Grad student sees transition to digital TV becoming an election issue

Many people who watch television have seen the ads on TV that talk about analogue signals being converted into digital coming on Sept. 1, but a lot of people do not really understand what this means or how it may affect them, wrote Stirling EMC Aug. 4.

Steven May is a PhD candidate in communication & culture in a joint program offered by York University and Ryerson and says he has been involved in looking at this issue from the beginning. "In May of last year, I had to take a research course and as part of that course I decided to map signals in Lennox and Addington County to see what is available in both analogue and digital, and it was at that time I started the blog.

“The goal was to document research for my course but since then it has taken a life of its own and is now an informational source. A year ago there was very little information on the web so I provide information from the perspective of a dude, just the average man or woman who watches television in Canada."

May says he considers himself to be an "over-the-air" advocate. "All I want to insure is that when Canada transitions over to digital we maintain our over-the-air television coverage and that people who are now watching TV this way continue to have television."

May went on to say one of his biggest concerns is the lack of information available to people. "MPs are saying that it has not been an issue, but I believe after Sept. 1, when people can no longer access the channels they have been getting, we will hear a lot more about it. At a grass roots level I would like to see municipal levels of government getting involved and holding information sessions, and I would be quite willing to come and help with these sessions. Television is one of those things that ties us together coast-to-coast as Canadians and we should all have access to a signal. I think this will be an election issue very soon."

A mother of a marketing strategy

Cora Brady knows moms are a tough bunch – and an even harder sell, reported the Toronto Star Aug. 5. 

So when the former advertising executive started her own brood, she and her friends formed a "mommy army" of sorts to directly connect companies with the powerful and fickle force that are mom consumers across North America.  

"Moms are the gatekeepers. They hold the purse strings, do the planning and make most of the purchases," says Brady.  

And many of them who either stay at home full-time or are on maternity leave are online and eager to connect with other moms.

So Brady and her friend, Kathryn Easter, launched Mom Central Canada in Toronto, an offshoot of a Boston-based firm that six years ago began reaching out to the person who happens to be most families’ top shopper and key decision maker.

Mothers have always been a big target for advertisers, but the difference now is social media, says Alan Middleton, professor of marketing at York University’s Schulich School of Business. "The research still tells us that in most cases, the mama is the purchasing agent for the family. Nobody cares about the guys. Moms are it" in the advertising world, he says.

Women also take pride in how well they shop and manage the family budget, whereas "men tend to be more hopeless on that level," Middleton adds.

Home ownership is a risky investment

The belief that we’re not responsible adults until we own our home, whether or not we can afford it, has distorted and stigmatized the cheaper and safer alternative: renting, suggested Canadian Business in its August issue. And we’re literally paying the price.

Over the past decade, as the value of the average Canadian home doubled, and tripled in some areas, rents remained stable or even declined. As a result, it now costs more than twice as much to own that average home as it does to rent it.

While financial gains from home ownership are iffy at best, the opportunity cost is significant. When Alexandre Pestov, a strategic consultant and research associate at York University’s Schulich School of Business, compared buying a two-bedroom Toronto condominium to renting it over the past 25 years, he found that the renter ended up $600,000 richer than the owner if he invested the spare cash in low-risk bonds. Several other studies have reached similar conclusions: renting while you conservatively invest your savings is financially smarter than buying a home.

"We have a very distorted picture right now," says Pestov, "because of the very low interest rates and the influx of speculative capital." While these factors have propelled the buying spree, they’ve also been great boons to renters. The condo boom, for example, owes a lot to "specuvestors" who rent their units before flipping them. Since they’re looking to cash in on the price appreciation, as long as the rent covers their mortgage payments, they figure they’re ahead. Cheap mortgages, combined with rent control laws in most large provinces (except Alberta), have meant that this new stockpile of condos has suppressed rental prices.

[S]tudies find that homeowners are no happier than renters and have higher levels of stress, largely due to the financial burden and greater time constraints.

