Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Silly, petty, funny?

Gord Wyant must feel pretty confident of a win in the 2011 provincial election. His usual MO is to schmooze, rather than to piss off, a fellow councillor. Although I agree that the matter of pet urination might seem trivial, I think Dubois was right in that her responsibility is to deal with matters of concern to her constituents. I can't believe administration spent much time preparing this report, and given the length of time that elapsed since the inquiry was submitted, it obviously was not taken seriously. Nor will the report on dress code for public golf courses get much consideration.

Good news is that this item didn't cause an increase of property tax. If these councillors keep themselves busy on these types of matters, rather than spending, we might get property tax relief.

As it stands, we are getting comic relief.

Happy Canada Day. Celebrate and enjoy the long weekend.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hold your nose

I have spent a few days pondering the options on for a city-wide recycling program (SP June 25/10).

Option one, being the status quo means we have free choice as to whether or not we recycle. I do recycle and I like having a choice. But it is not really an option because, politically, council must be seen to be doing something more.

Option two, which is a subsidy to those who use the private service, costs about $1.75 per household. I could support this because it still allows for choice and rewards people for doing the right thing. It also supports the entrepreneurs who initated the program. But I don't think it will fly as it is not a sufficient sacrifice to the political deity.

Option three, which is expanding the the existing system to include plastics and glass, will cost about $3.00 a month per household. But again this allows for choice and I have a feeling that choice is not an option.

Lastly, option four, being a full curbside recycling program, will cost $7 to $11 per household and we have no choice. This will in all likelihood appeal to the decision makers and they alone have the right to make choices for us. We have created a society that robs us of of the right to choose anything, with the exception of the people making our choices. Everything must be mandated and legislated. I expect to encourage us to participate we will be charged for every bag of refuse put into the city collection bins over, and above the charges to recycle.

I do not expect that we will all simply see a surcharge on our tax bills and that each and every household will pay an equal amount. The estimated $7-11 charge for the "average" household of . . .blah, blah . . . and those with higher assessments will bear the brunt of the taxation.

You would think the savings from the landfill and the charge per bag of garbage would be sufficient to cover the cost. It won't as the city will be required to hire the 'recycle/garbage police' and rather than using private sector services we will have unionized labour doing the jobs.

What saddens me is that I will lose the good feeling I get when I voluntarily recycle - something I choose to do.

Most of our recycled product is trucked out of province. We don't have the population density to support our own plants. We'll just keep on truckin' and keep on paying.

Would it be out of line to hold a referendum on this issue and lay out the full costs and benefits and let the public decide? I recall the idea of a per bag charge for garbage that was floated prior to the election was deep-sixed. I think the council knew that it wouldn't fly with the public and I expect they won't risk a referendum question on the issue.

I suspect there will be more methane gas emitted from council on this matter than from the landfill.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Proud to be Canadian

she said facetiously. I am a product of the '60s, the generation that popularized protests, peace marches and sit-ins. I believe in peaceful protest.

The rioters in Toronto were not protesting anything. Their sole purpose was to loot and pillage. I suggest there is not an abundance of loose bricks and rocks in downtown Toronto so I will assume those goodies were brought to the G20 event. I can't see that burning vehicles and destroying private and public property served any purpose but to embarrass Canadians.

Regretfully some of the protesters who attended got caught up in the fray. I will liken it to 'running with the bulls' and when you do so you run the risk of being gored. When police are trying to quell a riot they don't have time to check your credentials and hear your story. You are simply caught in the net.

For those who will be charged I hope fines will run into the hundreds of thousands and that the money will be used to pay for some of the damage. The good news for the next host country is that these criminals will be blocked from entering their country as a result of criminal records.

It was not a proud time for Canada but it certainly gave PM Steve creditability for the money spent on security. I can't imagine the hue and cry had one of the visiting leaders had been hurt or killed.

And now we will hear of the police brutality from those detained. And of course, their rights.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some alarm bells are ringing as a result to lack of increased spending in health care. The Health Quality Council seems to think not much has improved over the last three years, but nor has it deteriorated. Most of the Council's concerns seem to relate to communications and access to records.

