Liberals didn’t have a clear message, writes Osgoode prof

In this election we Liberals suffered a tremendous defeat. But the loss was not because Canada has become suddenly Conservative – the success of the NDP shows that clearly, wrote James Morton, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, in the Toronto Star May 4.

We lost because people did not know what we stood for. The problem is not that people know the Liberal message and reject it; the problem is that people have not been told the Liberal message.

In the election, the Conservatives focused on a very limited but clear message – stability, trust, values. Everything they said was related to and spoke of that message.

We Liberals, by contrast, talked of specific issues – the underlying message had to be inferred from the Liberal position on, say, child care. Voters did not, or could not, infer a message that way. Liberal values, which are far closer to most Canadians than Conservative values, were simply unspoken through the election.

Liberals can win the next election. But we cannot win it unless Canadians know what Liberals stand for. An uncertain trumpet will not rally our forces – we should let forth a powerful blast that will take down the walls set up by the Conservatives.

Elections don’t confer a mandate, says Glendon political scientist

Democracy, as Churchill famously said, is the worst form of government except for all the others, wrote Edmund Fowler, political science professor emeritus in York’s Glendon College, in the Toronto Star May 4. This is a witty and genial excuse for a system that is by now unworkable. Its survival to this point has been supported by the assertion that there is at least some connection between voters’ preferences and public policy. This assertion assumes that citizens have a reasonably firm grasp of public issues of the day. Unfortunately, they don’t, and it’s not entirely their own fault.

When the figures were looked at carefully, the winners of most Canadian elections in the 1980s and 1990s had not received any policy mandate, even when parties had clearly opposing positions on the same issue. It is doubtful that any election result means that Canadians have given a government permission to carry out any specific action. Election results simply reflect the distribution of general approval ratings of different parties and their leaders. In the context of the current election, a very small proportion of those who voted for the NDP probably have a clear idea of its platform, but are rather expressing a definite preference for some kind of change.

If citizens want more influence over government, we need much smaller systems and more participation between elections on issues that are important to us, not ones that have been defined for us.

More voters cast a ballot in Barrie

It’s more than simply population growth; voter turnout in Barrie was up Monday night, wrote May 5. In fact, there were 3,331 more people who marked their ballot this year from the 2008 federal election.

“The popular vote moved only slightly ahead from the past election, and tended to do so across the country,” said Greg Albo, professor of political science in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

While the numbers may be up, it doesn’t mean an end to voter apathy, he said.

“It is really hard to make any generalizations about a surge in voting. For all the buzz about social media, vote mobs and newly engaged youth, this really needs to be taken very cautiously.”

He said Canada has one of the “poorest turnouts of voters in any of the more developed countries.”

It may have to do with the number of votes not translating into actual seats, said Albo, as Canada uses a first-past-the-post system. “Barrie was very typical of the rest of Canada on this score. Voter participation, more or less, was the same as the rest of Canada, and bumped up to a similar degree.”

York prof tabs two local Tories for cabinet

York University political science Professor Robert MacDermid said he’d be surprised if [Julian] Fantino and [Peter] Van Loan didn’t climb the cabinet ranks, wrote in a post-election story about the two MPs.

“Both are already in cabinet,” he said. “Fantino hasn’t been there long. It would be logical for him to go back to the seniors [portfolio].”

Finance audit requested on Ford campaign

A pair of Toronto residents allege that Mayor Rob Ford violated municipal campaign finance laws during his 2010 election run and are requesting a compliance audit, wrote the National Post May 4.

It’s the third request for a review of whether Ford followed the rules during his $1.3-million winning mayoral campaign. But Max Reed and Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler have gone to considerable lengths in their application, submitting a 17-page document that outlines their allegations after essentially conducting their own informal audit of Ford’s publicly released numbers. The audit request has been endorsed by York University Professor Robert MacDermid [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], an expert on Ontario’s municipal campaign finance laws.

The secret to start-up success? The Plan

A lot of entrepreneurs think all they need to be successful is a great idea, says Theo Peridis, professor of strategic management at York University’s Schulich School of Business, wrote the Toronto Star May 5.

Many are wrong. Even with a good idea, they fail to turn it into anything profitable without a practical plan.

"I can’t emphasize how important it is not just to have it, but to have it as a living document," he says. "The business plan forces the entrepreneur to ask himself or herself the tough questions."

Very few entrepreneurs wind up where they thought they would when they began, Peridis says.

