Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Identify yourself

I was raised to believe that being part of a democracy afforded citizens both rights and privileges. And I think it is incumbent upon governments to protect those rights and privileges.

For those reasons I don't understand the opposition to voter ID during elections (SP Aug. 31/11.) The allegation by NDP house leader Kevin Yates that voter ID targets First Nations doesn't wash with me given that the provincial government has offered picture ID to First Nations through SGI. First Nations people also have Treaty Cards. And sufficient notice has been given to allow all people time to obtain the necessary ID. And everybody, regardless of race, should play by the same rules when electing a government.

If the issue is residency at the time of a an election, that issue affects everyone. People move about the city from one constituency to another between elections. I expect that the same rules on residency should apply to all, including First Nations. If there has to be an exception made for First Nations residing on reserves, enumerate the reserve prior to the election. Or put their address on the photo ID card offered through SGI.

We have heard concerns about voter irregularity during past elections. Its time to clean it up.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Water - the new gold

Its hard to believe that the City of Regina and the provincial government have known for about fifteen years that the Regina Water/Sewage Treatment Plant was destroying a water eco system (SP Aug. 30/11.) Harder yet is the statement that it will take several more years to fix the problem. Does Wascana Creek and the downstream lakes it effects have years left before they are declared dead?

What I don't get is the statement by Regina's branch manager for environmental engineering that "As far as our treatment facility goes, we meet and exceed our permit to operate." Does that mean the treatment standards set for cities is so low that its standards support waterway pollution?

According to a spokesperson for Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment the problem can be fixed, but it is very expensive. The City of Regina estimates the cost at $120 to $200 million dollars. What what is the cost to letting these water systems die?

This affects not only Regina residents, but all those who live downstream of Wascana. If I were one of them I'd be looking for a "now" rather than a "next year" solution.

And perhaps the message to the rest of us is to ask to have the provincial standards for water/sewer treatments plants examined and beefed up.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hello mudder, hello fodder

My husband is an ardent listener of CBC, so every morning I wake up to the sounds of Sheila Cole. For the best part I try and tune her out, but when she gets on a rag not even the deaf are saved from the prattle.

Today she endlessly drawled on about Diefenbaker's "illegitimate love child." Over and over again she asked people to go to the website and view photos. Is this really newsworthy? Do we care whether or not Dief had a fling that resulted in off-spring forty years ago?

Before you jump to conclusions, I am neither or fan nor enemy of Dief. He was bit before my time. From what I've heard or read, he was a great orator, used humour well to make his points and became an icon for Saskatchewan. If the allegation is true, it simply humanizes him.

This alleged son is not the only person searching biological parents, but he is one of the few to get national attention for his search. From the interview, he is estranged from his mother, step brother and the man who raised him and who should be called "Dad." Does it matter who he shares DNA with, other than perhaps to capitalize on past fame?

I hope the Diefenbaker Centre gives him the DNA sample he requested and that this story dies a quick death. If he is a biological son, then he'll know and get on with life.

If he isn't, I won't expect Sheila Cole to spend a full morning on informing the public that her titillating story was simply a wishful tale.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pay now or pay later, but pay you will

Everything is recyclable - including the Local Improvement Program (LIP) program. I remember it well.

Council is down to last options. Its either this or a massive tax increase. Or further decay of the city infrastructure.

The thing that really peeves me is that over the last year and a half my neighbourhood streets have been used as thoroughfares as a result of the city closing arterial roads for the construction of the lift station - that no one wanted. These residential streets were not designed for the amount of traffic that used them or for the heavy construction equipment. The city damaged these streets and I think it unfair to charge homeowners under a LIP program to fix the mess.

My second peeve is the consideration being given to charging homeowners interest on any LIP cost if they can't pay the full cost up front. If that comes to be, homeowners would be better off taking out a bank loan.

And if Council thinks the public will not see this as additional taxation, they're wrong.

What a horrible mess.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This is just painful

If Council is concerned about people in the community undermining their credibility, they shouldn't - they are doing a good job of it themselves.