NDP Health Critic Junor however seems to promote the doomsday theory, although Chief Medical Officer Dr. Neudorf isn't jumping on this bandwagon. As always, any changes or new ways of doing business, according to Junor, create the slippery slope to privatization of health care. Hmmm - isn't health care a federal program mandated to the provinces? No one is privatizing health care.

The litmus test here is Rosalee Longmoore, president of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses. Her major concern seems to be that nurses will suffer reduced income as a result of working fewer hours. I assume she is speaking of the overtime income because the nursing hours cut seem to be in those providing services in planning, training and policy development.

If the status quo is not an option, then I think we should give the government a chance to prove whether or not these efficiencies will have a positive effect on our system. If nothing else I applaud them or trying. Moving forward doesn't mean you can't step back if necessary.

I'm trying something brand new in my life. Never did it before. I'm taking an EDO tomorrow. We'll chat on Monday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sign up to sign off

I recently visited a city in Central America where protruding signage was banned, along with digital, neon or billboards signs. All signage was flat against the wall of a building, including corner street signs. At first I was struggling to find destination points but within a short period of time I became accustomed to the area and rather liked not being visually assaulted by advertisers.

I am not suggesting that the city move totally in that direction, but I personally find the advertising signage in the city to be an urban blight. Everywhere you look in this city is plastered with advertising. Buses have become ugly moving billboards. The rotating and flashing digital signs are the worst for distracting drivers. It is difficult not to be distracted these signs. If talking or texting on a cell phone is deemed dangerous because it distracts drivers from concentrating on the other road traffic, then surely this meets that standard.

All of this is done to convince us to buy things we never knew we needed. And we all fall prey to this action. In today's SP (June 23/10) Lanny Labelle, owner of Digital Skies sign company says banning these signs would hurt his business and that "They add to a vibrant city landscape." Brian Storey of Pelican Signs also claims a ban would hurt his business and states . . ."a couple of stunning digital signs can be a real asset to the city." and that there is a place for them in downtown where vehicles move slowly. If your one ton car hits a pedestrian or cylist at 30 kms you still do a lot of damage.

I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder - and to my eye this signage is neither vibrant or an asset to anyone other than those who commission it and those who produce it.

Since the city itself, or some of its facilities, use digital signage I expect little or no change on the signage bylaw. Money talks and most politicians listen to the money.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pick a pocket

The SP (June 19/10) reported that the proposed Children's Hospital is over budget and now at $218 million. I thought the government simply set aside $200 million as an approximate amount rather than a set figure. However, I expect the dollar figure will rise as the plans progress. And the public-at-large will gasp at the cost.

Then I recalled the proposed new stadium had a suggested price tag of $400 million. Now this expenditure seemed to garner public excitement. And of course we heard that each level of government would contribute, so that makes this expenditure palatable.

I guess most can't figure out that regardless of whether the tax dollars come from your left, right or back pocket, it is still your pocket that is being picked.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Money Tree

It was reported today (SP June 18/10) that the city pled guilty to an OHS violation and paid a hugh fine. Ironically the fine is close to the amount of my property tax bill. What a waste of tax dollars. And no one seems to be held accountable for this action.

Have a fun weekend.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Who gets bail?

I am not taking a position on this . . simply asking the question. Where is the line drawn for bailing out businesses that are suffering because of unanticipated conditions? If farm businesses are hurting because of the weather conditions, should they be bailed out by governments? If so, what about the small business who face the same fate (ie the summer food vendors, small retail clothing, etc.) Add to that the large retail businesses. I expect that a store like The Bay isn't moving much summer clothing stock and within the next four to six seeks they will be putting out the winter stock. I further expect this conglomerate can weather this season, but if criteria is established, what should it be? For the most part the days of the small mixed family farm are gone and we have fairly large corporate farming operations. Is it up to these farming corporations to do business planning to prepare for a bad year? Or should they be able to rely on the tax payer to assist during these unusual circumstances?

If the measure for financial aid is any business whose failure would have a negative effect on the overall provincial economy, then they would, arguably, all meet the criteria. If the measure is only those businesses that provide necessaries, then the field is limited.

I'm not looking for cheap shots with this question. I would like some serious response.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm scratching my head and I don't have lice!

