Toronto schools energized with solar panels

Toronto’s public schools will be outfitted with solar panels, offsetting a major component of the $3-billion backlog of repairs, reported the Toronto Sun May 19.

The agreement between the Toronto District School Board and Amp Solar Limited Partnership will offer green energy to 6,000 Toronto homes annually and give the board a no-cost and long-term solution to replace millions of square metres of aging roofs.

“Our rooftops represent a major untapped sustainable energy resource,” said Chris Bolton, chairman of the TDSB. “By installing solar panels on them, Toronto communities will get a clean, green energy, 450 schools will receive much-needed roof repairs and TDSB students will experience an unparalleled real-life lesson in sustainable living.”

The power will be sold into the distribution grid for Ontario energy users. The project stems from the board’s Go Green Climate Change Action Plan, which aims to provide renewable energy.

“Due to its educational focus, this is the most important initiative of its kind on the planet,” said Professor Jose Etcheverry with the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and president of the Canadian Renewable Energy Alliance.

“At 66 megawatts, this astounding project is in the same league as the world’s leading solar projects in Germany and Spain and represents an historic educational landmark for public institutions across Canada and North America.”

Declining unionization is a liability for NDP, says prof

Political analysts say there are still strong ties between the NDP and the labour movement, but that several factors are chipping away at that relationship, reported Oshawa This Week May 19.

Greg Albo – a political science professor in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies who specializes in the NDP and the role of the left in Canadian politics – says declining unionization among workers is a liability for social democratic parties all over the world.

"About 40 per cent of the population works in precarious work and they are not organized," he said, referring to people who have temporary or poorly paid jobs, or cobble together several jobs to create a livable income. "As a result, workers are having difficulty forming political identities."

That problem is compounded in suburban areas such as Oshawa, where he says the Liberal and NDP parties traditionally have trouble getting their messages out.

"The Conservatives have built up powerful ties through places like churches, mosques, Rotary clubs and chambers of commerce," Albo said. "The Liberals and NDP are not doing a good job of penetrating or organizing in suburban and ex-urban areas."

‘There’s never been a PR phenomenon like Oprah,’ says prof

With The Oprah Winfrey Show poised to air its final segment on Wednesday, the Toronto Star examines the five overarching aspects of being Oprah May 19.

[One of them is] Marketing Maven: Authors, small business owners and President Barack Obama can attest to "The Oprah Effect". The term was coined to describe how sales of everything, from pyjamas to the classic novel Anna Karenina, skyrocket after her endorsement. Winfrey’s imprimatur is credited both with helping to sell 30 million books since the launch of her book club in 1996 and electing the first black president. Conversely, she was sued by the cattle ranchers because they claimed that her comments about never eating another burger during a segment about mad cow disease lost them $11 million in business.

“There’s never been a product placement or a PR phenomenon like Oprah before and we may not see her kind again,” said Robert Kozinets, professor of marketing at the Schulich School of Business.

“But the most remarkable part of her legacy is not the economic impact, which everyone knows; it’s the fact that she’s managed to maintain the public trust and have a widespread image of integrity. Considering the amount of product placement on her show, she didn’t ever give the impression that she was a sellout. She managed her image extremely well.”

With Winfrey only committed to appearing in about 70 hours of programming on [her new network] OWN in 2011, it remains to seen if a behind-the-scenes-role will be the best use of her expertise and energy.

Kozinets remembers Winfrey from his stint at Chicago’s Kellogg School of Management, where she taught a Dynamics of Leadership course with beau Stedman Graham in the late ’90s.

“It was a very popular class,” he recalled. “She brought in Henry Kissinger, Coretta Scott King and Jeff Bezos as guests. But she got tired of it, because she didn’t want to do her own grading and the dean insisted she grade her own papers.”

BlackCreek festival gambles big in slow times

Many of them prefer not to talk about it in public, but privately, arts people in Toronto who depend on the box office have a case of the jitters over sluggish ticket sales, reported the Toronto Star May 20.

At the moment, the people who have most reason to be worried are those running summer festivals. 

Perhaps the biggest gamble of them all is the BlackCreek Music Festival, which has 11,000 open-air seats to fill for a series of summer events at the Rexall Centre on the campus of York University. Sales for many events have been slow so far, but the first two events, starring Placido Domingo and James Taylor, are going relatively well.

Incoming York student earns TD Canada Scholarship

Miranda Dela Cruz received a pretty special birthday present this year, reported May 20.

The Francis Libermann Catholic Secondary School student is one of 20 recipients of the TD Canada Scholarship. She found out she had been chosen out of the 3,400 applicants on Feb. 22 – her 18th birthday.

The Grade 12 student will be using the $70,000 scholarship to pursue studies in international development at York University.

Dela Cruz sees the award as recognition for the work she’s done in her school community and beyond, but she also views it as a motivation to keep doing the work she’s doing. Under her leadership, an eco-club was started at the school to increase recycling, stop littering and even conquer larger projects such as an outdoor classroom and installing solar panels.

In addition to her environmental work, Dela Cruz has been on student council for two years, she is on the honour roll and she helped organize and host the Camp Olympia Leadership weekend.

And as if her school commitments weren’t enough, the teen is also a dancer and spends nearly a dozen hours a week practising ballet and contemporary jazz. She’s looking forward to starting university, where she plans to be just as active.

On air

  • Alexandre Brassard, political scientist and research director at York’s Glendon College, spoke about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s new cabinet appointments, on “Y A Pas 2 Matins”, CJBC-AM, Toronto, May 19.
  • Bernie Wolf, an international business professor at York’s Schulich School of Business, discussed the concern that China’s one-child policy will cause a financial burden for the only children left to take care of aging parents and result in fewer young people to replace retiring older workers, on “Headline”, BNN-TV, Toronto, May 19.