The puck drops here

Teams Expected To Do Well

Tampa Bay Lightning

Despite having the worst standings in away games last season, the Lightning demonstrated solid offense. With new faces like Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts in the line-up, fans will witness additional scoring alongside star forwards Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. Both players are expected to give a full-out performance, despite the loss of line-mate Brad Richards.

Detroit Red Wings

The Red Hot Wings are expected to do what they do best—win. With phenomenal leader Nicklas Lidstrom and offensive powerhouse Pavel Datsyuk at the helm, these Wings won’t have any trouble flying to the top once again. Is this why Marian Hossa willingly decided to sign with the Stanley Cup Champions? You know what they say, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Teams Expected to Fail

Toronto Maple Leafs

Autumn has arrived. Unfortunately, there will be more falling leaves this season than one would wish for, as the Toronto Maple Leafs get ready for what looks like another embarrassing season. With most of their “star” players gone and a captain nowhere to be found, it’s up to youngsters like Matt Stajan and Alex Steen to make a name for the team and lower the blood pressure of its nervous fans.

Florida Panthers

Florida is one team I can’t figure out, yet can’t forget. With the loss of their captain Olli Jokinen, Florida needs to build a solid foundation with their remaining players or face missing the playoffs for an eighth consecutive year. If the Panthers want to retain their jobs, it’s crucial for underrated players like Jay Bouwmeester and Nathan Horton to step up and illustrate their ability to reconstruct the team.

Teams to Watch

Washington Capitals

With the departure of starting netminder Olaf Kolzig, the Washington Capitals were deemed hopeless coming into the 2008-2009 season. However, the Capitals still boast a lot of promising talent. Reigning Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin—the heart and soul of the organization—will have another productive year with his constructive plays and impressive puck-handling abilities. The arrival of José Theodore to Washington adds a greater emphasis on goaltending and defence, enhancing the Capitals’ chances of making the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

It’s possible that St. Louis is feeling anything but blue this season. The Blues are the perfect example of how great teams are overshadowed by media-crazed cities like New York and Toronto. St. Louis is full of thriving prospects that can ultimately make a difference in the way people view hockey in Missouri. With the presence of Paul Kariya and Brad Boyes, whose combined total reached 130 points last year, St. Louis should be optimistic about their offense. Even if they fail to make the playoffs, the Blues should have a solid record and a respectable season.

Teams that will Disappoint

Pittsburgh Penguins

After a stellar season last year, there’s no doubt that “young gun” Sydney Crosby will amaze with his speed and diligence. With 72 points in the 2007-08 season (24 goals), I wouldn’t be surprised if Crosby’s points soared to an ultimate high this year. Along with Crosby, Pittsburgh boasts the exceptional talent of forward Jordan Staal, whose strength and consistency will be a crucial factor to the Penguin’s success. Despite Pittsburgh’s gifted hopefuls, they are a struggling team whose spotlight is slowly fading. Don’t plan on witnessing a repeat of last year; disappointment is likely.

Ottawa Senators

The Senators are a risky and unpredictable team. In the Cup finals two years ago, the team still possesses the intimidating troika of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, and Dany Heatley. Many see this team as a strong competitor because of the names on the roster. But to their detriment, the Senators look like a misguided group of players trying to construct a productive team on the ice. With Spezza, Alfredsson, Heatley, and Mike Fisher all in the game, one would expect to see quality results. Regrettably, Ottawa seems like an attractive team on paper, but futile on the ice.—MH

by Diana Helmy

Team to Watch

Chicago Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are going to be a force in the West with their star young players, last year’s Calder Trophy winner Patrick Kane, and new captain Jonathan Toews. With the acquisition of superstar defenceman Brian Campbell and veteran goaltender Cristobal Huet, Chicago has the potential to make it deep into the playoffs.

Team that will Disappoint

Colorado Avalanche

With the loss of Andrew Brunette and Peter Forsberg, it will be a long and difficult season for the Avalanche, as Colorado does not have an offensive powerhouse. Their newest goalie, Andrew Raycroft, had his confidence shot in Toronto, and it may take a while to get it back. The promising talent of young players like Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski will not be enough to save this team. Last year, the Avalanche finished in sixth place in the Western Conference. This year, look for a 10th or 11th place finish.