Conducting the budget review and cutting services that the public needs and/or enjoys, while at the same time adding to budget lines that are not the priority of the public (events reserve), does not endear the voters.

In today's SP (Aug. 24/11) I read that park services were reduced. Maybe I shouldn't be concerned as most of the public land around my neighbourhood is already weed-infested and unkempt. Thus I agree with the parks manager's comment that this cut would not see a "significant impact" on upkeep. So why have we been spending the $120,000 a year if it wasn't necessary?

Thanks you Myles Heidt for arguing to keep the tree root clearing. In older neighbourhoods roots grow into the pipes and block the sewer drains. It is the city trees that cause the problem and citizens are not allowed to tamper with those trees.

The best line of this review meeting goes to Councillor Dubois during the park services reduction debate - "We can't lead people astray. . . We have to be honest with people."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The second coming?

I wouldn't wish death, and particularly an unpleasant, painful death on anyone. I am truly sorry that Jack Layton died during the prime of his political life and that his death was not easy. I was not a supporter of Jack Layton. I did not agree with his politics. But I admired the fact that he persevered with his beliefs. I acknowledge with he was a dynamic personality. So this comment is not necessarily relative to Layton himself, but about a society that canonizes well-known personalities after untimely or horrific deaths. It started with Princess Diana.

With all that has been written and said over the last 24 hours about Jack Layton, I found Christie Blatchford's column (SP Aug. 23/11 - page C8) noteworthy.

I regret that former NDP MP Simon DeJong, who served this province from 1979 to 1997, passed away and his death will go relatively unnoticed. Again, I was not a political supporter of his, but he too died in his 60s and he too made contributions to society. But he will not be sainted.

I just don't understand why society goes overboard - why we can't recognize the good that one does without embellishing a career that could stand on its own.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Running scared?

A sure sign of losing the debate on an issue is when you attack the messenger rather than counter the message. The comments leveled at former Mayor Dayday (SP Aug. 19/11) were clearly an attack on the messenger. If Atch & Co. think the public concern on spending and debt started as a result of a letter to the editor by Dayday, then clearly they have not been listening to the masses.

I would dearly like to see Council put forward a complete list of debt, including amortization, interest and repayment schedule. I would also like a list of pending debt, i.e. the bus barns, library, police station, etc. and the proposed plan for payment. I would like detail on the "other revenue" that will be generated for payment of the landfill. Add in any "off sheet" financing while you're at it..

As for the Mayor's comments on the city's triple A credit rating, he forgot to mention the flags Standard & Poors attached to the rating.

Councillor Penner's comments on the Art Gallery are laughable. And Councillor Hill's comments on the "undercurrent campaign" are naive. After the provincial election in November the civic campaign will be in full swing. Many on Council will grandstand at Council meetings during the final year of their term and they should expect that those planning to run against them will be out and about countering incumbents' positions. Its called politics.

I expect we will have a very interesting civic election this go round. We need only to wait and see who comes out of the woodwork.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Garbage and then some

The heartfelt concern stated by Loraas for Saskatoon residents regarding the delays in tendering the recycling contract was touching (SP Aug 18/11.) I'm guessing splitting the tender between collection and processing probably wasn't part of his program either. Although Loraas is the only game in town when it comes to a processing plant (Cosmo only does paper) I can't imagine what it will do to the bottom line should he not get both contracts. Then again, whoever gets the collection contract has to take the recyclables somewhere.

On the bright side the landfill life has been extended for another 40 years. The cost of $54.6 million for the extension is to be paid by tipping fees and other revenues generated by the landfill. Either the tipping fees are going through the roof or the other revenues will be fees charged to households for each bag of garbage disposed of. I'm not counting on the wind turbine generating anything other than power and that revenue will have to go to pay for the turbine itself.

If the tipping fees get too high in Saskatoon, folks can always access the Loras Landfill north of the city.

