Monday, November 30, 2009

The Seven Deadly Sins

I'm not a sports fan, but I did get caught up in Sunday's Grey Cup. I always root for underdogs - but stood by my team when we became the hot dogs, then top dogs and eventually, lost dogs. For me, a Rider win was tied to provincial pride (that deadly sin.) I was lusting (another deadly sin) for the win. When the Riders were ahead by two touchdowns I was greedy (another deadly sin) for more points. I was feeling anger (deadly sin) in the last minute or two when we were down to the nitty gritty. And I did feel envy (deadly sin) of the winning team. But there was no guilt for the sins of sloth or gluttony. Our team worked hard, played a great game and I am back to the sin of pride.

This game experience did leave me thinking of the times when life takes a sudden and unexpected twist and you ask yourself those "what if", "if only" and shoulda, coulda and woulda questions. In a mere few seconds you can be sent down the path of the unknown. It is great when you discover that the unknown path you are on is taking you to a place you were meant to be and you quit asking the reflective questions and start asking perspective questions.

Its time for me to going back to my sinning ways - I'm still in reflective mode!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Injustice of Justice

Robert Pickton, notorious pig farmer and killer/mutilator of dozens of women, has been granted an appeal of his conviction to the Supreme Court. When first charged he did not get the ordinary legal aid lawyer. He got representation by high priced criminal attorneys - funded by our tax dollar. An appeal to the Supreme Court is not for the faint of wallet - but then again since when have taxpayers been considered thrifty.

On the other hand, daily we read of increasing numbers of citizens lining up at food banks, more homeless, single parents raising kids on marginal budgets, funding shortages for health care, education and the list goes on. . . and budget deficits.

When I shake my head its in the hope that something will kick loose and I will understand the rationale for this process.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

New meaning to "carry on"

Remember the good old days when you flew with an airline and you were served a meal? Part of the fun included trying to guess what you were eating. I don't know whether it was economic circumstances, or threat from a health authority, that ended that service. Now you carry on your own food.

Airlines used to have magazines for your reading pleasure. Now you carry on your own magazines.

A friend told me recently, before boarding her flight, she used the toilet facilities at our airport. She was a little dismayed to discover there was no soap, towels or hand sanitizer available in the washroom. I guess the new carry on is your favorite virus - or face mask.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Link to Link

It annoys me that politicians think we are all stupid and believe everything they say. Lingenfelter suggests he played no role in the termination of NDP CEO Deb McDonald. Its hard for me to believe that a provincial party leader would have no say in what the provincial executive is doing or who is being hired/fired. Then again, he knew nothing about the activities of an over zealous volunteer selling questionable memberships during the leadership campaign.

Lets count the sins of the NDP loyalist Deb. Firstly she is the ex-wife of Link's BFF, backroom boy Reg Gross. She was provincial secretary/CEO of the party during Link's membership fiasco, when the investigation was ordered and the decision made to keep the roughly $10,000.00 paid by his campaign fund for the memberships. She was chief of staff to Lorne Calvert . . .

Sad to think this experienced woman may have lost her job for doing her job.

Even sadder is the unspoken understanding that none of the old party stalwarts will stand up and call foul - no doubt justifying non-action as being 'for the good for the party.' They'll close a blind eye and conveniently forget that any organization is only as good as the people that belong to it.

Links "I know nutting . ." replies remind of the imbecile Sargent Klaus from the old TV sitcom Hogan's Heroes. This was a spoof about an allied POW camp run by an incompetent who looked away and knew "nutting" to avoid any repercussions from his commandant regarding the activities of the POWs.

Get a lawyer Deb!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The 22.5% solution

A 22.5% jump in water rates now rewards water conservation. It has nothing to do with the fact that earlier this fall city management said revenues were down because of low water consumption. And they forget to mention that coupled with the water rate is sewer and ever-increasing infrastructure charges. If 4.8 is coming in 2010 that leaves 17.7 to phase in during 2011 and 2012. I'm betting the majority of the 17.7% comes in 2011 - they won't want a huge increase in 2012, it being an election year. We voters need time to forget this prior to the next civic election.

The good news for me is that the $18.98 I pay monthly for infrastructure charges is a bargain given the number of times they dig up my street every year to repair my aged water/sewer lines.

I have one question. Is there a credit given to those homes that are advised to run their water for 10 minutes every morning before drinking it due to possible lead contamination from the old pipes?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pay it now or pay it later

The only one who will make money off the class action school fee issue is Tony Merchant - and it will be your money filling his pocket. The class action suits he is looking at will net very little to those signing on - in fact what they will pay in increased taxes for this will exceed what they may recover.

