Sunday, February 28, 2010

Not guilty!

On Friday, under Triple A Beef, an anonymous commenter suggested that my comments on Standard and Poors and the Lehman Bros were plagiarized from Dave Hutton's column in the SP. I often read Mr. Hutton's column. I respect the work he does. I often agree with his assessment and reporting on items. But I did not plagiarlize him. I'm not sure that anyone commenting on a year and half old news item can be guilty of that charge.

Every time I hear a councillor talk about the city's great credit rating I chant "Standard & Poors/Lehman Bros." If you care to look back to an October 26/09 posting under the heading "Holy Bejezus" I made similar comments to those posted on Friday, February 26/10. I am guilty of being repetitive. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

In the event anyone is interested I started this blog as a journal of my thoughts on issues of the day, mostly political. I decided to share my journal online to see if anyone in cyberspace had comments on those issues, thinking I might find kindred spirits or others with contrary views that could be enlightening. For the most part I have enjoyed hearing from you. But in reality I do this blog for myself. I no longer have the zest to be a candidate or do the grunt work on an election team. But I still have a great interest in my city, province and country and its politics. I will continue with this blog and invite you to join me.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Triple A Beef

Today's SP reports that Standard and Poors gave our city a triple A credit rating with a few flags. Good news. Then I recalled that Standard and Poors gave Lehman Bros and others a great rating just prior to the USA financial collapse.

What caught my attention was the comment that the Saskatchewan Municipal Board may soon increase our debt limit from the current $298 million amount.

Just how deep in debt are we and how deep does council intend to go?

How will we pay increasing debt when we have six councillors that promised no tax increases during the election campaign?

My beef is that something smells fishy.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hit the Wall

I believe Brad Wall has the potential to be one of Saskatchewan's greatest premiers. Whether or not he realizes his potential is in question.

I think the public can accept last year's overly optimistic budget in light of the good times we were enjoying. I think the public can appreciate his government's zest and desire to keep their election promises. I think what the public will reject is a budget that negatively impacts on the neediest and/or most vulnerable of our society.

There are two things that the public values most - health and education. Floating the ideas of cuts to education that may hurt mainstream and special needs students is not going to be well received by families or teachers. Cuts to health programs that hurt seniors is a form of assisted political suicide.

During this period of budget recovery I hope the government will consider putting on hold mega spending in the form of a controversial art gallery, stadium or other nice, but not urgent, capital projects. Bricks and mortar projects will not trump loss of perceived needs.

The thought of our Premier hitting the brick wall and thus allowing the ghost of Lingenfelter to float through is frightening. I hope the party membership will hit Wall before he hits the wall.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sunny in Saskatoon

I do believe that our new mascot Sunny absolutely personifies our happy, jolly Mayor. I didn't know council was expecting the newborn Sunny, and I don't know what it cost, but envisioning Atch and the councillors taking turns wearing the costume to various civic functions will be worth it for the entertainment value alone. (This assumes they will not be putting the mascot on the payroll.)

It did bring a much needed chuckle this morning after reading Pat Atkinson's comments on the proposed plan to cut educational assistants in school divisions (SP Feb. 24/10). She said government is trying to dodge responsibility for the proposed changes by passing the buck to school divisions. It is the height of hypocrisy for a former Minister of Education and a representative of a former government that did nothing but pass the buck for funding to local school boards. Every taxation year every school division board in this province screamed foul as they were forced to increase property taxes to pay for salary increases and programs imposed on them by the NDP government without sufficient provincial funding to cover the cost.

There is controversy within the education community itself as to whether or not this position has flourished beyond need or that EAs are being used effectively. It is one of those 'six of one, or a half dozen of another' debates. I will leave it the professionals to come up with the solution.

Today, I will just let the sunshine in . . .

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A female tale of baleful males

This is a true story. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Once upon a time there was a young woman named Alice. Alice is a tall, willowy, pretty 28 year old woman. She is well-educated, has a great sense of humor accompanied by a lilting laugh. She is witty, smart, good natured and wholesome looking. Have you a picture of Alice in your head?

Alice's chosen career was human resources/industrial relations. Her early career steps walked her into a field dominated by men who, and I generalize, value women only in the biblical sense. I feared the only attention Alice would garner from this group would be the wolf-whistle. She proved me wrong. In a short period of time she became the least hated management employee.