Your lifestyle suffers, your worries mount-and yet, no matter how much data you throw at people, there’s an ingrained belief that being a homeowner signifies maturity and that renting connotes instability and transience. Moshe Milevsky, a finance professor at Schulich and one of Canada’s best-known home-ownership skeptics, has long argued that for young people with limited means and unrealized career potential, stowing most of their wealth in a single illiquid asset is foolhardy. Today, he thinks just about anyone would be better off renting. "I really wish I could sell my house and rent. Immediately!" he says. "The market is so overvalued. I’d sell to the biggest sucker. But my wife and kids would kill me." That’s because, for most of us, financial considerations are only part of the equation. "The decision to purchase a house goes well beyond the practical," says Milevsky. "It’s part of people’s identity."

Is GoodLife Fitness expanding too fast?

[Goodlife Fitness] last year expanded its club count by 60 per cent, to nearly 300 outlets, reported Canadian Business in its August issue. This summer, it will open a new 45,000-square-foot behemoth of a flagship club in downtown Toronto.

It is now the biggest chain in the country, fifth-largest in the world, and the largest worldwide with a single owner.

Finding quality staff for the new outposts is the biggest concern, says Detlev Zwick, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business. "I don’t see an end to their growth, but the challenge will be the ability to find and keep quality staff that is up to their standards."

Democracy can be a little messy at times

It is clear Kelly McParland doesn’t like the result of the US debt deal, which he lays at the feet of the Tea Party, specifically its distaste for tax increases, wrote Glendon political science Professor Terry Heinrichs in a letter to the National Post Aug. 4. True, the Tea Party pushed hard against tax increases and for government spending cuts, both of which are sensible in a recession characterized by massive increases in public sector spending. Nevertheless, Tea Party members in the House voted 23 to 17 in favour of the deal, along with 95 Democrats.

He also seems to believe that the US President was the reasonable team player. Yet on any fair reading, Barack Obama spent the bulk of his time demagoguing the issue. He stoked fears of social security cheques not being cut and soldiers not being paid when none of this was either inevitable or plausible.

Moreover, as was clear from the start of negotiations, the US President was irrelevant. This was made clear when he was unceremoniously cut out of the negotiations by John Boehner, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi. Not that this seemed to matter to him as he relentlessly took to television, apparently wishing to watch his poll numbers tumble more and more on each appearance.

Waitzer and Vanderpol suggest new approach on takeover defences

Is it time for Canadian securities commissions to get out of the business of regulating poison pill defence tactics in hostile takeovers? Two partners with Stikeman Elliott LLP, Sean Vanderpol and Ed Waitzer [Jarislowsky Dimma Mooney Chair in Corporate Governance in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School], have written a paper for the Osgoode Hall Law Journal that questions whether it’s time to toss National Policy 62-202 in the waste baskets of Canada’s securities commissions, wrote the Financial Post Aug. 3.

The 23-page academic article, (“Mediating Rights and Responsibilities in Control Transactions”, [2010] 48 Osgoode Hall Law Journal at 639), examines the tension – perhaps outright conflict – that exists between the way the courts and securities commissions handle takeover contests.

Improved access to graduate studies masks economic realities

Life as a postgraduate is tough. For those who overcome the initial funding difficulties, there are still numerous challenges as they juggle low-paid teaching and other part-time work with all the other things considered essential to building an academic career, wrote Times Higher Education Aug. 4.

This "strangely skewed economy of the academy" is analyzed in a blog post by Melonie Fullick [MA ’07], a doctoral student at York University, Toronto, who focuses on the prohibitive expense of attending academic conferences. "Conferences can be a great academic opportunity and are presented to graduate students as such," she writes. "You can meet others and share ideas, as well as giving and receiving feedback and discovering new possibilities for collaboration.

"But…conferences are also expensive. Attendees must pay for travel, accommodation and the ubiquitous registration fees."

This cost barrier is part of a wider issue, Fullick believes. "For many graduate students, it’s an expense that is beyond their limited budgets. Yet there is little hope of finding an academic job without attending and presenting at conferences during the course of the PhD."

The result, Fullick argues, is that "in spite of increasing accessibility in terms of enrolments, graduate education still tends to be stratified by socioeconomic class."

This is further entrenched by the changing nature of the academic profession in the US. "The assumed, eventual ‘payoff’ is now less available than ever," Fullick writes.

