Friday, December 31, 2010


I wish each and every one a very Happy New Year. I thank you for your participation in 2010 and look forward to an exciting 2011.

Enjoy the evening celebrations and do so safely.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Personally, there isn't much that I don't like about Mayor Atch. I know him to be a good man. He's kind and approachable. I think he is a good ambassador for Saskatoon. He's a visible mayor and attends almost all public functions, large or small. For the best part he is respectful of citizens when they appear before council, even when treated disrespectfully by some presenters. He is patient and tolerant when dealing with some grandstanding councillors. If only he could manage money he would be a great mayor.

Atch has been called a dreamer. The world needs dreamers. Some see him as a visionary. Perhaps he is both. He definitely is an optimist.

But when it comes to spending to make those dreams and visions come true, he might be hallucinatory.

I read his interview with Hutton (SP Dec. 30/10) regarding the year ahead. It sounds good. It sounds expensive. But the focus is on the mega projects. It will be years before any development bears fruit in the form of taxes and thus the wee taxpayer must foot the bill. In the interim the city needs that affect the average taxpayer are not met, or alternatively are met and taxes go through the roof. And the debt, and debt servicing, grows and weighs heavy on city residents.

Our good mayor is on an LSD trip - Lots of Spending and Debt. I hope the trip ends before the credit card is maxed out.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Study Political 'Net Benefit'

In Angela Hall's interview with Premier Wall (SP Dec. 29/10) he commented that the government did not do polling prior to making his decision regarding the BHP attempted hostile takeover of PCS, implying of course that the decision was made based on the best interest of the province rather than on the political best interest of his party. He didn't need to do polling as the public voluntarily voiced their opinions and the media did the polling.

The interview further dealt with the future of Mosaic Stadium in Regina. On this decision he should do polling prior to making a decision. He should also do a net benefit examination of this proposed project and an examination of how well other extravagant stadiums do in larger centres with bigger markets.

He should also examine the political career of Geo. Bush Sr. After Kuwait Bush Sr. had a 80% approval waiting. Less than a year later he lost his election bid for a second term.

The thing about riding high is that you have a greater distance to fall and the velocity can create deadly end results.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Aftermath

Once again Christmas has come and gone and with it the manic highs and lows I associate with this season. The family is starting to disperse and I am starting to regret all the holiday ornamentation I used that now must be put away. I go into my down time between Christmas and New Years and recover by kicking back with the papers that have piled up and thumb through new books to be read.

I scanned James Wood's interview with Lingenfelter in today's SP (Dec. 28/10) but haven't yet read the online version. This kinder, gentler Dwain with his positive approach sounds like a true Christmas miracle. Then I got to the part where he quotes the stats that no NDP/CCF government has ever won re-election after one term in opposition. He has set the stage for his loss in the next election. There is almost a sadness listening to a man let go of his dream. I say this assuming that his party will look for a new leader after the next election.

Then again, this is next year country.

Friday, December 24, 2010


I wish each and every one of you a Merry Christmas. May you enjoy the kinship and warmth of family and friends this holiday season.

I hope each and every one has done one small (or large) act of generosity and shared some of their good fortune with those less favoured.

And I wish this message is one that we can all agree on.

Peace and joy to all.

Again, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How many Scrooges sit on council?

With respect to the recycling debate Pat Lorje says "When Cosmo got assurance council would make sure that there was always a role on any go-forward basis I would have hoped it relieved any anxiety. I don't think it has." Within the same article (SP Dec. 23/10) it quotes from the Globe and Mail piece that some Saskatoon city councillors are "skeptical about the value of the charity but wary of being seen as opposing disability rights." Perhaps this last quote is reason enough for Cosmo to be anxious about its future.

Interestingly enough these councillors are most concerned about how their decision will reflect on them and their political futures than how it will affect the Cosmo kids.

If some councillors are skeptical of the value of Cosmo they should be talking to the families of the Cosmo kids. Cosmo is not just a workplace. It is a gathering place for people with intellectual disabilities that provides them with a sense of purpose, a peer group and a social outlet. Without Cosmo these good people would be languishing at whatever residence they have with little or no contact with one another or with the wider community.

Forcing Cosmo to pay minimum wage would in effect shut them down. The stipend they do get is used in some measure to teach them how to use money and generally pays for their social activities. Should they receive minimum wage from Cosmo Industries the province would no doubt deduct their wages from the monthly support payment which would leave them in a terribly impoverished situation and with no ability to improve the quality of their lives.

This article quickly points out the city's dollar subsidy to Cosmo but neglects to mention the savings to the city as a result of Cosmo diverting 14,000 metric tonnes of paper from the landfill each year. Although there may be cost attached to acts of humanity, it know in this case it is far lesser than the ongoing squandering by this council. And the financial support for Cosmo it a drop in the bucket compared to the tax breaks given to businesses and developers.

This whole discussion angers me in that I feel some councillors are setting the stage for the tragic drama of destroying Cosmo and attempting to make themselves look like good, caring and concerned politicians while doing so. We have some very shameful people leading our city.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Doubting Thomas

I, and I suspect many others, are curious about the investigative documents being withheld by the government regarding Tommy Douglas. I can only speculate that the police activity from that era would violate today's laws. Regrettably, as a public, we take actions from a historical period and judge those actions on today's standards without recognizing what our country and its people were dealing with at that time.

Such was the case with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaka to end WWII. In today's world that action is appalling. In 1945, after years of war which resulted in millions of deaths, people wanted the war to end and applauded the government of the day for the bombing. Yet leaders from 1945 are chastised today for that action.

Tommy Douglas was a good man, but not a perfect one. He did many good things during his era and has been duly recognized, perhaps even canonized, for his work. I'm going to guess revelations from investigative documents will result in his martyrdom. Actions from the Cold War era will become today's political Hot War.

Is there a way to study our history and learn from it without resurrecting it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Too bad there were only three wise men

When Council was developing and "trimming" the budget, one of the items cut back on was funding for the bridge reserve. It should be a concern given the issues with the Traffic Bridge and the fact that the University and Broadway bridges are nearing the end of their lifespans and may require significant funding. I thought this was a short-sighted decision.

Today's SP (Dec. 21/10) reports that the Buckwold Bridge came in $1.3 million over budget due to unforeseen deterioration. No one is shocked. What is shocking is that Council plans to cover this expenditure from the bridge reserve that doesn't have $1.3 million in it and that this over-budget item will strip the reserve until 2016. In essence, the savings account is in a deficit position for five or six years. I'm not sure what accounting practice sanctions overdrafts/deficits on savings accounts. What will happen with the other bridges over the next half a decade should they need unexpected maintenance or repair?

I'm not sure whether the City contracts out its bridge inspections or whether it is done in-house. Given the situation with the Traffic Bridge , and now the Buckwold Bridge, I am suspect of those doing the inspections. I hear the Pink Panther theme playing in my head.

Regrettably three wise men do not form a majority position on Council.

Monday, December 20, 2010

XX vs. XY

In today's SP (Dec. 20/10) MLA Chartier raises the question of the lack of female candidates for elected office. Too bad the question wasn't publicly asked prior to the majority of candidates being nominated for the next provincial election.

I can think of a couple of reasons off the top why women do not seek public office.

I suspect that most, but not all, women feel uneasy about leaving their families for the extended periods of time necessary to perform public service. Although today's husbands/fathers tend to share household and parenting duties, not many are willing to give up and/or slow down their own careers to fulfill the role of mainstay parent while their significant other takes a leave of absence.

Many qualified women have spent decades slamming their heads against the glass ceiling trying to increase their presence in the professional and business world. They have worked long and hard to attain career positions and are unwilling to jeopardize that work, or their futures, for a stint in public service. Although corporate employers may be required to hold career positions for an indeterminate length of time while an employee runs for public office, these women know they will not be considered for future advancement if they have expressed an interest in another line of work.

I don't know how you fix this problem. Appointing female candidates doesn't work as witnessed by Chretien's efforts with Georgette Sheridan. Although she won one election on a Liberal sweep that appointment dogged her throughout her term and came back to bite her on the second go round.

Maybe bright women are just smart enough to stay out of the increasingly comedic debacle billed as government.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Point on Point

Over the last couple of days the blog comments seem to focus on rapidly accumulating debt and largely due to stimulus programs via the federal and provincial governments. Some seem to subscribe to the "make hay while the sun shines" or "use it or lose it" theories.

I think there is a time to accrue debt in these circumstances and the bridge and infrastructure projects make sense. That to my mind is good debt. What doesn't make sense to me is the nice, but unnecessary projects. That to me is bad debt. My example today is the Mendel Art Gallery, soon to be the Art Gallery of Saskatchewan.

