SFU PEOPLE IN THE NEWS - October 17, 2008

October 17, 2008

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A look at how SFU and its people made news: Oct. 11-17, 2008              

Federal election coverage put a dozen oft-quoted SFU experts in the news during the week, as it had throughout the election campaign.
At week’s end, a much newer face at SFU scored a media hit: Bruce Lanphear was quoted in the New York Times, as an internationally recognized expert on lead toxicity.
Lanphear joined SFU Health Sciences this fall as professor of children’s environmental health. His research was the key study used by the U.S. Environmental Protection agency in reducing the allowable levels of lead in air.


  • SFU polling expert Mark Pickup was in a Canadian Press story, saying public opinion polls sway the news media more than they do the average voter—and journalists “over-interpret" the daily ups and downs.
    "If it's in the range of a one- to two-percentage point change, with the sample sizes we're dealing with, there's no way that you should provide any interpretation to that movement." We saw the story in more than 20 newspapers.
  • The Canadian Press quoted political scientist Andrew Heard in a story on the low national turnout in the election (59.1%).
    The global economic meltdown added some urgency, "but there was no real set of clear alternatives from the parties to make it a matter that pushed people to the ballot box." As well, he said, the Thanksgiving weekend interrupted any momentum the campaign gathered. We saw that story in more than 20 papers, too.
    In a related National Post blog, Heard was quoted as saying the election was centered on the track records and personalities of party leaders, and “these are not issues that inspire Canadians to vote.”
    Also looking at the turnout, in a story in the Surrey-North Delta Leader, was Gary Mauser, retired prof and active election-watcher. "It's not so low that it shows people are getting cynical and quitting, but it is low enough to show  . . . people weren't engaged in this election, and despite the financial meltdown, people never did get engaged . . .”
  • In post-election debate in the Globe and Mail's election roundtable, public policy prof Doug McArthur said: "I think you have to say that Stephen Harper slipped and fell along the way and didn't get what he wanted and therefore he is in a sense a loser. . . . What he's going to have to learn to do is to govern with Jack Layton to some degree, because now Jack Layton holds the balance of power."
    McArthur was also in The Vancouver Sun. He said tight, three-way races in B.C.'s southwest corner—coupled with a backlash against the BC carbon tax and a weak campaign by the Liberals—gave New Democrats all the room they needed to position themselves as an alternative to both the Grits and the Greens. But a strong Tory vote kept the NDP from picking up the 12 to 14 seats it had targeted in BC: “I didn't think the Conservative vote would be as strong as it was in the immediate area around the Vancouver urban area.”
  • Political scientist Patrick Smith was among post-election commentators in a Canadian Press story, saying the fact Green candidates ran third and sometimes second in some BC races may have tipped the scales in BC. "I think some of the undecideds went Green; some of the undecideds slipped away from the Liberals, certainly."
    Smith was also in The Province, predicting Liberal leader Stéphane Dion will not survive a leadership review. "I'd say he's gone. He didn't seem to connect in English Canada. He didn't make any inroads other than in Quebec." The Province story also ran in the Victoria Times Colonist.
    As well, Smith was in a column in the Burnaby NewsLeader:Paddy Smith was right on the money. At least when it comes to the Burnaby-Douglas riding. . . . The Simon Fraser University political science prof said it would be difficult to bet against the NDP retaining the riding.” And incumbent Bill Siksay did win.
  • Media watcher Kathleen Cross of SFU Communication was in a Globe and Mail story—reporting CBC’s Newsworld channel somehow showed early results from voting in the Maritimes, half an hour before polls were due to close in BC. She flipped over to CPAC and saw the same thing. "It was a mistake, I'm sure. It wasn't intentional. What a big mistake, though. I've never seen one like this before." It was apparently due to a cable company switching error.


As the election campaign drew to a close:

  • The Vancouver Sun noted Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion wrapped up their campaigns in hotly contested Metro Vancouver ridings. And the newspaper quoted marketing prof Lindsay Meredith:
    “There is a slugfest going on because Harper and his backroom boys never envisioned this race was going to be as close to the wire as this one is looking. It ain't the old days. B.C. is getting a lot more clout than it used to. It used to be that once Ontario was in, close the door. That doesn't wash anymore. Between B.C. and slopping into Alberta, we're a wild card to make this interesting."
  • Indeed, The Vancouver Sun said, all parties thought B.C. results could change their fortunes. “‘All the party leaders have been out here a lot and I think they've invested a lot because they thought they all had growth potential’, says political scientist Patrick Smith of Simon Fraser University.” The Canadian Press, National Post and CBC Radio also quoted Smith.
  • As well, CanWest News Service quoted Smith in its last pre-election roundup: “After a final, spirited sprint, the leaders will settle in today to await the voters' verdict on an election that was ‘mostly about nothing,’ as Simon Fraser University political scientist Patrick Smith put it, until Harper got ‘whacked’ by the Wall Street crisis in Week 4.”

