Putting the poison back in the pill

Canada’s securities watchdogs should get out of the business of policing the "poison pills" companies use to fight off hostile corporate takeovers, former Ontario Securities Commission chief Edward Waitzer says, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 7.

Waitzer, a partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP in Toronto and director of the Hennick Centre for Business and Law at York University, says it is time to have a debate about whether the securities commissions should let the country’s courts scrutinize the actions of companies under siege. That’s what happens in the United States, where hostile takeovers are much more difficult.

"Canada has become a playground for activist investors who are looking to make money quickly by putting companies into play," Waitzer, who was OSC chairman in the mid-1990s, said in an interview. "So from a ‘hollowing out’ point of view, this [the status quo] doesn’t make any sense at all."

Waitzer makes the case for the change in a recent paper co-written with Stikeman colleague Sean Vanderpol in the Osgoode Hall Law Journal.

The pair argue that Canada’s policy that largely forbids boards to "just say no" to hostile takeover bids can come into conflict with responsibilities assigned to directors under Canadian corporate law, which demands that they act in the long-term interests of the corporation. The courts, the two acknowledge, would be much more likely to defer to the judgment of a board fighting a takeover than to the securities commissions.

"We conclude that Canadian securities regulators should vacate the field," the pair write.

Waitzer said courtrooms, rather than an OSC hearing room, are now the best place for these disputes to play out. "With all due respect to the [OSC], the commission does the best it can in a quickly convened informal process that doesn’t have the same evidentiary discipline as a court hearing," Waitzer said.

Drive to win Ontario begins

It will be interesting to see if [NDP Leader Andrea] Horwath can make voters see past her party’s rocky reign under former premier Bob Rae and capitalize on the so-called Orange Wave, said Bob Drummond, a political science professor at Toronto’s York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies], wrote The Canadian Press Sept. 7.

Likewise, the PCs are also hoping to win more seats – and make a breakthrough in Fortress Toronto – as their federal cousins did last May, he said. "They’re hoping, I think, to continue that, whereas the Liberals are obviously hoping they can distinguish themselves from the federal party to some extent," Drummond said.

One subject that likely won’t gain a lot of traction during the campaign is the harmonized sales tax, Drummond said.

The Liberals are standing by their controversial HST, while the Tories and NDP have promised to remove the provincial portion of the tax from some items, like home heating bills. "But nobody has said, ‘Let’s do away with it,’" Drummond said. "So in that circumstance I think if anybody’s going to mount a campaign against it, it’s hard to know where they would turn."

  • The Liberals scored a high profile candidate in Thornhill with Bernie Farber, former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, wrote the National Post Sept. 7.
    While the Conservatives’ 2007 campaign promise to fund faith-based schools sank the party provincially, it helped win Thornhill, home to a large Jewish population, for Tory Peter Shurman. "I think the Liberals hope they can restore some of that Jewish support the party used to be able to count on by running a very prominent activist in the Jewish community," York University political scientist Robert Drummond said.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath marched at the head of a Labour Day parade that doubled as a tribute to federal NDP leader Jack Layton, whose death last month provoked an outpouring of support across Toronto. But translating that sympathy into votes for the provincial NDP is considerably more difficult, Drummond said.

"The only thing that is going to work for an NDP leader in this case is to emulate his very popular, almost populist style," he said. "I don’t know whether Horwath can carry off the sort of happy warrior style that Layton was able to do so effectively."

  • York University political science Professor Bob Drummond said writ-dropping day is something every political junkie looks forward to as the campaigns officially kicks off, wrote CBC News Sept. 6.
    “I’m not sure why they use ‘dropping the writ’, where that came from but it’s a catchall term for the beginning of the election,” he said. “Everybody seems to feel that the real election campaign doesn’t begin until after Labour Day but it will start picking up steam now.”
  • Alan Middleton, marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about the provincial election campaign, on 680 News Radio and other stations around the province Sept. 6.

Teaching for the future

For the past 10 years, my York University colleagues Michael Brown and Mark Webber have developed and nurtured a unique program for the study of the Holocaust, wrote Professor Sara Horowitz, director of the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York, in the Canadian Jewish News Sept. 8. The Mark and Gail Appel Program in Holocaust and Antiracism Education – Teaching from the Past, Teaching for the Future – brings together Canadian, German and Polish students to contend with the Jewish past and its implications.

