Province unveils integrated transit network proposal

Metrolinx, the agency in charge of the city’s transit makeover, unveiled its long-awaited $50-billion plan to expand the transportation system throughout the GTA. The 25-year plan is the largest of its kind in North America in more than half a century.

Metrolinx chair Rob MacIsaac ruled out funding the initiative through a dramatic fare increase, promising no new fees or tolls until 2013. However, the plan fails to outline who will foot the bill.

The plan aims to have 75 per cent of GTA residents living within 2 km of a rapid transit line, up from 42 per cent today.

Despite this modest progress of saving five minutes a day, MacIsaac argued that the new transit spending is essential. Toronto is estimated to grow by 2.6 million people over the next 25 years, “Not proceeding with this plan would be higher than the cost of proceeding with it. We cannot be scared away from this challenge,” he said.

Metrolinx has identified eight goals, few of which are likely to appeal to students. Among these are implementing a complete walking and cycling network with bike-sharing programs. U of T students who live in the 905 region may benefit from an integrated transit fare system based on the “smart card” model that has been adopted in cities such as Montreal and Madrid. A high tech information system will help passengers plan their trip and pay either online or by phone. Finally, Metrolinx plans to create a network of connected mobility hubs. The plan calls for hubs to be more than just stations, but rather destinations unto themselves.

Andrae Griffith, a student at Ryerson University’s School of Urban and Regional Planning who sits on the Regional Transportation Plan Advisory Committee. noted, “There will be about 7000 km of bike lanes and I think a lot of students will definitely appreciate that infrastructure.”

Rachel Strong, a fourth-year student from Richmond Hill, thinks that the transit system definitely needs to be upgraded. “I drive to school everyday,” she said. “If I could get downtown faster and without having to hop from one bus to the next, then for sure I would consider it.”

Blues soccer teams clean up against Carleton

The Varsity Blues men’s soccer team redeemed themselves on Sunday with a 1-0 win against the only team to beat them this year, the Carleton Ravens. Playing without their starting goalkeeper Luciano Lombardi—forced out after an injury in Saturday’s tie against Trent—the Blues had an aggressive offensive strategy, pushing the ball up the field quickly, creating several opportunities to score early on. The first of these came four minutes in, when Toronto nearly converted a corner kick, forcing a close save by the veteran Ravens goalkeeper, Arjun Langford.

“Last week we had prepared for Carleton [with] a little too much emphasis on what they were going to do, and we played a little too defensively,” said Blues head coach Anthony Capotosto. “We learned from last week’s game that we didn’t have to do that today and so we lined up with a more offensive system.”

This approach was particularly bold against Carleton, the top team in the Eastern division who hadn’t lost in 31 regular season games. What the Blues provided in energy and ambition, the undefeated Ravens answered with skill and patience. Carleton’s midfield often out-maneuvered the Blues, moving the ball effectively and dictating the pace of the game.

The second half saw a reversal in strategies, as the Blues committed to winning possession of the ball with the Ravens on the defence. Blues captain Dustin Chung commented on this strategic change.

“The one thing that we were lacking in the first half was the technical part,” he said. “We’re a technical team. We can put the ball in the net and we can spread the ball around. We went in at half-time and [Coach] Anthony Capotosto said ‘You know what guys, we’re going to have to make a better effort at keeping the ball, widening up in the wings a little, getting open and doing that extra little bit of running so we could get the ball moving.’ That was most definitely the strategy in the second half.”

Although the Ravens continued to create opportunities, the Blues defence was up for the fight. A late offensive push sucked the air out of Varsity Centre as fifth-year Carleton striker Matthew D’Angelo beat first-year Toronto keeper John Smits to the ball. Smits had him covered and secured the crucial save. Smits came through again as a free kick taken by Carleton bounced off the post and was quickly cleared. All of this happened with just four minutes left.

Despite the Carleton onslaught, the Blues maintained their composure. Just when it looked like the chance to beat Carleton was gone, first-year midfielder Dylan Bams, picking up a superbly placed goal-kick from Smits, single-handedly wrestled the ball past three Ravens and scored a goal. The crowd erupted in jubilation.

The Ravens came on strong in the final stretch, but the Blues defence proved too much. The Blues’ win brought an end to the Ravens domination of the Eastern division and signaled the birth of a new rivalry between two of the top teams in Ontario.

“U of T men’s soccer is on the rise. We prepared for weeks for this game and we’re going from strength to strength right here. This is going to be a big win,” said Chung after celebrating with his teammates.

The Blues take on Trent on Saturday and the RMC Rams on Sunday at Varsity Centre. As the only team to shut out Toronto this year, Trent will challenge the Blues to pull off another strong offensive showing. RMC will no doubt be playing hungry as they continue to search for their first win.

UTM student to be expatriated by Oct 3

The extent of Saad Alam’s memories of Bangladesh are those of an eight-year old, but he’s looking at rebuilding his life from scratch as a 23-year-old in the place of his childhood.

Saad Alam and his parents recently received a deportation notice last month, telling informing them that they have untill October. 3 to leave Canada. The family fled Bangladesh in 1994, when Badrul Alam’s political affiliations turned bitter. They spent nine years in the U.S. before crossing to Canada to claim refugee status.

