Filmmaker complains after Tories use image in campaign ad

A Toronto filmmaker is angry after a Tory campaign ad targeting South Asian voters co-opted a copyrighted image from one of his documentaries, and then took a week to respond to his demands for its removal, wrote the Toronto Star April 1.

But Ali Kazimi is even more baffled as to why the Conservative party chose his image in the first place, given that it depicts one of the lowest moments in Canada’s relationship with South Asian immigrants.

Kazimi, a film professor at York University [Faculty of Fine Arts] and a Gemini-winning filmmaker, is the creator of Continuous Journey, a film about the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which a ship carrying 376 immigrants from India was detained in the Vancouver harbour and threatened by a battleship before being turned back to Asia.

The film’s promotional image is a montage Kazimi created of an Indian man and his son superimposed in front of the ship full of passengers.

So Kazimi was surprised when he stumbled on a campaign ad for Alberta MP Tim Uppal, which opens with Kazimi’s montage and then cuts to Uppal sitting in a chair beside a projector, as if Uppal is watching it on a home theatre screen. The ad then cuts to Stephen Harper in a head covering in front of a Sikh temple.

A voice-over in Punjabi states: “For more than a hundred years, our (people) also worked very hard to make Canada strong. It was not always easy for our community.” The voice-over then extols Harper’s promotion of business and immigration ties with India.

Kazimi is upset his work was used without his consent – something he says he never would have given. “I will not participate in anything that either romanticizes, distorts or glosses over the horrific realities of that period,” he said.

Kazimi said he e-mailed Uppal with his complaints more than a week ago, but the commercial wasn’t removed from the Conservative party’s website and YouTube channel until Friday – soon after Kazimi was interviewed on CBC Radio about the flap.

Kazimi said he wants the Tories to acknowledge they made a mistake and apologize.

A staffer for Uppal said the candidate was not available for comment because he was at a campaign event, and directed the Star to the party’s spokespeople.

Party spokesman Chris Day, when asked why the party chose this image and whether they would apologize to Kazimi, said, “we are not running that particular ad right now. We do not discuss campaign strategy in the media.”

Nanos poll last week shows fear of coalition not taking hold in voters’ minds

Despite the apparent intention to continue the coalition scare, regular overnight tracking by Nik Nanos for CTV and The Globe and Mail throughout last week led observers and election participants to tentatively conclude that it wasn’t taking hold in voters’ minds, wrote The Hill Times online April 4, in a story about the federal election campaign.

By Friday, the Nanos poll, which has quickly assumed the position as leading indicator for the 2011 campaign, found the Liberal Party down slightly to 31.7 per cent support from decided voters. The Conservatives held steady at 39.4 per cent in the same poll, which has a margin of error of 3.2 per cent.

York University political scientist Robert Drummond said the results showed that at least part of what the Liberals had hoped at the outset – that voters would warm to Ignatieff, repackaged from the aloof, intellectual, sometimes stern image he had only a year ago, once someone turned on the election campaign spotlight.

"I think it’s inevitable in a campaign, you get an opportunity now for people to see more of him, and it may be an opportunity also to see more of the others, and I think it’s likely he’s going to pick up some support over the course of the campaign," Prof. Drummond said.

"Whether it will be enough to overtake the Conservatives or not, I don’t know. In fact it appears the Conservatives are not losing ground so much as people seem to be, at least in some constituencies, leaving the NDP in the expectation that the only way of actually defeating the Conservatives is to vote for the Liberal candidate," Drummond added.

Drummond pointed out if that is accurate – Nanos cautioned the margin of error for the Ontario segment of his survey is nearly six per cent – it means the chances may be slimmer than Harper hopes of the Conservatives picking up seats in the area they desperately need: the City of Toronto, now known only as 416 in campaign and pollster jargon.

"I don’t think in the 905 region, the region outside the City of Toronto proper, there’s all that much support for the NDP," said Drummond. "What there is, is likely to remain fairly solid, because those are probably diehard voters, they’re not likely to be swayed. What one looks for in the 905 is whether people are shifting between the Liberals and the Conservatives, because that has been the pattern in most of those ridings."

How to click with man on the street

Is having an ordinary-guy, awshucks image really that important when it comes to an election race? wrote the Toronto Sun April 3.

