The muck still flies in Vaughan

The three-way tussle between embattled incumbent Linda Jackson, former Vaughan MP Maurizio Bevilacqua and former Thornhill MPP Mario Racco is playing out in a city smarting from four years of nasty political infighting, multiple lawsuits, alleged municipal campaign violations and a failed palace coup, wrote columnist Michele Mandel in the Toronto Sun Oct. 18.

All three frontrunners vying for the mayor’s chair insist they’re the ones to write a new chapter for the city. “A lot of people have talked about cleaning up Vaughan politics,” notes skeptical York University political science Professor Robert MacDermid, of York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies. “It’s a common refrain.” Yet nothing seems to change, he says.

“Almost 60 per cent of the money going to candidates in Vaughan came from the development industry. That’s huge,” said MacDermid, who studies municipal campaign finance.

Brand Coupland: Master of media

Douglas Coupland’s breadth is his brand, according to Jeannette Hanna, vice-president of Toronto branding agency Trajectory and an instructor at York’s Schulich Executive Education Centre, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 19 in a story about the author and designer.

One of Coupland’s greatest strengths is that he’s an “uber-Canadian,” says Hanna, co-author of Ikonica: A Field Guide to Canada’s Brandscape. While researching their 2008 book, she and Alan Middleton – a marketing professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University – identified being international, chameleon-like and highly adaptable as key Canadian attributes. “Coupland expresses that at the most extreme level, but in the best way,” Hanna says, putting Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil in the same camp.

Hanna, who also teaches at Schulich, says she’s sometimes shocked at how uninvolved students are with the trends driving their culture. Coupland’s genius is that he’s tuned into those things, she notes. In Hanna’s opinion, business has much to glean from him and other artists about recognizing cultural patterns and shifts that point the way forward.

“If culture and commerce aren’t really closely linked, that’s how businesses end up becoming dinosaurs,” she says. “Because they’re not keeping in touch with the zeitgeist – they’re not keeping in touch with the world around them and the values of the communities they’re involved with.”

Ontario’s green policy cited in EU talks

European Union trade negotiators are taking aim at the provinces’ renewable energy policies – notably Ontario’s Green Energy Act – as they seek to open up provincial procurement markets under a proposed Canada and EU comprehensive trade deal, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 19.

Governments around the world – including Ontario and Quebec – have justified their support for renewable power both in terms of environmental benefit and industrial strategy, noted Mark Winfield, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. “It’s hard to make the case for spending taxpayers dollars – or ratepayers dollars – if most of the benefit is going to China or some other foreign manufacturer.”

York prof comments on harmonizing government services

In the early days of government, you didn’t see much harmonization, wrote Dave Barrows, associate director, Master of Public Administration Program in the Schulich School of Business at York University, in the Ottawa Citizen Oct. 19 in a series of comments on the benefits of integrated government services for the public.

As the world became more complex both in terms of taxation and programs, the need for harmonization grew, with the federal government responsible for collecting tax revenues and provincial and municipal governments responsible for delivery, wrote Barrows. This demand has led to an explosion in intergovernmental relation activities and countless committees exist to facilitate those processes.

More recently, this has been exacerbated – or improved depending on your opinion – with the advent of electronic government, which has the capacity to enable enhanced service delivery. As we move in that direction, we will see more opportunities for citizens to use a one-window approach to access forms and avoid having to go through different levels of government to get things done.

Achieving high performance however requires seamless delivery between the different levels of government. The challenge for Canada continues to be ensuring that the best technology is used and that the appropriate interprovincial mechanisms are in place to facilitate adoption of those technologies.

Toronto residents take up cause of mutilated Somali teen

The plight of one Somali torture victim has touched a group of Toronto residents who are working to bring 18-year-old Ismael Khalif Abdulle to Canada for a new life, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 19 in a story on Project Ismael and the problem of local Somali youth joining Islamic militant group Al Shabab’s call to jihad.

Sagal Jibril, a 24-year-old second-year graduate student at York University (and daughter of Somali Canadian National Council president Abdurahman Hosh Jibril, one of Project Ismael’s founders), said she would use the same social media [that the militants use to recruit young men] to drum up support for Ismael. “I think the youth can help the youth the most,” she said.