Political science prof sees Liberal minority after election

Combining Toronto’s most eastern neighbourhoods and Durham Region’s residential sprawl, Pickering-Scarborough East is a crucial riding in the Tories’ bid to govern, wrote the Toronto Sun Sept. 19 in an election riding analysis.

While local residency may not sway voters, "there is a long-term belief that a person who represents you should live within your area," said political science Professor Robert MacDermid, of York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies].

"I think transit will be an issue," he said, adding McGuinty’s pledge of all-day GO trains and Hwy. 407 expansion impresses commuters. "It’s a little early" to predict results, but "I think the most likely outcome will be a Liberal minority," MacDermid said. One factor rarely discussed is their "huge lead in fundraising," which means "they can buy more ads."

York hosts conference on concussions

On Sept. 26, York University will host the second annual Donald Sanderson Concussion Symposium, where the premature deaths [of three NHL players] will also be on the agenda, wrote QMI Agency Sept. 17.

"Recent studies have linked blows to the heads to depression," said York sports psychology professor Paul Dennis [Faculty of Health]. "That may not necessarily be the case with each of these players, but there is a link that is, at the very least, worth looking into further. "It’s not a far stretch to think that multiple blows to the head can lead to depression."

Dennis, who worked with the Leafs for 20 years as a player development coach, is a strong advocate of concussion prevention. "Perhaps it’s time we take a look at taking fighting out of the game," he said. "When hockey is at its best, it’s not about the fights, it’s about skills."

  • Paul Dennis, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Sciences in the Faculty of Health, spoke about a new study on when most concussions occur, on Global Television News Sept. 16.


Prosperity without growth is possible

Every society clings to a myth by which it lives, wrote Peter Victor, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, and Tim Jackson, professor of sustainable development in England’s University of Surrey, in the Vancouver Sun Sept. 19. Ours is the myth of economic growth. For the last five decades the pursuit of growth has been the single most important policy goal across the world. The global economy is almost five times the size it was half a century ago. If it continues to grow at the same rate, the economy will be 80 times that size by the year 2100.

This extraordinary ramping up of global economic activity is without historical precedent. It is totally at odds with our scientific knowledge of the finite resource base and the fragile ecology on which we depend for survival. And it has already been accompanied by the degradation of an estimated 60 per cent of the world’s ecosystems.

For the most part, we ignore the stark reality of these numbers.

The reasons for this collective blindness are easy to find. The modern economy is structurally reliant on economic growth for its stability. When growth falters – as it has done recently – politicians panic. Businesses struggle to survive. People lose their jobs and sometimes their homes. A spiral of recession looms. Questioning growth is deemed to be the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries.

But question it we must. The myth of growth has failed us. It has failed the two billion people who still live on less than $2 a day. It has failed the fragile ecological systems on which we depend for survival. It has failed, spectacularly, in its own terms, to provide economic stability and security. Shooting the messenger, or grossly misrepresenting their political views…is as futile as it is dishonest.

Research key to investing success

Online investors usually have two ways to determine stock picks – they read reports and base decisions on metrics such as price-to-earnings or price-to-book ratios, or they engage in technical analysis, which involves complex charts and trend patterns, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 17.

Many people do both, but it’s the former, the fundamental analysis, that generally helps investors most, says Douglas Cumming, a professor of finance and entrepreneurship at the Schulich School of Business. "Technical analysis is viewed by most folks as being akin to witchcraft," he says. "Over the long term, fundamental analysis is infinitely better than technical."

For investors, the challenge is wading through the thousands of investment websites, news sources and TV shows to come to a conclusion on what company to buy.

Cumming suggests starting with Morningstar.com, one of the most reputable sources for stock and mutual fund information. He likes it because it’s independent. "No one’s paying them to say good things," he says.

Breaking your own glass ceiling

How women self-identify can be out of sync with the characteristics of a high-level managerial role, says Ronald Burke, a professor of organizational behaviours at the Schulich School of Business at York University, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 17. Gender stereotypes and a lack of mentors contribute to this disconnect, creating an environment where employees, when they think of a manager, picture a man, he says.

The double-whammy here is that women hold this view as well.

Annuities: The insurance policy Canadians love to hate

Even though you’re now paying an insurance company to take over the hassle of investing your money and writing the monthly cheques, the amount you receive will be considerably more than the four per cent or so that you could safely withdraw from a portfolio that you choose to go on managing, wrote the Montreal Gazette Sept. 17 in a story about annuities.

