Canada is tinkering on financial standards, says York prof

Canada has been “tinkering around the edges” of fiduciary standards for financial advisers while the rest of the English-speaking world has leapt headlong into the debate in the wake of the worldwide financial crisis, wrote the Law Times April 5, citing comments by Professor Ed Waitzer, Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Coprorate Governance in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and Schulich School of Business.

Waitzer made the comments at a conference co-hosted by the Hennick Centre for Business & Law, which he directs, and the Canadian Foundation for the Advancement of Investor Rights (FAIR Canada). He said he hoped the conference would help fill the silence on the regulatory front in Canada. “We thought it would be helpful to bring elements of that debate, which is somewhat absent in Canada, to the policy-making exercise here,” he said.

Waitzer said huge investor losses in the last two years, combined with high-profile scandals such as the Bernard Madoff and Earl Jones affairs, have severely “impaired the trust and confidence necessary to make any market work reasonably efficiently,” spurring introspection in the financial industry around the world.

Lawyers at the event clashed over whether Canada needs to impose a statutory fiduciarystandard for financial advisers.

Osgoode Professor Allan Hutchinson…called for a general shift towards a fiduciary relationship, rather than case-by-case common law rulings. “The main thing is the onus would be on the financial adviser to explain what did and didn’t happen, as opposed to a duty of care,” he said, explaining that the current situation disadvantaged investors without the knowledge to challenge their adviser.

The wind around turbines

Yesterday’s editorial on the alleged health effects of wind turbines leaves out the critical question of the impacts of energy sources that wind would replace, wrote Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, in a letter to The Globe and Mail April 8.

More than 660 premature deaths per year have been attributed to air pollution from coal-fired electricity in Ontario alone, to say nothing of the impacts and risks of coal mining, such as the occupational risks of underground mining so terribly demonstrated in West Virginia this week.

Nuclear, in addition to its cost, security and weapons proliferation risks, is associated with extremely hazardous waste. The contamination of organisms and water around uranium mills with radioactive and conventional pollutants results in significantly elevated cancer risks for consumers of “country” food in the area.

By comparison the biophysical impacts of wind turbines look rather less serious, Winfield concluded.  

Electricity price a flawed yardstick, says Winfield

The crucial question with respect to the cost impact of the Green Energy Act Feed in Tariff (FIT) system is its cost relative to the other alternatives for new supply, wrote Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, in a letter to the Toronto Star April 8. We know, for example, that the electricity cost for new-build nuclear came out at about 20 cents/kwh. In that context, a 14 cent per kwh FIT for wind doesn’t look so bad.

Virtually all of the new supply options (with the exception of conservation) come in at higher costs than the current electricity price, which is artificially subsidized in a number of different ways, with the result that it may not be the best benchmark against which to measure options for new supply.

On air

  • Fred Lazar, an economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, took part in a discussion about the high incidence of diabetes among native people, on Winnipeg’s APTN-TV April 7.
  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about a cashless society, on Global Television April 7.