When the Mendel first approached Council for a renovation/expansion the ask was about $12 to $14 million. Council du jour was reluctant to green light the project. Some of today's Councillors expressed grave concern not just for the capital cost but because an expanded gallery would undoubtedly increase the operating costs. The federal and provincial governments were not jumping at the opportunity to put their one-third share into this project, which would have amounted to $4 to $5 million each.

Now the federal/provincial governments are offering a combined $26 million for the new gallery on River Landing which has a current price tag of $66 million (and climbing,) leaving the local taxpayer to foot a $40 million contribution.

It would seem in this instance the city would have been better off footing the original $12 to $14 million on their own and saying thanks but no thanks to the federal and provincial governments. And I do not hear those same Councillors expressing concern about operating costs for the new Taj Mahal.

After the fact, we will have to deal with the costs of renovating the old Mendel site and finding a tenant for the building. Those lining up for occupancy will no doubt be the organizations that rely on government funding to exist. The speculation is that the MVA will take it as their new home. The operating costs of the MVA are solely funded by tax dollars.

As a taxpayer I only ask for reasonableness to prevail.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

$10.00 isn't worth the trip to the bank

My late father used to go to the barber once a week for a trim. It was a bit of a family joke as my Dad was near bald.

I suspect Council learned its trimming skills from that barber. Some of this budget's trimming (SP Dec. 16/10) was a cross between "robbing Peter to pay Paul" and a shell game.

I'm not sure what the money originally allocated for the New 2U program was going to cover but obviously it wasn't necessary. Maybe Hill wanted to be reimbursed for his billboard signs. As for the transit "overtime" does this mean when the budget line for that item reaches its limit that the drivers quit driving? Increasing expected revenues for leisure services sounds a little iffy since none of us will have dollars left to spend on leisure. This is right up there with the school board balancing its budget by using reserves.

I think candidates for council should have to take a little exam on accounting before they are eligible to run for election. Or at least have the exam results published during the campaign.

PS Thank you little holiday helper for yesterday's guest blog.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mistress on the Mend

The Mistress is recovering from a minor surgical procedure today and will be unable to post. Let's focus today's discussion on the upcoming budget and the fact that after 5 hours yesterday Council was unable to accomplish much in the way of trimming it (and in fact Pat Lorje attempting to increase it ever so slightly).

Get well Mistress and hopefully your faithful readers will give you some ideas for tomorrow's post.

The Mistress' Holiday Helper

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Homestead rights

Who knew RV owners were such a powerful lobby group? The only support Heidt received from council on his proposal to ban parking RVs in driveways was from the Mayor. I would have expected a couple of other councillors would have received complainants over the years about this matter.

As much a I personally dislike having a picture view of my neighbours RV, it is his property and as long as the vehicle is off the public street, then my option is to look away. I'm sure he would like me to park the old junker I drive elsewhere and out of his sight. Let's call it quid pro quo

Sometimes big brother can become a big bother.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A man's home is his castle

For most of us, our home is our safe haven and our one and only major investment. Most of us maintain and improve homes under our ownership because it provides safety and shelter for our families and because it is our only investment. Anything that remotely threatens the "castle" threatens the man and thus the man must defend his castle.

Fear, and particularly fear of the unknown, is a powerful emotion.

In Saturday's SP (Dec. 11/10) the report on the city's proposed policy to tackle NIMBYism says that we must remove the emotion when dealing with decisions to alter existing neighbourhoods by introducing development of anything from wind turbines to youth homes. I don't think that any policy can eliminate fear of potential negative impact to the "castle" and by extension, its occupants.

Youth homes seem to be the biggest factor in these development issues. With the daily reporting of the increase of violent youth crime, it is understandable why homeowners are reluctant to open up their neighbourhoods to recovering young offenders, even though these homes may not house these types of offenders.

The proposed policy, as reported, does not seem to contain wording that would work to alleviate the fear. When the policy states that concentration in any neighbourhood will be "discouraged" and consistency with neighbourhood "considered" it feeds the fear. Perhaps "discouraged" should be "restricted" and "considered" should be "mandated."

The "good neighbour agreements," described as voluntary pacts established to address emerging issues, do not leave the impression that any issues will actually be resolved. Perhaps a mediation process with a binding outcome would provide more comfort and acceptability.

I personally have not heard of any serious problems arising in neighbourhoods that have established these homes. Nor have I heard of a decline in property value as a result of this change to a neighbourhood.

Just zone all new areas to include provision for such development. If you buy your home in a neighbourhood already zoned for that purpose, then by extension you have agreed to inclusion of youth, senior care and day care homes as part of your residential make-up. There is no argument to be had or emotional decision to be made regarding zoning amendments.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bah Humbug

I was meandering down 21st Street East the other day, heading towards the Midtown Plaza. I passed a guy begging for alms. Although I know it is frowned upon by the downtowners to give to panhandlers, I was moved by the spirit of the season and started fishing in my purse with the intent of tossing a toonie into his empty tin cup. While doing so I heard a cell phone ring. The panhandler reached into his pocket and answered the call.

I saved my coins for the Salvation Army.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Points of interest

I was pleased to read in today's SP (Dec. 9/10) that the city successfully enforced the campaign disclosure bylaw and those in contravention were fined. However, the problem that still exists with the bylaw is that no one checks to see if the disclosures are valid and all expenses and receipts are accounted for and legitimate. It simply relies on whistle blowers to expose any infractions.

Also in today's news is the Mayor's comment that trimming the budget will be tough. No kidding. The only time the budget gets trimmed is in an election year. Did anyone note in yesterday's paper the graph on the city's spending history? In 2005 the rate increase was 3.9%. In 2006, an election year it was 1.9%. The increase in 2007 was 4.8%, in 2008 5.4% and in 2009, an election year, it was 2.9%. After the last election the rate increase was 3.9% and for 2011 it is proposed to be 4.7%. Sadly, since council is now going to a four year term we can only expect a reasonable tax increase every four years rather than the historical three.

Sadder yet, the money is not being spent on matters of importance to the public and those that affect everyday living.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Due and Owing

Gasp! I am surprised, awed and shocked that the proposed mill rate hike starts at a mere 4.65% (SP Dec. 8/10.) Thank you to Premier Wall for the additional $9 million in revenue sharing. Thank you Prime Minister Harper for extending the deadline on the federal infrastructure program. You both helped save our bacon, at least for now.

While I like the new budget document, what concerns me is the short-sightedness on priorities within the budget. From the news report less money that is needed for bridge maintenance is allocated to that line. Given the recent issues around the Traffic Bridge, and past reports indicating that the University and Broadway bridges are nearing the end of their lifespans, I would have thought that budget item would be given major attention. Also on the fringe for funding is lane repair, accessibility ramps and cycling infrastructure, all of which are concerns raised by the public and council throughout the year. Recycling seems not to be included but I expect we will see that charge on some utility bill.

Speaking of which, aside from tax increases, the utilities are going up and up. The report is silent on any new levies or increase to existing levies.

The big winner in this budget is transit. More money for a losing proposition. I get the impression that the message on transit has not been heard. It is not about fare cost. Its about service.

The best of all is increasing fees to campsites, golf courses, the Forestry Farm, sports field rentals and, my favorite, the cemetery. I thought taxes would end with death. However, the city will get the last nickel before they plant you. Actually, I don't really have a problem with most of this with the exception of the sports fields. It will simply increase costs to children's sports activities and put average families further behind. Or worse yet, put more kids in front of a TV.

I'll leave it to others to deal with affordable housing being pushed to the civic level and what increasing taxes does to rents, the poor and young families hoping to buy a home. This part really just depresses me.

I have to go and return some of those Christmas gifts I purchased earlier. I'll need the cash to plump up my accounts for taxes, utilities and user fees.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Thumbs up to the majority of Council for last night's performance. I didn't listen to all the presenters but caught the Councillor comments prior to the vote.

Although I didn't agree with Clark's position he gets credit for being consistent and speaking for those in the minority. Lorje on the other hand continued to master the position of playing both sides of the fence. I'm not sure what Hill was saying nor am I sure that he knew what he was saying. As for the rest of Council they seemed to be voicing the opinion of the majority of their constituents and it seemed to run 75% in favour of a replica and 25% against. I suspect that was pretty accurate. I hope they re-do the bridge prior to applying for heritage status. It would be a shame to get the designation and then find out as a result of the designation they can't do what they intend to do.