One day on the job site a crew of workers, and for the purpose of this story only they will be called the Teamsters, started to intimidate and bully other workers who were not part of their union. Some non-Teamsters were threatening to pull out of the job site. Alice's boss came in with one directive - fix it!

Alice gathered the bullies in the boardroom and began to employ every academic strategy she knew in the art of negotiation, mediation and settlement. Hours dragged on with no sign of success in sight.

The Alice did what every shrewd woman would do. The elephant in the room reminded her that this beast survived as a result of shared memories passed on through the matriarch. She thought of her family matriarchs. What was it that granny used to say? "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach." She blurted out: "If I order in ten buckets of KFC could we resolve this by noon and get back to work?" A resounding "YES" reverberated off the paneled walls. And after some finger-licking good chicken everyone returned to work and they all lived happily ever after.

But this got Alice to thinking of wisdom passed along through family matriarchs. What was it that Mom once told her. ? Oh yea: "When you've got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow." She stored that away for another day.

Alice is well on her way to a successful career.

Monday, February 22, 2010

If governments had souls . .

they would be pitted with acts of commission and omission.

I read in today's SP that government sanctioned provincial lotteries are moving into the "once-underground" world of online gambling. The reason stated? It will lend credibility to the unregulated industry. The real reason: easy money.

I'm all for free will, but please spare me the hypocrisy of any 'positive' benefit of that which governments do regarding the so-called social vices.

In past, and today, governments publish all the ill effects of alcohol use and abuse. At the same time they do everything to encourage the consumption by ducking up their owned and operated stores, opening up distributorships and extending hours of sale. Why? Heavy tax on alcohol equals easy money. Don't get me wrong. I like browsing the stores and checking out the product and I'm okay with extending sale opportunities. Please just spare the caring and sharing concerns, both physically and socially, of the ill-effects of alcohol.

Governments tell us all the negative repercussions of tobacco use. Yet the governments control the sale, add on heavy taxes and bingo, easy money.

The last frontier will be use of narcotics. I am surprised they haven't tapped into the mega dollars laying at this roadside.

I think adults can do whatever they choose with their bodies and souls as long as their actions to do not negatively impact on others. And if governments want to capitalize on these vices with sin taxes, so be it. Just be straight about it.

My folly here is thinking that governments actually have souls.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fire them up or fire them!

Hmm. In today's SP Mike Stefiuk, CUPE 859 union representative, states the city mishandled the snow cleanup and that they don't have a problem contracting out as long as city staff are first properly managed and resourced. Last week the Mayor stated some of the problems in the snow clearing debacle was due to lack of experience in the department. Earlier this month Mike Gutek, infrastructure services manager, said he was letting his fingers do the walking for him as he scanned the yellow pages looking for private contractors to help out after the storm. This comment alone speaks volumes to foreword planning by the department.

From these comments it seems the problem is city management.

It is time for council to hold the city manager's feet to the fire. But first the public has to build a pyre and fire up city council.

Kudos to the union for their willingness to discuss the contracting out.

And thanks to my favorite Geek Squad guy for getting me back online.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


The government has taken over this blog...

Apparently, civic forces have moved to bring an end to public criticism by shutting down this blog. I'm being held hostage in my kitchen and my internet access has been shut down.

Okay, it's really just a technical glitch that I hope to have figured out later today. Until then, I'll leave it to commenters to fight the man...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Was I in a coma

How in hell did councillors double their paychecks over three years without a comment from the press or public? Who knew? $48,000.00 - not bad pay for a part time job. Let's remember, none of these folks gave up paying day jobs to do this one. Add on the fact that one-third, $16,000.00, is tax free. They only pay tax on $32,000.00. Add on the fact they can contribute to a RRSP plan and the city matches their contribution - less tax and more income.

I don't buy the growth of the city as a reason for the double your money pay hike. If that were the rationale then the increase should be equal to the percentage growth of the city. Besides, when you pass a bylaw whether it affects 100,000 people or 200,000 people, the same amount of time goes into the work.

Councillors also get free parking at meters. This is a great perk. It does explain the nonchalance on the decision to jack up meter rates a few months back.

