SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - October 3, 2008

October 3, 2008

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A look at how SFU and its people made news: Sept. 26-Oct. 3, 2008.             


  • The Vancouver Sun gave prominence to an op-ed article (guest column) from Cary Fowler, who gets an honorary degree from SFU next week.
    The first paragraph read: “Simon Fraser University's motto is ‘Thinking of the World’. The creation of a world seed bank to preserve crop diversity reflects the sentiment expressed in that motto.”
    Thanks to Fowler, the world’s first global seed bank (on the frigid Norwegian island of Spitsbergen) will help protect more than a million unique varieties of food plants.
    His key message in the Sun: “We can solve the food crisis. Without fancy technologies. Without going back to the Stone Age. Without breaking the budget.”
    The column concluded with an editorial credit: “Cary Fowler, a 1971 BA honours graduate of Simon Fraser University's sociology department, is known as the world's seed banker. He is the executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. On Oct. 9, SFU will confer an honourary degree of laws on Fowler.”
    Fowler was also pursued by the Christy Clark show on CKNW, the BC Almanac show on CBC Radio, the Fanny Keifer show on Shaw-TV, and the Weather Channel.
  • As stock markets plunged after the U.S. House initially voted down the $700 billion bailout package, the Early Edition show on CBC Radio interviewed Andrey Pavlov, associate professor of finance, the Surrey-North Delta NewsLeader interviewed business assistant prof Amir Rubin, and news website called both of them.
  • The BC Almanac show on CBC Radio called SFU fisheries expert John Reynolds for comment on a court case in which ocean advocate Alexandra Morton is arguing that the federal government did not have the right to hand over regulation of fish-farming to the provincial government.
  • The Vancouver Courier looked at the $3-billion Gateway roads-and-bridges project, and talked at length to Anthony Perl, director of the urban studies program at SFU.
    Among other things, Perl said: “Gateway will create billions of dollars in new land values, but  . . . will lock in sprawl for at least another 20 years. . . . What we need is more rapid transit that attracts high-density development."
  • The Indo-Canadian Link newspaper reported the award to Free The Children, an internationally renowned child advocacy group run by young people, of the 2008 Thakore Visiting Scholar award. SFU’s Institute of Humanities administers the award on behalf of the Thakore Charitable Foundation and the India Club of Vancouver.
  • A study was released to media in which SFU’s Economic Security Project played a role. It said workers in Vancouver need at least $16.74 an hour—and $16.39 an hour in Victoria—to support their families. The study was a joint initiative of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Economic Security Project.


  • The Victoria Times Colonist blared: “It’s the academic equivalent of a Code 3, screaming-on-the-front-lawn domestic dispute. They're staging World Wrestling Federation in the faculty lounge.”
    “It” was a Vancouver news conference held by the Independent Power Producers of BC, which had engaged SFU energy economist Mark Jaccard to do a public “peer review” of writings by SFU profs John Calvert and Marvin Shaffer.
    Columnist Les Leyneof the Times Colonist had fun with it: “Jaccard has shredded the work of Shaffer and Calvert to a remarkable degree. He's treated them like lazy first-year students who need detentions.”
    Calvert’s 2007 book, Liquid Gold: Energy Privatization in British Columbia, said BC is and will be paying artificially high prices for private power. And Lost in Transmission, a 2007 publication by Shaffer, adjunct prof of public policy, said Hydro customers are effectively subsidizing private hydroelectric, wind and run-of-river projects.
    The Times Colonist quoted Jaccard as saying Calvert’s book is best read as “a political propaganda tract”. He continued: “The author does not present a balanced weighing of the evidence. . . . Facts are wrong. . . . Evidence is distorted in a manner that consistently supports a sinister conspiracy theory.”
    And of Shaffer’s work: “Were I conducting this peer review for an academic publisher, my recommendation would be against publication until substantial revisions were made.”
  • In the days before the Oct. 1 news conference, Calvert, a public policy specialist now in SFU Health Sciences, did a speaking tour in the Okanagan. He said the rush by industry to stake out micro-hydro and wind-farm projects is evidence of huge potential profits in private energy production.
    There were stories in the Kelowna Daily Courier and Salmon Arm Observer and an editorial in the Sicamous Eagle Valley News. As well, he addressed the Council of Canadians in Kelowna, and The Canadian Press distributed a story.


