Pension hopes fizzle as government rejects Arthurs’ recommendation

The nub of the problem is Ontario’s Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund, a pool of money collected from companies with private pension plans to provide their employees with a decent income in case of bankruptcy, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 30 in an editorial about government pension reform announcements made by Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

When it was set up 30 years ago, the province set the guarantee at $1,000 a month per pensioner. It has never been changed. Workers were looking to the government to raise the monthly maximum to $2,500, as University Professor Emeritus Harry Arthurs, former dean of Osgoode Hall Law School and former president & vice-chancellor of York, recommended in a provincially commissioned report two years ago. Duncan left it at $1,000.

In order to provide even that much pension protection, Duncan said, he would have to raise employers’ premiums fivefold.

Craney sets a new course for football at York

In his first meeting to usher in his first run as head coach, Warren Craney began to map out his vision at York University, wrote the Toronto Sun Aug. 28.

A new beginning unofficially kicks off Sunday in Quebec City when the Craney-led Lions play their first and only pre-season game against Laval University. It begins for real on Sept. 6 when York plays host to the University of Guelph.

But it’s fitting that York’s latest football incarnation will be traced to the province of Quebec, where Craney, a Montreal native, began to carve his coaching niche.

During a distinguished stint at Concordia University, Craney forged a reputation that has earned him national praise for his work as an assistant, primarily on the defensive side of the ball.

When it comes to Craney’s philosophy as a head coach, he’s keeping it real, refusing to look back at a time when his focus is on the present and the potential that awaits once his imprint is firmly established.

He doesn’t want to hear about the losing that preceded him at York, which is a good thing given the frequency of the losses…. Offensively, the Lions want to establish a Canadian Football League-like mentality, which spreads the field by lining up a quarterback in the shotgun, getting the ball into the hands of a playmaker and taking shots.

York’s triggerman will be Nick Coutu, a third-year pivot whom Craney calls the face of the program. Coutu has spent countless hours with offensive coordinator Michael Faulds in chalk talk, watching film and learning how to become a leader. “We have a different culture now and I realize I have to be that guy,” Coutu said. “It’s time for me to make things happen and I’m loving it. I’m in it, I want to be in it, and I’m excited. Every player in our locker-room trusts our coaches and we’ve all bought in.”

Psychology graduate student helps recently released prisoners

“It is also about the transformation of the volunteers.” Four years of volunteering at Dismas has had a powerful impact on Karina Gagnier (BA Spec. Hons. ’07, MA ’09), a PhD student in clinical psychology in York’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, who plans on writing her dissertation on young offenders, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 29 in a story about the Dismas Fellowship, a bi-monthly meeting designed to provide assistance and community to individuals who have recently been released from prison

“I haven’t experienced this kind of community before,” Gagnier told me, “and it has opened up new perspectives for me. I can’t emphasize enough the amount of support people feel at Dismas – people really care about people here. It’s not just helping people get clothes and places to live and things like that, it’s also about celebrating birthdays and the anniversaries of when they got out of prison.”

For Gagnier, the experience of Dismas means that she no longer reduces people who have been in prison to the offences they committed in the past; she sees them as complicated, multi-dimensional human beings. Said Gagnier, “The lesson of Dismas is respect for everyone.”

Bird expert to speak at Canadian Club of Halton Peel

She sure knows her birds and now she has a chance to pass on that knowledge to Oakville residents, wrote Aug. 27. Birding expert Bridget Stutchbury, author of The Bird Detective: Investigating the Secret Lives of Birds, will be speaking in Oakville Sept. 16 about the peculiar ways of birds.

Stutchbury is a professor of biology at York University and is an internationally recognized birding expert. She works to preserve bird habitats and is affiliated with more than a dozen organizations including Wildlife Preservation Canada and the World Wildlife Fund. In her latest book she reveals some of the reasons behind the strange behaviour of birds, their colour, songs and habits.

Cullen ponders his run for mayor of Ottawa

Languishing in third place, with little money and Clive Doucet on his heels, York grad Alex Cullen (BA Spec. Hons.’80, MA ’82) [a city councillor in Ottawa] is facing a defining moment in his long political life, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Aug. 28.

It may all come down to a do-or-die fundraiser scheduled for early September when he has to raise at least $100,000 or withdraw. At this point, few observers think he will run.

The problem for Cullen is that Sept. 10 is the last day to abandon the mayoral race and run for council.

“I am not in this race to be a sacrificial lamb and I don’t want to quit. But there’s a reality check. If I am not successful in meeting my fundraising target, I am not going to get thousands of dollars in debt. It is not ‘damn the torpedoes,’” he says candidly. “This is obviously a big challenge, but I’ve had my successes and I’ve had my failures and I’m not fazed by it. It is another challenge to overcome. I am ready for it.”

Cullen’s life has been marked by challenges and adversities that have defined his character: being kicked out of university, two failed marriages and political betrayal. But his capacity to bounce back is undiminished.

Cullen came close to tipping over the edge, but, he said, being a parent forced him to stop the drift. He was given a second chance by York University, which admitted him to second-year economics under strict probation. He grabbed the opportunity and went on to earn an honours degree, and later a master’s degree in economics, and membership in Mensa.

Economics grad tracks auto industry’s fortunes

Perhaps no one in Canada knows better how to figure out the economics of the international auto industry than Carlos Gomes (BA Hons. ‘83, MA ‘84), wrote the London Free Press Aug. 28.

“One of the things that’s interesting to me is just how quickly small changes in the economy can manifest in the auto sector,” says Gomes, Scotiabank’s auto industry specialist. “Being able to gauge how key indicators will influence the industry is what I enjoy.”

Gomes is the author of Scotiabank’s Global Auto Report, a monthly analysis of trends in North American and worldwide auto production and sales. The only report of its kind published monthly by a Canadian bank, it is a must-read for industry execs and analysts wanting a comprehensive sense of how the industry is doing and where it’s likely going.

A chartered financial analyst with a master’s degree in economics from York University, Gomes, a 22-year Scotiabank economist, has been covering the Canadian and US auto markets since 1993, and the global auto market since 2005. In addition to his monthly report, he also puts out Auto News Flash, a monthly one-page review of the latest Canadian and US vehicle sales.

New Brampton Transit route connects to Keele campus

A number of changes are being made to transit services in Brampton starting next month, wrote the Brampton Guardian Aug. 29.

Starting Sept. 7, the new Route 177 Hwy. 7 Express will link the Bramalea Transit Centre to York University’s Keele campus.

On air

  • Paul Delaney, a professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the discovery of two planets, one possibly Earth-like, on CTV News Aug. 27.
  • Professor Emeritus Bernie Frolic, director of the Asian Business & Management Program at the York Centre for Asian Research, took part in a panel discussion about human rights in China, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Aug. 27.
  • Irena Knezevic, a researcher and graduate student at York University, spoke about the growth in demand for organic foods, on Sasktoon, Sask.’s CFQC-TV Aug. 28.