It makes me appreciate the frugal Neault even more for not dipping into the car, travel and training allowances (SP Feb. 9 /10). I guess we should appreciate they came in under budget last year on the car allowance. Oh wait, they increased the car allowance budget line since they came in over budget in the previous year. Neault and Clark did not take car allowance.

It certainly make me understand why city hall employees look for large increases. They work full time, some for less money than the part time councillors.

On the other, if you want to attract bright people to elected positions you have to be prepared to pay the freight. However, in this instance I think we are paying, with few exceptions, UPS rates for Canada Post parcel post service.

Reality Checks

So people of the Catholic faith are going to vote March 1 to determine whether or not to start a new school division in Martensville (SP Feb. 16/10). I suspect the vote will be yes. Then will come the demand for a new school with all amenities. And a new school board without power to tax.

What confuses me is that I thought this small city fell under the umbrella of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Division. Currently Catholic students are being bussed into Saskatoon. I'm not sure how you create your own division within a division. Quirky.

What I do know is that it is folly to ask government for more money at a time when they are struggling to finance that which exists. It will kick start the debate again over having two school systems by those who wish to trounce on the constitutional rights of Catholics in this province.

Or then again, maybe not.

Anyway you cut it the general public in Martensville should thank Premier Wall for his wisdom in taking away the power to tax from school boards.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A kick in the butt and a pat on the back.

I guess a couple of million bucks is chump change to Councillor Hill. So intent is he on having the MVA at the Mendel site that he is blithely spending money on upgrades to the Mendel building so it can be leased to the MVA. I wonder if council is with him on this expenditure? Then I almost fell off my chair when Susan Lamb states that the MVA would barely fit in the Mendel building. Then Hill throws in the children's museum and states its an ideal place for the MVA because of the proximity of the park and parking is ideal for visitors and children's groups. Doesn't the Mendel also have those same needs? We have already incurred an additional $1 million in taxation for operating costs of the mega swimming pool. We are going to be absorbing the operational costs of River Landing in the not too distant future. We will be taking the hit on increased operational costs for the MVA.

I don't have a problem funding the MVA developments, ie the trails, Beaver Creek, etc. I like the interpretive aspects being outdoors. I do have a problem with swishy admin offices on the riverbank.

A pat on the back to Maura Davies and the Health Board for their willingness to review the decision on placement for the Children Hospital. I would like to see City Hospital turned into a Womens and Childrens Centre and move all obstetrics, gynaecology and neo natal medical services there. Throw in space for a parent dormitory was well.

Ah, I feel so much better. Venting is good. Then again, perhaps its because my pockets are so much lighter thankd to the likes of Mr. Hill!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is it just me?

Every night I listen to a TV ad that vocally, visually and subliminally, tells me that Brad Wall is a loser and Dwain Lingenfelter is a liar. Recently the labour groups have come up with a TV ad that fear-mongers privatization of services by the provincial government.

It was bad enough in elections gone by that we were inflicted with propaganda for a six month period prior to election day, but starting 21 months in advance is too much. The message being sent is that neither of these leaders is worthy of a vote.

I sincerely hope that the person who invented fast forwarding is a billionaire.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Given the history of non-aboriginals making decisions for First Nations people, I don't fault First Nations communities for wanting control of their own destiny. Given the last several years of difficulty at FNUC, I can't fault governments for cutting funding. If the reports are accurate, the FSIN initial moves to finally correct the problems seems a little limp and fraught with lack of forethought.

It appears that all of the problems root to the board and administration of this institution. This institution has experienced probation by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and has been censured by the Canadian Association of University Teachers. Degrees coming from a post-secondary schools with these black marks lose their value. It is desperately unfair to the student body and alumni to allow this school to continue with its current status. (Yes I know that the parchment has the U of R name on it, but the studies come FNUC.)

The Keep It Simple Solution might be for governments to pledge retroactive payment if and when FNUC finally clears up the escalating issues surrounding it. If they clean it up and meet the standards of other universities in Canada, they get reimbursed. If not, it is their money they waste.

Information Superhighway Snowed In...

Shaw is doing some work on their systems this morning that is preventing me from getting online. Here's hoping they can clear the information superhighway faster than our city's snow removal crew. I'll be back when they're done their work...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hey big spender . . .

