Election blackout laws still serve a purpose, says York prof

Vancouver blogger Paul C. Bryan went to great pains back in 2000 to openly flout a 70-year-old election law by publishing poll results on election night, but he’ll be silent this time around, wrote CBC News online April 26. Bryan spent tens of thousands of dollars and seven years unsuccessfully fighting Section 329 of the Canada Elections Act, which bans anyone from transmitting local poll results to other electoral districts on election night until polls close in that area.

Elections Canada recently warned social media users that results posted in the May 2 vote to Twitter or on Facebook walls will violate the 1938 law. The maximum punishment is $25,000 or up to five years in prison.

The one and only expert witness who testified in the R. v. Bryan court case says despite the advent of social media, the arguments made in court 10 years ago still stand today.

Robert MacDermid, a political scientist at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] who specializes in election issues, says the 1938 law was first created because Members of Parliament were worried that fraudulent results could get out via transmissions from the East published in Vancouver broadsheets.

"The possibility of fraudulent or misleading results is still there," says MacDermid. "You can still be misled.… I would take every tweet with a grain of salt…especially in the political world."

Democratic voting also relies on citizens receiving the information at the same time, he says. It would be unfair, for example, if West Coast voters were able to vote strategically while those on the East Coast were not.

MacDermid dismisses a solution proposed by some to delay the release of voting results, saying it would add to the cost of the election due to polling stations open later, the necessity of hiring polling clerks for longer hours and extra costs associated with protecting the results from getting leaked.

In fact, MacDermid says there’s little reason to change the law since it wouldn’t make much difference.

Staggered polling hours for Canada’s time zones mean there’s little time for strategic voting to occur and the results posted would primarily be from the East Coast. Results from Central Canada, where the majority of ridings are located, would not be released until minutes before polls closed in B.C.

"So do you think there’s going to be a big queue of voters waiting with their BlackBerrys at the poll, waiting to be directed how to vote according to the results? I mean, it’s laughable. Come on," says MacDermid.

  • Bob Drummond, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about election polling and the latest strong results for the NDP, on Calgary’s AM770 radio April 26.

Ignatieff will be hard to beat in his own riding

As Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Party of Canada, Michael Ignatieff spends most of his time at Parliament Hill, wrote MyTownCrier.ca April 26. And while most federal candidates are busily knocking on doors throughout their riding, Ignatieff is riding back and forth across the country.

Campaigning as a party leader is quite different from campaigning as a local candidate. It has its own advantages and drawbacks, according to Bob Drummond, political science professor at York University.

“They’re getting so much national coverage that probably there’s nobody in their riding who doesn’t know who they are,” Drummond said in an interview. “But you don’t get the same attention to local issues as you might from a local candidate.”

 “I think realistically, most people who are running against a national party leader probably don’t expect to win,” Drummond said.

Drummond said adversaries will often play up the local angle in order to gain ground when facing a party leader. “One of the arguments one tries to use is that the leader, because he’s going to be focused on the national stage, is not going to be as attentive to local issues as a local member might be,” he said. “It’s not an argument that carries a lot of weight, I don’t think, but it’s what one tries to use.”

The local angle may carry some weight on the campaign trail. Unlike Stephen Harper, who is running in Calgary where he raises a family, or Jack Layton, a former Toronto city councillor with deep roots in his Toronto-Danforth riding, Ignatieff has few direct ties to the Etobicoke–Lakeshore area. “I’m not sure that he has any,” Drummond said. “I think it may have been that it was a relatively safe Liberal seat that was vacant or was made vacant when he first came back to Canada.”

Plant shutdown sends small production firms scrambling

Last month’s earthquake and tsunami destroyed the only factory in the world that makes Sony HDCAM-SR tapes, throwing the industry into panic mode, wrote The Globe and Mail April 27.

Experts say the current shortage was a predictable result of an entire industry relying on a sole supplier for a key component of their business.

"It reflects a mistake both on Sony’s part and its customers," said Fred Lazar, an economics professor at the Schulich School of Business at York University.

The odd couple of Canadian dance

You could certainly call them the odd couple of Canadian dance, wrote the Toronto Star April 27, 2011. Yvonne Ng [BFA Spec. Hons. ’87], an elfin 4 foot 10 inches, is, as she puts it, “smaller than most dancers I’ve ever known.” Robert Glumbek, brooding and muscular, towers above her. She has a long mane of dark hair. He sports a shaved head.

Their partnership began almost by chance. Ng and Glumbek, both well established local independent dancer/choreographers, were performing together in a group piece 12 years ago. They were on a bench together during a rehearsal break when Ng “just blurted it out, on a whim.” As she recalls: “I turned to Robert and asked, ‘should we work on something together?’ and was actually taken aback when he replied, ‘Sure, let’s try it out and see what happens’.”

They teamed up for their first joint show in 2001 and again three years later. If they had not been so busy on separate independent projects they would willingly dance together more.

Ng, who’d arrived earlier from Singapore, ostensibly – so her parents thought – to study catering and hotel management, ended up following her dream and registered in York’s Program in Dance [Faculty of Fine Arts].

Morah Chana says learning has to be fun

Carol Green’s long denim skirt is not surprising, given the practicality of the fabric and the typically modest attire of teachers at Netivot HaTorah Day School, an Orthodox institution, wrote the Canadian Jewish News in its April 28 issue.

A native of Toronto who grew up in a traditional Conservative family, Green attended Associated Hebrew Schools and the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto before completing her BA in psychology at the University of Toronto. Later, she attended the Midrasha l’Morim, where she received a teaching diploma in 1987, and subsequently earned her special education and principal’s credentials from York University [Faculty of Education] through its Jewish teacher education program.

On the first day of school, she likes to wear a t-shirt that reads, “Shalom, Kitah Aleph,” in Hebrew letters. “That’s the first thing they learn how to read,” said Green, a mother of two who visits Israel about once a year. “Learning has got to be fun,” she said.

York to create scholarship in memory of Qian Liu

 A day before mourners will gather to remember student Qian Liu, York University on Tuesday announced it will create a scholarship and plant a tree in her name, wrote the National Post April 26.

The $5,000 Qian Liu Scholarship will go to the highest academic achiever at the school’s English Language Institute, where Liu, 23, studied before she was found dead this month.

The tree, to be planted later this week in the Founders College courtyard, will have a plaque at its base “honouring her memory,” according to an online newsletter for York students.

Memory lane: Woody Harrelson carries a giant torch for Toronto.

Woody Harrelson counts his visit to York to receive an honorary degree in 2009 as one of the reasons he loves Toronto, wrote Toronto Life April 27. “York University gave me an honorary doctorate for my environmental work. I was nominated by the professors. Really, what can you say? It’s such a great honour. I had to give a speech. I think I spoke too long. I wish I could go back and do it again. Public speaking makes me really nervous.”

Mystery surrounds NDP candidate in Toronto, says columnist

If the Jack Layton surge really does lead to a New Democrat sweep Monday, Canadians could end up electing a host of mystery MPs most have never heard of. One of the most mysterious — if she wins — will be Don Valley West NDP candidate Nicole Yovanoff [BA Hons. ’01], wrote the Toronto Star April 27.

Yovanoff’s minimalist campaign website biography says she has an honours degree in political science from York University. It also describes her as a “dedicated community activist and volunteer” currently working with a group trying to preserve the headwaters of the Oak Ridges moraine.