York grads win seats on Toronto city council

At press time, with one poll still not reporting, Ward 9 (York Centre) incumbent Maria Augimeri (BA ’76) was leading over challenger Gus Cusimano by a scant 23 votes, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 26 in a story about Toronto’s municipal election that included mention of other York grads who were declared elected.

James Pasternak (BA Spec. Hons. ’82) narrowly won what turned out to be an extremely tight four-way race for the Ward 10 (York Centre) seat left empty by retiring Mike Feldman.

Pasternak, who has lived in York for 20 years, was elected a school trustee in 2006. He has degrees from York University, Western and the London School of Economics and is an advocate for education.

An avid outdoorsman, Pasternak has called for more tree planting, cleaning up parks and lowering the city’s carbon footprint.

He’s been an artist, musician, and trustee. Gary Crawford (BFA Spec. Hons. ’93) fills the Ward 36 (Scarborough Southwest) seat left open by retiring Brian Ashton. Crawford was vice-chair of the Toronto District School Board, led negotiations for employee contracts and developed a plan for the TDSB’s art collection. He pledged to eliminate new taxes, reduce the size of council and freeze salaries.

Li Preti accepts defeat in Ward 8

After a hard-fought campaign, incumbent councillor Anthony Perruzza (BA ’96) has managed to hang on to his seat against bitter rival Peter Li Preti, wrote InsideToronto.com Oct. 26. The race came down to the wire, not surprisingly given the fact the two adversaries have battled each other in every election over the last decade.

The big issues in the campaign were the future of Humber River Regional Hospital’s Finch site, the extension of the subway through York University north to Vaughan and attracting prosperity to the ward’s high-priority neighbourhoods.

Smitherman’s campaign foundered on vagueness, say York profs

The possibility of Rob Ford’s victory had the effect of an electric shock, wrote Quebec’s Le Devoir Oct. 23 in a story about the final days of Toronto’s municipal election…. A coalition of citizens and  social, environmental, artistic and trade-union groups was also formed at the end of September to widen and raise the debate. OneToronto.ca did not endorse any of the three remaining candidates, but made its opposition to Ford clear, explained Roger Keil, director of City Institute at York University and a member of OneToronto.ca.

Everyone admits Ford has the pulse of Toronto. “He knew very early how to measure public opinion and see where he could have success”, notes Keil. Ford, however, did not know how to reach the next stage – the development of a solid and coherent program to correct the problems which he himself had raised.

George Smitherman hesitated between preserving the conservative image that he wanted to project to allure the Ford supporters and that of a progressive able to attract those of the other candidates. He fed voter doubt…with positions that were considered too vague. It did not make for a very good campaign, judges Roger Keil. “And he did not do anything to attract support,” adds his colleague Robert Drummond, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Auditor general poised to release report on costly helicopter contracts

As defence analyst Martin Shadwick once said, successive Canadian governments have “battled, bungled or procrastinated their way through the treacherous shoals of defence procurement” since Confederation, wrote Postmedia News Oct. 25. Now, it’s the Harper government’s turn.

Auditor General Sheila Fraser puts the multi-billion-dollar purchase of two sets of helicopters – 28 CH-148 Cyclones and 15 CH-147F Chinooks – under the microscope in her annual report scheduled for release Tuesday.

Whatever Fraser finds, however, may not be entirely blamed on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s nearly five-year-old minority Conservative government; the contract for the Cyclones was signed by Harper’s Liberal predecessor Paul Martin.

“That will give the government a little bit of a defence mechanism, a little protection,” said Shadwick, a professor and senior research fellow at York University’s Centre for International and Security Studies.

In fact, what Shadwick has referred to as “the Cyclone chronicles” will be the latest chapter in what must be Canada’s longest-running defence procurement saga.

It dates back to the 1980s, when the then Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney set out to replace the Sea Kings, the Elvis-era helicopters still in use today by the Canadian navy for anti-submarine work, search-and-rescue, fisheries and pollution patrols, counter-narcotics, piracy and disaster relief.

The results of Fraser’s audit may appear timely as government and opposition MPs have been tangling over the largest defence-procurement plan in Canadian history: $9 billion for 65 F-35 fighter planes and another $7 billion for maintenance.

But Shadwick said the comparisons between procurement of fighter jets and helicopters are limited, because the technical requirements are so different and the F-35 procurement process is unique in that Canada was involved since the concept stage.

Seeking asylum

You note with approval that the government’s proposed legislation to combat human smuggling “aims to deter asylum seekers from paying human smugglers by introducing punitive measures, should they arrive in this manner” (Treating A Crime Like A Crime – editorial, Oct. 25), wrote Sean Rehaag, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in a letter to The Globe and Mail Oct. 26.

You don’t mention, however, that the 1951 Refugee Convention prohibits Canada from imposing penalties on asylum seekers who come here unlawfully. Similarly, you fail to mention that the convention prohibits discrimination as between asylum seekers. The proposed legislation is in clear violation of these provisions.

Is the editorial board seriously suggesting that an appropriate response to the arrival of a few hundred asylum seekers by sea over a 10-year period – when thousands of asylum seekers arrive by other means in Canada every year – is for the government to breach its obligations under international law?

Helping kids to help other kids

In 1995, at the age of 12, Thornhill, Ont., native Craig Kielburger (EMBA ’09) set out to make the world a better place for children, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 26. Outraged by the murder of a 12-year-old Pakistani labourer named Iqbal Masih, he and a group of schoolmates searched for an activist organization that would welcome them – and found nothing.

