Taxes, fees put squeeze on airlines, says Schulich prof

Taxes and fees on domestic airfares have crept up to record highs in Ontario and British Columbia, crimping a fragile rebound in the travel sector and hurting Canada’s competitive position in the global airline industry, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 1 in a story about a study by Professor Fred Lazar of York’s Schulich School of Business.

“Each decision to impose or increase or expand the scope of a tax or fee is usually made independent of all other such decisions. Therefore, while each is viewed on its own as small and benign, the combined result is anything but benign,” according to the report on Canadian aviation policy by Lazar.

Lazar prepared his report for the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Air Canada, WestJet Airlines Ltd., Jazz Air and Air Transat.  “Without the continued success and growth of these airlines, no Canadian airport is likely to join the ranks of international gateways or regional hubs, with their significant economic benefits for Canada,” he writes in the 53-page report, to be released next week.

His survey shows taxes, airport improvement fees and other charges easily increase the base fare advertised by airlines, often by at least one-third or even 70 per cent in some cases, depending on the base fare, route flown and province of departure. “There appears to be considerable scope for both Air Canada and Pearson airport to become more important players in the global market. But there is also the very significant risk that both could become marginal players in the future,” the report said.

“Without the right policies, Canada risks losing the economic and social benefits of an increasingly integrated global marketplace,” the report said. “The starting point for the new policy direction is the termination of the ground rents, the Air Travellers Security Charge and the excise tax on jet fuel. “

Demand for law school spots high  

Long gone are the days when getting into law school and finding an articling position after graduation in Canada was largely based on good grades, wrote The Lawyers Weekly Oct. 1. Law students today face an admissions and articles placement process as competitive as the legal environment in which many hope to practise.

In Ontario, a growing number of law grads, coupled with a steady influx of foreign-trained lawyers – especially in Toronto – has become “a freight train heading at the profession,” and the scarcity of articling positions is the “bottleneck” on that track, says Lorne Sossin, the new dean of Osgoode Hall Law School of York University.

While the Law Society of Upper Canada recently reaffirmed the importance of articling as an important part of legal education and eligibility for admission to the Ontario Bar, he believes that a profession regulated in the public interest should not depend solely on the “private economic well-being of a particular set of firms at a particular point in time.

“Though Osgoode law grads have had tremendous success in securing articles, I would love to see an environment where we had not just articling but other pathways for licensing, such as a program where we could simulate the articling process in a more structured learning environment akin to a model being pioneered in Australia. This way, we wouldn’t be shutting the doors to the profession on those who couldn’t find articles, which is especially important where students facing cultural or linguistic barriers may find it even more difficult to secure articling positions.”

Last year, 2,750 people applied for admission at Osgoode Hall; 585 first-year offers were made and 289 students ended up enrolling in first year.

“It’s more competitive than it has ever been – and inevitably, that leaves a group of people who are extremely accomplished and committed without a spot at a Canadian law school.” says Sossin, a 1992 Osgoode LLB grad, who began teaching law there 13 years ago before moving to the U of T and, as of this year, returning to Osgoode as its dean.

Kellogg-Schulich executive MBA wins top honour

The Wall Street Journal has ranked the Kellogg global network of executive MBA programs, including the Kellogg-Schulich [program] in Toronto, among the top five executive MBA programs in the world, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 1, citing comments by Dezsö Horváth, dean of York’s Schulich School of Business.

The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, together with its partner schools in Canada, Germany, China, Germany, Israel and the US, placed fifth in the overall ranking.

“We partnered with Kellogg in order to create a world-class EMBA program for Canada’s most promising business leaders and entrepreneurs,” Horváth said in a statement.

The Wall Street Journal ranking was based on a survey of 5,065 recent graduates, as well as assessments by human resource and executive development managers.

WSIB raises premiums to limit losses

Ontario’s troubled insurance plan for injured workers says it will increase premiums while outside advisers study solutions for its staggering losses, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 1.

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, which already has the highest premiums in Canada, announced Thursday it will increase its premiums by an average of 4.3 per cent by 2012 while a new funding review panel [studies ways of] eliminating a $12-billion shortfall in the WSIB’s reserve fund.

The panel will be chaired by Harry Arthurs, former dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and a commissioner for the recent review of pensions in Ontario. His committee will include John Tory, former business executive and leader of the Ontario Conservative Party; Buzz Hargrove, former head of the Canadian Auto Workers union; John O’Grady, chair of the Institute for Work and Health; and economist Maureen Farrow.

The WSIB said the panel will gather expert advice and input from workers, labour and employers on a range of public policy issues facing the board.

Underwater robot swims free thanks to wireless controller

A waterproof controller designed and built by York University researchers is allowing an underwater robot to go “wireless” in a unique way, wrote AQUA, an amphibious, otter-like robot, is small and nimble, with flippers rather than propellers, designed for intricate data collection from shipwrecks and reefs.

The robot, a joint project of York, McGill and Dalhousie universities, can now be controlled wirelessly using a waterproof tablet built at York. While underwater, divers can program the tablet to display tags onscreen, similar to barcodes read by smartphones.

Cutting the cord on underwater robots has been a longstanding challenge for scientists; water interferes with radio signals, hindering traditional wireless communication via modem. Tethered communication is cumbersome and can create safety issues for divers.

“Having a robot tethered to a vehicle above water creates a scenario where communication between the diver, robot, and surface operator becomes quite complicated,” says Michael Jenkin, professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering and co-author of the forthcoming paper, “Swimming with Robots: Human Robot Communication at Depth”.

“Investigating a shipwreck, for example, is a very delicate operation and the diver and robot need to be able to react quickly to changes in the environment. An error or a lag in communication could be dangerous,” Jenkin says.

Realizing there was no device on the market that fit the bill, Jenkin and his team at York’s Centre for Vision Research, including the paper’s lead author, MSc student Bart Verzijlenberg, set to work constructing a prototype. “This is a huge improvement on [a robot] having to travel to the surface to communicate with its operators,” Jenkin says.

Jenkin and Verzijlenberg are two of the researchers based in York’s new state-of-the-art Sherman Health Science Research Centre, which officially opened on Sept. 14.

Prostitution ruling could hamper crackdown

A debate about prostitution is a logical next step in Canada, not necessarily because of the court ruling, but because the world’s oldest profession is, for all intents and purposes, often openly practised, said James Morton, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, wrote the York Region Media Group Sept. 30.

But the ruling may not survive appeal, Morton said. He also suggested the ruling opens the question about [whether] the regulation of morality is an appropriate role for the government. To that end, he pointed to court rulings on subjects such as Sunday shopping, abortion, gay rights and marijuana as turning points in Canadian society.

On air

  • Sean Rehaag, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School who specializes in immigration law, spoke about proposed new legislation to deter future incidents of migrant ships carrying asylum seekers to Canada, on CBC Radio’s “World Report” Sept. 30.
  • Sebastien Darchen, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about a special transportation tax levied by Portland, Oregon, and whether it would work in Toronto, on Radio Canada Toronto’s Sept. 30.
  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the effectiveness of election signs, on 680News radio Sept. 30.
  • Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about the discovery of a new planet, 200 trillion kilometres away and that could support life, on CTV News Sept. 30.
  • York graduate student Sharanpal Ruprai, a poet and filmmaker, spoke about two conferences on Canadian writers taking place in Alberta, on OMNI-TV’s “South Asian News: Edmonton” Sept. 30.