CSR the best weapon against meltdown

The stakeholder model of corporate social responsibility is the solution to the short-term, shareholder-led policies that created the global economic crisis, says Dezsö Horváth, dean of York University’s Schulich School of Business in Canada, reported Thailand’s The Nation July 16.

The 2008 US-centred global economic crisis remains a powerful reminder that short-term-profit orientation is not sustainable. "The crisis was started by [US] investment banks focusing too much on short-term profits based on a narrow shareholder model. They did not look far enough ahead," says Horvath.

“Most investors are not medium and long term but rather want to take only short-term profits. These speculators have created unfortunate behaviour among companies, which have over-extended themselves to deliver short-term profits,” he says.

"In the stakeholder model, you’re supposed to deal with all stakeholders, from employees to customers, suppliers, community. In fact, this model is simply just good business for the medium and long term,” he says.

"All economic issues are almost never isolated from social/political and, increasingly, environmental issues,” he says. ““Energy firms may invest in R&D to produce cleaner energy from coal. This may limit profits in the short term due to higher investment but they will get, in the medium and long term, more sustainable profitability."  

Dance camp offered by York dance grad

Camp Bickell will be host to a five-day dance camp in August, with the help of Timmins native Kate Nankervis [BFA Spec. Hons. ’08], an accomplished dancer.

Nankervis is thrilled to be returning to her home roots to share her passion and talents with the community where is all started, the release also stated. It said she started dancing in South Porcupine at the age of three and even attended Camp Bickell as a camper in her early teens. Since leaving the north, she studied at York University’s Dance Program in Toronto as well at NYU in New York City. Her professional career has taken her around  the globe as a dancer, teacher and choreographer.

Local dancer has great reason to be ‘on her toes’

Many young dancers dream of being a superstar, wrote Aug. 3. Alana Imrie [BFA Spec. Hons. ’08] isn’t one of them.

For her, following in her instructor’s shoes is the culmination of her dancing dreams. Imrie currently teaches at the Lindsay Dance Studio, owned and operated by Stephanie Mackey, who took over the studio in 1990 from Jean Muir, who founded it more than 50 years ago.

The Lindsay native began taking lessons from Mackey at age three and began assisting at the studio nine years later. She began teaching jazz and ballet at age 15 and chose to study dance after graduating from Lindsay Collegiate and Vocational Institute.

While at York University, Imrie was fortunate to be one of only nine candidates from across Canada accepted to the National Ballet School of Canada’s prestigious teacher training program. "It was like a little step on my life’s dream falling into place," said Imrie.

Fortunately, Imrie discovered early that teaching, not the spotlight, was her future. "I always knew I would never be a prima ballerina, but then, I never wanted to be one," said Imrie, who believes she has the best of both worlds: dancing and teaching skills. "I’m lucky. Not everyone knows what they want to do when they grow up."

Bloody, brilliant theatre

A more ambitious production of "The Scottish Play" has most likely never been or ever will be produced in Deep River, wrote Aug. 3 in a review of a local production of Macbeth.

The Deep River Musical Society’s show included almost Stratfordesque flare with fantastic home-grown talent, and it was a pleasure to see such fine theatre produced from such a small community.

The director, Jade Nauman, a Deep River native now studying theatre at York University, must be lauded for her artistic vision.

Her updating of the play to a Soviet Union-like Scotland, where Macbeth takes the role of Stalin during "the Great Purge", not only brought Shakespeare’s words more clarity (as if they needed it), but it also allowed the actors room to play and discover new aspects of their characters.

On air

  • Thabit Abdullah, a history professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, addressed the question: Can democracy flourish in countries that have never known it? at a Munk Centre debate aired on TVO’s “The Agenda” Aug. 4.  
  • Natalia Veiga, graduate student at York, and Lawrence Packer, biology professor in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about Veiga’s discovery of a new species of bee, on CBC Radio and Television Aug. 4. 
  • Alexandre Brassard-Desjardins, political science professor at York’s Glendon College, spoke about the controversy surrounding interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel, on Radio Canada Toronto Aug. 3. 
  • Haideh Moghissi, political science professor in York’s Department of Women’s Studies and the Department of Equity Studies, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, took part in a panel discussion about political change and its effect on gender norms in the Middle East, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Aug. 3.