Globe Arts’ Artists of the Year: Teresa Przybylski, master of the set

Professor Teresa Przybylski, chair of York University’s Department of Theatre, designed two of the most stunning sets seen on a Canadian stage this year – just don’t call them “sets”, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 28. “I like ‘environment’ – that’s how I think about the stage,” said the 63-year-old diminutive designer, over coffee in the home in Toronto’s High Park neighbourhood she has lived in since immigrating to Canada in 1984. “You create an environment that in some simple way tells people the background for the story, or makes the right statement for the story.” Well, okay then: Przybylski created the most extraordinary environments at Ontario’s Stratford and Shaw festivals last summer – ones that were not only lovely to look at, but which helped me see two familiar plays by famous Irish playwrights from fresh new angles. Read full story.

Pension woes: Middle class faces greatest risk
If you’re middle-aged and middle-class, you may be in trouble in retirement unless Canada’s pension woes get addressed, pension experts warn. . . . Canadians have only so much income available for savings, said Tom Klassen, a professor in York University’s School of Public Policy, in the Toronto Star Jan. 2. “If you ask people to save more on their own, that’s not easy. The average Canadian is worried about mortgage payments, or paying rent, or saving money for their children to go to college,” said Klassen. Read full story.

2014 is the year for immigrants to …
“I relate to the enthusiasm and trepidation of international students and new immigrants because of my own journey from Egypt as a foreign student,” said York University President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri in Canadian Immigrant Jan. 2. “Reflecting on my own experience, I urge fellow immigrants and new Canadians to leave no stone unturned when it comes to seeking new opportunities. There are many resources in Canada to support the success of those new to this country, and it is up to each individual to identify them and take full advantage of what they have to offer.” Read full story.

Have your say: How do we live like Mandela in an age of rage?
What can each of us do in our lives to shift from division and anger to cooperation and forgiveness? . . . “Compassion and the ability to see the other as a person just like oneself is crucial,” said York University psychology Professor Leslie Greenberg in The Globe and Mail Jan. 3. “For the offender, forgiveness is best promoted not by apology, but by expression of genuine shame. For the victim, it involves facing one’s own pain rather than blaming. It’s a process of two steps forward and one back that takes time and work from both sides.” Read full story.

Stricter oil-by-rail rules needed after another explosion: critics
The significant increase in the transport of oil by rail, and the growing evidence that Bakken shale oil is proving itself to be a very explosive commodity, shows that regulations on both sides of the border are not adequate, said York University Professor Mark Winfield in the Calgary Herald Jan. 1. Among the steps Canada took after the Lac Megantic disaster were a requirement for an increase in staffing on trains transporting tank cars with hazardous goods. Ottawa also introduced tightened rules around unattended trains, and a requirement for rail companies to provide hazardous goods information to municipalities on an annual basis. But that is not enough, said Winfield. Read full story.

How Great Western Brewing has benefited from its employee-owned business model
“How you implement any model is essential,” said Andrew Crane, director of Schulich’s Centre of Excellence in Responsible Business, in the Financial Post Dec. 23. “It has to be a good employee-owned [business] model for it to work. Employees have to have a real and active stake in the company, so the employees have to be really involved in the decision-making.” He added that it can come down to how the employees are perceived. Read full story.

Opinion: The investigation Lac-Mégantic deserves
“The return of train activity through Lac-Mégantic on Dec. 18 brought back painful memories of the events of the early hours of July 6 for the town’s residents, when an unattended train carrying crude oil derailed, exploded and burned, killing 47 people. The disaster stands as the deadliest rail accident in Canada in the past century,” wrote York University environmental studies Professor Mark Winfield in the Montreal Gazette Jan. 1. . . . “In the end, the only way to fully understand what happened and why, and develop a comprehensive set of recommendations to ensure that a similar disaster does not occur again, is through an appropriately mandated judicial inquiry.” Read full story.

East Gwillimbury searches for school partners
Just a few days after East Gwillimbury passed a resolution asking other municipalities in the region to get involved in its quest for new postsecondary schools in Ontario, the provincial government released a policy framework for postsecondary institutions, reported the East Gwillimbury Era Jan. 2. . . . Municipalities interested in being considered as host locations will work with postsecondary institutions that would be prepared to submit a proposal. While East Gwillimbury has had discussions with York University, the University of Guelph, Ryerson University and Seneca College, no agreement with any institution has been reached. Read full story.

Canadian airlines soaring high
York University business Professor Fred Lazar thinks there could be more favourable fares as the airlines add capacity with fleet renewals, including new Boeing 777s for Air Canada. “Will this lead to aggressive pricing? There is that risk” if airlines start to chase higher load factors – an industry measure of how full planes are – with fare wars, Lazar said in the Toronto Star Dec. 31. However, price slashing can create a downward slide for the bottom line, which can lead to airlines going belly up, as has happened many times in the past. “This is a strange industry. As airlines are more successful in keeping costs down, they tend to be more aggressive on pricing. And then a year or two of good profits, it is expansion time.” Read full story.

People to watch: Filmmaker breaks out with ‘The Dirties’
Toronto filmmaker Matt Johnson, 28, has gone from showing kids around the exhibits at the Ontario Science Centre to taking meetings with Hollywood studios in a matter of months, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 29. He’d done a web series with friends, Nirvana the band the show, and then shot The Dirties, which he directed, co-wrote and co-stars in, with the same group. But Johnson wasn’t confident about the future. He decided to go back to film school as a grad student at York University. In January 2013, The Dirties was invited to screen at Slamdance, the indie film fest that runs concurrently with Sundance. It won the Best Narrative Film prize. Filmmaker Kevin Smith (Clerks) championed the movie, calling it the “Canadian film of the year to me, as well as best film of the year overall.” Read full story.

Wynne could have declared ice emergency
Ford wasn’t the only person who could have declared a state of emergency in Toronto last week, reported the Toronto Sun Dec. 28. Under Ontario’s Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, either the mayor or the premier can declare a state of emergency. Given that Premier Kathleen Wynne didn’t do that, it’s likely she agreed with experts on emergency preparedness who said Ford made the right call. . . . Ali Asgary, a professor for York University’s emergency management program, told the CBC while the ice storm and its aftermath was stressful for hundreds of thousands of people, the city continued to function and the situation didn’t rise to the level of a formal state of emergency. Read full story.