Many comments were made yesterday about community associations. I personally think those groups play a valuable roll in that the majority of the organizations serve their communities in providing recreational and activities of interest to their particular communities. I applaud the majority of people involved for their interest, activism and volunteerism. These groups are established and receive some funding from the city. Every association has a difficult time filling the roster of volunteer positions. They should be appreciated for what they do and they are few and far between.

Problems result when, every now and then, an individual(s) gets involved for the wrong reasons and attempts to use the association for their own personal best interest. At this point they usually over step the boundaries. When it comes to a major decision, like the Traffic Bridge, I would think that if the association wanted to speak for the community it should require community input in the form of a special meeting that is well advertised within the neighbourhood. In this particular case, although the association published its regular meeting dates, it published no agenda listing this item as a topic for discussion.

Enough said.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Speak for yourself

I will be very happy if Council finally makes a decision tonight about the damn Traffic bridge. Then we can move on to phase two - how much over budget will it go.

What annoys me most is comments from some of the proposed speakers. Mr. Bobyn, President of the Nutana Community Association, will imply that Nutana is in support of rehab rather than replica. I am a resident of Nutana. Yet outside of the City sponsored meeting at Victoria School last fall, I do not recall receiving a notice of a meeting by the Community Association or a survey on this issue. Thus Mr. Bobyn does not speak for me or for many of my neighbours that I have spoken with on the matter.

In today's SP (Dec. 6/10) Bobyn states that widening the bridge would "destabilize" the area and would funnel more traffic into a residential area already burdened by congestion. This is the same area that many want to increase the density in. If you are not an area resident, many of the eight thousand users of this bridge simply travel up Victoria and out of the neighbourhood. Those of us actually residing in the area need the bridge for reasonable access to our homes.

I can't bring myself to even respond to his idea of alternating one-way traffic.

I have no problem with people voicing their opinions, but please don't speak for me.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Back to demi-gods

All the hoopla around the Sask Party snagging Gene Makowsky as a candidate in next year's provincial election escapes me. From where I sit it appears this gentleman is nearing the end of his football career and needs a job. Not much as been noted about what he supports or opposes. His sole credential for running for office is that he is currently a sport demi-god. Come next November will he be on the field for the Riders or Wall?

What play does the government need to block that necessitates securing an offensive lineman for the team?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Giveth and taketh

On the Forum Page of today's SP (Dec. 2/10) there is an an article by Catherine Ford of Troy Media regarding urban sprawl in Calgary. The new mayor has dropped the gauntlet for developers in Calgary. In essence the Mayor stated that the developers, not the city, will pay all infrastructure costs in new areas. Needless to say the developers are not happy as it may curb their quest for urban sprawl.

Saskatoon has, and I expect continues to, levy these costs to new areas being developed. When a new area is being developed the infrastructure costs are incorporated into the cost of a lot and when the city sells the lots it recovers those costs, with a small premium, and uses those monies for the next development.

Included in the article is the tax breaks that have given to developers, and the subsequent home owners, for "enhanced" amenities.

It would seem that on one hand an attempt is being made to curb the sprawl by increasing costs, and on the other hand to encourage it with tax or other incentives.

Saskatoon seems to have half of this right, that being recovering at least some of the cost of the infrastructure. It needs to work on the second half, that being the incentives.

The writer also refers to the 'whining' by these new neighbourhoods for "police stations and fire halls and schools and all of the other urban niceties." I disagree with her on the police/fire services but take her point on the schools and other civic niceties. We have schools in older adjoining neighbourhoods that are under-utilized to which school boards could transport students rather than investing in new facilities. Perhaps swimming pools, branch libraries and recreational civic facilities should be fully financed by the sprawlers. Add large taxes to the gigantic parking lots of the big box malls that service the sprawl and eat up valuable land, yet pay relatively little for the existence.

I guess the discussion should be is Saskatoon growing to the point that we need to plan for boroughs?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Help the challenged

I agree with Council that the streetscaping on the 25th Street project is grand (SP Dec. 1/10.) I like the architectural controls that will compliment the area. Although I understand that they couldn't re-route the rail line, I had hoped that some type of overpass would have been created to prevent the traffic jams that occur when the train takes a break and sits across Idylwyld during peak traffic periods. Is there anyway to restrict the times that the train can come through the city?

I admit to being 'directionally challenged' so help me out. Remember it is not nice to mock people with challenges and we are in the naughty or nice seson.

I cannot tell from the artist rendering in the paper the East/West connection. I get the turning lane to head North. I get the turning lane to head South. I think if I am travelling down Idylwyld North to South that at the intersection of Idylwyld and 25th I could turn left onto 25th Street East and just prior to the intersection I could turn right to 25th Street West. How do I cross over Idylwyld going from 25th Street East to 25th Street West? By example, if I'm coming off the University Bridge, travelling down 25th Street East and want to get to the Holiday Inn Express, how do I get there?

Out of necessity I'm putting a GPS on my Christmas list.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Does anyone care?

Congratulations to Mr. Donauer on his successful run for a council seat. And a special mention to Ms. Robertson for her stellar campaign. I was pleased to hear her say she will be back in the political arena down the road (SP Nov. 29/10). Also a thank you to Cherkewich, Winton-Grey, Johnston and Feraro for offering up their services to the public.

I shouldn't be, but was surprised at the exceptionally poor voter turnout. What was even more mind boggling was the length of time it took the city to render the results given the automated counting system used. A manual count of 2,800 (give or take) votes would have been faster. We are talking one ward, seven polls.

Meanwhile back at the ranch council was busy increasing taxes. Added to yesterday's list is the $50 million for the library, Water intake facility $44 million, 25th Street expansion $17 million, $3.3 million for a computer-controlled trunk radio system - we're getting close to the "B" word. None of these dollar figures seem to be fixed. The Art Gallery continues to be listed at $60 million, yet the addition since the initial announcement added $8 million to the original $58 million price tag. Have we reached the point where $6 million is considered chump change?

Levies seem to be the administrative push for the future. A levy will get a separate line on the bill and leave the appearance of a lower tax increase. Although council turned down the proposed levy for back alley maintenance I expect to see it back on the table along with per bag charges for garbage.

On the levy issue notable comments by councillors ranged from ". . . but I'm not going to double-dip the taxpayer." said Councillor Neault. Sadly, we already do that with the infrastructure levy on our utility bill. Councillor Penner said "It'll be interesting to see what each of us is willing to cut in order to put more money into this." Answer - nothing. The mill rate will simply be higher as its not an election year. Covering off the whole debate on debt and taxation, Councillor Paulsen stated the obvious with "We can break it up all we want, this is going to hit the mill rate.

Perhaps we do need massive tax increases to provoke the public into making the effort to vote.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Merrily we roll along

Saturday's SP (Nov. 27/10) contained an article on the City's proposals for capital spending and possibilities for P3 funding from the federal government. The notable millions of dollars of capital debt on the horizon, both existing and pending, reads as follows: Bus Barns/Yards $200, Fire Halls $13, Police Station $91, City Hall $15, Art Gallery $66, Shaw Centre $47, River Landing $82, Traffic Bridge $30, South Bridge $300. Total: $844 million dollars. The 25th Street expansion and the public library have not been listed. This is not a complete list of city debt, simply the most notable. The figures are not fixed and subject to increase.

Some of this debt has contribution from the provincial and/or federal government. By example, the Art Gallery will receive $26 million in provincial/federal funding leaving the local tax base to pick up $40 million. The South Bridge receives some funding but I am unclear as to the amount. Nor off hand can I recall whether or not RL received any outside financing.

Each of these capital projects will require additional taxation for operating and/or maintenance.

I am curious as to who the private partner might be for the Barns/Yards. Or for that matter any of the other listed pending projects. Any ideas?

The cost of voter complaisance is high. When all done, on scale, this council's debt may leave Devine's government looking like pikers.

As we cross the River Styx I shudder at the thought of the ferryman's fee.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Its never to late to learn

I'm not sure how my posting yesterday generated comments on the Ward 5 by-election and particularly singled out candidate Ainsley Robertson.

A couple of years ago and friend hosted an event to assist a young woman, named Ainsley Robertson, who wanted to establish The Princess Shop, a non-profit organization that would provide evening wear for high schools students who couldn't otherwise afford to attend their graduations. We were to bring gowns, shoes, accessories and anything that could remotely be used to help these students. I was a great idea and the response was tremendous. I was very impressed by this young woman and thought she had great potential for her future.

When I heard that she was seeking a seat on council my first reaction was that she might be jumping the gun and should have waited a bit until her profile was better developed. Then I remembered the maturity she exhibited in establishing The Princess Shop and thought perhaps she was up to the task.