Leafs Prediction

It looks like the Leafs are in the hunt for John Tavares. It’s difficult to believe that Ron Wilson—a coach that is used to winning (206-134-45 with the San Jose Sharks)—will allow the Leafs put in anything but 110 per cent. With only one all-star player, Tomas Kaberle, and one possible top six forward, Nik Antropov, the rest of the team must step up. The upcoming Leafs season will be one of frustration and rebuilding with the loss of many key players in the off-season, including Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood, Andrew Raycroft, and team pariah Brian “McKlutzy” McCabe. Look for Kaberle to take on a leadership role and Jason Blake to try and get out of his funk after a 40 goal-season. New defenceman Jeff Finger will have his work cut out for him in front of Vesa Toskala with Toronto’s lack of offensive depth. Newcomers Niklas Hagman, Mikhail Grabovski, Jamal Mayers, and Mike Van Ryn will be mediocre at best. The Maple Leafs should take their time in developing their next saviour, defenceman Luke Schenn.

Best in the East

Pittsburgh Penguins

Fresh from their Stanley Cup final loss, the Pittsburgh Penguins are back with a vengeance. Expect Sidney Crosby to take his post-season heartbreak and turn it into determination. Evgeni Malkin has had the summer to recover from choking during the Stanley Cup Finals, and should return to fine form. Expect both players to reach 100 points this season. With Marc-Andre Fleury in net, and offensive-defencemen Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh will once again be the Eastern Conference champions.

Honourable Mention: Montreal Canadiens

The Habs may have lost Mark Streit, but they have gained hard-hitting Georges Laraque and goal-scoring left-wing Alex Tanguay to their already highly skilled line-up. It remains to be seen if Carey Price can handle the pressure of being a number one goaltender at 21 years old. Expect the Canadiens to finish in second place in the East.

Best in the West

Detroit Red Wings

With new edition Marian Hossa, the Red Wings will be unstoppable. Last year, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Marian Hossa had a whopping 255 points combined. With Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom as well as Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall on defence, opponents can only pray to get past the Red Wings.

Honourable Mention: San Jose Sharks

The Sharks know how to win having reached 107 points in 2006-2007 and 108 points in 2007-2008. They have added creative defenceman Dan Boyle to the line-up, as well as proven defenceman Rob Blake. If Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Jonathan Cheechoo can improve over last year’s lackluster performance, and Joe Thornton and Evgeni Nabokov continue their stellar play, San Jose will be a force to be reckoned with.

Stanley Cup Prediction

While the Penguins will come out strong, Detroit will reclaim the Cup. No team has won two Stanley Cups in a row since Detroit won in 1996-1997 and 1997-1998.


Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh)

Crosby had a rough 2007-2008 season, missing 29 games due to an ankle injury. Hopefully, he has learned from his heartbreaking loss in game six of the Stanley Cup finals, and is stronger because of it. If Crosby can stay injury free, he will be able to fend off Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in their quest to dominate the NHL.

Rookie of the Year

Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay)

This year’s first-round draft pick is poised for superstardom. In 61 games with the Sarnia Sting last year, Stamkos had a whopping 105 points. If placed on a line with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis, there is no doubt Stamkos will shine. While top defencemen Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, and Alex Pietrangelo will be solid rookies if kept in the NHL, they will not compare to Stamkos.

Best Off-Season Acquisition

Olli Jokinen (Phoenix)

After supposed conflicts with Florida Panthers coach Jacques Martin, Jokinen will have a fresh start with Phoenix. Jokinen, a first line centre, could regain his scoring touch. Jokinen’s leadership skills will help guide the young Phoenix team possibly to their first playoff spot since 2002.

Honorable Mention:

Marian Hossa (Detroit)

Hossa gave up bigger contracts to sign with the Detroit Red Wings for $7.45 million this year. The superstar right-winger will be a key player in the Red Wings’ hunt to reclaim the Stanley Cup.

Worst Off-Season Acquisition

Todd Bertuzzi (Calgary)

Bertuzzi’s on ice production has declined. He scored 11 points in 2006-2007, and 40 points in 2007-2008 down from the 71 points he scored with the Vancouver Canucks in 2005-2006. He ended the career of Steve Moore in 2004, never taking full responsibility for his actions. For $1.95 million, the Flames could have acquired a young centre with a clean record, not a thug past the prime of his career.