A York University political science prof says it’s hit or miss. "Populism is an overused term," said Robert Drummond. "It means having ordinary people making decisions rather than experts – it’s appealing, but I think it’s often a type of smokescreen for a set of policies that’s not going to satisfy ordinary people, but elites," he said. "To those of us who are involved in academic life, it’s frightening. It implies that information and facts can be ignored if you have a ‘common sense’ approach to things."

In the case of Ignatieff, voters get the sense they don’t know him well, Drummond said. "But do they know Stephen Harper or Jack Layton?" he asked. "They come across as more ordinary folk. There are times when Harper does look stiff, but the sweater and the piano playing probably does help him."

Being an intellectual can be problematic in this election, simply because many people make an assumption that Ignatieff may be aloof and "probably doesn’t think of himself as ordinary folks."

"That may be unfair to him, that’s why…all these photo opportunities of him doing things he doesn’t do very often are supposed to give him a common touch, but it doesn’t work well if you look stiff and uncomfortable doing it," Drummond said.

Ignatieff is pulling out all the stops to project a more down-to-earth image, but time is against him. "He’s visiting a lot of places where people get to see him up close and personal, but I don’t think you can do a lot during a campaign to make that sort of dent," he said. "It’s not the type of campaign in the 19th century where people appeared in person a lot – a lot of it is televised or online pleas."

Time will tell on Genco defection: prof

The political landscape in Vaughan changed this week, but just how much it will impact the local federal election race remains to be seen, says Robert Drummond, a professor of political science at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], wrote April 4.

Former federal Liberal candidate Tony Genco made a stunning announcement Wednesday when he threw his support behind once-political rival, Conservative candidate Julian Fantino.

“It matters to some people, obviously,” Drummond said. “In some sense, Fantino has the advantage of incumbency and a recent election already, but to have the person who ran against him come out and support him, it really is a real crimp in the Liberal campaign,” he added.

While the local riding association has seen a shift with new executive members, Drummond doesn’t believe the growing pains are due to a power vacuum left by former longtime Liberal MP and now Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua.

“When a long-term MP steps aside, there’s usually someone in the riding who’s ready to step forward and run and, I guess, Genco was that. But now, not so much,” Drummond said. “His (Genco’s) departure indicates there’s some division within the local riding association anyway and they could be weakened for this election at least.”

Pro-family politicians: But what is a modern Canadian family?

Much like air freshener and minivans, political ideas in the federal election campaign are being packaged as something that would appeal to “families”, wrote the Toronto Star April 1.

The strategy makes sense, marketers say, since most voters and consumers value family, even if their own doesn’t measure up to the ideal.

But just what kind of family are the parties addressing, and does that family still exist?

Voters are increasingly disaffected and distrustful of big institutions and are turning inward to focus on family, friends and community, said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor with York University’s Schulich School of Business.

“That’s the social trend. We distrust things at arms’ length or think they’re irrelevant. The whole social movement is about reconnecting family, friends and community,” Middleton said.

A new Toronto art installation luxuriates in small-press literature

The Toronto outpost is funded through a combination of Toronto Arts Council and Ontario Arts Council grants and private donations, with staff, advisers and board members such as…Michael Maranda (an assistant curator with the Art Gallery of York University) providing both their expertise and time, gratis, wrote the National Post April 2, in a story about The Book Bakery, a bare-bones printing studio cum art installation.

Neither sellouts nor ‘wing-nut tree-huggers’

Ed Whittingham [MBA ’05], the [Pembina] institute’s new executive director, is no stereotypical tree-hugger, although he lives in Banff, where he can indulge his interests in skiing, canoeing, hunting and hiking, wrote The Globe and Mail April 4 in an intro to a Q & A interview. He holds an MBA and ran the consulting side of Pembina’s operations for the past several years.

Those are key skills that help him manage one of Canada’s biggest environmental organizations, with $5 million a year in revenue, 60 employees, seven offices in Canada and a branch in Washington, DC.

Don’t some people think you’re beholden to your consulting clients?

There are some who think that we’re a bunch of corporate sellouts, for sure. Frankly, that’s on the radical left. Then there’s the radical right that thinks we’re a bunch of wing-nut tree-huggers. As long as I’m getting sniped at equally by those two peripheries, then I know I’m in the right spot. The right spot is the pragmatic solutions-focused middle.