This whole thing is just garbage.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It would be funny if it weren't so sad

Council's budget review is almost becoming a comedy show with each meeting being a sequel to the last. Rather than looking at Council to provide meaningful cuts, we should looking at best line by a Councillor. As reported in today's SP (Aug. 17/11) Councillor Maririn Loewen wins with this comment relating to transit service from the airport: "If we eliminate it now, we'll probably have to look at creating one again later." The same could be said for any budget cut. She said as a growing city we will eventually need bus service to the airport. She, and some of her colleagues think, that with more marketing behind it they could find ridership.

The budget review exercise is to cut spending, not increase it.

The point is, there is no demand for this service at this time to warrant the cost of the service. Transit would be better served meeting current demands rather than trying to create something that doesn't exist. They cannot possibly consider cutting needed transit services to tax-paying residents while at the same spending on an unused route.

I came into Saskatoon on a late flight last week. I went outside the terminal to queue up for a cab and saw what looked like a shuttle bus cruise by the terminal. It stopped for less than a minute in front of the terminal well past were people were standing. I didn't see a sign or hear an announcement about transportation via Saskatoon Transit to the city centre. The bus left empty.

I get the sense it is more important to Council to project the city as a growing cosmopolitan centre than it is to actually provide good service.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The show must go on

As the summer drifts to an end, I will miss the lazy, crazy days at the lake. Being there makes me think I could live in small town Saskatchewan - in reasonable proximity to the city.
When I read this morning SP (Aug. 16/11) and the further cutbacks Council is mulling over, I wonder whether I should make the move. As Council cuts nickel and dime items, which won't amount to much overall in tax increase coming, everyone in the city is going to lose something important to them. For me, crazy as this seems, it would be the Christmas lights. In the dark, cold days of December those lights brighten the city and enhance the Christmas season. I know that a growing number of citizens in the city do not celebrate this Christian holiday, but for the majority that do the lights perk up many citizens and encourage the festivities.

The next article dealt with the bus barns and the ongoing issues with transit. I would sure like to know where Council is getting the $200 million for the new barns slated for 2013 - immediately following the next civic election. And how much effort will go into reducing tax hikes that year. Merciful God let this matter of public transit be fixed and don't bankrupt us doing so.

Right now I am feeling that the only priority Council has is getting themselves re-elected in 2012 so they can continue with the spending folly for four more years after the election.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mixed Priorities

The Mistress is currently out of town and will be returning to her blog Tuesday. Today we have another guest blogger:

I was surprised to see the wide reaction of Councillors in today's Star Phoenix (Councillors discuss Mendel's future) when it came to discussing the Mendel. Of particular shock was when Randy Donhauer mentioned the desire to keep it a public building. This is especially surprising due to the budget cuts being bandied about by Council. If the minutest of spending on services is being evaluated in terms of saving tax dollars, why on earth is the same not being done for the Mendel? I understand the "desire" to maintain the building as a public facility, but when the city is in such a financial crunch why is this of a top concern? Even more appalling is when Donhauer says they could rent it out as private office space for top dollar and have it rented out tomorrow. Excuse me? The City is, by all accounts, stretched to max in terms of financing and spending, are actively seeking on hand to cut spending on programs that impact those with the most needs (ie. ending subsidized bus passes) while on the other hand turning away 'top dollar' for renting a City owned facility because they prefer have it operated by a public organization.

The reason of Councillors on this topic is tough to grasp. They are turning away a potential opportunity to have the facility significantly reduce it's burden on the city finances, while at the same time potentially saving other programs from the chopping block. Even more discouraging is the lack of public organizations willing to step up to the Mendel, with two withdrawing their proposals due to already high rent rates/renovation costs.

City is broke, city owns a facility that will have no tenant, city is able to rent that facility out for 'top dollar' rent, city is choosing not to that but to (likely) increase operating costs and reserve the space for a public programming organization (while at the same time telling residents cuts are needed to public programming due to finances) I missing something here?