Although I believe schools have increasingly exceeded what school fees were intended for, without them these same parents will be complaining that the school isn't meeting expectations for students. At the elementary level student fees generally covered costs for out-of-school excursions, classroom parties (ie Christmas, year end), Kleenex, etc. They were not intended to cover costs related to curriculum.

At the high school level many of the fees relate to elective classes. In grade 12, when the fee is highest, some of its goes to grad activities. All of these activities can be done away with, but when they go then you will hear the howl - or alternatively taxes will go up, either locally or provincially, to cover these costs.

What next? Should tax payers have to pay for student's school supplies?

If I sign on for reimbursement of 26 years of student fees, will I be required to prove I paid them or do I just add my name to the list and hope for cash settlement on the belief it will cost me nothing?

You would think that the $30 million plus federal tax dollars Merchant earned off the residential school claims would be enough to retire on. It must be true that you can't be too rich or beautiful.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Did they lie?

City administration is telling council that any delays in the development of River Landing "will have a significant and potentially permanent impact on the mill rate." Anyone surprised?

During the election campaign six councillors committed not to increase the mill rate beyond the rate of inflation. The test of truth is on the horizon.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dark Days

Up front I state that I do not support government investment in private business. I see the role of government being to the door to the private sector and protecting the public from the unsavory element that sometimes leeches on to good private developers.

In the case of Big Sky hog producers, the government is the majority shareholder. I appreciate that it was the previous government that created the scenario and the current government inherited the problem. However, as a major shareholder the government should have been more diligent in protecting the public interest in this corporation. When the commodity market showed a decline in pork sales and profit margins diminished, government should have watched with caution our public investment and stepped in if necessary.

Farmers have been raised on permit books and marketing boards. Now we have farmers at the brink of bankruptcy because they believed that delivering grain to a corporation that is majority government owned was a safe contract and there was no indication that the corporation was in trouble. Worse yet would be watching others sell their product at a higher price to the same corporation and getting paid after the corporation went into receivership.

I know if this was a private corporation that every creditor would be sucking wind. But is the line blurred because the major shareholder is government?

The Land of the Living Skies is cloaked with nimbus clouds.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Something stinks!

I read in the paper about the child with spina bifida being tossed out of Brunskill School over a funding issue. In the end the principal took the hit. I was stunned to learn that a principal had that kind of power - things must have changed a lot over the last few years. Decisions as to whether students are permanently removed from schools is usually approved through central administration. Funding and staffing to schools is allocated by central office. If a student moves from one division to another, then it is up to administration to deal with the other division, not the parent. And if this is only a funding issue, why was the able-bodied sibling allowed to stay? What a tragic experience for this family.

Students are eligible for attendance at publicly funded schools until the age of 22 and divisions are given funding for that student for the full school year. I am reminded that a few years ago a friend, whose son is physically disabled, turned 22 in early February. She was told that she had to remove him from school by the end of that month because he had hit the magic age of 22. She was devastated and didn't know what she could do for him given the short time line. I told her to ask the administration whether they would be reimbursing the government a pro rata share of the funding they received and enquire as to whether all able-bodied students were also being removed mid-semester due to the coming of age. The short story is he was allowed to stay until the end of the school year. Sadly, she told me, a few of his fellow students had already been removed earlier in the year for this reason.

Unless the new funding formula has dramatically changed operating budgets, divisions get funding for each student enrolled as of September 30. If they drop out or move on or after October 1 the division still keeps the funding. It would be a waste of tax dollars to enroll any student for a semester if in fact they we not going to be allowed to complete their courses.

If the measure of a society is how we treat our most vulnerable, this would be the saddest comment we can make about ourselves. Cash for kids.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A bird in hand

A part of me wants council to tell Lobsinger to blow it out his bag but my rational side says if he actually has the money in the bank, do the deal. The idea of two more years of 'public consultation' and political posturing is repellent. If this council liked his initial plan and he now is prepared to proceed I can't see a reason to say no. I just hope there are no huge tax concessions as part of the deal.

There many bushes left on River Landing from which to flush out new birds.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jolly Green Giant

Will the jolly giant occupying the Mayor's Chair turn green? If so, what algorithm will be applied to cover the blue box program cost. We have six councillors committed to no tax increases beyond the rate of inflation - the majority vote. During the election campaign we heard the cost was frightful. Will the money come from layoffs at the landfill? Will Sarcan and Cosmo survive? What about the young entrepreneurs who started the blue box program a few years back? Will this be a contracted out service? Will we pay for each bag of garbage disposed to the landfill?

I suspect if the His Worship turns green it won't be a environmental green, but the kind that would call for medical assistance.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Go with the flow (or up the creek?)

I have debated the big box issue with myself for so long I feel schizophrenic.