  • Another busy media week for SFU marketing prof Lindsay Meredith.
    He was in countrywide stories on the use of “with glowing hearts” from Canada’s national anthem as a tagline for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and Paralympic Games. 
    “From a Canadian national perspective, very, very high resonance,'' said Meredith. “You can't do better than a national anthem.''  He said the tagline should travel well, too.
    CanWest News Service assessed the hits and misses in the federal parties’ campaign advertising. With help from Meredith, it gave the edge (as of Sept. 26, at least) to the Tories. Wrote CanWest: “Thanks to major pre-election strategizing, deep pockets, and a charm-offensive clad in a blue sweater vest, the Conservatives are looking like the party to beat in the traditional advertising ring, says Lindsay Meredith, a professor of marketing strategy at Simon Fraser University.”
    Speaking on a number of federal election issues, Meredith was also on CFUN AM1410 talk radio (twice) and did a long interview on the Calgary Today show on CHQR AM770 there. That station also feeds a sister outlet in Edmonton.
    With the launch of a new national do-not-call list, The Province quoted Meredith:"It will hopefully cut down on the computer-generated, automated messages, and throw a curve-ball to those slimy guys doing telephone fraud." Marketing magazine also pursued him.


  • Maclean’s reported SFU has been ranked for the second year running as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers. This in a competition involving Maclean’s. On-site daycare, summer day-camp programs for employees’ children and free fitness facilities were cited as some of the pluses at SFU.
  • The Canadian Press quoted several economists as forecasting Western Canada’s economic boom will ease, but it will still do better than the rest of Canada for the next year or two. But SFU economics prof Richard Harris argued that if an economic slowdown continues in China and India, the impact would be felt across Western Canada.
  • The Miramichi (NB) Leader featured physicist Dugan O’Neil (a Miramichi native) and his work on the ATLAS experiment to be conducted on the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. “I guess that sometimes it hits me: What I do, I could not do on the Miramichi. There aren't a lot of particle physicists floating around to talk to. I guess that makes me a bit of a strange one."
  • The Portage (MB) Daily Graphic and Central Plains News covered a workshop on cyber-bullying, featuring criminologist Karen Brown, coordinator for the Centre for Education, Law and Society at SFU. “Parents need to be more aware and supervise their kids using the computer. . . . Some parents don’t even realize what cyberbullying is.”
  • Thailand-based Irrawaddy magazine online, which focuses on Burma and Southeast Asia, carried a feature by Sai Soe Win Latt, a PhD student in SFU Geography. It questioned the finding of Transparency International that Burma (Myanmar) appears to be the second most corrupt country in the world, after Somalia.


  • Energy economist Mark Jaccard and U of Calgary prof Bob Page treated listeners to the national Quirks and Quarks show on CBC Radio to a discussion that could have been called Carbon Taxes and Cap-and-Trade 101.
    Jaccard said the future will probably mean a combination of emission-pricing systems that will see Canadians spending 8-10% of their incomes on energy by 2050, rather than roughly 6% as we do now—but getting “cleaner energy” rather than dramatic climate change. 
    As for the election debate, Jaccard said no party has offered the perfect emissions-tax system. “All of them have some potential but I’d like to see the Conservatives and the NDP extend their emissions caps to the entire economy. . . . To their credit, the Green Party and the Liberals are talking about economy-wide instruments.”
    The MP3 audio track is available at:
    Earlier, Jaccard and grad students Nic Rivers and Jotham Peters wrote in a brief that it is “highly unlikely” that the Conservative government’s policies will achieve their stated goal of reducing reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.
    “The lack of an economy-wide emissions price and the allowance for 100% offsets for industrial emitters make it highly likely that emissions will be significantly higher than target levels in 2020 and indeed might even be close to today’s levels.”
    CanWest News Service sent a story to CanWest papers and broadcast outlets across the country.  National editor Andrew Coyne cited it in Maclean’s.
    The paper itself is at:
    Jaccard was also quoted in a Vancouver Sun feature that was billed as “a jargon-free crash course on carbon emissions.”  It included a caricature of Jaccard and a headline quote from him: “Offsets are the next big boondoggle.” The story came from CanWest News Service.