I guess the conundrum for Saskatonians is what further programming and services cuts will have to me made so that Council can keep their preference of having the Mendel building occupied by public programming.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

No consequences

I think students sending text messages while in class is equivalent to passing notes. You know if you do it and get caught chances are that note will be shared. And if you are caught doing anything that remotely smacks of illegal activity, chances are school officials will intervene.

In today's SP (Aug. 11/11) grandparents are suing the Saskatchewan Rivers school division for intercepting a student text message that related to auto theft. The school officials called in city police and put the matter in their hands.

Now the school division and the teacher are being sued for their actions. The grandparents seem more interested in the actions of the school officials than the activities of the kid. How sad.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Cash will be king

Yikes! I'm starting to think that anyone who has any money left should be purchasing a mattress with deep pockets. Watching the volatility of the markets after the downgrade of the USA government credit rating from its triple A standing to double A is just scary.

Although a downgrade in our city's rating would not affect the markets, I hope our Council is watching as to the reaction of lenders to a downgrade. Then again, I understand that the formula for setting the credit rating is going to change which might prevent such downgrades. But debt is debt.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


The residents of Corman Park have just spent $33,000.00 to find out what they already knew - their local government is dysfunctional. I can't recall when the next elections are for the rural municipalities, but after this term they all get four years. Its a long time when your government isn't working effectively for you.

Perhaps its time to look a recall legislation in this province.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I've got a nose for garbage

It would seem that garbage is going to be the wrap-up focus for this Council. In Saturday's SP (Aug. 6/11) it was reported that a recommendation going to Council was for a 25% increase in the fees for those 2,400 households that signed up and paid for garden waste pick-up. I am one of those households.

I purchased a garden waste bin from the city and paid my annual fee, over and above the taxes I currently pay to cover garbage pick-up. It is all compost material that doesn't end up in a plastic bag in the landfill. Rather than encourage citizens in this direction, we will be penalized with an increased fee. Hardly an incentive to participate in the program.

There was also mention of starting a household waste compost bin to be collected separately but it was unclear as to whether or not there will be an additional fee for this service. If this comes to be I'm not sure what I should do with the composter I also purchased from the city earlier on.

This is over and above the fees I will also pay for recycling pick-up.

Supposedly this would leave little garbage left for the regular bin and thus require a bi-weekly pick-up year round, and I assume extend the life of the landfill and save money.

But what about the cost of having trucks operated by city employees driving around on all these pick-ups?

It also assumes that all citizens are going to be cooperative in sorting their garbage and running a variety of bins to the front street for scheduled pick-ups.

Garden waste pick-up come bi-weekly. The stench that wafts out of that bin when we are nearing pick-up day could knock you out. I can't imagine the odour that will emit from household compost waste.

But I'm already holding my nose from the stench that is seeping from this report.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wednesday's Blog

The Mistress is unavailable for blogging today. We're hoping she will be up and writing again as early as tomorrow.

In the meantime, what are the thoughts on the recent revelation that the NDP interim leader was a card carrying member of a separatist party? Is this a big deal? little deal? No deal at all?

I for one find it weird that a separatist would be the leader of a nationalist party? Whatever one's motives for joining an organization (or political party) they should be aware of the perception. Should Turmel be labelled a separatist for being a card carrying Bloc? Probably no more than Brad Wall being labelled an heir apparent of Grant Devine by virtue of being a ministerial assistant during the Devine government.

In the end, this is probably no big deal and should be looked at for what it is: The NDP trying to appease it's Quebec base, nominating an interim leader that serves their party's interests rather than those of Canadians. So much for all that election rhetoric.

The Mistress' helper

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

New revenue stream

Certainly having police and fire cruising the river looking for drunks and monitoring safe use of water craft is a good thing (SP Aug. 2/11.) But I was taken by the comments of fireman Len Protz when he stated that the river is safe to be on again and he was disappointed that there weren't more people on the river.

I find this strange since there is a sign on the riverbank behind the Rawlco Station saying it was against a city bylaw to swim in the river.

So if you are on a Seadoo, boat, canoe, kayak or any other vessel and you fall in, don't swim!