How did your MBA shift you toward consulting?

Prior to doing MBA studies I was working in bears-and-bunnies conservation – for parks and protected areas. I was coming at it from an advocacy perspective. I joke that before I did my MBA, I had more experience suing for-profit companies than I had working for them.

(But) I thought I had gotten as far as I could go by just being the bad cop, and I needed to broaden my horizons. I wanted to work with companies on solutions. (York University’s) Schulich business and sustainability program [diploma in business and the environment], within the international MBA program, gave me the right mix.

York grad who founded Toronto Truck Theatre runs for NDP in Orillia

York grad Richard Banigan [BA ’68] went in search of a job [after studying theatre at Stanford University], wrote the Orillia Packet & Times April 4, in a story about local candidates for the federal election.

The young Banigan realized he didn’t need a stage and large audience to fulfill his passion for theatre. Along with a group of friends, he began a theatre group out of the back of a truck…[that became], Toronto Truck Theatre and at one time had three theatres and employed hundreds of people.

The company ran for more than 35 years.

Banigan, now 69, works part-time as a publicist/graphic artist for his company Studio HI TECHniques, out of his home in Lafontaine Beach near Penetanguishene.

While studying English at York University he began designing costumes for the York University Players theatre group. "I was into making and dreaming up really wild costumes," Banigan said.

Through his work for the University’s theatre group, Banigan received a fellowship to study theatre at Stanford. "My (costume and set) designs have been shown all over the world."

Book for young adults

A graduate of York University, Tim Wynne-Jones [MFA ’79] is a fabulous storyteller, wrote the Waterloo Region Record April 1, in a review of his book of Rex Zero: The Great Pretender, wrote Waterloo Region’s The April 1. This book, first released in softcover in 2009, but now available in hardcover, is for young people up to and including age 12. It’s a terrific example of an author “showing, not telling” a story. Through fast-paced action, intrigue, character development and authentic dialogue, Wynne-Jones moves his stories along so quickly that the reader is flipping pages to race to the finish.

TCHC chooses its CFO as interim chief executive

Toronto Community Housing Corp. interim managing director Case Ootes has chosen the TCHC’s chief financial officer to serve as interim chief executive, wrote the Toronto Star April 1.

The TCHC announced the appointment of Len Koroneos [BBA ’77], which is effective April 4, in a statement on Thursday. The agency has functioned without a CEO since the firing of Keiko Nakamura two weeks ago in the wake of a scandal over spending and procurement improprieties.

Koroneos, a chartered accountant who graduated from York University’s Schulich School of Business in 1977, worked from 1985 to 2007 for the long-term care company Extendicare, where he held the positions of vice-president for taxation, vice-president for business development and treasurer. For the two years prior to joining the TCHC in September 2010, he worked as a self-employed consultant in the long-term care field.

Koroneos will hold his position until the new TCHC board chooses a permanent CEO “later this year,” the statement said.

Ford transit plan opponents converge on Toronto City Hall

Mayor Rob Ford’s plan to replace Transit City’s light rail network with subways in Scarborough – one funded almost entirely by private sector investment – drew protest from community leaders who said the plan leaves large parts of Toronto’s suburban communities without transit improvement, wrote April 1.

"It makes no sense that the mayor is willing to sacrifice fast, reliable transit in the west and in eastern Scarborough simply so he can bury the final eight kilometres of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT," said Robert Cerjanec, vice-president elect of the York Federation of Students.

Cerjanec was one of several community leaders who came to Toronto City Hall Friday morning along with the Toronto Environmental Alliance, to register displeasure with the new transit plan unveiled by Ford and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty the day before.

Trinity grad to play football at York

Ryan McInerney, a recent honours graduate of Courtice’s Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary, has signed his letter of intent to join the York University Lions football team, wrote April 1.

McInerney was primarily used at wide receiver during his time at Trinity, though he did also spend some time at quarterback.

He will pursue a bachelor of administrative Studies with a major in finance while at York.

On air

  • Gail Fraser, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about a synthetic mud spill by the drill rig Henry Goodridge off the coast of Newfoundland, on CBC Radio St. John’s April 1.