Councillor Dubois managed to hold on to her Crown being the top spender on council for 2009, while Wyant nudged out Hill by a nose for second place. Had you played a triacter on this race the payday would have been small as the favorites came in to win. A special thanks to Prarieland Park for picking up Neault's travel expenses and again thank you to Nealut for not double-dipping.

The surprise spender was Councillor Paulsen (SP Feb.9/10) seemingly leading the charge on an additional $54,000.00 to separate the tax bill for the school boards. While it is true that most taxpayers fail to realise that half that bill goes to the school boards, we have also entered an era were the province has taken away the school boards' ability to tax and has a long range plan to reduce the weight of that expense from the property tax.

I expect that many taxpayers will be confused by the separate billing and may only pay one bill but not the other. Then the city will be required to pay the expense of collecting these taxes and late payment will penalize the property owner. No doubt some will add the two incorrectly and have a small shortage or overage. I agree with Penner, Wyant and Clark that the current tax bill is pretty clear as to allocation of taxes paid. Those three get a back on the pat.

On the upside, now there will be space on the notice to include all the indirect taxation we pay - ever-increasing levies on infrastructure, landfill fees, transit passes and utility increases. I'll let the environmentally conscious folks comment on the increased waste of paper.

Now council should spend a little time figuring out how we can pay for this as I recall six of them are committed to no tax increase.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The shovels are coming out tonight

The marathon scheduled for tonight's council meeting will test the mettle of the most enduring political athlete. It would appear that 30 good citizens want to share their views with council on one topic - snow removal. With each speaker having five minutes to expound on their solutions to the problem, add in the Mayor's introduction and instruction, the amble down to the podium by the speaker, my guess would be 3 1/2 hours on this topic alone. Each speaker will deliver the same message. In the first hour or so a councillor or two will pop up with some platitude or word of empathy just to prove they are listening and getting the message. And as time and nerves wear on, everyone quits listening and shuts down. I think I would rather watch a rerun of CSI.

Calgary council ordered an audit of their snow removal. Atch thinks its premature to call for an audit of Saskatoon's program. He states audit it means intensive scrutiny and we just need a review. And a tax increase. And Neault is sure that dumping more money into the program will fix it. Administration wants to hire more people so it can properly ticket and tow motorists. Hill's game for contracting out snow removal. Yes folks. The lunatics are in charge of the asylum.

This is why I like local politics so much. Everyone participates. Its reality TV, funny home videos and a local talent show all wrapped into one. Best way to watch it is to record it and fast forward to the best parts.

So the snow shovels will be out tonight but it won't be snow that being shovelled.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Nettie pack your bags!

Nettie Wiebe has come very close a couple of times fulfilling her dream of a seat in parliament. I now suspect if she took her circus over to Saskatoon-Humbolt her dream might come true.

I went online ( last night and watched the whole video of Pankiw's press conference. My politest comment would be that old Jim looks a little "disturbed." My impolite comment is, in my opinion, he was absolutely wacko. However he does have his following and he will drain some vote - hell, he might win. I am reminded that I never once thought that the voters of Saskatoon-Humboldt would toss the bright and classy Georgette Sheridan for him, and I thought wrong.

In Saskatoon-Humboldt good ole Nettie might find herself walking up the centre of the road - and centre is not her comfort zone. And I am sick at the thought of maybe having to listen to Nettie Wiebe and Jack Layton sing a duet for years and years.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

I don't think Saskatchewan needed two universities much less three, but I understood the need of First Nations people to control their own destiny given the history of aboriginal people in Saskatchewan and Canada. It saddened me to watch the ongoing drama of FNUC and eventually, its pending demise.

The FNUC setback is hard enough for First Nations to bear, but coupled with the return of Jim Pankiw to politics, the provincial chiefs' nightmares have just begun. His "I'm Back" comment brings to mind the leering face of Jack Nicholson in The Shinning. He will stir up old prejudices and make unfounded allegations in order to create attention to his cause - racism. I am unclear as to what political office he will be seeking, but remembering his past successes, I won't write him off. And it doesn't matter at this point if he wins, what matters is the damage he will do trying to win.

I find it ironic that he would chastise the media for the reporting on him as they give him more press and free advertising than any politician could hope for and, as the old saying goes, "Bad press is better than no press."