Players to Watch

  • Dion Phaneuf (Calgary)
  • Kyle Turris (Pheonix)
  • Carey Price (Montreal)
  • Patrice Bergeron (Boston)

Something new, something blue

The expression “all good things come to an end” summed up last year’s season for the Varsity men’s hockey team. For the first time in seven years, the team failed to win the Mid-East Division title and finished with a 13-13-0-2 record, five wins short of their prior season’s performance. While the Blues did manage to make the OUA playoffs, they were ousted by the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the final game of a three-game series.

The generally weak Mid-East has slowly improved over the years. Two seasons ago, the Blues finished with eighteen wins, while the combination of Queens, Royal Military College, and Ryerson had only seventeen.

“I agree that the division is getting stronger, but we just didn’t have a great season last year,” said Blues head coach Darren Lowe. “We ended with a .500 record and blew first place in the last game of the season against Ryerson in a shootout. We could have won our division.”

This season, the Blues will have to overcome the loss of key veteran players. Last year’s top two scorers, second team all-star Anthony Pallotta and first team all-star Mark Heatley, and veteran forwards, Julian Sarraino and Mark Wright, have graduated.

“When it comes to points and a leadership role, we are looking to our two remaining scoring leaders, Joe Rand and Ed Snetsinger,” Coach Lowe explained. “We just need the team to collectively put up the numbers.”

The loss of the veterans provides younger players with the opportunity to shine. “So far training camp has been interesting. It has been very competitive as we have had a large influx in first-year recruits and young walk-ons looking to gain a spot,” Coach Lowe said.

The surge of newcomers will add to an already youthful Blues team. Last year, the squad began the season with two first-year goaltenders and five first-year defencemen. With the addition of the new players, the team will be comprised of a primarily first and second-year forward core. With the absence of Pallotta and Heatley’s offensive power, these new forwards must collectively produce scoring opportunities in order to have any success this season.

Despite the fairly young team, Coach Lowe is not fazed about the team’s depth. “We are much deeper as a team as we […] now have four lines,” he said. “Last year, we were mainly a two line team with talent spread further through the lineup. This year, it’s much more balanced as our high end guys might not be as high end, but our lower end guys are definitely not considered low end.”

Two seasons ago, the Blues’ success was complimented by the outstanding play of OUA MVP goaltender Ryan Grinnell, who led the OUA with a goals-against average of 2.20 and a .920 save percentage. After Grinnell’s departure last season, the Blues went with two first-year goalies Andrew Martin and Russ Brownell. With Martin getting the bulk of the playing time, both goalies improved and continue to impress team management.

“Andrew was very good for us last year. He adapted to the game and style very well. Russ played well in the [York] tournament and continues to grow as a solid goaltender. Both are still young and still have plenty of time to progress and get better. They are certainly impressive,” Coach Lowe said.

Age and relative inexperience proved not to be a problem for the Blues this preseason. On Sept. 27 to 28, they participated in the York Invitational, finishing in second place, including a 6-0 blanking of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. In the finals, the Blues lost to the York Lions 3-2 in a shootout after York capitalized on a 6-4 advantage in the closing seconds of the game, to send it into overtime.

“Overall our team chemistry has been very good. The 6-0 win was split in goal between Russ and Andrew, and our team played very well. We are very happy and impressed with how the tournament went,” Coach Lowe explained.

This week, the Blues ended their preseason with two games against Division-1 NCAA teams. The Blues beat the Michigan Tech Huskies 3-1, before falling to the Northern Michigan Wildcats 4-1 the next day.

“D-1 schools will be an experience for us,” Coach Lowe said prior to the games. “It is the ‘best hockey’ […] to compare yourself to. These games are just another opportunity for us to do some final evaluation and to get some team bonding.”

The youthful Blues will begin their season with back-to-back home games on Oct.10 and Oct. 11 against Guelph and Brock, respectively. Next, the Blues hit the road against UOIT, York, and Queen’s before returning home on Oct. 31 to play RMC.

Code of Conduct wars

After 13 U of T students were charged for violating the Code of Student Conduct this the summer, much criticism has surrounded the policy.

The Code of Conduct addresses non-academic conduct on matters involving university property, including unauthorized entry or presence on campus and the use of university facilities, equipment or services. When addressing safety, discrimination and sexual assault, the policy borrows some terms from the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code.

While U of T officials maintain the Code is an essential document for the safety of the university community, student leaders claim the Code undermines academic freedoms and can be abused to silence dissent.