Affectionately known by its participants as “TftF,” this initiative of York’s Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies and the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies teaches by travelling through Poland and Germany, visiting places of Jewish life and Jewish death, meeting eyewitnesses, local educators and museum curators committed to commemorating the past and drawing lessons from it.

Like many other campuses, mine has its share of contentiousness, especially regarding the Middle East. Like hurricanes, this captures the attention of the media. But my campus is also home to fine projects such as TftF, a part of tikkun olam.

Herpes charges ‘law run amok’

How far should lawmakers go to protect people from being infected with conditions like herpes while having unprotected sex?, asked the Toronto Star Sept. 6, in a story about a man with HV-2 genital herpes who was charged with aggravated assault.

Alan Young, a professor at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said a charge for spreading herpes is a “difficult” issue for the courts because herpes “is certainly not in the same ballpark as HIV/AIDS.”

Food addictions are part of complex behaviour, says York prof

Caroline Davis, a health science professor at York University [Faculty of Health], said addictions to food and drugs tend to be based on many things, including situational factors and the specific substance the person is craving, wrote PostMedia News Sept. 6, in a story about a new California study on controlling overeating.

"(Overeating is) such a complex behaviour that we know all kinds of other things contribute," she said. "I subscribe to the idea that, for particularly palatable foods like sugar and fat and highly processed foods, we have the potential to become physiologically dependent on them the same way people can become physiologically dependent on other substances."

Changing coaches’ attitudes a key in wake of Belak tragedy

Former Maple Leaf sports psychologist Paul Dennis had some important things to say about youth hockey in the wake of the Wade Belak tragedy, wrote Randy Starkman in his Toronto Star blog Sept. 6.

Dennis hopes that the Belak suicide and recent deaths of Rick Rypien and Derek Boogard will help to start a culture change in hockey and he believes the key potential game changers are the coaches. He feels that coaches must create an environment where young players aren’t afraid to express their vulnerabilities. He said the opposite happens right now.

"What do we have in place that makes sure the kids are playing for all the right reasons and they know they’re playing for all the right reasons?" said Dennis. "In addition to teaching them confidence and camaraderie, let’s teach them when things don’t go your way, that you have self doubt, self criticism, you need to tell me, I’m your coach, I’m here to help you cope in that particular situation.

"That’s what we do with our kids at home. We encourage that. But in sport, we don’t. In sport, we figure ‘You know what they’ll figure it out for themselves, that’s what resilience is all about, that’s what toughness is all about.’ But they don’t know, they don’t know that.

"We teach them to be confident, to be mentally tough. Not everyone is going to be confident and mentally tough. Those that aren’t, we don’t want to lose them through attrition, we want to help them cope with their anxiety level, to teach them hockey is part of their life, not the rest of their life and to enjoy the experience.

"I honestly think that coaching attitudes and behaviours of coaches is what’s going to change this culture."

York grad helped make HoopDome happen five years ago

During his playing days, Ted Badner‘s court vision helped him lead his high school basketball team to back-to-back championships, wrote YorkRegion.com Sept. 6.

It was the Thornhill resident’s vision off the court that led him to his ultimate hoop dream. Badner [BA ’90], 46, fondly recalls how he got involved in basketball at age 8 with the encouragement of his late father, Manly Badner.

"I learned more about life lessons through success and failure on the basketball court than any schooling I received," Badner said. Looking to share these life lessons and stay involved with the game, Badner began coaching shortly after graduation from York. It was through his work as a coach that he came up with his vision for HoopDome. "I was coaching back in the mid-’90s and would take teams down to the US and play in these huge basketball facilities," he said. "I went down with a friend to Detroit for a day back in 2003, and decided that Toronto could support such a facility," he added.

Besides being the president and director of operations at HoopDome, Badner also prides himself on being an internationally renowned basketball coach through his work with the Canadian Maccabi program. "The Maccabi movement is basically recognized as the Jewish Olympics," Badner explained. "I have had the opportunity to coach the under-16 Canadian boys national team, the under-19 national team and the men’s open national team," he added.

New Anglican general secretary appointed

Archdeacon Michael Thompson, 55, rector of St. Jude’s Anglican Church in Oakville, has been appointed general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada, wrote the Anglican Journal Sept. 6.

Thompson is married to Deborah Tregunno, professor of nursing at York University [Faculty of Health].