Alam, set to enter his third year at UTM, is faced with the prospect of never being able to complete his degree. Both his parents have worked multiple jobs to cover his international tuition fees, which amount to several times what domestic students pay.

Campus action group No One Is Illegal will be organizing a demonstration at noon on Tuesday, September. 30 at Sid Smith, protesting Alam’s cause and other deportations resulting from Canada Border Service Agency crackdowns.

Women blank Ravens, 4-0

The University of Toronto Varsity Blues women’s soccer team shook off their only loss this season against the Carleton Ravens just 15 seconds into last Sunday’s game. On the game’s first possession, Blues veteran midfielder Jenessa Banwell beat the Ravens goalkeeper Katherine Shaughnessy on a centering pass from rookie Jennifer Siu.

“The first goal sent the message right away that we’re here to play, and we’re here to win this game,” said interim head coach Eva Havaris. That goal proved to be the eventual game-winner as Toronto shut down Carleton with a 4-0 win at Varsity Centre. The win allowed the Blues to improve to 5-1 on the season for 15-points, putting them atop the OUA standings. The Ravens’ record fell to a 3-2-1.

“It’s a great feeling, not only to just beat [Carleton] but to beat them by that much,” said team captain Laura Arduini. “We were focused all week and we knew what we had to do. We knew the fight we were going to have and we all came and showed up to play. I was really proud of them. Just to know that everyone is doing their part is amazing.”

The Blues were opportunistic, with third-year midfielder Erica Basso scoring the second goal in the 32nd minute on a perfectly executed header over the outstretched hands of Shaughnessy. By contrast, the Ravens showed little fight. They played a flat game, allowing the Blues to dominate both offensively and defensively, unable to penetrate the Blues solid defense that kept Carleton without a shot on goal in the first half.

“We just cleaned up what we didn’t do the first time that we played them,” explained Coach Havaris, when asked about what changes were made for the rematch. “We’re not concentrating necessarily on our opponents; we were working on our own performance. We knew how we wanted to play this weekend and the girls applied what we did all week in practice.”

Carleton came out with more energy in the beginning of the second half, but they were stopped on every opportunity by the Blues veteran goalkeeper Mary Anne Barnes. A defensive breakdown in the Ravens end eventually allowed for the third Blues goal. Siu, whose speed had been giving Carleton’s defense trouble throughout the game, caught the Ravens off guard at the 74th minute. Left wide open, she let loose a hard shot from nearly 30 yards from the goal to beat Shaughnessy.

The goal visibly deflated Carleton’s spirits as the Blues capped off their scoring at the 87th minute. Siu finished her impressive afternoon by providing the cross to first-year striker Julianna Bergin as they cruised to the 4-0 win. “It was a strong offensive and defensive showing,” commented Havaris on the complete victory. “We prepared all week for this game and it showed.”

“We’ve just got to bring this energy that we have right now. Even after the game we’re still jumping around,” said Arduini. “If we bring that into every game, it’d be hard to stop us.”

Memorial chair bows out

Faced with criticism over allowing government intervention in Memorial University’s search for a new president, Gil Dalton, chair of the search committee and the university’s board of regents, announced last week his decision to bow out when his term expires on Oct. 15.

Memorial’s quest for a new president has been rife with controversy since Labrador education minister Joan Burke effectively vetoed two top candidates for the position after the search committee invited him to interview the candidates.

Documents obtained through freedom of information act requests show that Dalton had encouraged the interview so as to probe the candidates’ political stance on issues surrounding government, according to the CBC.

Memorial University Faculty Association and Canadian University Teachers’ Association had protested the government’s involvement. They argued that it would discourage competent candidates from applying for the presidency, and undermine the university’s autonomy.

The search has since been suspended.

Provincial law makes the university’s presidential appointments subject to approval of the cabinet, although the province’s role has been mostly a formality in the past.

Blues handed a reality check

Coming into Saturday’s game, the Varsity Blues knew they would have to fight hard to beat the undefeated Queen’s Golden Gaels. In front of a loudly cheering hometown crowd of 1,851, the Varsity Blues stormed the field looking to feed off the momentum of their huge 58-7 win over their cross-town rivals, the York Lions the week before.

Early on, it appeared that the Blues could hang tough with the fourth-ranked Gaels. On Toronto’s first offensive drive, quarterback David Hamilton handed off to slotback Mark Stinson, who then threw to a wide open Drew Meerveld into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game—except it wasn’t. With a flag on the play because of a holding penalty, the touchdown was negated.

On Queen’s ensuing drive, running back Mike Giffin broke for 74 yards, setting up quarterback Dan Brannagan for a one-yard run. Queen’s would double their lead when Giffin scampered into the end zone again, this time for a 35-yard run, making the score 14-0.

The Blues put themselves back into the game when Stinson scored on a four-yard run to cut the lead in half.

Although the Blues managed to close the gap at the end of the first quarter, Queens rattled off five unanswered touchdowns, including a 53-yard pass from Brannagan to wide receiver Scott Valberg, making the score 51-7 in the third quarter.