Students at universities across Ontario have taken issue with their school’s behaviour codes. This semester Ryerson officially adopted their behaviour code, Policy 61, much of which mirrors the content of U of T’s code. Student unions led a campaign against the code, and their leaders frequently cite the summer arrests at U of T as reasons to be particularly worried. Meanwhile, students at the U of Ottawa ran a successful campaign against an administration-authored student code. A committee is now underway to draw up a document with student input.

Critics say the Code doesn’t list in clear terms the rights that students are entitled to. Oriel Varga, an administrative assistant at the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students, cited graduate student protests of January 2000 outside Hart House and the 2002 protests against the Code itself when it was invoked.

Varga was one of 14 protesters arrested on charges of forcefully detaining administrators during a March 20 sit-in protest at Simcoe Hall. U of T then pressed Code of Conduct charges on those of the 14 who were students. “The Code is often used to silence student activists,” said Varga, who called them “bogus charges.” Six months after charges were laid, the protesters have yet to receive full disclosure of evidence against them.

UTSU president Sandy Hudson is among four students threatened with Code of Conduct investigations for disrupting a meeting where GC voted to increase tuition fees. “Students are subject to different rules than the faculty and administration,” said Hudson. “The university acts as though they are our parents and we their children. Students are adults and not in need of a paternalistic administration.”

Graduate Students’ Union VP external Sara Suliman echoed Hudson’s sentiments. “The code is redundant with existing criminal codes and in fact places much higher emphasis on paternalistic and hypocritical policing of student behaviour, rather than protecting the students,” she said.

Jim Delaney, director of the office of the Vice-Provost, responded that a separate set of laws benefits the university by allowing an internal procedure of dealing with offences. External bodies aren’t brought in unless absolutely necessary, he said.

U of T was quick to refer students involved in a March 20 sit-in case to Toronto police, in addition to pressing Code of Conduct charges. Gabriela Rodriguez, one of the arrested, points out that simultaneous charges are prohibited under the Code. The university eventually suspended the charges.

“The Code, like in any university, gets interpreted in different ways,” said Delaney. He pointed to Section B.2 of the Code, which states no person can do anything that “obstructs any activity organized by the University of Toronto or by any of its divisions.”

“What that’s really saying is to help protect other people’s rights,” he said. “It also addresses obstructing and disrupting university activities, but also helps protect individuals with their own rights.”

Hudson does not feel protected by the Code. “When students voiced their opposition against the rising cost of education and the rising fees of the New College residence, the code was aggressively used to silence them.”

No on-campus voting at Scarborough campus

For students at U of T’s Scarborough campus, voting just got a little more complicated. This year, there are no polling stations on campus at UTSC.

Joseph Birungi, returning officer for the Pickering-Scarborough East riding, contends that there are enough polling stations close by for on-campus stations to be a non-issue. Birungi named an “across the street” voting location at 1400 Military Trail, more than half a kilometre away.

Though buses are available to transport students from residences to polling stations, interim president of the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union Zuhair Syed, said the extra trouble is still likely to discourage student turnout on election day. “We’re in the middle of our mid-term exams,” he said. “They’re not really willing to go out of their way and vote. It should be accessible at all times.”

Scarborough campus had a polling station in the last federal election in 2006, and is the only campus without one this year. The St. George campus had its voting stations cancelled in 2006, when the Liberal candidate for Trinity-Spadina, Tony Ianno, challenged the legality of special campus ballot stations. After outcry from student leaders, Elections Canada restored the three voting booths.

Talking Heads

Christine Innes, Liberal Party

The Varsity: What do you think students’ priorities are this election?

Christine Innes: I think first and foremost it is about the access and accessibility. We do need to clearly make it [post secondary education] much more affordable. We’re talking about direct scholarships; direct bursaries; we’re talking about a guarantee of $5000 dollars student loan regardless of family income. I think the other issue also relates to the opportunities that we’re hopefully creating as students graduate.

TV: You have promised more funding for expansion of public transit. Are there specific plans within the TTC and Toronto that you support?

CI: Well, concurrent with our commitment on the funding, there is a panel GTA wide panel, looking at transit solutions. So, the federal government, I don’t believe, should be in there creating another layer of what we do with that, they’re doing the expert consultations, they’re doing the analysis of what are the best ways, the best investments within the system, so we’re talking about stepping up to the plate in a very very meaningful way to support that process in an important way, and what’s support? Funding.

TV: The Carbon Plan is an integral part of the Liberal platform, but you make no mention of it on your website. Do not you support it?