The Province ran the story, among others.

  • Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham proposed that if the Liberals won “the result could be one of the largest tax shifts in Canadian history.” She noted: “SFU economist John Richards tells me that a fully implemented national carbon tax would provide Ottawa with at least as much revenue as it now collects in income tax.”
  • Vancouver Sun business columnist Don Cayo noted every party was talking about tax cuts—but not for the top tier of income earners. Wrote Cayo: “‘This could be a problem if we're concerned about incentives,’ says Simon Fraser University's tax policy guru, Jonathan Kesselman. ‘This will be an unpopular thing for me to say, but the people who are most productive are also the people who make a lot of money. No one is offering anything for these top performers.’”
  • The Canadian Press quoted federal environment minister John Baird as estimating his brand of emissions taxes would be even higher than the Liberals' carbon tax. But SFU economist Mark Jaccard said it wouldn’t work.
    “The reason is that it has a huge loophole—a 100-per-cent loophole—which allows industrial emitters to not reduce their emissions by one tonne if they instead purchase offsets. So I would characterize the Conservative policy as much cheaper than the Liberal (one). But I can always get you a cheaper policy if it has no effect on emissions.''
  • CanWest News Service said political scientists would be watching with interest the voter turnout. It quoted SFU’s Andrew Heard as saying he initially would have guessed voter turnout was headed for a downturn, but as the campaign unfolded, the economy emerged as a dominant issue and “Heard suspects that might give more people a reason to vote.”
  • Several more newspapers ran last week’s national story on how more than 230 academic economists signed an open letter to the leaders of the federal political parties, urging them to acknowledge that putting a price on carbon is "the best approach" to combatting climate change. One of the originators of the letter was SFU economist Nancy Olewiler, who said: “We just wanted to clear the air about these issues. It's supply and demand. We have been teaching this since Adam Smith."
  • The Calgary Herald, Montreal Gazette and Victoria Times Colonist picked up a CanWest News Service story from last week on NDP leader Jack Layton’s campaign.  Three BC candidates were derailed because of embarrassing histories, but, said SFU political scientist Patrick Smith: “He quickly responded to it. Whether it was a wholesome response or not, we could argue, but the issue did go away. There's nobody talking about it.''
  • Cara Camcastle of SFU’s Centre for Canadian Studies, who has expertise in the environment and Canadian politics, was interviewed by BCIT’s student radio station re: the environmental platforms of the parties.
  • The Globe and Mail looked at the backroom boys who ran the party campaigns in BC. One was Gerry Scott of the NDP. The Globe noted he has an MA in history from SFU.


  • The Vancouver Sun reported the RCMP has promised to conduct an internal review into reports it commissioned that criticize Insite, Vancouver's supervised injection site. (SFU profs did two of the studies, one of which was generally favourable toward Insite and one that was more critical.)
    The story said the Mounties are contributing $1 million over five years for research at SFU and the University of Fraser Valley, via the Institute of Canadian Urban Research Studies (ICURS) at SFU. Bryan Kinney of SFU Criminology and ICURS said: “We don't do anything that we wouldn't do as part of our own academic interest."
  • The Vancouver Sun wondered how many family Thanksgiving dinners finish up in fights, tears, or all of the above. Two SFU experts were quoted:
    • Psychologist Joti Samra: "We have a lot of history with our families, at least two decades, if not three or four, and these patterns are very deeply ingrained. You'll see people in their 30s, 40s or 50s falling right back into the roles that they played with their parents in adolescence.”
    • Sociologist Barbara Mitchell: "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to create the perfect family and worry about what we think other people's expectations are.”
  • Ed Bukszar, associate dean of business, was on the On the Coast show on CBC Radio, talking about the potential downside of investing in gold during the world stock-market wobbles.
  • The Vancouver Courier featured Builders Without Borders, a non-profit group of architects and planners that is partnering with the Aboriginal Mother Centre to develop a new multi-purpose centre in Vancouver’s Grandview-Woodlands neighbourhood. The business plan was created by SFU student Kevin McLeod under the direction of Mark Selman, project chair at SFU’s Faculty of Business Administration.
  • The Langley Advance picked up an SFU release on how SFU researchers Oliver Love and Tony Williams and a team from Trent University discovered that hormones released by stressed mother starlings can improve the physical development of their offspring. The newspaper spotted that the starling eggs in the experiment were collected on a Langley dairy farm.


