Vote reverses turnout declines of recent elections

[NDP leader Jack] Layton’s surge appears to have benefited the Conservatives as much as the New Democrats, by siphoning votes from Liberals in ridings traditionally held by [Michael] Ignatieff’s party, wrote The Globe and Mail May 3 in an election results story.

But it was the sense of change from the traditional choice – Conservative versus Liberal – and the embrace of a progressive federalist party in Quebec that transformed a sleepy electorate into an engaged one, said Alex Himelfarb, director of the Glendon School of Public & International Affairs at Toronto’s York University. “I can’t tell you how many e-mails and ‘BlackBerrys’ I have got – people are really excited,” Himelfarb said Monday night before the polls closed. “They’re all over the map, but suddenly an election that was about nothing became about something big.”

He added, however, that the new-found enthusiasm among many young voters is fragile. If the new Parliament merely resumes the partisan mudslinging and nothing really changes, they could become alienated again.

  • In the most significant redrawing of the political map in 20 years, the Conservatives finally broke through their 905 beachhead into the GTA and established a majority government, wrote May 3.

Often shifting between Liberals and Conservatives, York Region and the 905 belt have shown a “more volatile electorate,” said York University political science Professor Robert Drummond [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies].

He said he was surprised by the collapse of the Liberal Party Canada-wide with both leader Michael Ignatieff and potential successors, such as Martha Hall Findlay and Gerard Kennedy, shut out.

While the rise of the NDP to official opposition status was the story of the campaign, the “orange wave” hardly came ashore in York Region.

The country’s furthest left party achieved its highest-ever seat count at the same time the Conservatives finally achieved a majority. “It shows a real division of the population in this country that’s been there all along,” Drummond said.

The questions now, Drummond said, are how significant the NDP surge will be, given that the majority means Harper doesn’t have to kowtow, and whether Prime Minister Harper will govern more toward the centre or push a more aggressive agenda.

Whether or not Canada’s “natural governing party” will quickly reconstitute itself, split, align itself somehow with the NDP or disappear altogether, is another lingering question. “That is hard to imagine,” Drummond said.

  • "When a party does poorly in the polls, chances are they will lose some of their key people and the only seats they’ll hold onto are the ones that are identifiably safe," said Robert Drummond, a political science professor at York University, wrote the Toronto Star May 3, in a story about Liberal Mark Holland’s defeat in the riding of Ajax-Pickering.
  • The campaign saw the Conservatives step up their push to make inroads in areas with large South Asian populations around Toronto, part of a bid to win the dozen new seats across the country needed for a majority government, wrote the Toronto Star May 3.

"They have invested a huge amount of time and money in those ridings," said York University political science Professor Robert MacDermid [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies].

  • Educated in political science, Jack Layton [MA’72, PhD ’83] earned a PhD at York University and worked as a professor at Ryerson University, wrote Postmedia News May 3, in a look back at the NDP leader’s career. First elected to Toronto city council in 1982, he emerged as leader of an influential NDP slate of municipal politicians and was a failed candidate for mayor in 1991.
  • After three terms in office, hockey legend Ken Dryden couldn’t save his seat in York Centre on Monday, giving up a riding the Liberals have safely held for almost half a century, wrote The Canadian Press May 3.

The Conservative government’s support for Israel was a key factor among Jewish voters in the riding, pundits said.

Conservative challenger Mark Adler is an active member of the Bathurst Jewish Community Centre and well known in the riding’s large Jewish community.

"[Liberal Bob] Kaplan held the riding for years and he was a member of the Jewish community and the Liberal party tended to take a kind of centrist position on Israel," said York University political science Professor Robert MacDermid [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. "(Prime Minister Stephen Harper) and the Conservatives have taken a much more pro-Israel stance on many issues and attracted many Jewish voters in that and surrounding ridings."

Fellow York Professor Robert Drummond [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] agreed. "Nobody is unsupportive of Israel," said Drummond. "But I think some voters have found the Harper government rather less critical of Israel than perhaps some of the Liberals have been willing to be and that may have shifted some people’s support."

York Centre is a diverse riding that includes low-income residents and a fair number of immigrants, said MacDermid. "They have all been hotly contested by the Conservatives’ attempt to win over new Canadian groupings," MacDermid said.

MacDermid didn’t think the fact that Toronto voters had elected right-leaning mayor Rob Ford was a major factor in swinging York Centre to the Tories. Ford endorsed Harper last week.

