Customer service rhetoric a very limited civic argument, says York prof

The notion that we are customers entitled to a dollar-for-dollar return on our tax investment has become epidemic in this election, wrote Josh Hume in NOW magazine Sept. 30.

According to Roger Keil, director of The City Institute at York University, the nomenclature is a symptom of a decades-long shift in the contract between governments and citizens. “The idea of public service, public ownership and public control is being called into question and turned into its opposite, which is the idea that we are all individual nomads roaming the city in our own self-interest.”

The customer service trend, he says, is “a very limited way of looking at the city as a social community. The argument overlooks the fact that a lot of people don’t pay taxes because they have no income. We pay taxes for a reason: to provide through collective redistribution the kinds of things that would not otherwise be provided,” he says, referring to such services as transit, education and public housing.

Voters should be aware of developer influence at city hall

As part of the Vote Smart 2010 initiative ahead of next week’s municipal elections, Environmental Defence and the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance today released Under the Influence: Election Funding in Ontario’s Greenbelt, wrote The Daily Commercial News Oct. 20. The report looks at the 2006 election campaign contributions of 209 elected mayors and councillors from 24 municipalities across the Regions of Halton, Peel, York and Durham. Key findings are:

The report was written in conjunction with Professor Robert MacDermid of York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and concludes that there is an apparent relationship between the rapid and low-density development and the vast amount of funding provided for election campaigns by the development industry in these areas.

“Developers wouldn’t contribute funding to election campaigns if there wasn’t an expectation of results,” observed MacDermid, who has studied election financing for 30 municipalities throughout Ontario. “The contributions are not made simply to support a democratic process, or developers would fund all campaigns in any given election. The funding is concentrated on a selection of candidates, and if you look at the winning candidates, they tend to have the bulk of development industry funding.”

Osgoode grad runs for regional council seat in Markham

I am a lawyer and have been practising for over 15 years, wrote lawyer and York grad Nirmala Persaud-Armstrong (LLM ’10) in an election story about her candidacy for a seat on the York Region council for Markham in South Asian Focus Oct. 21. I have recently completed my masters of laws degree at Osgoode Hall Law School. I have been advocating for my clients for over 15 years in court and solving community issues by being part of over 50 organizations.

Protecting the air we breathe, our drinking water and our green spaces is critical. I will support policies and developments that are sustainable for Markham’s long term plan, involving collaboration between scientists and government, Persaud-Armstrong wrote.

Why currencies aren’t the issue

As G20 finance ministers prepare for meetings in Seoul starting Friday, economists have been assessing the odds of a global currency war, wrote BC’s Oct. 20.

But Perry Sadorsky, an economics professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, said the rhetoric about currency wars is a distraction from the real threat. “Competitive devaluations of national currencies are a reaction to a more pressing problem,” Sadorsky told CBC News. And that is how to get the global trade in goods, services, savings and investment back in balance.

Sadorsky said, “currency wars” is probably not the best term to use, “because it sounds like there’s something inherently evil going on in the currency markets, and that’s not at all the case…. What we’re seeing in the currency action that some countries are pursuing …is more or less a reaction to a bigger problem” – a trade and investment relationship that is out of balance.

China can’t, at least yet, turn to its domestic market to buy its massive output of goods. “China needs to develop a larger middle class…but they’re a long way from doing that,” Sadorsky said.

“I think the G20 is going to get completely distracted by [talk of currency wars], which is probably not a good thing, because they need to talk about restructuring the global economy…. The emerging economies are growing very quickly and the developed economies are, for the most part, not growing very quickly at all, and we really need to talk more about that.”

Toronto subway station LEEDS the way north

York University will be one of the stops along the Toronto Transit Commission’s subway extension, wrote Construction Canada Online Oct. 20. Designed by James McGrath from Foster & Partners, the station will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-compliant.

The Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension Project has begun construction with service expected to start running at the end of 2015.

At the York Subway Station open house two weeks ago, Construction Canada Online got to see the construction plans and final interior and exterior station design. The University station will meet the Toronto Green Standard (TGS) – a set of performance measures with supporting guidelines related to sustainable site and building design for new development – and will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-compliant.

Tax-smart investors time withdrawals with care

Most Canadians who save and invest for the future are smart about taxes, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 21 in a story about a new study by Amin Mawani of the Schulich School of Business at York University and Suzanne Paquette of the Faculty of Administrative Studies at Montreal’s Laval University.

What surprised the researchers was that those who stood to lose the most money by making pre-retirement RRSP withdrawals were also the ones most likely to make a withdrawal. “This may suggest the (RRSP) plan holders are either unaware of their effective marginal tax rate or are (so short of cash they are) willing to withdraw money at a very high cost,” write Mawani and Paquette. “Regardless, holding precautionary savings in RRSPs may not be an optimal strategy for such taxpayers. This result has not been documented in prior literature.”

Mawani and Paquette also found that users of the Home Buyers’ Plan are not as successful as non-users in using RRSP contributions and withdrawals to reduce the variability of their taxable incomes.

Their ground-breaking study has yet to be published, but Mawani discussed some of the findings at a recent national conference of the Retirement Planners Association of Canada.

Book author talks about child self-regulation

Stuart Shanker, distinguished research professor of psychology and philosophy in York’s Faculty of Health and director of the Milton & Ethel Harris Research Initiative, is in Kamloops Friday night to launch a book and give a free public presentation about children and attachment, reported Kamloops, BC’s The Daily News Oct. 21.

Shanker has written a book called Look at me…I’m learning every day: tips for parents.

On Friday at TRU’s Clocktower Alumni Theatre, from 7 to 8:30pm, Shanker will explain what self-regulation is and why it’s so important for learning. Scientists now believe that the better a child can self-regulate, the better he or she can handle increasingly complex skills and concepts. What self-regulation is, how it is developed and what can be done to enhance it in children will be discussed. The presentation is free of charge.