  • Bruce Lanphear of SFU Health Sciences, a world expert on lead toxicity, was in the New York Times, in a story reporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency set stringent new standards for airborne lead particles.
  • The EPA followed recommendations of its Lanphear and other science advisers and cut the maximum allowable concentrations to a tenth of the previous standard. The new standard, said Lanphear, “will make a difference, but won’t lead to dramatic reductions” in blood-lead levels of younger children. The story started to spread to other media by way of the Times news service, and across the internet.
    Earlier the green website Grist quoted Lanphear on U.S. regulations covering the use of lead in batteries. “We found that despite the reduction in lead exposure, there is still considerable room for improvement, and that we should try to achieve levels even considerably lower than what children and the rest of us are exposed to today."
  • The Ottawa Citizen and the Windsor Star ran a guest column from Nic Rivers, doctoral student in SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management: “ . . . the state of Canada's climate policy today is unnervingly similar to its state five years ago (and) implementation of a true economy-wide carbon pricing scheme, which experts acknowledge is the most effective and efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, seems almost as far away today as it was in 2002.”
  • Media across the country picked up last week’s Times (of London) rankings of world universities. Harvard was No.1, followed by Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. The Canadian finishers in the top 200: McGill (20), UBC (34), U of T (41), Alberta (74), Montréal (91), McMaster and Queen’s (tied 117), Waterloo (129), Western (159), SFU (164), Calgary (170), Dalhousie (197).
  • Cary Fowler, the SFU alum and honorary degree recipient who is known as “the world’s seed banker” was on The Sunday Edition on CBC Radio, a national program that has a million listeners. This after appearances by Fowler on the Christy Clark show on CKNW, the BC Almanac show on CBC Radio, the Fanny Keifer show on Shaw-TV, and the Weather Channel.
  • A string of CanWest newspapers, including The Vancouver Sun, carried travel-section advice on planning for risks abroad. Among those quoted (and photographed) was Dianne Vosloo, a physician at SFU Health and Counselling Services and at the Travel Medicine and Vaccination Centre in Vancouver.
  • Andrew Mack and The Human Security Report Project at SFU announced to media the release of the project’s miniAtlas of Human Security. “Itprovides an at-a-glance illustrated guide to global and regional trends in human insecurity—focusing on wars, genocides, battle deaths, refugee flows and human rights abuses.” It is co-published with the World Bank.
  • National Post looked at what happened to the theory that by now we’d be working far fewer hours than 40 a week.  Among those quoted was Mark Leier, director of Labour Studies at SFU. “Productivity has at least doubled since 1970. We could have the same standard of living [as we did in 1970] with a four-hour day."
  • The Financial Post section of National Post carried a guest column on free trade. Among other things, it noted that after the Second World War countries increasingly traded the same goods: e.g., Sweden both exported Volvos and imported Volkswagens. “Simon Fraser emeritus prof and frequent Post contributor Herbert Grubel noticed this phenomenon early on and his ‘Grubel-Lloyd index’ is still the standard measure for ‘intra-industry trade.’”
  • The name of Eric Hershberg, director of Latin American studies at SFU, was the first signature on an open letter to Barack Obama, urging him if elected to improve relations with Latin America and to support democracy and human rights there. Hershberg is president of the Latin American Studies Association.


  • The Globe and Mail compared the “I am experienced” pitches of Vancouver mayoralty candidates Peter Ladner and Gregor Robertson. Among those quoted was retired prof Gary Mauser. He noted that when John McCain emphasizes his experience, it works for him. “But when Hillary Clinton tried it, it meant baggage from the past."
  • CBC Radio told listeners that Vancouver's ruling party, the Non-Partisan Association, is making crime reduction—and hiring more police—its top priority in next month's municipal election. But criminologist Neil Boyd said more police doesn't guarantee a reduction of criminal activity.
  • The Vancouver Courier looked at independent candidates in Vancouver’s mayoralty race. “They add colour to the process,” said political scientist Kennedy Stewart.