Then I started to hear the rumours about her ties to Councillor Hill and that he was injecting himself into her campaign. Her response to yesterday's blog confirmed that the rumour was fact.

What Ainsley will learn from this experience will shape her future. As appealing as it is to have a known "public figure" stump for you, she must remember that this person can potentially cost you as many votes as he could garner. Those with low opinions of Hill may transfer those same opinions onto her. Those who question his ethics will question hers. Everything comes with a price and the cost of Hill's support may be higher than its worth - win, lose or draw.

Ainsley also stated there was nothing in the rules to prevent Hill's participation, which is true. But in politics image is everything.

She further commented that the Sask Party/Conservatives were aiding and abetting candidate Donauer. She has two lessons here to be learned. The first being that we, the public, still like to believe that civic politics is non-partisan. The second is that she is running in a ward that has elected Sask Party MLAs and leaving the illusion that she is tied to an opposing entity may not work in her favour.

Some commented that MPs and MLAs work federal/provincial by-elections, so why not work a civic by-election. At the federal/provincial level political parties are elected and every member of the party is expected to help out as the election outcome it benefits them all. They also vote as a block supporting the party's position that may, from time to time, differ from their personal opinions. At the civic level you supposedly do not represent a political entity and are independent of party ideology. You vote individually, hopefully reflecting good judgment and the concerns of the electors you represent.

If Ainsley is successful in this election she will have to make a conscious effort to separate herself from Hill and dispel the concern of her being puppeted by him. I assume the current councillor remuneration is on par or more that her salary with Junior Achievement so she can leave that position, where Hill is her direct supervisor, and not project herself as being under his thumb. She also has the support of some very successful mature women in this city who will mentor her and hopefully provide good guidance for her career.

If she is not successful at this time, I hope she has learned some valuable lessons from this experience and will try again. I believe as she matures the greatness of her potential will emerge.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Self Service or public service?

Although I think it fair to publish the salaries and expenses paid to First Nations leaders (SP Nov. 25/10) I don't know that it is fair to comment on them without knowing exactly what it is they do to earn the payments. If we respect their right to self-governance I think it best to leave them accountable to the people that elect them.

However, this article did being to mind a recent comment made to me by a city councillor, that being that councillors should make at least the same amount as MLAs. Councillors more than doubled their own salaries during the previous term, with little or no fanfare. What are we, the public, getting for this?

MLAs give up their jobs, or take leaves of absence from their jobs, when elected. Councillors that were gainfully employed prior to being elected, maintain their jobs and boost their incomes with their council remuneration. MLAs have larger numbers of constituents to serve compared to councillors. MLAs are required to be away from home (exempting of course the Regina MLAs) and be in the legislature when the government is sitting. They will sit both caucus and provincial committees. Councillors sit a couple of all member committees and each represent council on a few advisory committees. MLAs will spend a full day in the legislature and work into the evening if need be. Council's clock stops at 11:00 p.m. as witnessed last Monday night. I'll go no further as I think the point is made. Am I comparing apples to oranges?

The question this raises for me is: Where is the public service component? When candidates are running for elected office they know what the remuneration is prior to being elected but they all want to "serve." Yet when elected they all want to be paid more money. Yes I know everyone is over-worked and unpaid. And I know the argument that you get what you pay for and if we paid more we would be top quality people. But do we really?

If Councillors want more money, perhaps we should reduce their numbers, enlarge the wards and make it a full time job. That means you give up your real job, park your butt in an office at City Hall and be at the ready to serve the public.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Today is a down day for me. I really wanted to believe that LeClerc was innocent, not because of his political affiliation, but because he was my poster boy for rehabilitation. I wanted to believe he made mistakes earlier in life, turned himself around and was using his experience to help others from falling by the wayside. I liked his unpolished veneer and plain speak. I thought he was just a regular joe representing regular people.

Mr. Justice Barclay has a long history of rendering sound judgments. He is not a political hack and I do believe his report.

There is no point wasting money prosecuting a dying man. His penalty will be the kicking he will take as the newest political football. Before the opposition spends too much time kicking Wall around for his lack of leadership in accepting LeClerc as a candidate, they should remember that the majority of the people in his constituency also accepted him and those allegations fall on them as well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Emotion and economics

One thing we know for sure is taxi fares are going up.

The other thing that may still be up for grabs is the Traffic Bridge. With the delay on this decision the newest Councillor will be sworn into office and then have to jump into a critical decision with little or no background information. You can bet the candidates are being vetted by the various groups now as to their position on the future of the bridge.

In today's SP (Nov. 23/10) Councillor Clark said a "pseudo replica" and a compromise risks leaving the city with a characterless bridge. He stated "If it's not authentic, people won't buy it." If 60% to 70% of the original steel needs to be replaced and rebuilt, how original would the bridge be?

Personally speaking, a replica will satisfy both my nostalgic need and make economic sense.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hope and a prayer

Today's SP (Nov. 22/10) questions what more could be done to keep youth in school. What it doesn't state is what is already being done, and to some degree, with little avail. Poverty is, and will continue to be, the root of the problem.

In the schools where poverty is rampant they have introduced the breakfast/lunch and altered school day programs, both designed to get students to school and keep them there once they arrive. Many of these schools have clothing depots to provide necessary apparel. In terms of programming, in the inner city schools that have high aboriginal populations, Cree language is being offered and Elders are invited to create culturally relevant ceremonies. The schools themselves have created an ambience that is welcoming and friendly to students and their families. This list goes on and on, all of which is good.

The Care and Share initiative, started by Ted Merriman, partners businesses with schools that offer school supplies to students and expertise to community associations to enhance recreation opportunities in their neighbourhoods. This same group created inner city soccer and hockey and negotiated free arena time for these activities as well as transportation to the events. They provide some funding and rarely fail to honour a request from a community school in need.

At the high school level the public school division started the quarter system and teen daycares to assist teen parents completing their education. Counsellors and social workers are available to help these students deal with their family needs while they attend school. Again, this list goes on, all of which is good.

At all levels the division offers Life Skills Work Skills and English as a Second Language classes. It offers a smorgasbord of elective courses to appeal to its broad constituency. I would dare say the school division is stretched to beyond its capacity to deliver effectively.

What more could it do? Perhaps offer night classes to those adult students who only need a couple of classes to complete their diploma requirements and can't afford to quit their jobs to attend the regular day classes. And it is difficult to mix 21 year old adults in a class of teens. Or incentives to businesses to give short-term release time to employees registered to attend the classes necessary to complete the program.

When the government reduced the legal working age to fourteen, albeit with conditions, it apparently missed the research that concludes that students working during the school week see a decline in academic performance. Students also get a taste for consumer goods fed by the minimum wage jobs they do. They fail to realize that once they leave the family home and have to support themselves they can no longer buy the clothes and gizmos these jobs currently provide and without an education minimum wage, menial labour and poverty is the best they can hope for.

I could continue to rant but it too would be to no avail. Uneducated parents raising children in poverty will beget uneducated parents raising children in poverty. Nothing will change until this changes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Can the money tree get Dutch Elm disease?

"We realize taxpayers . . . have a limited ability to pay." Quote by Mayor Atch in SP (Nov. 19/10) in article 'Police budget approved.'

I wish that were true. Today's SP also reported on another major expenditure, that being the purchase of lands for the bus barns and approximately $100 million to develop the site selected. This expenditure adds to the other hundreds of millions being spent.

I know the barns have to move and the idea of developing the North downtown is appealing. But could we finish and pay for some of the other projects before we start anew? How about some priorities on these projects. Could we hold off, or reconsider, a $66 million art gallery? Could we try satellite police precincts rather than $100 million for a new station? The list goes on.

When does it end?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Do the right thing

With increasing frequency we read of Canadians travelling south of the border for diagnosis and treatment of medical concerns that cannot be provided in their home province in a timely fashion. Earlier this year the Canadian Medical Association cautioned that Canadian Health Care is heading towards a crisis situation. Premier Danny Williams travelled to the USA for his surgery rather than queuing up for treatment in Newfoundland.

When Obama first introduced his health care plan, arch rival Sarah Palin referred to his committees on health as "death panels." I thought that label was best reserved for the American HMOs who delayed approval on costly procedures for their insured long enough so that the patient would die, or be beyond help, prior to any approval being granted. I also recall reading that 80% of American bankruptcies are due to debt accumulated as a result of medical need.

In today's SP (Nov. 18/10) is another example of a young man that has an opportunity to survive a otherwise terminal disease by getting surgery in the USA that is apparently not available to him in Saskatchewan. In order for him to receive any funding from Sask Health he needs a referral from a specialist. In most instances it takes six months to a year to see a specialist in this province. After that it will be months of testing and diddling before any action will be taken. I glean from the news article he does not have the time to follow the protocol.