  • Jon Kesselman, Canada Research Chair in public finance, wrote a guest column in the Financial Post section of National Post.  Debunking various election promises, he concluded: “No party has a monopoly on superficially attractive yet inefficient and inequitable policy ideas.  . . . Perhaps the country would be better served by random election calls, with one week's notice, to minimize the opportunity for concocting policy proposals of dubious merit.”
  • CanWest News Service looked at some quirky (and bizarre) TV ads that are running in and around the elections in Canada and the U.S. It quoted Shane Gunster, assistant prof in SFU Communication.
  • reportedhowDemocracy Watch is asking the Federal Court to rule the election is illegal, because there hadn't been a non-confidence vote in the House of Commons. Public policy prof Doug McArthur said there is a very good case to be made, but this far into the campaign any judgment might mean only a slap on the wrist.
  • McArthur also joined the Globe and Mail's election roundtable team. (It noted he was deputy minister to two premiers in BC and also once was Saskatchewan’s education minister.) The team's first podcast is at:
  • The Province reported on a web campaign designed to help environmentalists figure out which other candidate has the best chance of knocking off the Conservative in their riding. But retired SFU prof Gary Mauser said: “Strategic voting rarely comes off. Not enough people have enough energy and enough information to make it work.”
  • The Globe and Mail looked at the race in Burnaby-Douglas, where the Burnaby campus is situated. Political scientist Andrew Heard said NDP incumbent Bill Siksay could suffer if votes drift to the Green Party, allowing Conservative Ronald Leung to capture the longtime NDP seat. (Leung has a doctorate from SFU. The Liberal candidate is Bill Cunningham, a director of the SFU Alumni Association.)
  • Also from Burnaby-Douglas, CTV will broadcast an all-candidates event live from SFU’s Burnaby campus Thursday Oct. 9, starting at 4:15 a.m. Pacific. The show features candidates from the Burnaby-Douglas constituency, in front of a live audience of SFU students and staff. The same day, Bill Good will be doing on CKNW AM980 an all-candidates event from Richmond. Some SFU political science students will be in the audience. It’ll be on CKNW from 8:35-9:30 a.m. Thursday Oct. 9.
  • The Calgary Herald quoted political scientist Lynda Erickson as saying Liberal leader Stéphane Dion may be getting a rough ride from many voters because of his imperfect command of English.
    Positions on issues to communication dynamics and the impact of Stéphane Dion’s English.
  • A new book by psychology prof emeritus Bruce Alexander, The Globalization of Addiction, thumped the Conservative promise to shut down Vancouver's supervised injection site, saying it does reduce harm.
  • Burnaby Now carried a story proposing that the NDP is doing a better job than other parties in online communication. The Now quoted SFU Communication prof Richard Smith as saying the NDP is particularly effective in communicating to young voters uninterested in TV news or newspapers.
  • The Province declared that the election campaign “just isn’t sexy enough”.  Among those quoted was J.J. McCullough, opinion editor and cartoonist at the independent SFU student newspaper, The Peak. "We are overshadowed by the U.S. election because it is so much more dynamic."
  • News media also heard about the latest from political scientist Mark Pickup’s crunching of data from public polls to produce “a better estimate” of vote intention.  (He had the Conservatives slipping slightly to 36-37 per cent of the decided vote, with the Liberals 9-10 points behind. The NDP was polling 16-19% and the Bloc and the Greens 7-10%. The Georgia Straight did a story on Pickup and his work. Pickup’s The Polling Observatory website is at
  • The Vancouver Sun carried a guest column arguing that Canada is admitting “far too many immigrants”—and protesting that all parties in the election are talking about even more. The column cited a study by prof emeritus Herbert Grubel finding that the 2.5 million immigrants who came to Canada between 1990 and 2002 cost the country a net $18.3 billion. (The study has also been floating around blogs for several weeks.)
  • The Georgia Straight charged that The Vancouver Sun had buried stories that reflect badly on prime minister Stephen Harper. Among other things, the Straight said the Sun rejected a guest column from SFU public policy prof John Richards on the value of a carbon tax—part of the Liberal platform—but ran a column by “right-wing CanWest columnist” Lorne Gunter ripping Liberal policies.