  • The Nanaimo News Bulletin examined the issue of having boys and girls separated into gender-based classrooms in school. Sean Blenkinsop, associate professor of education, was quoted:
    "The benefits seem to play out in terms of them being more comfortable, being able to connect more. But any time you have gender specific classrooms, you're building on an idea of gender stereotypes.” He said a better solution to help boost student achievement is smaller classrooms, where teachers can get to know students better and work with them one-on-one more often.
  • The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times looked at efforts to revive and maintain aboriginal languages in BC. Susan Russell, SFU linguistics instructor and coordinator of the First Nations languages certificate for SFU Kamloops, was in the story: “Teaching the phonetics of Halkomelem, Russell  . . . tries to get her students to pronounce a glottal ‘m’ - an ‘m’ deep in the throat, it's not so easy and she explains Halkomelem is the only language in the world with such a sound.”
  • The Calgary Herald reported U of Calgary grad students propose to sever ties with the Canadian Federation of Students. “The U of C is one of a handful of schools in Western Canada to attempt to withdraw from the federation. In May 2007, undergraduate students at B.C.'s Simon Fraser University voted in favour of dumping their membership and $400,000 in annual fees.”


  • CanWest News Service reported: “While the University of B.C. has been stealing the NCAA headlines, Simon Fraser University has quietly gone about its business.” It quoted David Murphy, senior director of athletics, as saying SFU is ready to join NCAA Division II and is awaiting approval of the SFU board of governors.
    A green light would mean Clan teams playing south of the border by the 2010-11 season.  Now, SFU has 15 varsity teams competing in Canadian Interuniversity Sport or the U.S.-based, small-college National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
  • SFU Athletics kept media well fed with info as:
    • The Clan men’s and women’s cross country teams each finished third at the 2008 Pete Steilberg Geoduck Open at Olympia WA. There’s video on the Clan Athletics Network:
    • UBC defeated the Clan women’s soccer team 2-0 in their annual Challenge Cup. SFU thus slid to an 8-4 record for the season. Earlier, Concordia Cavaliers edged the women’s soccer team 2-1. The Clan’s next game is Oct. 19 against College of Idaho.
    • The Clan football team headed to Saskatoon to face the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Oct. 18—with hopes of a win that would clinch home field throughout the playoffs. (The game will be live on Shaw-TV at 11:30 am Pacific.)
    • The Clan women’s volleyball team enters its season with six new players. The schedule begins Oct. 18 in Brandon MB against the Bobcats.

ALSO in the NEWS

  • The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Times carried a guest column from Maritta Kosonen, mother of Maija-Liisa Corbett, an SFU student who died Aug. 28 when a truck plowed into a Maple Ridge Sushi restaurant.  (A second victim was Hyeshim Oh, mother of SFU student Jessica Han. The truck driver is charged with two counts of second-degree murder and six of attempted murder.) Wrote Kosonen: “We would like to thank the community and our friends in our time of need.”
  • The Times also featured Amanda Balcke, new executive director of the Alouette River Management Society. The paper mentioned that she has a bachelor of science degree in physical geography from SFU.
  • The Comox Valley Record featured Dawn Cooper, a virus research scientist at the Heart and Lung Institute at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver. “ . . . the Comox-bred PhD post-doctorate graduated last week from Simon Fraser University in biomedical sciences.”
  • The Comox Valley Record also covered a conference at which food activist Herb Barbolet, an associate with of SFU’s Centre for Sustainable Community Development, compared Cuba’s “elegant” approach to food with that of Canada. "Their policy is 'We will meet the basic nutritional needs of the public first and then export any excess.’ We have it just reversed. Our system in Canada and North America is that food is a commodity."
  • The Terrace Standard featured that city’s the new sustainability coordinator, Tara Irwin. She’s completing her masters of urban studies at SFU, the newspaper noted.
  • The Yukon News featured Grant Zazula, the Yukon government's lone paleontologist. “Zazula's passion is studying arctic ground squirrels. In fact, he got the job as Yukon's paleontologist after completing his PhD in the department of Biological Sciences at Simon Fraser University where he conducted research on fossil arctic ground squirrel nests from the Klondike.”
  • Two websites in Ghana covered a campaign speech by Mahamudu Bawumia, vice-presidential candidate for the ruling New Patriotic Party. The story noted he has a doctorate in economics from SFU. The election is Dec. 7.


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