“A lot of adults used to say, ‘Wait until you’re older, until you get a good job, until you become an adult – then you can change things,’“ Kielburger recalls during an October visit to Vancouver. “We used to hear that all the time.”

So Kielburger and his older brother Marc founded the charity Free the Children, which is now active in 45 countries. The boyish Kielburgers are in Vancouver for We Day, an annual Free the Children gathering that also takes place in Montreal and Toronto. During the Oct. 15 event at Rogers Arena, some 18,000 local kids enjoy speeches by activists Al Gore and Jesse Jackson, and performances by rockers Barenaked Ladies and Hedley.

“Changing the world is possible, but it’s also cool now for young people,” says Kielburger, 27. “Those two things are huge shifts.”

While building Free the Children, the Kielburgers pursued educations that have helped them further the organization’s goals. Craig has an executive MBA from York University’s Schulich School of Business, while Harvard graduate Marc earned his law degree on a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, where he specialized in human rights law. The Kielburgers have also co-written three books, including the 2006 New York Times bestseller Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World.

The 21st-century MBA

It’s not only the structure of MBA programs that has changed, but also the content, which partly reflects changing views in society and growing enrolment of students from outside the traditional fields of business, finance and engineering, wrote the Financial Post Oct. 26.

At York University’s Schulich School of Business, creativity has been a driving force in MBA programs since the very beginning. “For us, it’s not only been a case of trifocus – private sector, public sector and not-for-profit,” says Charmaine Courtis, executive director of student services and international relations, “but also about identifying emerging sectors where the need for good and proactive management is critical.”

Health care is one area Schulich identifies as a sector where good management is critical, especially as the Canadian demographics change and economic pressures grow.

Yet change is not just driven by demographics and economics alone. Technology and environmental concerns have also had an impact on business education. Schulich, for example, has added such electives as social media marketing and carbon finance, subjects that crossover between business and society and that offer MBA graduates skills that can be applied in both private and public sectors. In essence, today’s MBA gives graduates additional options just as it gives employers.

Should buyers beware?

I might not make sense for some people to buy a home if it means there’s no money left for saving elsewhere, wrote Macleans.ca Oct. 25 in a story about buying a home as an investment. That’s the concern held by Moshe Milevsky, professor of finance at the Schulich School of Business at York University. “Real estate can be a good investment, but it’s very undiversified,” he says. “If I could buy property so that my kitchen is in Toronto, my bedroom in Vancouver and my bathroom in California, I’d be fine, but instead I have to buy it in one place. It’s like putting your entire portfolio into one stock.”

Is a variable-rate mortgage always the best way to go?

An oft-cited 2001 study by Moshe Milevsky, finance professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, reveals that from 1950 to 2000, a variable-rate mortgage would have beaten out a fixed-rate mortgage almost 90 per cent of the time, wrote The Globe and Mail Oct. 26.

Milevsky’s research concludes that borrowers pay a “premium for predictability”. Lenders tack on higher interest in exchange for locking in at a set rate. It’s like paying for insurance to protect you if interest rates go up. Even if you could time the short end of the yield curve, which drives variable rates, it would be tough to use this to your advantage, Milevsky’s work suggests.

“The recent numbers haven’t changed any of the main 2001 study conclusions around the benefits of floating over fixed, although borrowers should be aware that regardless of the mortgage they select, they are now paying abnormally low interest rates. So, if they are amortizing their payments over 15 to 25 years, they should be made aware of the fact that at some point they will be paying more – and they better make certain they can afford it.”

Source of Golden Rule reminder affects attitudes about gay, lesbian people

“We wanted to understand whether subtly introducing the idea of the Golden Rule would influence how Buddhists and Christians said they felt toward gay people,” said Nicole M. Lindner, a doctoral candidate in psychology in the University of Virginia’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, wrote Staunton, VA’s News Leader Oct. 26 in a story about a new psychological study published in the September issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

She and lead author Oth Vilaythong Tran, who, at the time of the study was an undergraduate psychology student at U.Va.’s College of Arts & Sciences (and is now a graduate student in psychology at York University), were attempting to see if there is any difference in attitudes, or biases toward homosexuals, when study participants were prompted to think momentarily about the idea of compassion as presented from two different religious traditions.

They found that among self-declared Christian participants, when the message of the Golden Rule was attributed to the Buddha, a leader from another religion, the participants reacted more negatively toward gays and lesbians, and tended to believe that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice.

Osgoode grad changes law firms operating model

The former managing partner of Pinkofskys in Toronto has reinvented the firm with a new name and approach that emphasize the importance of privately retained clients, wrote the Law Times Oct. 25 in a story about Rusonik, O’Connor, Ross, Gorham & Angelini LLP.

According to Osgoode grad Reid Rusonik (LLB ’87), problems with legal aid have made the criminal defence firm’s old model of business “unsustainable”…. He says the state of legal aid has forced lawyers to market themselves to clients who can afford to retain the firm privately. In the past, Rusonik says Pinkofskys gave little thought to the type of client who came through the door, which resulted in legal aid accounting for about 75 per cent of cases.

Rusonik…wrestled with the changing reality for years as legal aid budgets dwindled. “There hasn’t been a meaningful increase for services rendered for about 20 years,” he says. “It’s just not viable.” But he didn’t want to join the growing ranks of criminal lawyers who give up on legal aid altogether.

On air

  • Elsabeth Jensen, professor in York’s School of Nursing in the Faculty of Health, spoke about a meeting of the Aboriginal Nurses Association, on APTN-TV Oct. 25.