In some instances the city had no say in big box development because the land was zoned for such use. The Galaxy Theatres was one such example. In other instances the city created the zoning to allow for it - Preston Crossing, Stonegate, Blairmore. I admit to being opposed to big box malls believing they would shut down small business and destroy the entrepreneurial spirit. Nor did I want to be enslaved to Walmart.

On reflection this process started decades ago. With few exceptions, small corner grocery stores, butcher shops and bakeries gave way to supermarkets - one stop shopping for today's busy families. Small video shops could not compete with Blockbuster. Local hardware store suffered the peril of battling Home Depots. We all wanted convenience and better prices offered through economy of scale.

Small shops lost out to departments stores. Now department stores are altering the stock offered. Aside from the Christmas season, gone are toy departments. Off you go to Toys-R-Us or Walmart for selection. General hardware items or small necessaries like an inexpensive plastic waste basket, dish drain, step stool or similar products are no longer readily available at Sears or the Bay. I think you get the picture.

We satisfy ourselves with a quaint morning at a farmer's market or craft festival and lament a way of life lost. I expect our grandparents feel the same way and satisfy themselves with a visit to the WDM. The times they are a changing.

I throw in the towel - albeit a 'second' from Walmart.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A step behind or a step ahead?

So the province says we are headed for a recession. Historically governments have tended to try and spend our way out of a recession. Over this last year Saskatoon seemed recession-proof - we bucked the global trend. Apparently not. So I ponder whether Saskatoon is a step behind the rest of the world or whether we were so visionary that we were spending our way out of a recession before we were in one.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Remember

I take this day to remember all those who served and gave great sacrifice so that we all may enjoy the freedoms we have today. Thank you to them and their families for this gift and the life we have today.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Want to get rich quick?

Be a consultant for the city. The old Gathercole and AL Cole sites have been the most studied properties in Saskatoon. It has gone on for decades. I couldn't even hazard a guess at the cost of previous studies or the money lost by developers on failed proposals.

A plan was developed, after public consultation, for a mix of public/private development. Initially the public contribution was to be about $35 million. Close to $80 million has already been spent and another $55 to 60 million contemplated for more public use development. And still no private development to help foot the bill. And it seems we're going to consult again.

In the event councillors didn't hear the message during the election - the public is concerned about the money you are spending and the debt you are creating. They are concerned that you can't bring a project in on budget or stick to a plan.

If you truly want public input hold a referendum vote. It will be cheaper than another consultant. You actually might create something that the majority will agree upon.

Where is council?

Neault and Heidt say - put it back on the market. Sorry boys. Last time you only had one taker and he just lost a bundle of money. I just can't see a flurry of activity on another go round. I fear you will simply taint the property as being a developer's nightmare.

Penner says - test the market - no rush to develop - grass it. Already done. We need something to pay for watering the grass we've already planted.

Hill's position - no rush - consult again. Been there, done that. Word of advice - wear a saddle when straddling the fence.

Lorje says - she's open to more public space but it won't attract people. Then why be open to it? Check other cities, hire another consultant. Been there, done that. Up, down, blue, brown.

Clark's - wants a successful public gathering space - quandary is competing interest between generating tax base and doing something good for citizens. Generating tax revenue would be doing something good for citizens.

Wyant - check with developers and reconsider existing zoning and development guidelines. What a novel idea. Actually find out why developers struggle with this piece of property. Tip of the hat to Wyant.

Dubois, Paulsen, Atch, Pringle - from all reports seem to be into more consultation.

Looney Tunes

"Increasing parking rates is one of the tools to increase parking stall availability rates" states parking services manager Miles Jarvin. I suspect he's right.

Why would I pay $2.00 to park at a meter when it hits -40 when I can park underground in the Midtown Plaza and pay the same $2.00. And if I am delayed getting back to my car at a city meter I will likely get a $10.00 parking ticket. If I am delayed getting back to my warm car at the Midtown Plaza parkingI pay an additional $1.00 per half hour. Better yet, if I avoid downtown I can go to a mall and pay nothing.

Definitely the bus increases seem to be a better deal. But if we all ride the bus downtown and avoid the parking meters how will transit make the shortfall? Not so long ago transit said by investing money in new depots (U of S, Market Mall etc.), offering the Upass for students and developing express lanes would increase ridership and make public transit viable - the economy of scale. What happened?

Riding a bike downtown, particularly in winter as snow clearing isn't a strong suit for the city, is a venture only for the brave at heart.

Lastly, quit comparing Saskatoon to the mega cities of a million plus population. Why can Regina offer parking at a $1.00/hr?

