York prof’s research on developer donations looks at Mayor Ford

An influential Vaughan developer, who donated generously to Mayor Rob Ford’s pre- and post-election fundraising drives, controls a long-term lease on the Port Lands’ Hearn Generating Station, which has been proposed as a site for an NFL stadium by the mayor’s brother Doug, wrote The Globe and Mail April 29.

Developer Mario Cortellucci, together with various relatives and individuals who listed his company’s premises on their donor forms, contributed $30,000 to the mayor’s campaign, about half of which was raised following the election as part of a multi-candidate effort to eliminate campaign deficits. He also secured a private meeting with Rob Ford, according to scheduling documents released under access to information laws.

The figures, based on election contribution filings, were compiled by York University political scientist Robert MacDermid [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies].

"The important point here is that when a councillor or mayor runs a deficit and wins, every person seeking influence crowds into the subsequent fundraising events," [said MacDermid].

While Cortellucci’s development companies in the past have pledged hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to right-of-centre municipal and provincial candidates, MacDermid’s analysis shows the 2010 race was his first serious foray into Toronto politics. In 2006, Cortellucci and another relative gave just $2,500 to Jane Pitfield’s mayoral campaign. In 2010, he donated $4,000 and $2,000 to George Smitherman and Joe Pantalone respectively.

Read the label on poll results, says MacDermid

Elections Canada requires the publishers of public opinion surveys during elections to publish some facts about the methodology, so readers can gauge how reliable the poll is, wrote Global Television News online April 28.

Anyone transmitting the results of a poll has to include the name of the sponsor and the company that did the poll, which will help readers determine if the poll is objective.

Readers should also have access to the date when the poll was conducted and the size of the sample that was consulted to test reliability.

Finally, organizations have to disclose the margin of error, one of the most important pieces of information, according to Robert MacDermid, a political science professor at York University.

If a poll says Jack Layton has 20 per cent of Canadians supporting him, but there is a margin of error of +/- 3 per cent, that means the support is actually between 23 and 17 per cent, he explained.

Who speaks for urban youth?

Over the past few weeks, media commentators have pointed to two important trends, wrote Simon Black, a graduate student researcher at The City Institute at York University, in the Toronto Star April 28. First, Canada is an urban nation with 15 million eligible voters living in urban regions across the country. Second, voter turnout among young people is depressingly low: there are three million eligible voters under the age of 25, yet less than a third are likely to cast a ballot come election day.

Urban youth have their own issues: environmental sustainability and the liveability of cities are major concerns. The young are more frequent users of public transit and would benefit from a federal role in building the green transportation infrastructure our country so desperately needs. Funding for the arts and athletics are also a priority of urban youth, who recognize their value in facilitating creative expression and promoting social cohesion in the highly diverse landscapes of Canadian cities.

Then there are the myriad social problems facing many of today’s urban youth, problems the political parties have failed to highlight this campaign.

As in any federal system, politicians will squabble over whose jurisdiction these issues fall under. It’s time to move beyond these squabbles and recognize that urban youth, and our cities in general, would benefit from a strong federal urban presence and the development of a federally-led urban strategy, wrote Black.

But an urban youth strategy is not likely to emerge unless it is fought for and demanded by young people themselves. In urban centres across our country, many youth are active in civic life, but often in ways that don’t conform to the politics-as-usual of parties and elections. Other youth speak the language of distress and despair, with gunshots or requests for spare change on our city streets. Whatever the manifestation of their voice, politicians ignore urban youth at our cities’ peril.

York grad says she’s voting Green because ‘I don’t do Conservatives’

On her own since she was16, Timage Zekaria [BA Hons. ’08], now 26, has put herself through a social science degree at York University and a diploma at Seneca College, and she can’t find a job, wrote the Toronto Star in a story about voter preferences in the federal election April 28. Not to mention the student debt she’s wrestling with. “I’ve got this big OSAP debt on my back. I’m out here by myself,” she says. She wants politicians to focus on poverty, crime and health care. She’s voting Green. “Jack Layton disappointed me” by squabbling like the other guys. And Harper? “I don’t do Conservatives,” says Zekaria.

Local candidates play 2nd fiddle to leaders: expert

The vast majority of voters cast their ballots predominantly based on the party label, its platform and leader, while the local candidate, with few exceptions, accounts for just 4 to 5 per cent of the vote total, according to York University political science Professor Robert Drummond [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], wrote YorkRegion.com April 28.

As such, it goes without saying that having the right leader can be crucial.

“There will be exceptional cases in which a well-known local candidate may contribute a bit more weight to the vote decision, but still not an overwhelming effect,” Drummond said.

Even so, the attraction of a particular leader can only carry a party so far, Drummond said, as seen in the various polls taken as to who would be the best prime minister. The winner of such surveys hasn’t always been Harper, although that fact didn’t seem to harm the Conservatives’ performances in the 2006 and 2008 campaigns.

It’s a piece of the puzzle, but not the whole picture, he said.

“Of course, that is not to say the leader’s personality has no effect,” Drummond said. “It’s just that it is considered along with several other influences.”

“I think the Greens would have been helped if May had been allowed to take part in the debate,” Drummond said.

“However, her greatest hope of making a breakthrough would be proportional representation and her most realistic hope is to find a constituency where she can be seen as a better choice than any of the other party candidates and where people will not feel they are wasting a vote if they give it to the leader of a party which will almost certainly not form a government any time soon.”

McMichael gallery educator exhibits work

Suggestion and inference are vital components in the paintings and drawings of Elaine Hoffman [BA ’89], wrote Tandem News May 1, in a story about her upcoming exhibition in Thornhill’s J.E.H./Thoreau MacDonald House. Using visual language she creates vignettes that evoke emotions and sensations we all experience: frustration, anger, contentment and hope, to name a few.

“The process of creating paintings is very seductive for me. Using bold shapes and saturated colours,” [says Hoffman]. “I feel a strong impulse to capture illusive emotions. Colour becomes an entry point for narrative.

Working in an art gallery created a tension in that I was always tempted to bolt up to my garret and dedicate my life to painting, but the reality of daily living interfered. Once my career path was established and home responsibilities lessened, I was able to process experiences and focus my creative energy.”

Hoffman studied visual art at York University and University of Guelph. Since 1997, Hoffman has been involved in art education at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection where she currently is the manager of education.

Department of Defence returning unspent millions to Ottawa

The Department of National Defence (DND) will need to return a significant amount of funds from its budget to government coffers after it couldn’t spend the money, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen, wrote Postmedia News April 29.

Lapsed funds are an ongoing problem with some federal departments and the beginning of each year often sees the bureaucracy rushing to try to spend any cash left over in its budget. But DND’s figures are so large that it is almost impossible to spend such amounts.

Defence analyst Martin Shadwick [research associate in the York Centre for International & Security Studies] said the downside for DND is that much of the money is not likely to return to the department. "That amount of money is not small obviously," said Shadwick, who teaches strategic studies at York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. "They’re not likely to get most of it back so the question is, how do they make up for the loss?"

Shadwick said part of the problem could be linked to a lack of staff needed to move some of the multi-billion dollar military equipment programs forward. Moving forward with equipment projects also relies on Public Works as well as Industry Canada, and if those departments are having problems that could also slow down a DND program, he said.

On air

  • Patrick Monahan, York’s vice-president academic & provost, spoke about the federal election on Barrie’s A Channel TV April 28.