CI: I absolutely support it. It’s simply the fact that we believe as Canadians [we have] an obligation to tax that which is bad for us, that’s pollution, pure and simple. And we should reward behavior that is good for us, it’s employment income, investment income, productivity, job creation, so those should all have lower taxes.

TV: Mayor Miller has advocated that 1 cent of the GST be given to cities. Your party has promised money to cities but would you support Miller’s Demand?

CI: Well here’s the problem: Stephen Harper already took 2 cents from the GST. What Liberals have already done, and will further enhance, is in the last Liberal government we dedicated a substantial percentage of the gas tax to cities.

TV: A lot of students bike to school but there aren’t a lot of bicycle lanes around campus or Toronto. How will you make Toronto and Trinity-Spadina more bicycle friendly?

CI: Let’s remember that bike lanes, technically a municipality determines that they’re there. I would be a strong advocate in our infrastructure funding, that we’re talking about, that as we’re moving ahead we should include funding as we rebuild our city [for] better accommodation for bikes.

Olivia Chow, New Democratic Party

The Varsity: What makes the NDP particularly well-suited to deal with student concerns?

Olivia Chow: Well, the Liberals’ track record has not been very good. They have cut $2-billion during the Paul Martin – Chrétien years in the mid-nineties, so you see the tuition fees tripled through this time. You notice the Liberals did not talk about – or the Conservatives – a Post-Secondary Education Act. The only party that does that is the NDP.

TV: Would you support or encourage provincial tuition freezes?

OC: Oh, absolutely. When Paul Martin needed support [in 2005], Jack Layton said: “Give the students $1-billion to lower tuition fees.” And Paul Martin had to agree with that funding for post-secondary education. Now, Stephen Harper changed it to just grants to universities, and universities are using it for their infrastructure rather than for students. And that’s not the approach we want.

TV: In terms of climate change, the Liberals are proposing a carbon tax while the NDP supports a cap-and-trade system for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Why is the cap-and-trade system better?

OC: The cap-and-trade sets a target. We will then take this money that we get from the polluters and have it work for the solutions and fund the solutions – whether it’s public transit, green technologies, solar panels, all of those important investments. The key difference is the NDP cap-and-trade is proven. It’s worked in Europe. They have met their Kyoto targets.

Secondly, it goes after the polluters only. They should pay and fund the alternative first. If you don’t have an alternative… let’s say you’re driving a car. If there’s no public transit, what are you going to do? Paying more doesn’t do anything, right? So we want to be able to provide the alternative and the solution for ordinary Canadians first before taxing you.

TV: The Harper government introduced a tax credit for transit passes. Did that go far enough?

OC: It’s a little, very, very small thing. But a lot of the people that really need it don’t pay taxes anyway. So, why not just fund public transit? I’d rather see your Metropass prices much lower. Long overdue. I’d rather see that than a tax credit.

TV: The NDP promises more funding for public transit, affordable housing, post-secondary education, etc. How do we pay for this new spending?

OC: The big corporations that are still making huge amounts of money… we’re looking at no longer reducing their taxes anymore, we’re keeping them the way it was when they last filed their income tax returns. So we think that’s adequate – we’re not increasing it, but we’re certainly not reducing it – and that money we want to invest in people and the environment.

Stephen Lafrenie, Green Party

The Varsity: What made you decide to run for public office?

Stephen LaFrenie: I spent ten years doing international volunteer work in Jamaica and Haiti. Watching what the Liberal government did to Haiti, they have to answer for helping the coup d’état to take place and propping up a dictatorship, and I decided I couldn’t be neutral anymore.

TV: The Green Party proposes to provide fifty percent student loan payment relief.

SL: Yes, upon graduation. Gradually the objective is to control tuition fee hikes. We also want to change the way we build society with a fair minimum wage, an affordable national housing plan, which then contribute directly to making it easier to attend post-secondary education.

Essentially, if the government is now telling you that in order for you to survive in the twenty-first century you need at least a BA or some form of Master’s, then like it is incumbent upon us to provide primary education, I believe the government is responsible for supplying post-secondary education.

TV: You promote a $50 per tonne carbon tax immediately. Do you feel this can really be done without destabilizing the economy, as Harper warns would happen?