Parking meters are not the only depositories for loonies. . . city hall has a fair collection.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Big Boo Boo

The recent poll on the provincial government was not surprising but intriguing. What was most noticeable was Cam Cooper's comment the the NDP have not yet benefited from a "Lingenfelter lift." Generally speaking euphoria follows immediately after a leadership change. I'm not sure whether the poll is reflective of Premier Wall's leadership or Mr. Lingenfelter lack thereof or whether the public likes Wall's new style politics vs. Lingenfelter same old, same old - throw a little mud and hope something sticks.

Interestingly I was in Alberta and had dinner last weekend with some long-term friends who have been died-in-the-wool ex-pat socialists. To keep any of our evenings from being disastrous we generally avoid discussing politics. I was taken aback when one friend said there was one one reason Saskatchewan was doing so well as of late. I bit . . that would be because . . .? Simple response - Brad Wall. He even acknowledged he could vote for Wall. I nearly fell off the chair - and it was not a liquor related incident.

Lingenfelter said he never viewed his return to Saskatchewan politics as a sprint, but rather as a steady climb to the 2011 election. I'm skeptical that his "tortoise and hare" race is going to end the fabled way.

In the end the NDP leadership boo boo looks like it might be an election night boo hoo.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Toss Trost

I understand Planned Parenthood is an organization that educates on contraception and reproductive responsibility, health and privacy issues, provides counselling on an unplanned pregnancy and options for women in dealing with their circumstance. I will not get into the no win ProLife/ProChoice debate. This is an international agency dealing with a serious issue.

MP Trost has not put forward a plan on how to support women during gestation, or after birth, or for the child born in these circumstances. It seems to be the theme "bring them into the world and let them fend for themselves." I don't see him bringing in a plan to provide day care services to allow teen moms to get back to school so they might, in future, support themselves and their child. If, in the event of post-natal depression or hopelessness, children are neglected, abused or abandoned he'll no doubt lead the charge to have the mother charged and jailed - but not supported.

He states in the Petition: "the IPPF does not support physician's freedom to practice according to their conscience and/or religious beliefs regarding abortion referral." I might agree that a physician should not be forced to perform an optional procedure against conscience, but not a referral to another physician. And it is shameful that MP Trost thinks he should impose this holier than thou position on developing nations.

Planned Parenthood may not receive Mr. Trost's support, and Mr. Trost will not receive my support. I am ashamed of my MP and I pray that the majority of members of parliament will toss his petition and that Saskatoon-Humboldt voters will toss him.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Grandstanding or governing

If politicians want to know what creates voter apathy they simply need to look at the antics in the legislature when the NDP MLA's went on a short "strike." We have have serious issues in the province and the city regarding health care, energy etc. that require the collective input from both sides of the government. When you get up and leave the venue its hard to believe that you really want to problem solve. I would hope there are avenues to use when dealing with conduct of a minister or speaker other than shirking your responsibilities to constituents. We deserve better.

If you are looking for a political grandstanding do it after your job in the legislature is done. It may simply be a problem of not being able to teach old dogs new tricks and that we need some new dogs. I think all those who left should be docked pay.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I have a copy of the letter acclaimed Ward 4 Public School Trustee Dan Danielson distributed during the election that, in essence, panned incumbent Myles Heidt for not getting the Board cheap land in Hampton Village. He states that the reason Hampton Village does not have a school is due to the increased cost of land over the last three years which according to him is all due to Heidt. Bunk!

Don't we all wish we could buy property at prices prior to the boom. If the school board wanted the land it could have exercised its option three years ago at the old price. It didn't. Three years ago the school division still had declining school enrollment and the possibility of school closures was more in the forefront. What is the role of a school trustee if not to do forward planning? If it now becomes the role of a councillor to plan and budget for schools, why do we need trustees?

In his letter he states: "Our councillor has refused to support our requests." Who's the "our"? Is he speaking for the Board?

It is well known in local political circles that there is "bad blood" between these two and I think it shameful that Danielson would use his position with the Board for his personal vendetta. Thank the provincial government for taking access to the tax base away from boards who seem to deal with "wants" rather than "needs."

If not the land, the letter itself is priceless.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Snakes and Ladders

It wasn't much of a surprise to hear the Lake Placid crashed. While Saskatoon seemed immune from a global recession the rest of the world was exercising financial caution. And simply relisting the property won't solve the problem. Eventually, and I suspect sooner rather than later, the city will find no one willing to bid on the land. Its the problem with crown jewels - few can afford them.

Parking is essential to the success of the whole development - and even more expensive to construct on the riverbank. When well-skilled developers can't make a go of it, it is time to ask "why?" My best guess would be the zoning and stringent DCDs. Perhaps the city should be talking to its partners in the MVA.

It is time to ride the snake down to square one.