How is this possible? Because of what York University finance Professor Moshe Milevsky calls "mortality credits."

In any group of retirement-age people, some simply won’t survive for very long. Since the money they’ve paid for a life annuity won’t be refunded, it goes to enrich the incomes of other annuity holders.

That’s not so great if you hope to leave bequests for the family, but it’s wonderful if your key goal is simply to enjoy a secure retirement income that’s as large as possible.

"Let’s be clear about the benefit: there is no other financial product that guarantees such high rates of return, conditional on survival," says Milevsky in a recent book on retirement planning: Pensionize Your Nest Egg, written with financial planner Alexandra Macqueen.

Immigrants and the question of fairness

Statistics show that immigrants are still underperforming economically, wrote The Globe and Mail Sept. 19 in a story about immigration policy and the election campaign. Less than one in four internationally educated immigrants work in the field for which they trained. Too many are working in service jobs, the only ones they can get. It’s worse for recent immigrants, who now have an unemployment rate more than double that of people born in Canada, according to a July, 2011, York University study. In economic terms, their work experience overseas counts for nothing – it results in no salary benefit once they arrive in Canada."

School parent council to hold free session on inclusivity

The parent council at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School is bringing in speaker Chris D’Souza to talk about creatingi nclusive schools, wrote the Guelph Mercury Sept. 19.

D’Souza was the Equity and Diversity Officer for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and is now a lecturer at York University [Faculty of Education]. He is the current chair of the Equity Summit Group which represents 12 school boards and the chair of AMENO, the Anti-racist Multicultural Network of Ontario.

Canada’s submarines are vulnerable to budget cutters, says York analyst

Defence analyst Martin Shadwick recently told Postmedia News that the future survival of [Canada’s] submarine force could be put in jeopardy if the problems continue, wrote Postmedia News in an editorial Sept. 19. "All the arguments the navy made for having submarines 10 or 15 years ago are still fundamentally valid, but they haven’t been actually able to provide the politicians with specific concrete examples because the subs are not available all that much," explained Shadwick, a York University professor [York Centre for International & Security Studies and the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. "That makes the subs a lot more vulnerable to budget cutters in the department and outside of it."

Ontario’s green energy figures fail to impress

Ontario’s contentious green energy legislation, quickly emerging as the most substantive single policy difference between the Liberal and PC election campaigns, has so far resulted in virtually no renewable energy, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Sept. 19. 

According to Professor Mark Winfield, a York University environmental policy expert [Faculty of Environmental Studies], the province’s electricity grid was designed for several large generators and not the thousands of smaller ones that now exist.

In many cases, potential developers are being told there isn’t enough capacity on the lines for them to enter the market. "It’s clearly a problem," says Winfield. "And you’re seeing the cascading effects of that problem. Manufacturers are having difficulties because there is a backlog of contracts that can’t be executed and therefore potential developers cancel orders for equipment. That’s a factor. I think there’s been a bit of a pullback, too, because of all the uncertainty about where all this is going to go post (election) Oct. 6."

Living in a ‘tree house’ in the Annex

Far from her job at Toronto’s cool cultural hub, The Drake Hotel, Mia Nielsen [BFA ’97] stands barefoot in her kitchen, wearing a little black dress and making peach-and-banana smoothies for me and her son, wrote the Toronto Star Sept. 17.

A compact, vivacious blond, the 38-year-old Nielsen is the curator and cultural programmer of The Drake, which means she spends her days identifying local and international artists whose work will be featured in the boutique hotel, everything from paint on canvas and photography to sculpture and multimedia installations.

Nielsen has a BFA in photography and new media from York University.

But Nielsen isn’t only an ambitious member of the city’s creative class; she’s also a single mom. Her son, Ian Le Quelenec, who is creating an elaborate Lego vehicle, is a sweet and precocious 6-year-old. And it’s Ian that drove Nielsen’s decision to rent.

While still with Ian’s dad, Nielsen lived in a waterfront condo with a beautiful view. When the relationship ended, her ex bought out her share. In what has become a recurring theme in this column, Nielsen says, "I didn’t want to live in a condo and couldn’t find a little house that I could afford in the neighbourhoods where I wanted to live."

Laughing, she adds, "Real estate agents don’t like people like me. I have champagne tastes and a beer budget."

On air  

  • Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, took part in a panel discussion about interpreting the Green Party’s policy platform, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Sept. 16.