One step forward, two steps back. Put on your rose-colored glasses or correct your myopia with a prescription for humanity.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What does wedding cake and health care have in common?

They are both tiered. The bottom layer forms health care for the masses, the second layer is for those folks who have top up coverage through a collective agreement or contract and the top layer is for the rich and famous and those with influence.

During my recent visit to the USA I was stunned by the reaction of the American public to Obama's health care proposal. While in debate with some Americans on Obama's plan I expressed the benefits of our health care system, acknowledged its few short comings and suggested that the pros outweighed the cons for middle class Americans. An enraged Attila the Hun is frightening and I exited the debate while I still had skin on my back.

Danny Williams certainly has been a controversial premier in Canada and has taken his road show down to the USA. In today's SP article a doctor from the Canadian Doctors for Medicine says seeking his medical treatment in the USA should not be a judgment on Canadian Health Care. Sadly, it is - on both sides of the border. Thousands of Canadians head south every year for diagnosis, speedy treatment or advanced procedures. Most are not funded by Canadian health care but by the individual.

The lesson to be learned from this is our inability to rationally discuss health care without fear mongering politics taking over the debate - on both sides of the border.

Let them eat cake. And we will too.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Whine, whinge and whatever

The preamble warnings of yet another civic tax increase have started. In today's SP article regarding provincial funding for municipalities it was reported that Saskatoon will only receive the same amount as last year ($29.2 million.) Hardly a surprise given the fact that the province has been vocal for almost a year on holding the line on spending in light of its budget dilemmas. And lets remember how little the cities used to receive from the province prior to 2009.

We have already seen indirect taxation through water rate increases, transit fare increases, parking meter hikes, infrastructure levies and we still have ongoing discussion regarding garbage pickup charges. It boils downs to council looking at needs vs. wants. We need services and, maybe, want extras. At this point council should look at putting on hold projects on River Landing, construction of new recreation facilities, improvements to existing sports venues and everything else that doesn't translate into necessary services to the public.

During the civic election campaign six councillors committed to no tax increase if re-elected. All six councillors were incumbents and knew, or should have known, what was expected from the province. Any decisions on extra spending should have been made with the proviso that they were contingent on increased funding from the province.

I suspect we will just see finger pointing at the provincial government and a lot of rhetoric about why council must increase taxes. The only thing we the public can watch for is whether or not six of our councillors honourably keep their promises.

Et tu Atch?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Dog with a bone

There is still meat on this bone to be picked so I am continuing with the comments from Friday (Suites not sweet.) My first point is property owner rights. Currently if you want a zoning change you submit your request, adjacent property owners that may be affected by the request are notified, there is a hearing and all involved are invited to attend and voice their support or express their concerns. If council unilaterally enlarges on the zoning to to include garage/garden suites in traditional residential zoning, they will effectively eliminate a property owners right to speak to the issue that may directly impact on their use and enjoyment of their property. For those of you who want this in your neighbourhood, go speak in favour of it for your 'hood rather than impose it on everyone else.

Secondly, the issue of illegal suites should be of concern to all neighbourhoods and renters. Illegal suites do not meet code and can have safety issues. By example, if proper egress is not in place and there is a fire the tenant may be trapped and a risk for serious injury or death. I have seen suites in this city that I wouldn't let my dog stay in, yet they continue exist without intervention by the city primarily because of the shortage if rental properties. What makes you think illegal garage/garden suites will not be handled in the same fashion?
If density is the goal then allow properties that are already zoned for multiple dwelling to build 40 or more stories high. Didn't the U of S recently announce its intent to build several new student housing complexes? How about more support for organizations like Habitat for Humanity?

We have a sidewalk clearing bylaw. If we have suites over garages with alley access, will we have to clear the back lane to allow for public access? Will these suites be required to be handicapped accessible? I won't even get going on street parking.

One commenter mentioned these suites will give an opportunity for some to generate revenue. That is true, but lets hope that commentator will include that revenue on his/her tax return and and give the government its share. Then the government can use that new revenue to support social housing.

For most of us our homes are not just a place of refuge but the single or only investment we have. The our eggs are in one basket and the city appears to want to scramble them. Its great if you like scrambled eggs. I don't.