Some voters routinely shift between the Liberals and Conservatives, and they may have been more willing to vote Conservative this time, said Drummond. "There’s been a bit of a shift towards the Conservatives in the last few elections of voters who may have been willing to go back and forth between the Liberals and Conservatives and decided they’re more supportive of the Conservatives," he said.

  • Ori Rubin, a 27-year-old articling student and president of [York’s] Osgoode Hall Law School Conservative Party group who was camped out at [Conservative candidate Joe] Oliver’s victory party, said Harper’s stance on Israel played a big part in getting the support of the Jewish community, wrote May 3, in a story about election results in the riding of Eglinton-Lawrence.

“The secular came out, the orthodox came out, the Zionist came out – it was absolutely incredible,” he said. “My family used to vote Liberal for 60 years. Now, large chunks of us vote Conservative.”

  • MacDermid also spoke about election laws and sharing results on social media, on CBC Radio’s “The Current” May 2.
  • Drummond also spoke about the election, on CTV News May 2.
  • Patrick Monahan, York’s vice-president academic & provost, helped analyze election results on Barrie’s A-Channel television May 2.
  • Michael Skinner, researcher in the York Centre for International & Security Studies, spoke about election results on Rogers TV’s “Goldhawk” May 2.

Pet comets, walk on water at science fair in Markham

Have you ever wanted to make a DNA banana necklace, watch a robot chasing light or attempt to walk on water? Asked May 2.

Science Rendezvous, Ontario’s largest public science festival, returns to Markham Village next Saturday, with the goal of making science more accessible.

“This is bringing science to the community as opposed to having the community come to a hospital or university site,” said Corinne Sperling, outreach manager for the Faculty of Science & Engineering at York University.

The Markham Village BIA co-organizes the event and pays for the bulk of the cost, but the University and the Town of Markham’s economic development department contribute as well.

Nigeria: Local scholar honoured by US university

A Nigerian scholar, Professor Niyi Osundare [PhD ’79], has been named distinguished professor of English by the University of New Orleans, wrote All April 29.

Osundare, author of numerous poetry books including, The Eye of the Earth which won the 1986 Commonwealth Poetry Prize, Waiting Laughters, which won the Noma Award, Moonsongs, Songs of the Season and The Word is an Egg, among others, was born in Ikere-Ekiti in 1947.

He gained degrees at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, University of Leeds, UK, and York University, Canada, where he was awarded a PhD in 1979. He became a professor at the University of Ibadan [Nigeria] in 1989, where he rose to become head of the English department from 1993 to 1997, after which he joined the University of New Orleans.

Windsor MS Society gets $1-million infusion from York grad

A former Windsor man and his wife have launched the start of Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month with a $1-million donation to the MS Society of Canada, wrote The Windsor Star May 2.

Doug Bergeron [BA Spec. Hons. ’83] and his wife Sandra, who live in Atherton, Calif., had donated $1 million to the MS Society in 2000 – the largest single gift the society had received.

They announced Monday they’re doubling their donation to $2 million.

Bergeron, CEO of VeriFone, a company that specializes in secure electronic payment technologies, based in San Jose, Calif., found out his father George had MS when Bergeron was 11.

His father lived with the disease for 28 years before he died from lung cancer in 1999. He was also former chair of the MS Society’s Windsor-Essex chapter.

Bergeron completed two years of computer science at the University of Windsor then transferred to York University to finish his degree. He left Windsor 28 years ago and now has five children.

Former hockey Lion now a New York Aviator 

Kevin Druce [BA ’07], starting goaltender for the Federal Hockey League’s New York Aviators, spent some time with the Toronto Maple Leafs organization when he filled in during the Olympics after his season ended at York University, where he played in 51 games over three years, wrote May 2.

Druce also played baseball at York, which is his second love in sports, and was used mostly as the designated hitter. At the age of 16, he had to choose between the two sports when he was invited to the 16-and-under all-Ontario baseball and hockey camps which were held on the same weekend.

"I loved playing both and it was kind of a big deal playing for your province and I had to make a decision: what would you rather do with the next years of your life, focus on hockey or baseball, and not too many Canadian baseball players make it," said Druce.

Druce, who earned a degree in sociology at York, played in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals (2001-2003) and the Sault (pronounced "soo") St. Marie Greyhounds (2003-2004).