More appalling is the response from the oncologist's nurse that the doctor will not provide a referral because then "we would have to pay for it." Its starting to sound like a HMO.

It is sad in the province that spear-headed medicare that a family should lose everything and have to appeal to public for donations in order to receive necessary medical treatment.

If Sask Health cannot immediately provide him with this treatment, then they should be honour bound to help finance, at least in part, his treatment elsewhere in Canada or at the Mayo Clinic.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Santa came early

Yesterday's SP (Nov. 16/10) reported that the city was spending a $100,000.00 to hire a consultant to study Kinsmen Park and for a call for ideas for the existing Mendel Art Gallery. It seems a waste of money as most conclude that the MVA will move into the Mendel space and join with them the Children's Museum. Ironically Councillor Neault commented that any tenant will have to pay rent and can't expect subsidies from the city. Perhaps he doesn't realize that the MVA is one-third tax funded by the city. As a landlord, will the city be required to renovate the site for its future tenant? At what cost? Will there be a budget? Will it matter if there is a budget?

In today's SP (Nov. 17/10) the city generously granted the John Deere building to the U of S. It is safe to assume that this building is worth $2 to $3 million based on the appraisal and sale of the nearby Arthur Cook Building. Although I am pleased to have the University creating off campus sites and expanding its degree programs, I am not so pleased to have city assets being given away. Ho! Ho! Ho! Very generous of Santa and the elves.

At what point will council realize that the debit column needs a credit column to balance the spending and look to generating revenue outside of tax increases? At what point will the public realize that debt, and interest on debt, will have to be paid?

Much like many of the real "Santas" we will be paying for our excesses long after that euphoria of the season of this council is over.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Creative accounting 101

Well, the creativity of the Infrastructure Manager Mr. Gutek must be acknowledged. In one report he managed to bring the Traffic Bridge reconstruction budget back on track and at the same time indirectly announce that the historic bridge will not be rehabilitated, but reconstructed (SP Nov. 16/10.) I think it is safe to assume the construction of the mini Mount Blackstrap that is suggested for Saskatchewan Crescent will not be included in the overall bridge project budget.

I will be curious to see what the engineers have to say regarding the stability of the riverbank for the proposed road realignment on Saskatchewan Crescent. It wasn't that long ago that a portion of the riverbank and MVA trail, adjacent to the roadway, collapsed due to a sinkhole. And then there is the ongoing issue of the exit ramp from the University bridge onto Saskatchewan Crescent East that has been years in the making and well over budget because of the ground instability.

I expect any impact on Rotary Park will not be considered. Since the city saw fit to move the lift station from River Landing into Nutana's one and only city park, and enhance the parking lot to accommodate those who wish to avoid paying for downtown parking, I am going to assume that this park is of little or no consequence to the city.

In fact, I am going to assume the the residents in this area are of little or no consequence to the city.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Dense and density

Saturday's SP (Nov. 12/10) published an interesting article on the challenges of increasing downtown residential density. It stated the initiatives the city has already instituted to encourage residential development by builders. But it sadly missed the reasons why, particularly the baby boomers, will not jump into the fray.

As long as condominium property tax is the equivalent to single dwelling residences there is no incentive to make the move to a multiple dwelling complex. Why would a middle-aged couple down-size their living/storage space, pay for a parking stall(s), and add to their monthly costs, over and above property tax, a condo fee of several hundred dollars? They are better off staying put and spending less than the monthly condo fees to hire help for the yard work and snow removal.

The grocery store issue is the ultimate chicken/egg riddle. No grocery store means travelling outside downtown for basic necessities. Without the density, the grocery store is not viable. Business is not going to take a loss for years waiting for the density to build and make the business profitable.

Lastly, land in Saskatchewan is still cheap, comparatively speaking. A family can still afford to buy their own patch of land and have their dream home with picket fence in Saskatoon or surrounding area. We were all raised with that dream. And when baby turns to toddler, parents want the yard, playgrounds, neighbourhood friends and schools that they had when growing up. The caged balcony for junior to play in doesn't cut it as a substitute.

I think the city should look more to offering incentives to condo owners rather than developers. Otherwise it would be dense to make the shift from private home to condo.

Friday, November 12, 2010


We have lift off. And we have unanimous approval by council for the River Landing project (SP Nov. 12/10.) My only curiosity is who are the unnamed investors?

Now I expect council to focus attention on the land designated for the live/work Eco Village. This project continues to fly under the radar and has been going nowhere slowly. I think it is a good concept but needs new leadership to get it going. The experience around the Lake Placid project should compel council to look to established local developers who have the resources and track records of getting the job done. Every year that passes is lost revenue to the city and increased taxation to the public.

Go team Saskatoon go.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Poor Link

I read CBC online today that Lingenfelter has committed to his party to work harder at improving his image and personal popularity prior to the next election. I would have thought that would have been his goal from day one. With a 16% approval rating the only thing he can hope for is that Brad Wall will slip and fall on a banana peel that is slimy with some political rot. Wall should be watching carefully where he steps.

Lingenfelter knows new governments do not get elected in - it is existing governments that get tossed. It does not seem that the public is ready to toss Wall.

So who will the next leader of the NDP be?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

True Grit

Although I do not share Bob Pringle's political bent, I have always respected him for being true to his beliefs and working earnestly on behalf of his constituents at whatever elected office he held. At council, his decisions appeared to be made with sound reasoning and not merely to enhance his own future election opportunities. He didn't straddle the fence hoping to keep everyone happy - he simply made decisions based on what he believed would be in the best interest of the community. He was one of a rare breed - an honest politician.

As annoyed as I can be by elected people who cause costly by-elections because of a true lack of commitment to the office they originally ran for, in the case of Pringle I can be forgiving. The position of children's advocate is too important to be handed over to anyone other than the best the province has to offer. I think Bob is that person.

I wish Bob well in his new role and will miss his influence at the council table.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The wheels on the bus go round and round . . .

Everything that is wrong with Saskatoon Transit can be summed up in today's SP (Nov. 8/10) article. The boiling point appears to be the changes to routes without the consent of the drivers. The changes implemented in September were supposedly done because buses were over-filled or ran significantly off schedule. These changes apparently affected holiday plans for some drivers. It would appear that transit should run at the convenience of drivers rather than passengers. And although there is a committee established to provide input on new routes, the union feels operators should have more say than the committee.

Added to this attitude is a management that states it was probably wrong to implement new routes in September when university was opening and because of all the road construction and bridge closures. Since university students are mandated users of transit, you would think meeting student needs at that time of year would be essential. Needless to say, like bus drivers, we are all negatively affected by the bridge and road closures.

Now we will have work-to-rule action, possibly followed by a strike. After the settlement many tax dollars will be spent trying to seduce the public to use the transit system. More transit subsidy will be required.

I will say it one more time - the public is reticent to use public transit because it is inefficient and unreliable. It is not user friendly and will remain so until attitudes change.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Investment Saskatoon Act

I assume the FNUC property (formerly Wilson School) is going to council for re-zoning purposes so that it can complete the sale to Meridan Development (SP Nov. 5/10.)

What took me by surprise was Affinity Credit Union moving to this location primarily due to their relatively new edifice on 22nd Street and lst Avenue. I would have thought that with all the upgrades to the downtown area and the development of River Landing that businesses would have viewed the downtown as a more desirable location.

Although Affinity will maintain their downtown presence, it appears that expansion and/or consolidation of their business is going elsewhere.

Alas it comes down to lack of downtown parking.

I will be curious as to how this plays out at council. I expect some will deny the change and try to impose use of city transit's program on Affinity to address their employee transportation/parking needs.

What will the voting split be?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Gifts of the Magi

Premier Wall I think also owes thanks to those Three Wise Men from Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec for the favourable decision rendered yesterday by the Federal government. Their gift of support no doubt helped Minister Clement in his decision making.

As the saga dragged on much was made of Canadian owned and operated resource corporations. As PCS is not currently Canadian owned or operated it is the citizens' chance to make that desire come true. As the shares in PCS plummet today it is the ideal time for Canadian citizens, pension plans and indigenous groups to invest in this corporation and tip the balance of ownership to Canadian. Put your money where your mouth is.

The PotashCorp site posts the Pledge to Saskatchewan which includes the return of head office to Saskatchewan. Nothing short of having the CEO reside in Saskatchewan and pay provincial and federal tax on earnings will constitute the return of head office. If the CEO is here then the rest of the entourage will be as well.