SL: Yeah, it’s categorically false what Mr. Harper is saying because Sweden and other jurisdictions have proven it to be completely false. They have very strong economies and they introduced a $150 a tonne carbon tax back in 1991. We can make a shift to a green economy without a collapse, but it’s not going to be easy. The other parties are only going halfway because they’re afraid, they’re afraid to actually tell Canadians the truth.

TV: What would you say to someone who might feel that a vote for the Green Party is a waste of a vote, because Trinity-Spadina traditionally goes to the NDP or Liberals?

SL: There’s no such thing as a wasted vote, but there is wasted opportunity. Over 600,000 people voted for the Greens in the last election and that propelled us onto the national stage.

You’ve got to stop the Liberal-Conservative alliance, you’ve got to stop that coalition from governing. [The NDP] can’t talk to you unless they can frame you as a victim of something, and then pose themselves as the rescuer. The Green Party doesn’t believe that you’re a victim, we believe that the system is broken and that there’s legitimate ways of collectively repairing it.

On beauty

Umberto Eco, the novelist, medievalist and semiotics professor whose books include The Name of The Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum, gave a talk at UTM on Wednesday night. Eco spoke about the changing meanings of beauty and ugliness in Western culture. Having devoted a book to each of these subjects, he had plenty to say. Before the lecture The Varsity sat down with Eco to talk about politics, the role of universities, what beauty means right now, and whether Robarts is secretly inspirational.

The Varsity: Marcel Danesi says you wrote Name of the Rose partially in Robarts Library. Is that true?

Umberto Eco: But yes, I was thinking of Robarts too.

TV: Do you think there’s a message in mass culture that young people are more concerned with superficial things than being critical?

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UE: You cannot be beautiful and critical at the same time? I don’t know, if you want to become a model for Christian Dior, it is probably better to be beautiful than critical. I never think about that. I am very beautiful and very critical.

It’s a typical idea in media and in education, but I think there is always the same percentage of people involved in serious problems and of people involved in superficial things. The superficial people are now more visible because the population has increased in size.

TV: You’re primarily a semiotician, and U of T has one of North America’s few semiotics departments. Is there a future for the field, and in what role?

UE: I have always said that semiotics is not the name of a discipline, but the name of a department. It’s hard to answer, because semiotics is not a definite science. You can ask “what’s physics?” but semiotics is a field of different interests and different methods.

I always distinguish applied semiotics—semiotics of advertising, semiotics of cinema—from the general semiotics (what I’m doing) which is a more philosophical approach.

Depending on the school and even on the country there are many different approaches. Like medicine: what is medicine? In medicine you have dietetics, surgery, anatomy–very, very, very different approaches and methods with a vague common aim: the health of the human body. Okay, that unifies all aspects of medicine, but a dietician has very little to do with a surgeon. And semiotics is a little like that, so those who pretend that there is one semiotics, one science, one discipline are fundamentalists, like the Taliban.

TV: How do you find the academic culture at U of T?

UE: Ah! I have many contacts with the University of Toronto. I’ve been here as a researcher and professor, and I think it’s going pretty well. It’s a good university, and I like also the campus life.

Next year I will receive an honorary degree from the Pontifical Institute, and since

My doctoral dissertation was on medieval aesthetics and the Pontifical Institute of Toronto—it’s considered one of the most important study centres on the Middle Ages, so I’m very, very happy for the recognition.

TV: What do you think of the idea that it’s a “European-style” campus?

UE: The expression “European campus” is wrong. There is no European campus. Except in Great Britain. That’s why Great Britain is not Europe.

The main feature of the European university—Spain, France Germany—it’s the university was born in the centre of the city. And it is still there in certain cities like Bologna, my university. The university campus is the real historical centre of the city. You have in the same place the offices of the Rector Magnificus and the Mayoral Palace.

And that makes another important difference [in North America]: the history, the life of the university in Europe has always been strictly linked to the political life of the city. That’s why, sometimes, Americans do not understand why a university professor in Italy can at the same time be in Parliament, or write political articles. In America it happens only with Chomsky, while in Europe it’s natural.

[Suburban campuses] are pseudo-campuses. Even in the smaller cities there is the fight between “town and gown.”

There has always been that separation between the academic power and the political power [in North America]. In Europe it’s totally different, which changes the life of the students.

Take a big city like Roma or Milan. The students go to follow the class, and then go home. In a city like Bologna, on the contrary, a city that’s smaller, all made of arcades so you can stay outside, pubs are open till 2 or 3 at night and the students live together. In the big cities, there is not the opportunity you get to live the three years of a B.A. all together and in strict contact with the professors.