I confess that, outside of golf, I am not an ardent sports fan. Maybe that's why I am stymied with all levels of government who are currently preaching austerity yet are willing to consider spending roughly $400 million dollars for a sports stadium in downtown Regina (SP June 15/10.)

Perhaps its a gender issue. There are more men holding elected office than women. If the balance of power were shifted, would the expenditures lean more towards health, social services and the arts?

Just a morsel of food for thought.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I won't be buying a lottery ticket

In my betting pool most were speculating on 8-3 vote for the River Landing sale (SP June 15/10) and a few of us put in 7-4. No one wins - except for the taxpayers. What surprised me most is that neither dissenter used the land value as a reason for their "no" vote. My guess is that it sets the market rate for the eco-village people should they ever get their act together.

The next challenge is the Whitewater project. If I were to bet again, I would place a safe "yes" vote that it is going to happen simply because they can tie it to the power generation initiative. Any public concerns relating to the environment, safety or financial prudence be damned. What is the MVA's position on this?

Finally, although I don't always agree with the Mayor, I do give him credit for his tenacity. He set out to re-do the riverbank and build a South Bridge and he has accomplished both goals. He has left his mark and made his place in Saskatoon's history.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Love means never having to say your sorry. . .

Being a unionized employee means never having to take responsibility for your actions. I was appalled by the results of an arbitration wherein a previously dismissed health region employee was returned to her position with full back pay and benefits after breaching the SHR's confidentiality and privacy policies (SP June 12/10.) She used her position to access information on a male companion's pharmaceutical information for personal reasons and then shared that information with others. Her union (SEIU-West) filed a grievance on her behalf for unjust dismissal.

Her defence included her "medical state" at the time of the breach. She had come to work suffering the ill effects of excessive alcohol and marijuana use the previous evening. You would think that in itself would be a cause for dismissal considering the damage that could have been done by her during her shift because she was not of a clear mind while performing her duties.

A short while ago when a outside contractor inadvertently lost some health cards designated for destruction there was a hullabaloo regarding the privacy of patients. At the time the unions seemed to suggest these errors would not happen if this job was done inside the system by unionized employees. I guess this means my privacy would be better protected - unless I tick off a unionized employee looking for payback.

I'll take my chances with the outside contractor.

Friday, June 11, 2010

To be or not to be . . .

As a follow-up to yesterday's scintillating post, and after reading columnists Gormley and Mandrk in today's paper (SP June 11/10) I am more inclined to believe Kinsella than Apps about the backroom discussions on a merge of the two parties. If the next federal election is a status quo outcome, and if the Liberals don't locate their Messiah, I do think there will be a party merge. Years back I couldn't believe small-c Conservatives would support a merge with large-C conservatives rooted to the Reform Party. The desire to defeat the Liberals and form a conservative government convinced many small-c conservatives to hold their noses and support new party.

So perhaps down the road we will have a Liberal Social Democrat (LSD) party and we can all hallucinate on how much better off we will be in Saskatchewan under this regime.

The sun is supposed to shine this weekend, so have a great one.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Who do you believe?

An article in today's SP (June 10/10) states that Liberals deny the rumour of a merger between the federal Liberals and NDP. Liberal leader Ignatieff doesn't outright deny the rumour but says its ridiculous and chants the "I am a Liberal" mantra. He does so with now Liberal MP Bob Rae, a former NDP Premier and die hard, looking over his shoulder in the published photo.

Warren Kinsella, a high level insider Liberal, issues an affidavit blowing the whistle on the merger discussions. It should be noted that affidavits are documents sworn under oath. On the other hand, alleged participant to the merger discussions and party president, Alfred Apps, denies Kinsella's comments through an email statement.

Off on the sideline is Layton licking the cream of his whiskers and toying with his abacus as he tallies up his future general election votes. He neither denies nor confirms the rumour.

It all reminds me of a scene from the old movie 'Chinatown' when Faye Dunaway does the "its my sister, its my daughter, its my sister" monologue when confessing to incest. Connect the dots.