In today's SP (Nov. 4/10) Chief Lonechild states that First Nations leaders are tired of PotashCorp's empty promises. Lonechild said: "PCS says one thing and does another. So far we've gotten no accountability from Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan."

Brad Wall has expressed concern during the attempted takeover that corporations make promises and then don't keep them.

Its time to hold some boardroom feet to the fire. It is in fact the Board that hires the CEO and gives the marching orders. I hope the moving trucks are being loaded as I write this post.

It is also up to Premier Wall to ensure that the promises are kept. If I understand correctly there is legislation that provides for the head office issue and he has the clout of licensing to use to enforce that legislation. Now we wait and see how many promises get kept.

In the spirit of the Magi, I await the second coming . . .

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Looking for love in all the wrong places

I admit that I never thought the Indigenous Potash Group (IPG) could raise the funds needed to be a player in the Potash epic.

Rather than garnering the support of premiers Canada wide, Premier Wall should have looked closer to home. The IPG only needs to purchase enough shares to take over the Board. The Board appoints the CEO and controls the organization. If the injunction is successful (SP Nov. 3/10) the shares may go into decline and make the purchase viable.

Head office may be in Saskatchewan, but not necessarily in Saskatoon.

Business and politics are indeed strange bedfellows.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What a ride!

Thumbs up for Kay Nasser (SP Nov. 2/10.) There is something to that "buy local" theme. Nasser's record of success in his past endeavours offers hope that he is the man to get this project off the ground - or rather in the ground. It is his commitment and belief in this city that will carry the project to fruition.

We will still get the $1 million in taxation for maintenance of River Landing as this property will not generate revenue for years to come. And when RL does generate tax revenue, I have no expectation that the $1 million in new taxation will be eliminated. It will simply be applied elsewhere.

Now Council can perhaps divert its attention to the land designated for the Live/Work Eco Village and look for a contractor than can actually proceed with this project. Then RL may have a happily ever after ending.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Road Not Taken

Brad Wall is apparently uninvited to Ottawa (SP Nov. 1/10.) This can only mean that the Federal Government has already made the decision regarding the takeover bid or that Wall's cordial relationship with Harper is at an end - a dead end. On the upside, Lingenfelter can now support Wall's resolution as neither will be travelling East.

I hope Harper says he will approve the deal if BHP can negotiate a settlement with Wall. Perhaps then Canadian businesses won't take the hit, only those located in Saskatchewan.

I heard from a reliable source in Regina that a poll was commissioned for the NDP and that 75% of those polled would like to see PCS "recovered" by the government. The poll didn't include the question of where the government should get the $40 to $50 billion dollars necessary to do that - because the share price would increase substantially if investors knew a government was buying it back. It will be interesting to see how the government reacts to this poll, and we can assume what the NDP will do with it as they commissioned it.

Generally speaking, the road not taken by politicians is the high road.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Pied Piper of Politicis

Well, I guess my theory was wrong when I thought the Premier's opposition to the BHP takeover was simply a political game to show the people of Saskatchewan he was listening to them. When he put forward the reasons for his opposition I thought the game was for Harper to negotiate the concerns with BHP and ensure there would be a net gain to the province and country if their takeover was successful and they would both come out looking like heros.

I'm surprised that we welcome premiers from other provinces weighing in on Saskatchewan issues. Would we be so welcoming if those premiers were not in agreement with us?

It appears that Saskatchewan favours our potash being mined by an American company out of Chicago rather than a Australian company out of Melbourne. I suppose it doesn't make that much difference.

On the other hand we can look forward to PCS continuing to fund our university even though they no longer lean towards hiring our grads. Some folks have suggested to me that we will soon hear an announcement for the new PCS domed stadium in Regina. Whether or not Harper will be as generous with federal money under the P3 program is yet to be determined. When is the next federal election?

Who knew Wall was such an accomplished flute player?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Rights come with responsibilities

I am perplexed by the NDP's negative reaction to the proposal of identification being required in order to vote (SP Oct. 28/10.)

In today's world there isn't much you can do without proper identification. You can't enter this country, or any other, without proper ID. You can't board a plane, open a bank account, have a Sask drivers license or write a personal cheque at point of purchase without ID. Hell, you can't even buy smokes or hooch without photo ID. And identity theft is the number one fraud being committed today.

Yet somehow claiming the greatest right and privilege in a democratic country, that being the right to vote, should be handed out without concern.

We receive news reports of the ongoing trial on the Metis Nation-Saskatchewan electoral forgery of ballots. There exists the unresolved issue of an over-zealous volunteer selling bogus memberships in the NDP party which would grant voting rights in the leadership race. There are ongoing, although unproven, allegations of voting irregularities in elections at every level. The outcome of any election can have grave consequences for citizens if that outcome has been skewed by voting irregularities.

If the concern is disenfranchisement of voters without ID, then begin the process of issuing Sask ID cards to all residents. It shouldn't be hard given we all get Sask health cards.

And if you truly want to exercise your franchise then maybe a little onus should fall to the voter to obtain the ID necessary to do so.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If mama ain't happy . .

I hope Mother Nature is planning to contribute a little to the snow clearing otherwise the deficit will wipe out the stabilization fund with snow clearing alone.

I was hoping the snow would hold off for another two months as the city has continued the lock down of my neighbourhood and our only ingress/egress is to be McPherson Avenue. With this snow they will need a winch to get us up the hill to the intersection of 11th and McPherson. I can't catch a bus because it can't get into the area. A taxi will cost even more as the detour adds on substantial distance and thus a higher fare.

I won't bother with the complaints on street cleaning and tree pruning prior to the snow. Been there, done that.

What I would support is a new hire at City Hall, that being a scheduler to coordinate the repair and maintenance of streets so that no one area would be shut down for a half a year or more and that various services aren't competing with one another for street time and to ensure projects get completed in a timely manner.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The money tree has blight!

I was taken aback this morning when I read in the SP (Oct. 26/10) that the city's finance manager thinks curbing discretionary spending in light of a budget deficit is not good business. He enhanced the comment by saying that department managers would not be raked over the coals because they forecasted a smaller number and came in over budget.

Budget deficits come out of the stabilization fund. But when the stabilization fund is empty, where does the money come from? The only time the city has a surplus to contribute to the stabilization fund is when they do the annual freeze on discretionary spending. If budgeting is done on "conservative" numbers and no one is held to the budget, what is the point of a budget? Perhaps this philosophy explains why every capital project budget is out of whack.

This council would be wise to note that in the recent Toronto civic election the new mayor handily won the vote on the platform of cut taxes and reduce spending. Mayor-elect Ford summed up his win stating that "people are really fed up with wasteful spending."

Come to think of it, wasn't that a focus of Mayor Atch's first campaign?

Monday, October 25, 2010

New garbage

Well it would seem that council is divided on the recycling issue and stances have been taken prior to any public meetings (SP Oct. 23/10). I guess the new council member's first task will be to cast the deciding vote. This implementation of a curbside program now rests in the hands of Ward 5.

I like Councillor Hill's idea of a separate utility billing for recycling. I would let us know the true cost of the program rather than have it absorbed into the black hole of taxation.

I expect that, as it is with all utility bills, if you don't pay your bill the service is disconnected. In order to re-establish the service you must pay all arrears, a deposit and a re-connect fee. In this instance those truly opposed to the program can refuse to pay and have the service suspended. I like it. As well, landlords would not have a reason to jack up rents under the guise of recycling taxation.

I very much support Heidt's ask for a referendum on the matter with the various options and costs set forth. I expect that won't happen as Council would probably not like the result.

I am waiting for one of the by-election candidates to use the campaign slogan "I've got a nose for garbage." It would simply say they are well prepared for the tasks ahead.

P.S. After four years on council I think it is a little disingenuous of Hill to express concern about closed door meetings.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The lines are drawn

After Premier Wall's Oscar winning performance yesterday in rejecting the BHP takeover, his opposition can no longer say he is a toady for big business.

Since the PCs have come off life-support, albeit still in critical condition, and will be running candidates in the next election, it will be a difficult sell by the NDP to call the Sask Party the Sask-a-Tories. The Tories are still alive, although not well.

The Liberals seem to have established themselves as the right wing of the NDP, while the Greens hold the left wing position.

Things do not look good for Mr. Lingenfelter come next year.

On the other had, if Harper gives a green light to BHP, Layton will be an extremely happy man.

Everyone, get out your box of crayons, pick your color and try to say within the lines. It simply confuses voters when the lines and colors get blurred.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back to square one

I attended a public forum last month regarding the future of the Traffic Bridge. I met a friend there and listened to him comment that there was no way the city could do any of the four options presented for the costs stated. Although he has a background in construction I thought perhaps he was just lipping off. I owe him an apology.