Violinist offers world premiere of his work

“The best stuff comes when you feel it!” says James Mark (BFA Spec. Hons. ’02), Nanaimo violinist and composer, wrote BC’s The Daily News Oct. 21. And Mark knows his stuff. He has opened for Ashley MacIsaac, played with Spirit of the West and recorded with the Irish Rovers.

At Toronto’s York University and the California Institute of the Arts he was in high demand for his compositions for theatre, film and television, as well as for his performance, and since his return to Nanaimo in 2005 he continues to write music and play.

“I have a world premiere coming up with the Vancouver Island Symphony,” he says enthusiastically of his latest work Weit ist der Weg zurück (The Long Road Back). The music, in three melodies, took about a year to write. “During the school year, I juggled teaching (Nanaimo Conservatory and Vancouver Island University) and composing. I moved to a new house last June so I spent this summer doing renos while composing. I put in a couple of hours of writing each morning. Some days I woke up full of inspiration and created, other days I did the typesetting.”

The result? Its first performance by an orchestra as Pierre Simard conducts the Vancouver Island Symphony for “Remembrance” on Saturday night at 7:30pm at the Port Theatre.

Breast cancer is not just an older woman’s disease

York grad Janelle Roberts’ boyfriend of eight years sank down on one knee and reached for her hand. Janelle (BA Hons.’01) had expected an enticing proposal might one day slip from her beloved’s lips, wrote Oct. 20.

What she hadn’t expected was for Karim Blair to pick that precise moment to propose. Janelle wasn’t exactly at the top of her game. Her hair had fallen out, she was missing a few fingernails and exhausted from finishing up chemotherapy [after treatment for breast cancer].

Janelle’s story of love and courage is one of the intimate portraits that will be presented Saturday evening, Oct. 23, when the documentary "I Don’t Have Time For This!" premieres on the W Network.

Janelle …has since landed her dream job as a producer of the HGTV television show "Save Us From Our House" [and] is looking forward to putting breast cancer behind her in favour of a long and fulfilling professional and personal life. “The morning after I got engaged, it was the first time I woke up in months and didn’t think, ‘Oh I have cancer.’ My first thought that morning was, ‘I’m getting married,’ so it’s kind of a fresh start for me.”

Condo names: Anywhere but here

“It’s time to become self-confident, a full-grown city that doesn’t need to refer to other places,” said Ute Lehrer, a professor of urban planning in York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, in a story about condos named for places in other cities posted on the Toronto Star’s real estate blog Oct. 21. Originally from Zurich, she remembers being baffled by a billboard looming over a windy, cold empty lot announcing “Malibu at Harbourfront” back in 2003.

York region is not ready for Euro-style sex trade: police chief

As lawyers and lawmakers figure out the next move with Canada’s prostitution laws, York police sent a strong message with a late-night raid last week, wrote Oct. 21.

York is not prepared for a European-style sex trade, Chief Armand LaBarge said. “This is a family community.”

Meanwhile, a report emerged last week that the legal team…challenging Canadian prostitution laws had offered to extend into the winter the period of time before the ruling takes effect. The offer would be withdrawn if an appeal date cannot be set for January or February, according to Professor Alan Young of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, the driving force behind the legal challenge.

The Crown would then have to apply for another stay of the decision before Nov. 28, he said.

Grants give York arts students boost

York Region Arts Council grants are helping raise the profile of arts and culture in York Region, wrote Oct. 20 in a story about a grants program that included mention of several York University recipients of an Individual Artist Education Grant.

The York students who received grants were:

Allen Matrosov of Richmond Hill, bachelor of fine arts, $2,500; Christopher Dallo of Vaughan, vocal performance in classical music, $2,500; Karen Cyrus of Richmond Hill, Phd student ethnomusicology, $2,500 and Leslie Bertin of Newmarket, graduate student in York’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program, $2,500.

Drug firm promotions linked to higher costs: York University study

Physician exposure to drug company promotions can cause their patients physical and financial suffering and provides no benefits to their prescribing practices, a York University study shows, wrote The Canadian Press Oct. 20.

And yet multibillion-dollar efforts by pharmaceutical giants to get doctors to prescribe their products add 10 to 20 per cent to Canada’s annual drug costs, the study suggests.

“There isn’t any reason why they should read the ads in the medical journals or see the sales representatives who come to their offices,’’ says Lexchin, of York’s School of Health Policy and Management.

  • Pharmaceutical promotion may cause doctors to prescribe more expensively, less appropriately and more often, according to a new study co-authored by Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor in the School of Health Policy & Management, in York’s Faculty of Health, wrote London, England’s, Oct. 21. The story also appeared in Rockaway, NJ’s and member publications of the Asian News International news service including, the Deccan Herald and
  • Lexchin spoke about his new study on doctors and pharmaceutical companies’ advertising, on CBC Radio Oct. 20.

Football star was a ‘remarkable individual’

The man known to Ottawans as Jake Dunlap (BARR ’51) was remembered Wednesday as “truly unique,” a football star, lawyer and diplomat who once held Ottawa in the palm of his hand, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Oct. 21.

John G. Dunlap, a graduate of Osgoode Hall Law School and a star in the Canadian Football League before building a notable legal career and many successful business endeavours, died Sunday at age 85 after a long illness.

On air

  • James Gillies, professor emeritus in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about BHP’s hostile bid for the Potash Corporation, on CBC TV’s "The Lang and O’Leary Exchange", Oct. 20.
  • James Morton, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the Col. Russell Williams case on Calgary’s AM770 Radio Oct. 20. Morton also spoke about the bail conditions set for G20 protesters, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” Oct. 20.