Conspiracy buffs can have a field day with this drama.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Take a bus, ha, ha, ha

Message to transport planner Don Cook and Ward 6 Councillor Charlie Clark. People do not use Saskatoon Transit because the service stinks! Jacking parking rates again will not solve your problem (SP June 9/10) of low bus ridership. It will simply send more people out to the big box malls to shop were the parking is free. Increasingly more goods and services are being offered outside of the downtown core, ie doctors, dentists, lawyers. The big box malls are now offering almost everything the average citizen wants to buy, and to some degree, at cheaper prices. If you don't work downtown, why go downtown. The message - only the downtown can be hurt by increased parking rates and it still won't increase your ridership.

What's wrong with our transit service? You've made provision for cyclists who want to bike one-way by providing bike racks. However based on earlier SP articles women with baby strollers do not warrant that same consideration. During a torrential rain, or when the wind is whistling in -30 weather and bus riders are huddled and/or freezing at bus stops, every one of them wishes they could crawl in a car and get home quickly. When the drivers play their game of seeing how many standing passengers they can knock over with their stop/start tactics, those passengers would like to root their boot somewhere in the driver's anatomy. How can you hold on to your briefcase or parcels when you are holding on for your life. Saskatoon Transit is not fast, convenient or economical. That is your problem.

Buy all the million dollar buses you want, create all the incentive programs that flit through your over-taxed brains. Tell it all to the seniors in walkers or with canes. Tell it to the women with babies and strollers. Tell it to employees who have work schedules and can't rely on timely bus service. Tell the downtown merchants how good it will be for business. Go tell it on a mountain.

I have been in major cities and parked my rental car to use public transport because it is better, cheaper and more convenient that driving. When your service levels reach that pinnacle then you will not have to force people to use your service, they will do so of their own accord.

Your first order of business should be cancelling all City Hall parking passes, including the councillors. Eliminate the City Hall employees parking lots, including Councillor spots. When city employees and all Councillors start taking a bus all the time to do their business, then maybe the public will follow suit.

While your at it, check the HVAC system at City Hall . . I think the carbon monoxide from all those cars is getting through.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Gone but not forgotten

We are definitely gearing up for a new city council in 2012. Two sitting councillors have already served notice to voters that council is not in their future as they reach for the Golden ring. Wyant wants to play in Regina and Hill hears the siren beckoning from Ottawa. Even if they are unsuccessful in attaining their goals, a strong opponent can make a case that council is nothing more than a stepping stone for each. Add to this the likelihood that at least two, if not three, of the current councillors will take a run at the Mayor.

If Wyant is successful will he be vying for the Justice portfolio? Where would Morgan then go. Education most likely given his past interest in the field as a school board chair. Then again, Wyant has that same background.

If Hill winds up on the Hill he will simply fill a chair.

Start scanning the council gallery for regular attendees to check out future contenders for those tiaras.

Monday, June 7, 2010


In today's editorial (SP June 7/10) former Premier Roy Romanow states that from his recollection the 1999 Liberal/NDP coalition in Saskatchewan was a success. Hmmm, I thought. I saw Roy the other day and he didn't appear to be addled. That coalition wiped out the provincial Liberal Party. Melenchuk's legacy is that of a Judas. It finally dawned on me that from the NDP standpoint is was very successful. They cornered the centre-left vote of the Liberal party. Saskatchewan now has a two party system. There is no spoiler to split their vote. Its a 'for or agin' situation now.

If the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome, the federal Liberals should be carefully looking at the outcome of its provincial branch in Saskatchewan before coupling with the federal NDP. The Liberals are now doing what the Tories used to do - assassinate the leader and divide and conquer from within. I suspect it all boils down to how they selected their leader. Ignatieff is just too cerebral to appeal to the average voter and doesn't have the corporate memory or loyality of the party. He does not have Chretien's folksy demeanour or Trudeau's wow factor. They may just have to wait until the Trudeau heir ripens before regaining power.

However there is Elizabeth May's Green Party to answer the mayday call to the disenchanted. In Saskatchewan I suspect the Greens will attract the extreme left vote of both major political entities - the political purgatory.

These activities by the party hierarchies give new definition to SOS. Stupid or simple-minded.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Rainy Day Blues

I'm starting to feel the effects of Sun Deficiency Syndrome. When I scanned my water-logged yard, I thought, oh great, another water rate increase will be coming to compensate for low water usage. It's the city's Rainy Day Fund.

