this aspect magnifies gains in house prices it also magnifies losses, so that relatively small fluctuations can wipe out all of the owner’s equity. Indeed, the value of the house could even fall below the value of the mortgage – as millions of US citizens have discovered since 2007. Renting reduces exposure to this scenario.

York music prof enjoys his unique loft

It is the Susan Boyle of architecture: a no-frills building on a corner lot at Simpson and Logan in Riverdale, wrote the Toronto Star Jan. 28. It is in fact a combo of commercial and residential: a converted two-bedroom loft apartment over the martial arts studio Cold Mountain Uechi Ryu Karate & Healing Arts, run by musician and York Professor David Mott.

“I teach martial arts, qigong, and I also have rehearsals of music projects in the backroom where I put down rugs,” Mott says.

His property incorporates 7,000 square feet on two levels and an adjoining building where Mott’s wife Bobbi has an office and practises transpersonal therapy.

Mott, a music professor at York University since 1978, is a composer, baritone saxophonist and improviser in classical music and jazz, and has performed with Stevie Wonder and improvised for Pope John Paul ll.

Fine arts grad admits lifelong love affair with art

The giant pills made Catherine Crowston (MA ’89) cry, wrote the Edmonton Journal Jan. 28 in a story about the chief curator and deputy director of the Art Gallery of Alberta.

Last summer, while on a visit to the National Gallery in Ottawa, Crowston stepped into gallery B204 and came face to face with a wrenching work of art called One Year of AZT, an installation piece done in 1991 by the Toronto-based collective General Idea.

The work is essentially giant replicas of AZT pills, the drug prescribed to HIV-positive patients to delay the onset of AIDS. Crowston had seen the work before. But not since the early 1990s, and much has changed since then. “The piece hasn’t changed,” said Crowston.

She graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts with a major in art history and a minor in chemistry. For a time, she thought of using her chemistry background to enter the technical side of the field as an art conservationist.

Instead, she pursued a master’s degree in art history and theory from York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, graduating in 1989. She worked as an assistant curator at the Art Gallery of York University and as curator at the Walter Phillips Gallery at the Banff Centre. She later hosted a CBC radio show and worked as an instructor at the University of Alberta Department of Art & Design. She became senior curator and later chief curator at the Edmonton Art Gallery and since January 2006, has been chief curator and deputy director at the Art Gallery of Alberta.

“First and foremost you have to love art,” she said of being a curator. “You have to also see the value of many different types of art from different time periods.”

Pivot Theatre Festival brings up transexualized beauty

Nina Arsenault (BFA Spec. Hons. ’96, MFA ’00) is Barbie-doll hot, wrote the Yukon News Jan. 27. She’s got giant lips, big breasts, high cheekbones – and a penis. But the queer artist doesn’t want to talk about the latter.

“Quite frankly, I just don’t know how that applies,” she said, from her Toronto home. “Anytime a transsexual does a work of art, we’re always asked about our genitals.”

Arsenault’s show, The Silicone Diaries, is coming to Whitehorse as part of the Pivot Theatre Festival this week. Genitals have nothing to do with it, she said.

When she’s not performing in various productions, including the Toronto hit I Was Barbie, Arsenault lectures on transsexuality, sexuality and art in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, and writes for various national publications.

On air

  • Gordon Flett, psychology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, spoke about the challenges of raising a perfectionist child, on CBC Radio in Victoria and Kelowna, BC, Calgary, Alta. and Sudbury Jan. 27.
  • Ian Greene, professor in York’s School of Public Policy & Administration in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about government watchdogs becoming government lap dogs, on CKNW Radio, Vancouver, Jan. 27.