The only other touchdown for the Varsity Blues would come at the end of the third quarter when Hamilton connected with wide receiver Earl Johnson for a 33-yard run.

For head coach Greg DeLaval, the disallowed touchdown set the tone for the remainder of the game.

“We scored a touchdown early on and it came back on a hold. I don’t know if we ever really recovered from that play because we came out with the intentions of hitting them early and we did. We got a flag on the play and unfortunately that’s our fault. It was one break that cost us seven points.”

Despite losing 58-14, the Blues showed flashes of brilliance, both offensively and defensively. Some of the highlights were sacks from defensive back Derek Batchelor and defensive lineman Adam Fehler, a big interception from Cory Kennedy, and the tandem of Hamilton and Stinson combining for over 160 yards. The Blues definitely showed that they are playoff contenders.

With the game against Queens now in the past, the Blues are focused on their match against Guelph. The team expects to seriously challenge the 1-3 Gryphons.

But first, they’ll take a closer look at the lessons learned against the powerful Gaels.

“We’re going to have to figure out what went wrong today, and look at the film and fix it,” said receiver Mark Stinson.

Coach DeLaval echoed Stinson’s sentiments. “Every week we’ve got to get better. We’ll take a look at the film and see what we did right and what we did wrong. The main thing this week is that we made a lot of small mistakes and we didn’t make the plays that were there.”

DeLaval hinted that no major changes to the line-up should be expected in the upcoming game. “There are always changes every week, regardless of who you’re playing. You always have to adapt to every team,” he said. “Changes will be made, not necessarily to players, but system wise. I’ve watched Guelph play a little bit and they’re a good football team.”

Even though the Blues took the loss on Saturday, they’ve proven that they are a revitalized football team with a new outlook on their season. With a 2-2 record of and four games left in the season, the Varsity Blues are definitely a team to be watched.

A misunderstood menace

Recently, the Kremlin approved a 25 per cent hike in the national military budget—this on the heels of arms deals with Venezuela and Iran. For many, these troubling developments indicate a more militaristic and confrontational Russia.

This perception is not entirely accurate. The idea of a ruthless, aggressive Russia, as portrayed by most media sources, becomes highly suspect when a little context is provided to explain the nation’s actions.

To better understand the path that Russia has taken, we have to go back to the end of the Cold War. At that time, a newly unified Germany became a member of NATO, an event which gained Soviet approval on the condition that the alliance not move any further east.

This promise was broken, as NATO marched east over the following decades. Former Warsaw Pact members Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary joined NATO in the ’90s; in the 2000s, post-Soviet states like Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia signed on. To the Russians, this was a direct threat to their national security—and the U.S.’s placement of anti-ballistic missiles in Poland was seen as an overtly hostile act. Compounding the problem is the fact that NATO is still pushing closer to Russia’s doorstep. The Ukraine and Georgia are now seeking membership, and the U.S. supports these bids.

Russia’s actions are hardly surprising. The U.S. is undoubtedly aggravated that Russian military hardware is making its way to Venezuela, but if the U.S. is meddling in Russia’s backyard, that country can hardly be expected to refrain from interfering within America’s sphere of influence.

Even Russia’s so-called crushing of democratic Georgia was not an unprovoked attack. The Abkhazia and South Ossetia provinces were made part of Georgia by Stalin, and have always sought independence. When the Soviet Union collapsed, both provinces rebelled against Georgia and attained autonomy, with Russia named as peacekeeper. When Georgia attacked South Ossetia last month and killed Russian soldiers in the process, their involvement became inevitable. Georgia’s unprovoked attack elicited a due military response.

Russia’s actions are either defensive or retaliatory. In the wake of the Cold War, it’s become fashionable to say that America is the world’s only superpower. Russia is still mighty, however—and it refuses to be pushed around. The country’s recent actions have proven that it will respond to provocation. The West’s best option may be to get out of Russia’s face and halt NATO’s march east.

On Chrétien & Dion

Two years ago in Montreal,
Liberal delegates one and all,
Gathered there to start anew,
And find a leader tried and true.

First, Ignatieff bent to the right,
A neo-con with looks to smite.
Then, Bob Rae, born again,
Endowed with political acumen.

And last there was Stéphane Dion,
Ancien Ministère de l’Environnement,
Who bore a slight resemblance to
Kermit, who led the muppet crew.

Who would ascend to Trudeau’s throne?
One who Liberals called their own.
Not Iggy with his willful tongue,
Who lost no sleep over Lebanon’s young
Not the reformed Rae whose card,
Somehow convinced the Liberal vanguard
That voters in Ontario
Would simply let their bygones go.

Instead the loyal ex-Minister,
The sovereigntist-eating tree-hugger.
A signal over mounting bills,
That Liberals stood on principles,
Not words designed with care, and wrought,
Not the expedience that Rae brought,
Nor Rae and Goodale and their lot.
There would be no compromise here:
We no longer drink of Chrétien’s Beer!’

Compromise, a funny word,
With two years past sounds less absurd,
Et le petit gars de Shawinigan,
A wiser man, despite his sin.