Low voter turnout a concern, say York profs

With the clock moving past 11pm, whether or the Liberals will have to settle for a minority remains unclear, wrote the Aurora Banner Oct. 6.

"When you’re that close to the cusp, it almost doesn’t matter," said York University political science Professor Robert Drummond [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies]. "They’re going to have to govern as if it’s a minority."

While each party might try to spin the positives – the Liberals stayed in power, the PCs and NDP both picked up seats – the reality could be different. The PCs will have to live with knowing they went from being ahead in the polls to falling behind and the Liberals will need every member present for crucial votes, lest the government fall. The result is indicative of a mediocre campaign by the three main parties, said Howard Doughty, an Oak-Ridges resident who teaches at Seneca College and York University.

Turnout figures did not seem impressive and we will soon know if the ignominious record low set in 2007, when only 52.6 per cent of eligible Ontarians cast a ballot, has been broken. Whether it’s because the campaign did not excite voters or whether it’s a larger issue, it’s of concern, Drummond said. "It’s troubling. The choice is an important one."

  • This year’s advance polling numbers are up, so does that mean you may have a bit of a wait when you go to vote today? Well, maybe, but probably not, a York University political science professor says, wrote YorkRegion.com Oct. 6.

Those trends might make one think that polling stations across the province will be hopping today, but, that’s not necessarily going to be the case, Professor Robert MacDermid explained. The increase in advanced voters between the 2003 and 2007 elections was higher, but that still didn’t lead to a larger turn-out on election day itself, he said. "The opportunities to vote in advanced polls have been increasing, so there is more opportunity (and) I don’t think non-voters appear to react to more advance polls, at least that is what history suggests," MacDermid said. "Those people who were going to vote and probably would always have voted just took advantage of the greater number of opportunities."

And while it’s impossible to predict exactly how many may cast a ballot today, MacDermid, for one, isn’t predicting big things as far as the numbers go. "I would not expect turnout to be higher given the negativity of the campaign," he said. "This tends to drive voters away from participation."

  • One person who isn’t voting – but really wants to – is 19-year-old Bahareh Khosropanah, wrote YorkRegion.com Oct. 6. Khosropanah, a York University student, isn’t a Canadian citizen yet and can’t fulfil her desire to take part in the democratic process. She said she doesn’t understand the reason why many of her peers don’t vote or take the choice they have during elections for granted. "It’s nice to have a government that cares and just doesn’t tell you ‘that person is your leader now’," said the Iranian-born permanent resident.

NDP’s Horwath credited with running positive campaign

While [NDP Leader Andrea] Horwath’s performance during the campaign likely exceeded her team’s expectations, experts said her true test will come in how well she’s able to negotiate with the minority government to get her priorities across, wrote The Canadian Press Oct. 7.

Bob Drummond of York University [Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies] said the legislature was likely to return in a few weeks, with the Liberals forced to govern as a minority government, even though they fell short of the magic number 54 by just one seat.

And while Premier Dalton McGuinty was clear during the campaign that he wasn’t interested in any kind of coalition, Drummond said he was going to have to work with the other parties. “They’re probably going to do it on an issue-by-issue basis,” he said.

York grad ran for NDP in Etobicoke North

The New Democrat rival [in the riding of Etobicoke North] was Vrind Sharma [BHRM ’09], a 26-year-old York University graduate who grew up in the riding and attended North Albion Collegiate, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 7, in a story about the riding won by Liberal Shafiq Qaadri.

Sharma said he campaigned on the promise to be a "passionate voice" for seniors and youth in the challenging riding. He said he spent hours talking to young people about the need for better after-school programming, especially for those whose parents work at two or three jobs.

What he discovered was that they want music programs and high-level basketball and sports teams. "I feel like I am so fortunate," he said of his local upbringing, "and I just want to give back."

Social work grad ends Liberal reign in Davenport

Losing the municipal vote in 2010 didn’t stop NDP candidate Jonah Schein [BA ’02, MSW ’06] from running in this year’s provincial election, wrote the Toronto Observer Oct. 7.

On Thursday night, Schein’s perseverance finally paid off; after 14 years of Liberal rule, Davenport shifted from red to orange.

