Create a single national securities regulator, urges Monahan

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s plan to create a national securities regulator seems to have encountered fresh provincial resistance, with Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach now floating the idea of a western regional regulator. But in my view, this continuing provincial opposition is misguided in both policy and legal terms, and the finance minister should press ahead with the needed reforms, commented Patrick Monahan, vice-president academic & provost of York University and former dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, in The Globe and Mail and on Dec. 1.

The policy case for a single national regulator is surely overwhelming. When public companies raise capital by issuing new shares or bonds, they nearly always do so in several provinces, and of course they would pay no attention at all to provincial boundaries if they did not have to. Most of those securities will be purchased by large institutional investors (pension funds and mutual funds, for example) who like to diversify their holdings by owning investments in a variety of industries, from a variety of regions and indeed from a variety of countries.

Why would any country choose to regulate these diverse participants in the securities market on anything less than a national basis? asks Monahan. That question becomes more difficult to answer when one observes that in the International Organization of Securities Commissions, which includes regulators from 107 countries, only Canada is represented by subnational regulators (Ontario and Quebec), neither of which has the mandate or the power to agree to anything on behalf of Canada. This is embarrassing, obviously, but it is more serious than that, since effective regulation and enforcement often calls for international harmony and cooperation.

The federal government has referred the constitutional issue to the Supreme Court of Canada, which will hold a hearing in April. In the meantime, the same issue is to be argued in the courts of Quebec and Alberta in January. These sideshows, demanded by the two provinces, have little point in light of the reference to the Supreme Court, which alone can decide the issue conclusively, writes Monahan. So we will have to wait until the Supreme Court speaks. If, as I expect, the court upholds the constitutionality of the federal initiative, that will settle the legal question. Let us hope that it changes the politics as well, and encourages the provinces to opt in to a new national system that seems certain to better achieve the important goals of securities regulation.

Read university rankings, but don’t rely on them, says Axelrod

Maclean’s magazine’s annual rankings of Canadian universities has hit the stands, providing readers with simplified, easy-to-digest ratings of some four dozen institutions (only about half of the total number of degree-granting institutions in Canada), wrote Paul Axelrod, professor in York’s Faculty of Education and its former dean, in the Dec. 6 issue of University Affairs.

As Maclean’s best-selling issue, the rankings edition obviously matters in the magazine marketplace. Complaints by academics about the meaning and value of the survey will be dismissed (as usual) by Maclean’s, but the skeptics should still have their say, suggested Axelrod, who then listed six reasons (unranked) for questioning the usefulness of this ritual grading exercise. 

However superficial and defective they are, there clearly is no end to the kinds of ranking exercises that now pervade all levels of education, he concluded. Read them, enjoy them (or denounce them), but don’t rely on them in the important exercise of planning one’s educational future.

Downtown need not feel left out: experts

As Rob Ford this week confirmed his new and largely suburban team, the city’s downtown is finding itself increasingly relegated to the sidelines – especially with just one Ontario cabinet minister representing Toronto’s core, reported the National Post Dec. 1.

Robert Drummond, a political scientist in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, said the pivotal issue is what will happen on the policy front. He cautioned against ignoring issues such as public housing and public transit, which hold more resonance downtown.

Aboriginal artist mixes comic and tragic

Fubar humour meets First Nations history in the wry artworks of Calgary’s Terrance Houle. His unique approach is earning the Blackfoot/Ojibwa artist increasing notice, with shows now on at New York’s National Museum of the American Indian and Toronto’s Art Gallery of York University. In a Q & A in the National Post Dec. 1, he says: “It seems a lot easier to communicate with people through art. I try to use humour in my work, but at the same time there’s a lot of tragedy within it. That’s something I learned from my folks: There’s all this adversity within First Nations people, but they’re usually the first ones to laugh about it. And they kind of subvert it that way. Maybe it’s a survival mechanism."

Israeli-born soccer forward has the pride of a Lion

Alon Badat’s Israeli roots are made abundantly clear on the soccer pitch. As a freshman forward on the newly crowned Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) champion York University Lions, Badat has showcased the aggressive style and hard-nosed work ethic he developed while playing professionally for Maccabi Netanya, reported The Canadian Jewish News Dec. 2.

Spending his formative years exposed to the intense, rigid demands of a soccer hotbed like Israel certainly didn’t hurt the development of the 20-year-old athlete. “In Israel, you are pretty much living the game,” says Badat. “You are practising basically every day, and there’s a constant need to focus and work hard.” 

That strong work ethic has gotten Badat to where he is today: runner-up as CIS rookie of the year and a significant contributor to the York Lions, a team that recently earned its second national title in the past three years. 

MBA grad makes doc about dumb investment behaviour

Why do we buy the same investments our friends buy? Why do we sell when stock markets drop? Why do we avoid saving for retirement? asked the Toronto Star Dec. 1.

"We’re genetically designed to fail at stock markets," says Patrick Doyle (MBA ’03), who’s just finished a documentary on how we behave with money. "You can’t ignore 165,000 years of human evolution. We’ve had markets for only 400 years, give or take."

Doyle, 44, sold his software company and got an MBA at York University’s Schulich School of Business in 2001. He took a job as an investment adviser at BMO Nesbitt Burns, switching to Wellington West Capital in 2007.

"I found that a lot of the stuff taught about rational markets didn’t hold. That’s why I decided to do the film," he says.

Working with partner Chris Ballanger, who’s also with Wellington West, Doyle has spent the better part of three years and $100,000 on Taking Stock (

His film focuses on several powerful evolutionary forces that continue to shape our current financial lives. And he hunted down famous names, such as Dan Ariely of Duke University, author of Predictably Irrational, and Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago, author of Nudge.