In today's SP (Oct. 21/10) the new suggested prices are listed for the available options for the Traffic Bridge. Each option is about $10 million dollars more than the last. That is a 40% increase in a little more than a month. This price differential cannot be written off as increased cost of labour and materials. Someone is not doing their job!

And what good is the public feedback when it is solicited on fraudulent information?

Then I read heritage guru Peggy Sarjeant's letter to the editor wherein she stated: "Let's not be swayed by pessimistic predictions of the structural integrity of the bridge. The engineers assure us that it can be rehabilitated to the same standard as the other options, at a comparable cost." Can we believe this statement?

This is an ongoing problem at City Hall. It seems every capital project comes in substantially higher than initially quoted. Either council is being intentionally mislead by administration or administration doesn't have the skill level to properly estimate projects. Either/or scenario is problematic for decisions makers and those of us who foot the bill.

Its time to take a time out and get qualified people to provide accurate information to both council and the public

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What am I missing?

This scenario has me scratching my head and uttering "what the hell?" We have one free enterprise government asking another free enterprise government to block a takeover bid by one foreign owned corporation of another foreign owned corporation, both of which are carrying on businesses in Canada, and both of which are operating from countries friendly with Canada.

The $1 billion dollar ask for a one-time tax payment, which I will kindly call a "signing bonus," may simply be short term gain for long term pain. I expect our provincial government to negotiate with BHP to ensure the province receives fair and ongoing royalty payments into the provincial coffers.

If the ask for millions of infrastructure dollars is to build necessary roadways and such to the proposed Janzen Lake project, that's a good ask.

Let us remember, PCS is 70% foreign owned, has its executive team, mostly comprised of Americans, operating outside of Canada, with offices in Saskatoon managing the potash division in Saskatchewan.

BHP is a multi-national corporation with head office in Australia (a Commonwealth country) that will establish offices in Saskatoon to manage its potash interests in Saskatchewan.

The big difference is that people in Saskatchewan hang on to the fantasy that PCS is a Saskatchewan owned corporation, operating in Saskatoon.

There is no guarantee that the province will fare any better financially from PCS in the years to come if we use the example of loss of royalty revenue a year or so back.

There is on the other hand the proposal of a $12 billion dollar investment in a new mine being offered by BHP that will create good paying jobs for people residing here and paying income tax here.

If Wall hangs this one on Harper to solve for him, his Ottawa connection, and the goodies that come with that, may whither and he'll replace Calvert at the bottom of the invitation list.

One can only speculate what would happen if we did not have provincial and federal elections looming on the horizon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One down, one to go

Ho hum. Now that we have put the provincial by-election behind us it is time for the far more interesting civic by-election to unfold. Who will come out of the woodwork? As council is facing a number of critical and pricey issues, whomever fills this seat could tip the direction.

Several issues before council have seen close votes, the most recent being the options given for consideration at the forums dealing with the Traffic Bridge. On a 6-5 vote those options were limited to all-service only. There are still special interest groups dogging for pedestrian/cyclist only. Will they succeed in getting a candidate friendly to their position elected?

Recycling will certainly be on the agenda as well as public transportation.

Let the games begin.

As an aside, when a person runs for public office and leaves for greener pastures before the term is up, should the taxpayer being looking to someone for compensation for the cost of a by-election? Is there not a cause of action for breach of commitment? I'm not speaking of people who leave due to health, family or relocation causes, or those removed for corrupt practice, but simply for those who move up a rung on the ladder. Food for thought.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The harbinger of November 2012

For those of us living outside of the Saskatoon Northwest constituency this has been a pretty low key by-election. The only thing people are betting on is the percentage of the win or how the vote will split. I view this as a poll on how the government is doing and what the provincial election issues could be a year from now.

From an article last week I take it that all the candidates were hearing concern about the possible construction of a domed stadium in Regina. I hope that message gets back to Premier Wall. It certainly resonated with the NDP when they recently came out with their support for a stadium, but that no public money should be invested in the project. The NDP have firmly planted their feet on each side of the fence on this one.

Regardless of the outcome, I applaud all the candidates for their courage and willingness to step up for what they believe in. Although I may not agree with each candidates ' position on issues, or some of their conduct during an election, I very much appreciate the fact that they each put themselves on the front line and stood up to be counted. It takes a lot of time and energy to be a candidate.

The emotional roller-coaster ride ends tonight and all but one will head back to their normal lives within a couple of days. I hope they each do so with a little pride and great satisfaction for their efforts.

Celebrate tonight. Each candidate is a winner for their courage and conviction.

Friday, October 15, 2010

He who pays the piper . . .

I'm not sure to what to make of Doug Cuthand's column today (SP Oct. 15/10.) He rails on about the unfairness of publishing the salaries of chiefs without also publishing their job descriptions. He then goes on to say its a 24/7 job and all the various roles a chief must play. The same could be said of any politician today. Most politicians feel they are over-worked and underpaid. This is a common theme for all politicians and governments.

In essence he thinks the demand for accountability should come from within and not from Ottawa, but then states that providing the information will just give some band members one more thing to complain about. This could be said of all constituents.

He acknowledges that the occasional chief, councillor or trustee dips into the till and gets caught but they are by far in the minority. Again, this could be said of all politicians and governments.

This is a good news, bad news scenario. The good news is that First Nations governments are recognized and treated like all other governments. The bad news is that, like all other governments, they must account for the public monies they expend.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Six of one, a half dozen of another

If the reporting I have read is accurate, 70% percent of PCS is owned by non-Canadians. The majority of the executive branch are Americans. Nine out of 15 executive live and work in the USA, including the CEO. This would lead me to believe that PCS is already a foreign owned mining company operating out of the USA and mining a Saskatchewan resource. PCS is no longer just potash mining, it has diversified to incorporate phosphate and nitrogen and claims ownership of other mines and business outside of Canada.

In today's SP (Oct. 14/10) PCS pledges to "maintain a strong and vital corporate headquarters in Saskatchewan." I suspect that means for the potash division of PCS rather than the whole of the organization.

How does this differ from what BPH is offering to do?

Former Premier Allan Blakeney now states PCS should be 60% Canadian owned. He suggests many Canadian pension plan groups in Eastern Canada would, in all likelihood, comprise the bulk of the 60% ownership. With all due respect to Mr. Blakeney, I think Western Canada remembers how well in past Ontario and Quebec have treated their Western brethren when dealing with our resources and/or products. Does anyone still have a "Let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark" bumper sticker?

If the Eastern Pension Plan groups were prepared to pay the current market value of PCS shares they would already own the shares. Does this suggest that Canadians, worse yet, Saskatchewanians, purchase back these shares at the current value and sell them at an acceptable price to Canadian groups simply to have them in the hands of Canadians? Is this a suggestion of expropriation - again? There are shares for sale now. Go out and buy if you want them. Accordingly to the PCS CEO they are being sold under their value.

We should all remember that Canadian corporations do business in other countries. How we treat foreign business in Canada will reflect on how Canadian business is treated outside of Canada. What goes around . . .

It is imperative that our governments set the conditions of doing business in Canada and ensure the our public benefits from our resources. Outside of that, stay out of it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Winging it

I applaud Bronwyn Eyre for her commentary today following up on the new student assessment reports (SP Oct. 12/10.) For about a week all media covered this story and elicited public reaction, most of which was a negative response. The Premier weighed in and mused about a standardized reporting system. And then everyone moved on.

Education is one of the highest expenditures in the provincial budget and education tax on property in Saskatchewan is one of the highest in the country. Yet schools boards operate in a vacuum and without public scrutiny.

There was a time that school board meetings were televised and the SP sent a reporter to the meetings to keep the citizens informed on activities that affected the educational well-being of our children - often touted as our greatest resource. Now potash is our holds that grand title.

Today's parents may be happy that little Johnny will fly through the system with flying colors, but will they be happy when little Johnny hits the real world and pulls an Icarus.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ban the bull!

It is hard to believe that one person's discomfort can cause a city ban on video or audio recordings at any city sponsored meeting (SP Oct. 9/10) save for the media. In the case of city council meetings I might understand a ban as it could be disruptive and considering the whole meeting is already played live on TV and then replayed again. The public can record any portion of that meeting they choose from the convenience of their home.

Supposedly the matter was brought forward after a video camera operator got close up to a member of the public sitting in the audience. Was that video camera operator a member of the public or the press? Generally its the press that pans the audience and/or zooms in looking for a good clip for the news broadcast on the event.