  • The Vancouver Sun reported three Lower Mainland companies took top prizes in the New Ventures BC energy conservation competition. “The New Ventures BC competition attracted almost 200 competitors who had to convince a jury of venture capitalists that their ideas were commercially viable. New Ventures BC was established in 2000 by SFU's business school and is funded by private and public sponsors.”
  • The North Shore News featured a North Vancouver initiative called the Climate Change Café. The project manager is Bryan Gallagher, an SFU business, geography and dialogue student. (He was appointed last week to the BC government’s Lower Mainland citizens' conservation council.)
  • The Calgary Herald carried a feature on the green movement as a form of spirituality for many people. It quoted Mark Wexler, SFU business ethics prof: “Unlike the 'sacred' religions that focus on belief in supernatural, secular religions are emerging . . . that can be as attractive to atheists as to members of organized religions.”
  • The blogsite of SFU’s Adaptation to Climate Change Team announced that “November 18th to the 21st will see ACT playing host to 4 international experts in the field of climate change for meetings, a public dialogue, and classroom visits at Simon Fraser University.”


  • CBC Radio spoke to Rob Gordon, director of criminology, about whether Ottawa’s "tough on crime" policy is working. His sound-bite: “Getting the police as organized as organized crime is a step that needs to be taken, but the industry is so huge here that it's . . . overwhelming them.”
    Closer to home, Gordon was also in The Province, in a story on a new Internet-sleuthing tool that has been developed to allow police to hunt down criminals and terrorists online. Said Gordon: "It's important to regulate and police the virtual world, which is a world that is increasingly affecting the man on the street.”


Also seen on websites and weblogs this week:

  • Debate on the possibility of a new medical school in Surrey, perhaps through a partnership of SFU Health Sciences and the Fraser Health Authority. . . . The blog on the appointment of Hiromi Goto as writer-in-residence. . . . An open letter to the U.S. Congress from economists, urging it not to rush into a Wall Street bailout; the signatories included assistant prof Alexander Karaivanov of SFU. . . . The Essential Marcuse listed as “an essential document” (co-edited by Andrew Feenberg, Canada Research Chair in philosophy of technology in SFU Communication). . . . A blog that noted student Layne Clark, who is writing a weekly student-life column for 24Hours, is the daughter of former premier (and SFU alum) Glen Clark. . . . A plug for the book Programming Reality: Perspectives on English-Canadian Television, by associate prof Zoë Druick of SFU Communication and CRTC staffer Aspa Kotsopoulos, who has taught at SFU. . . .  A translation by Samir Gandesha, assistant prof in SFU Humanities, of a 2002 Der Spiegel interview with social theorist Jean Baudrillard. . . .

ALSO in the NEWS

  • The Arizona Daily Star headlined Canadian Michael Worobey, assistant prof of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of Arizona. His research indicates the HIV/AIDS scourge really began around 1900—decades earlier than first thought. He used fragmented pieces of viral DNA and RNA, from archival specimens, to track when the virus first jumped from chimpanzees to humans. The story noted he got his bachelors in biological sciences from SFU.
  • The Vancouver Sun featured the addition to Google’s mapping service of Lower Mainland transit directions from TransLink. The Sun found a couple of “bizarre” glitches, though:
    “For example, on the site promoting its transit searches, Google highlights the trip from Stanley Park to Simon Fraser University as one of three featured trips in North America. The first part of that trip makes sense: Take the 19 bus to Pender and Richards, and then walk a block north to Hastings and Richards to catch the 135 up Burnaby Mountain to the SFU bus loop. But then, oddly, Google tells you to take a 19-minute walk—right back down the hill—even though you're already at SFU.”
    The story went across the country by way of CanWest News Service.


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