A plea for continued public access to Brighton Wetlands

"The shore bird population in the Western Hemisphere is dwindling and one of the main reasons is lack of habitat, especially the kind that is crucial for staging during migration," wrote retired York University Professor Richard Pope, in a letter quoted in Quinte EMC May 5. [The story was about a local councillor’s proposal to ban the public, who are mostly birdwatchers that support the local tourist economy, from entering a sewage lagoon on grounds that it is unsafe.] "The Brighton Wetlands represents this kind of crucial staging habitat.

"It is important to keep the declining population of shorebirds in the public eye and one of the best ways is to make places like the Brighton Wetlands available to the public," he added. "People give more money and aid for species preservation when they are involved with the species, see them and come to love them. Please keep one of the few tiny areas we have left open to the general public."

The original underworld drama

"Can you believe that the Canadian Opera Company (COC) has never presented a Gluck opera before?" Robert Carsen [LLD ’05] marvels, as we discuss the virtues of one of the genre’s great reformers, wrote John Terauds in the Toronto Star May 5, in a story about the York honorary alumnus.

"This story is so simple, I’ve tried to anchor it with real people," says Carsen of his staging. "We’re not dealing with mythological archetypes. There is something quite real here."

Now in his early 50s, Toronto-born-and-bred Carsen is one of the opera world’s most successful directors. Carsen says he knew from the age of 8 that he wanted to spend his life in theatre. But he dropped out of the theatre program at York University in his second year.

He retells the moment with relish. "I describe this as the only brave thing I ever did in my life: I was sitting writing an exam at York and I got up, put the paper in the bin, drove home and said to my Mom, ‘I’m going to England tomorrow.’ And I did.

"I arrived in England; I had never been to London. I knew nobody. I very quickly found out that all the drama schools had finished their auditions. It turned out to be a nightmare for a few weeks, but I was determined."

Carsen found himself a spot in the two-year apprenticeship program at the Bristol Old Vic, alongside fellow Canadians Benedict Campbell and Lorne Kennedy. During his second year, one of Carsen’s acting teachers took him aside and asked if he had ever considered directing instead of acting. "I said, ‘Oh no, am I really so bad?’" Carsen exclaims. "He assured me that I was not. It seems you have a director’s mind. You come to all the rehearsals, not just your scenes. You’re always suggesting things and driving everybody crazy. But they use your ideas later."

"And that got me started," Carsen smiles.

York music teacher earns national recognition

A Mississauga music teacher was among 10 finalists being considered for a national teaching award, wrote The Mississauga News May 5.

Peggy Hills, who produces classical music programs at schools in Mississauga [and teaches violin in the Department of Music in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts], was among the nearly 1,200 active and retired teachers from across Canada who were nominated for the Thank A Teacher Award.

The award, sponsored by the Royal Conservatory of Music and The SOCAN Foundation (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada), was presented to Bernice Pearce of West Vancouver. It recognizes an outstanding music educator who, through their ongoing commitment to music education, enriches and inspires students.

York coach to lead Canada into world football showdown

One of the best quarterbacks to ever play Canadian university football will lead the Canadian entry at the International Federation of American Football senior men’s world football championship later this year in Austria, wrote Postmedia News May 4.

Michael Faulds, who holds the Canadian Interuniversity Sport record for career passing yards (10,811), was one 18 players named by Football Canada to the initial roster of the Canadian team competing for world supremacy from July 8 to 16 in Vienna, Innsbruck and Graz.

Faulds led the University of Western Ontario to conference titles in 2007 and 2008. The native of Eden Mills is now the offensive coordinator for the York Lions.

Cobourg favourite comes home for CD launch

Cobourg fans will be delighted to hear that Wendy Irvine [BEd ’93] will be back in town May 19 to launch a new CD at the Oasis Bar and Grill, wrote Northumberland May 5. And she doesn’t come alone. She will be with her new band, Sixteen Different Minds, as well as bass players Steve Zsirai and Henry Heillig.

Irvine’s journey to Sixteen Different Minds goes back to her days of growing up in Grafton and her years in the La Jeunesse choir. After graduating from Cobourg District Collegiate Institute West, she went on to study music at York University – and earn a cover story in an issue of GO! magazine.

On air

  • Robert Drummond, political science professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the federal election results, on CBC Radio (Thunder Bay) May 4.
  • Professor Sheila Cavanagh, coordinator of York’s Sexuality Studies Program [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] and author of Queering Bathrooms: Gender, Sexuality and the Hygienic Imagination, and David Myers, a residence don at York, spoke about unisex bathrooms, on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” May 4.