Schein joins seven other new NDP members who stole ridings from the Liberals, giving the party 17 members against the Liberals’ 53 seats, one shy of a majority government. The Progressive Conservatives ended the night with 37 seats.

With a master’s degree in social work from York University, Schein has worked as a community organizer and a social worker. “We have huge inequalities in this very rich country of ours, but we are going to fight like mad,” Schein told his supporters.

Vaughan, York Region, take action on your communities, experts say

Sustainable Vaughan, The Vaughan Citizen and Human Endeavour teamed up to host a panel discussion titled “Infrastructure, Growth and the Shape of the Suburbs”, at the Vellore Village Community Centre, wrote the Vaughan Citizen Oct. 6.

This reporter sat on a panel assembled by Sustainable Vaughan’s Sony Rai, along with a group of experts who were able to give our local problems some big-picture perspective – and issue a call to action. "Take responsibility for your urbanity," urged Roger Keil, a professor at York University [Faculty of Environmental Studies] and director of its City Institute.

He spoke of how little the suburbs and city know each other and how pro-active residents need to be as Vaughan and the larger region continue to urbanize. Mississauga, held up as a frequent example during the evening, has a population larger than San Francisco, Keil pointed out, making it difficult to treat it as a simple suburb. Increasingly it is "in between cities" like ours where the battle for the future is being fought. "They are now becoming the real political centre of the world in which we live," Keil said.

RIP Steve

In the testosterone-fuelled business world of bigger, faster, louder, Steve Jobs did things differently, thinking about future possibility, and infusing functionality with design, wrote Heather Lotherington [Faculty of Education] in a letter to The Globe and Mail Oct. 7. The seamless cyberworld he leaves behind is threaded through with Apple devices that connect our days, thoughts, work and lives. A staunch Apple convert through thick and thin since the ’80s, I missed the point in the past decade where Apple was no longer minority culture.

RIP Sir Apple. You deserve it.

Film’s creator set out to entertain child

While touring international film festivals with my 2010 feature MODRA, my daughter (costar of MODRA) was feeling a bit homesick, so I proposed we shoot a new film while on tour to make things more fun, wrote the Vancouver Sun Oct. 7, in a story about producer/writer/director/actor Ingrid Veninger [an instructor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts], and her latest film, I am a good person/I am a bad person.

Are you working on a new project now?

In addition to touring festivals with I am a good person/I am a bad person, I am teaching third and fourth-year film students at York University, and am producing the new documentary by Peter Mettler entitled Time Being with the National Film Board of Canada, coming 2012.

South Korea cracks down on cramming

Every night after 10 pm, government officials patrol the streets of Seoul, wrote the Toronto Star Oct. 7. They are on a mission to sniff out late-night cram sessions held by private, after-school tutoring academies called hagwon.

"All students in Korea – even babies – they go to hagwon," said Nahye Yoo, a 21-year-old York University student who is aware of the crackdowns. "So if you don’t go to hagwon, then you feel like you’re behind."

Yoo first enrolled in daily hagwon classes at age 3, and stopped attending them after immigrating to Canada nearly 10 years later.

Former York student wrote opinion pieces in four languages

No one knows exactly what made Israel Kopyto and his wife, Frieda, escape Poland for Russia against the advice of their families only three months before the German invasion in 1939, wrote his son Harry Kopyto in The Globe and Mail Oct. 6. But it was a decision that saved their lives and left an indelible imprint on Israel’s consciousness.

Kopyto died June 20, 2011, in Toronto of an infection, aged 95.

His entire family was killed during the war. Although he became a severe critic of the anti-Semitic campaigns of Joseph Stalin in the 1940s and 1950s, Israel never tired of telling everybody within earshot that the Red Army had saved his life.

Israel had a sharp mind and an equally sharp tongue. A self-educated intellectual with no more than a few years of grade school, he ended up taking classes at York University in 1979 and 1980, and writing op-ed articles for The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and other papers. He spoke five languages and wrote in four. His interest in and knowledge of Yiddish culture, literature, poetry, politics and history knew no bounds.