There are students who go to class once a month, and then they presume to study […] I don’t know, tomes. University’s very different in this sense.

Toronto Centre courts students

“This election wasn’t supposed to happen.”

And yet, regardless of what Toronto Centre MP Bob Rae thinks, it’s happening.

The Liberal incumbent in the upcoming federal election joined his seven opponents for an all-candidates debate Monday night on campus, at Isabel Bader Theatre. Most candidates agreed in principle on the questions raised by audience members. With nearly all candidates situated to the left of the governing Conservatives, the slant was often a progressive one.

Post-secondary education dominated much of the discussion, though the talk was well-attended by students and older voters alike. MP hopefuls proposed a grab bag of solutions to mounting student debt and skyrocketing tuition fees.

Conservative candidate David Gentili opposed tuition fee caps but endorsed dedicated federal funding for universities and colleges. NDP speaker Susan Wallace (candidate El-Farouk Khaki was unable to attend) called for a capping of student debt, while Rae promised a reformed student loans program with guaranteed access and lower interest rates.

Green candidate Ellen Michelson tartly summed up her views on the issue. “Starving student used to be said with a smile,” she said. “It isn’t funny anymore.”

The audience also dealt candidates questions on electoral reform, the environment, funding for cities, factory farms, Darfur, and Sino-Canadian relations. Economic and cultural issues were conspicuously absent.

With each speaker limited to a one-minute statement, the topics were addressed quickly, resulting in little conflict between candidates.

Most of the evening’s few hits were levied against the Harper government, with many contenders suggesting that progress could begin only after the Conservatives were defeated. On several occasions, Rae drew attention to recent charges of plagiarism levied against the Prime Minister, specifically that a major speech on Iraq had been lifted from then-Australian PM John Howard. “Don’t be too hard on the Conservatives for not having a platform,” Rae ribbed. “They’re busy getting it translated from the original Australian.”

Fourth-year student Kevin Philipupillai thought the lesser-known candidates were more impressive. “[There was] definitely more passion from the fringe candidates,” he said. “More willingness to think about the questions.”

Two-horse race in Trinity-Spadina

Six very different people took the stage at Monday night’s All-Candidates Debate for the Trinity-Spadina riding. The auditorium was packed mostly with residents from the area, as students made up roughly a third.

In the 2006 election, Hart House hosted an all-candidates debate on campus. This year, the debate was cancelled when Chow said she wasn’t able to attend. The incumbent defended her absence, saying the debate would have taken place on Rosh Hashanah, and the proposed fallback date would have been on Eid, the last day of Ramadan.

At the Al Green Theatre Monday, Chow was notably confident in her surroundings. “Thank you for your support, neighbours!” she exclaimed in her three-minute introduction, setting a conversational tone.

The Liberal candidate, Christine Innes, was the only direct challenger of Olivia Chow, the NDP incumbent. But with six aspiring MPs in attendance—including a mumbling independent, Carlos Almedia, and awkward Libertarian Chester Brown, a graphic novelist best known for his autobiographical comics—there was plenty of partisan pandering to go around. Rounding out the role call were Stephen LaFrenie of the Green Party and Christine McGirr for the Conservatives.

Questions were varied and pertinent. Canada’s dependence on foreign oil was addressed early on, and immediately differentiated the candidates’ debate strategies. Chow was aggressive, comfortable in her position as advisor and friend to the community. Her desire to renegotiate NAFTA was met with restrained applause, though Chow did not mention how she would carry out such a feat in light of the changing U.S. political landscape.

Innes, who was more composed, offered a succinct breakdown of the Liberal Party’s Green Shift policy. Though she’s a first-time candidate, she spent years as campaign manager to her husband, 13-year MP Tony Ianno.

Every candidate claimed their party plans to increase scholarships and streamline the student loan process, in order to slow the trend of rising tuition costs. Innes, in particular, received huge applause when she argued that a federal Liberal government would work directly with Ontario’s Liberals to increase funding to post-secondary schools. “Students have a right to education!” she repeatedly said.

The evening went badly for the Conservative candidate, Christine McGirr. As she read repeatedly from prepared documents, cries of “Stop reading!” rang from the audience. McGirr did find support when she lambasted Chow for not being more publicly visible during the campaign, drawing cries of “Shame!” directed at Chow.