By: Stephen Clare

Speaking at TwelvEighty last Thursday, Oct. 23, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi quipped that he was here to “steal our children.” Though the comment was paired with a hearty chuckle and Nenshi’s trademark smile, the sales pitch that followed was no joke.

The popular mayor, ranked last year by Maclean’s as the second most powerful person in Canada, first reminisced about his Mac campus tour as a prospective student and journey to public office before launching into his presentation. There was no doubt about the purpose of the talk. Nenshi was here to sell Calgary to the young, soon-to-be-job-hunters of McMaster.

Speaking casually and confidently, Nenshi sang the praises of his city, which ranged from healthy job prospects to a thriving culture scene. He was particularly proud of Calgary’s recent ranking by the New York Times as one of the 52 places you “need to see.”

It was clear that his pitch fell on eager ears. In the Q-and-A session following the talk, students jumped at the chance to ask about the city’s transportation infrastructure, recreational opportunities, and, of course, property taxes.

“The lowest in Canada,” Nenshi said, beaming.

The mayor himself lived up to his reputation as honest, friendly, and sharp. He made reference to Hamilton’s municipal election, light-rail transit debate, and relationship with Toronto. An off-hand comment about his less-than-favourable view of Prime Minister Harper drew laughter and perhaps a few raised eyebrows from the audience. The fact that the catering tables, laden with a feast of fried food, remained largely untouched speaks to Nenshi’s ability to engage an audience.

Ronald Leung/ Silhouette Staff

U of A next in line for spending cuts

After last week’s announcement of massive spending cuts by the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Alberta is the next school to report budget constraints, facing a structural deficit of $12 million and possible cuts to the province’s funding. With bad news on the horizon, the U of A has no choice but to implement reductions. The first response by the governing board is to implement program cuts and increase fundraising initiatives, especially from alumni. The administration declared that they have no intention of instituting a hiring freeze.

U of O students raise puppies for the blind

The University of Ottawa has responded to the Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind (CGDB) after the group reached out looking for students to temporarily house puppies who will be trained to become guide dogs. Starting in 1984, CGDB has nurtured over 700 seeing-eye dogs and in 2010 they expanded their services to also provide canines for other mobility-related disorders. Steven Doucette, CGDB special events manager, says that the idea behind the Puppy Walking Program is for volunteers to raise a ‘good dog’ and teach basic obedience and socialization.

Wilfred Laurier holds $4 million of WLUSU debt

The Wilfred Laurier University Students’ Union (WLUSU) has racked up a debt load of $4,250,156 to Wilfred Laurier University according to a 2012 auditor’s report. Although the WLUSU streams most of their board meetings, financial issues often carry heavy confidential baggage, preventing live cameras of those particular discussions. The auditor’s report also noted a 54 per cent fall in revenue for the WLUSU in 2012, from $14,497,956 in 2011 to $7,890,159. Roly Webster, WLUSU executive director, says that the board is going through a budget process and that this situation should not impact services provided to students.

Canadian Federation of Students fights blood donor policy

A detailed questionnaire preludes every donor session, but the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) feels that the male-donor specific question “Have you had sex with a man, even one time since 1977?” is outdated. If the answer is yes, potential donors will be turned away. This strict policy originates from Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec, the two groups responsible for blood collection in Canada. The CFS feels that this policy is outdated and discriminatory, without any further differentiation for usage of protection or a male’s knowledge of his sexual partner’s background being accounted for.

Memorial University investigates possibility of law school

Without any law schools in Newfoundland, Memorial University (MUN) located in St. John’s is studying the feasibility of introducing one by looking at the demand of lawyers, demographics of current law schools and the benefits this move would bring to MUN. The university originally examined the possibility 25 years ago, but the 1976 Harris Report stated that there was no need for a law school at MUN. The Newfoundland and Labrador branch of the Canadian Bar Association and the Law Foundation of Newfoundland support this current review into the possibility of a law school.

Ronald Leung / Silhouette Staff

Students sceptical on first day of Quebec education summit

The quick provincial election of the Parti Québécois (PQ) came after months of student protests against higher education tuition raises last year. The government organized a summit that began on Feb. 25 to discuss contentious educational issues. Though Premier Pauline Marois initially pledged to freeze tuition, Minister of Higher Education Pierre Duchesne revealed to attendees that the PQ intend to index tuition at approximately three per cent annually. Despite reasoning that the current freeze on tuition would put Quebec into a crisis if continued, student groups felt cheated and organized peaceful protests.

PEI government blunder leads to breach of student privacy

Students who received scholarships, awards, or bursaries from the government of Prince Edward Island are at risk of a privacy breach. A mechanical error in folding letters left a number of social insurance numbers viewable in the window of the delivery envelope. Releasing a statement on Feb. 25 acknowledging this mistake, the PEI government has yet to disclose the number of affected students, although approximately 1,600 letters were mailed out. The error occurred in the PEI Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning. In the statement, the government said it is reviewing existing protocol and repairing the machine to prevent future errors.

Faculty and administration at odds after executive pay raises at SAIT

After pay increases for the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s three vice-presidents and outgoing president, the institute’s Academic Faculty Association (SAFA) expressed their disapproval. Outgoing president Irene Lewis received a nine per cent raise from $224,000 to $245,000. SAIT’s three vice presidents all got an increase of 26 per cent, from $182,000 to $230,000 in addition to a $58,000 pay-for-performance bonus. The institute expressed earlier this year that SAFA could not afford to give cost-of-living adjustments to faculty due to diminishing school surpluses. The SAFA also expresses concern that tuition may also be negatively impacted.

Surging budget deficit forces University of Saskatchewan to plan massive layoffs

Seventy-five percent of colleges and units of the University of Saskatchewan that have yet to see layoffs can expect to see some jobs go. In earlier months, 50 jobs from 13 colleges and admin units have already been cut. These layoffs come as part of the University’s efforts to combat a growing budget deficit that is projected to surge to $44.5 million by 2016 if no remedial action is taken. The University of Saskatchewan has hired a counselling firm to help newly unemployed workers transition, and has also assembled a task force with student involvement to discuss funding issues.

Professor at U of A charged with alleged sexual assault and confinement of a minor

Zhixiang Wang, 51, associate professor in the University of Alberta’s Department of Medical Genetics, has been charged with one count of sexual assault and sexual interference. His wife, Xinmei Chan, 49, is also facing a charge of unlawful confinement of a minor. The offences were allegedly made against a 16-year-old female between November 2009 and May 2010. Chen, who also worked at the U of A as a lab technician, and has been placed on leave along with her husband. Both Wang and Chen are to appear in court on Mar. 13.

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