What about the scenario of a speaker that wants his or her comments audio or video taped?

If it only takes one person to complain and cause a ban on anything then Council should shut down everything happening in Saskatoon because unhappy people are abound in this city.

I'm calling bull.... on this one.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope each and every one has as much to give thanks for as do I. Family, friends and a good life.

Friday, October 8, 2010

What hill do you want to die on?

If today's SP (Oct. 8/10) article on First Nations challenge on the provincial tobacco tax restriction is really about governing authority or treaty rights, I think they picked the wrong battlefield.

The government claims it instituted the restriction to curb the black market sales.

At four cartons a week, that being 800 cigarettes, roughly 114 darts a day, for all treaty card holders to purchase, its hard to believe all of that would be for personal consumption. Considering the bulk of the cost of a pack of smokes is sin tax, which helps in funding health care and education, there will not be much public sympathy for the First Nations on this issue.

The courts may uphold some treaty right, but the public empathy for First Nations issues will go up in smoke.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Every dark cloud . . .

I'm in step with Les MacPherson today (SP Oct. 7/10) when he states in his column that we should enjoy the suitors vying for our hearts. Any charities or organizations looking for funding for their causes should be lining up at the local offices of PCS and BPH with hands out. Halloween has come early.

Note I avoid the use of "head" office for both corporations as clearly neither exists. The good thing about the proposed takeover is that PCS is getting the message to send the suits back to Saskatchewan and/or if BHP is successful then they better be prepared to be entrenched in this province.

Let's hope that this is the silver lining to the dark cloud and not simply 30 pieces of silver offered to a modern Judas.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Get the priorities straight

Today's SP (Oct. 6/10) published an article on the long list of sound attenuation walls currently needed in the city with an estimated cost of about $39 million dollars. It also states that the city budgets $500,000.00 a year towards the construction of these walls. At this rate these walls should be completed in 2088.

Why is it that the city can always find money for capital projects that are nice to have, but not necessarily necessary, but never find available cash for capital projects that affect the day-to-day needs of citizens?

The city's share of the new Art Gallery at River Landing will be in excess of $40 million, more than twice the amount the Mendel Board originally asked for to do a renovation and expansion on the current site.

The Shaw Centre swimming pool started as a less than $20 million dollar project and nudged up to roughly $50 million.

I won't even delve into the River Landing money pit or the possibility of the of millions for a white water project.

I believe most citizens would prefer to have use and enjoyment of their property before use and enjoyment of civic facilities.

Why is it that Councillors can't see this?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wyant Wins

Well, well, well. It appears that NDP candidate Ms. Jan Dyky has the makings of a politician. Say one thing and do the opposite.

When she kicked off her campaign she stated that she did not intend to focus on the Serge LeClerc issue during the campaign. Yet I have in hand her first brochure and it does very much focus on the former MLA (so much for innocent until proven guilty) and her opponent Councillor Gord Wyant's connection to LeClerc. What about the thousands of voters in Saskatoon Northwest that also connected with LeClerc in the last election? Are they tainted?

Dyky highlights that Wyant made his career as a corporate and banking lawyer specializing in "commercial and secured transactions." I don't know why "commercial and secured transactions" have quotations marks, but would he be more acceptable if he practised in a legal aid clinic helping the poor and down trodden with their issues?

In the brochure it states that although Wyant already has considerable wealth (does he?) he may keep collecting his healthy council salary. Didn't he already announce that if elected as a MLA he would resign council? Recalling earlier newspaper articles, it sounds like the council by-election race has already started.

In fact so much of the brochure is dedicated to Wyant I think he might have to claim some of its cost on his campaign expense report.

The only thing this brochure lets me know about candidate Dyky is that she's shorter than Lingenfelter, unless of course the brochure picture was badly photo shopped and she taller than she appears. Hardly a reason to cast a ballot her way. There is nothing in this brochure that tells us one thing about Dyky other than she is an NDP candidate and where to call to request and lawn sign or volunteer.

As much as I hate to see coronations, if this is the best the opposition has to offer I agree with the pundits that Wyant is walking this one to the bank. It is a secured transaction

You gotta be kidding me

Councillor Dubois certainly has a knack for weighing in on weighty issues at council. I speak of the new dress code for city owned golf courses (SP Oct. 4/10.) I'm not sure why women get to wear sleeveless shirts and men don't and there is no mention of short length, but I'm sure new employees will be needed to enforce the fashion requirements. Someone will have to measure heel height on footwear. I am assuming Dubois brought this matter forward as she states in the article of the many complaints she has received on the matter and seems to be the only councillor commenting on it.

While council has on its plate matters such as taxation and debt, bridges, recycling, infrastructure woes, and the list goes on, it concerns me that time is being spent on who is wearing what, when and where. While I believe that councilors have a duty to deal constituent concerns, shouldn't this be a matter referred to golf course managers to deal with?

The dogs peeing on lawns debate was spoofed in MacLeans magazine and perhaps this one will as well.

While Rome burns . . .

Friday, October 1, 2010

Battle of the titans

I think we have a bit of a generational clash brewing in the city. Today's younger generation, more so than their parents, have had the benefit and experience of travel abroad and want their city to be like other cities in other countries. The older generations have the life experience that make them cautious of spending and debt load and fads that come and go. They have also indulged their children and are, to some degree, reticent to curtail that indulgence.

In today's SP (Oct. 1/10) the cycling guru, Gil Penalosa, panned the city. His accomplishment of turning Bogota to a haven for cyclists and pedestrians is laudable. However, I don't believe Bogota dips much below 15 degrees Celsius or has ever needed snow clearing. And he has not met with that same success in his new home city of Toronto.

His recommendation of car-free Sundays from May through September from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m probably won't be favoured with the churches along Spadina Crescent, or elsewhere in the city, if the ban is city wide. However, the younger generation is not packing the pews in the various religious sanctuaries. On the bright side it may get them out of bed before noon. How about a car-free ban on Friday and Saturday nights from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.? Bike or bus to the bar say I. Better yet, walking home in the mid of winter might help sober some of them up.

It seems to be that much of the conflict is around bicycles and cars. Pedestrians already have passages and crossings and their biggest beef is with cyclists, many of which are disrespectful of pedestrians. I'm not anti-cycling and understand the desire for bike lanes. I just don't get the my-way or the highway attitude.

The younger generation seems to favour high density multiple dwellings, particular for the core areas. That seems to be a good idea until they become established in their careers and have families. Then they want their own little house on the prairies. It isn't the older generation that is willing to pay a $100,000.00 plus for a lot in Evergreen to build their dream house on with perks thrown in from the city compliments of the taxpayer.

Who I feel sorry for are the seniors who can neither walk distance, bike, carry groceries or parcels and may be driven out of the residences they have dominated in the downtown. They may need to be re-located to the Market Mall seniors ghetto.

I suspect Saskatoon Speaks may become Saskatoon Shouts. If council really wants public feedback, run a referendum. Not many of the older generations are heading out to the forums but will go to the polls. And it will certainly encourage young voters to get and vote.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Come in to my parlour . . .

This morning on CBC's Sheila Cole program, Ray Morrison, Chairman of the Saskatoon Public School Board, attempted to clarify the controversy on student reporting. I empathized with him as he attempted to explain and defend the Board's position in response to that of a Superintendent, teacher and students. If nothing else the Board is guilty of poor communication. In essence he stated that there was no policy but simply an understanding that each teacher would consider student behaviour when rendering a grade and that teachers simply had flexibility in grading. I suspect this is not that comforting to parents and students.

Chairman Morrison also stated that he canvassed the Trustees and they indicated that they had received few negative reactions from the public on this issue. I would suggest that is a result of the public-at-large not knowing who in hell even sits on the Board. For a service as important as public education, very little media or reporting occurs on what is happening in our educations systems.

Following Chairman Morrison, Premier Brad Wall weighed in on the subject as both a father and Premier. As a father he wants student accountability and responsibility to play a role, but acknowledged as a Premier that student reporting has always been the purview of school boards. In light of this controversy he followed up with the comment that since the province has overall responsibility for education, his education ministry would be looking at introducing some form of standardized reporting.

Boom! With that little bomb you can expect to hear from the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation. There is nothing that can rally the education troops like the thought of standardized testing or reporting or anything that would remotely impact on their grip of publicly funded education. Our Premier has stepped into a mine field.

I cannot count the number of times I have heard, and stated myself, that "our children are our greatest resource." Let's hope that this "resource" issue continues and receives as much play and consideration as does the potash resource issue.

. . . both Morrison and Wall flew into the spiders web.