Today's paper announced the opening of city swimming pools. Will the summer students need to bring their own rain gear to the pool? Why are we opening these pools when the kids are still in school and why do we close them while they're still on summer vacation?

My yard is filling with dandelions and thistle. Because of the rain the nearby city lands have not been mowed and chemical weed controls are banned for use on city property. The mosquitoes are starting to come out, so manual weed eradication is becoming less of an option. This means putting chemical on myself to ward to the mosquitoes or chemical on the lawn to ward of the weeds. I like myself better than I like my lawn.

On the upside, my street cleaning has been cancelled for a second time due to weather conditions. Just maybe the tons of elm seeds will be down before they sweep. I never did understand why they cleaned the old areas before the massive deluge of tree refuse was over.

And since I am now starting to sound like my mother, I'm signing off.

Have a good, if not great, weekend.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Up, down, blue, brown . . .

My quandary with the Traffic Bridge is that I would like to see it preserved and the best way to do so is to declare it a heritage site; but the cost down the road could be so horrendous, and heritage people are generally unreasonable about restorations. Added to that is a city council that can't keep any project on budget, the lights on the Traffic Bridge being a prime example.

According to the SP (June 3/10) the city is already spending $250,000.00 to have Stantec Consulting do another study of this bridge, the last one being about five years old. The last study indicated the lifespan of the bridge was limited, whether it was full traffic or pedestrian. The Municipal Heritage Committee, chaired by none other than Lenore Swystun, wants a task force and more community dialogue and input. How about community input via a simple referendum question with the price tags of the options attached?

Yesterday on CBC I heard Ward 6 Councillor Clark speaking to converting this bridge for use by cyclists and pedestrians only. I hope he also has plan to reconfigure the roadway system as the residents between the Broadway and and Buckwold bridges and 8th Street and Rotary Park are already somewhat boxed in. I'm sure there must be a plan for that as the city vehicles will have to get to our spanking new lift station.

As an aside, council found $250,000.00 to refresh an existing study, but $270,000.00 could not be found for mosquito and dutch elm disease control. Go figure.

And I'm still in a quandary. Is there a way to save the bridge without bankrupting the taxpayers?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Queued up and clued out

If anything damages medicare in this province it will be political gamesmanship. Our medicare system has become such a sacred cow nothing can even be discussed as to how to improve it without politicians jumping in calling it privatization. Privatization would mean that you pay for a service at the time of rendering rather than with your tax dollars.

The NDP's canned response to medicare woes is "more money." Yet more money has not solved the growing problems in the system. About 50% of our tax dollars already go to medicare and the problems of service still exist. Economists warn that medicare is on the verge of collapsing under its own weight. And still NDP politicians fear monger that any government that muses about changing the status quo has a hidden agenda to destroy medicare.

In this province, whether you are left, centre or right wing in your political thinking, support for medicare is strong.

I applaud the Sask Party for considering contracting out the CT scan services. People wait-listed for surgery generally can't have it without first having a scan or MRI and the wait time for those services in looong. Some Xray services and blood collection are already provided by private companies without negative impact on the system. The theme that any service that is not in-house and unionized is to the detriment of our system is political bunk.

I am appreciative that we have some elected politicians that are mentally mobile and willing to take the political risk to help improve and possibly save out medicare system. We should be queued up behind them and pass by the clueless opposition.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Maggots and cow pies

Recently the StarPhoenix issued a special edition magazine on Saskatoon Businesses. In it is a section on local notables entitled "Jobs they won't forget." One such notable is City Councillor Pat Lorje. She reminisces about the times she helped friends who ran a disaster restoration business. On one occasion she was assisting on the clean up of death were the corpse had not been found for weeks and as a result found a dresser drawer crawling with maggots. It was that she said, with a laugh, when she decided "It was time to move on to politics." I'm not sure what this says about her opinion of Ward 2 constituents or her political party of choice, the NDP.

She also recalled, as a councillor, participating in a cow patty throwing contest during Louis Riel Days. She said "Somebody got this bright idea that it would be really great to see politicians actually flinging the stuff rather than just talking it." Out of the mouths of babes?

I don't always give Lorje credit for much, but she gets A+ for a good sense of humour!