Monday, October 31, 2011

Land of milk, honey and potash

Another day, another million or billion dollars. And everything to be paid by potash dollars. And if sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

This is why voter cynicism is at an all time high and voter turnout will probably be low. No one believes what they hear. Billions of spending is being promised by Lingfelter and its all going to be paid for with another "nickel on a dollar" of potash royalties. If that much money can be sourced through potash royalties, after you give First Nations their share, then use it to pay off the debt first.

The only positive in these promises is that none of them would be kept.

November 7 can't come soon enough.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Teachers on a hot tin roof

Brad Wall is either a very brillant man or unbelieveably lucky. Who would have thought that a school start date could take the focus away from potash royalities and rent control.

The school calendar is designed around when the school breaks could happen and it has nothing to do with better education for students. They plan for a break in November, the Christmas break for Dec-Jan, the February break, the Easter break in March or April and ending the school year by June 30. Administration sets up this calendar, in conjunction with teachers, for board approval. It has been, and continues to be, a contentious issue between home and school.

In many cases classes cannot be established until after the long weekend when students who did not register at the August start date, roll in.

In the twelve years I spent on the school board I did not get calls from parents asking for a August start date - but the other way around. They wanted a start date after the Sept. long weekend.

In fact in today's world with both parents working, school breaks cause child care issues for many parents. And with so many high school students working in the market place, even hiring teenagers to help out is difficult.

If you are a parent of a school-age child, be prepared for some hopping mad teachers.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Court collections

I don't think the Mayor or Councillors should expect a campaign donation from Wally Mah/North Ridge Developments for the 2012 campaign - or perhaps the ante will go up.

I was surprised to read in today's SP (Oct. 27/11) about the law suit filed against North Ridge and the Arts Board, especially about the Arts Board. North Ridge had a half million reasons to delay notification to the city of his ownership of the land in question, but why would the Arts Board go along with it? I would think that a government funded Board would have advice from legal council prior to entering into an agreement to sell any assets. I can hardly wait for the Justice Department's response on this one.

I can understand Mah's position that the offer to purchase had conditions on it, one being that title would not transfer until such time as he was ready to develop the land, but his subsequent negotiations with the city on the value of some of that land which he would sell to the city indicates he was the owner.

I expect the only thing left on this matter is to decide where the saw-off will be on settlement.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nickel and dime debate

I watched the leaders' debate last night - an hour of my life I can't get back.

I wish I had a nickel for every time Lingenfelter said "nickel on a dollar" and wondered whether he would have the same attitude when discussing a fluctuating PST. As for the rich PCS shareholders, the pension plans own considerable PCS stock - does he mean them? Or me with my 100 shares in my retirement portfolio? (Yes, I know me means Doyle and company.)

In today's SP Opinion (Oct. 26/11) column comments are made about BHP optimism for doing business in this province. Would they be so optimistic if a government legislated a change to an existing agreement? And if the agreement is that bad, why did the government that Lingenfelter played a prominent role in negotiate it in the first place?

I think Lingenfelter was just trying to shore up the support he already has and Wall was just keeping his head down and steady his course. But the decorum was much better.

I expect in the dying days of this campaign the gloves may come off and real personalities will emerge. The kinder, gentler Lingenfelter will have nothing to lose at that point and his street-fighter instincts will kick in.

I am looking forward to November 8.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

No parking zone

I offer my apologies to Larissa Shasko, former leader of the Green Party, if her departure from the party in September was caused because of the Green's platform development.

I liked having the Green Party around because it was a place to park your vote if the status quo wasn't to your liking. After reading the Green Party platform in today's SP (October 25/11) this party should be designated as a "no parking" zone.

Item 1: Converting the Highways Ministry into a new Crown, giving no more work to private contractors and turning work over to "local people" - who would the local people be?

Item 2: Putting physicians on salary so they would work fewer hours and hiring other countries' doctors? If you think getting to see your family physician now is difficult, put them on a 9-to-5 day and see how long you wait. In fact just trying to get a family doctor right now is difficult. And we have already enlarged the medical programs. "Are doctors here to service the patients - or just make a fast buck and get rich off the patients?" Mr. Lau and his party obviously don't know that family doctors work long, hard hours and are not getting rich doing so. And the specialists would leave this province in droves if they were salaried - and for few that might stay the waiting time for an appointment would be unfathomable. And other countries would be taking our doctors.

Item 3: Capping class size to 20 students in K-12 and phasing out post-secondary tuition. I might agree with the capping class size for primary grades, but by time students get to high school part of what the system does is prepare them for post-secondary. Can you imagine the shock to students when they would leave a Grade 12 coddled class of 20 in June and enter a post-secondary theatre of 300 students in September? As for post-secondary tuition, taxpayers already pick up 80 to 90% of post-secondary costs.

The only good sense exhibited here was not providing estimated costs to these proposals - possibly because he can't count that high.

I truly wish the Greens had kept their focus on energy development and the environment.

Monday, October 24, 2011

They're not listening

My mother is 84-years-old and lives in a seniors' complex. She is a swing voter and not a dyed-in-the-wool political party supporter.

Recently she received a call from Judy Junor's office asking if Judy could count on her support in the upcoming provincial election. My mother responded with "I haven't decided yet. I'm waiting to hear what all the candidates have to say before I make up my mind."

Okay said the caller, but could Judy count on her to door-knock her building soliciting support from her neighbours for Judy?

What didn't the caller hear?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pull out your checkbooks

Well, we know we are getting, at the very least, a 3% mill rate increase based on the City Police budget - and that doesn't include the cost of the approved super-duper police plaza (SP Oct. 21/11.)

Based on the news report it is hard to argue against the police budget - although I would like to know the crime stats for East Division. If the city is expanding, police service must also grow to service the expansion. And I would not want police officers sent out on the job without the necessary equipment to do the job.

Add on to this increase the monies needed to finance the capital projects (although some of this cost will be held back until after the 2012 election), infrastructure repairs and maintenance, library services, etc. and we are in for a substantial tax increase - this year and for years to come.

Good to know before we go on a Christmas spending spree.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The 15% Solution

Congratulations to Councillor-elect Ann Iwanchuk. We will look forward to her voice on council - with the exception of when Council deals with unionized employee contracts. In my mind there is a conflict of interest. This lady seems like a down-to-earth personality and an honourable person who will do the right thing when the time comes.

The only real disappointment to yesterday's by-election was voter turnout - about 15%. The heartening aspect was the move toward gender equity on Council.

An honourable mention must be given to Mike San Miguel. I was pleasantly surprised at his second place finish. I hope he continues his quest for a seat on council in the next general election.

I was taken aback by Rik Steernberg's fourth place finish. As a ward resident and former councillor I thought he would finish better. Well, this is next year country.

The best news is, should we lose another councillor for any reason, no more by-elections.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rebels Without a Cause

Although I don't always agree with the issue, I do admire protesters that get off their butts to rally the troops for their cause.

From the first photos of Occupy Saskatoon it appeared this marching troop was protesting everything. It lacked focus, unlike the Occupy Wall Street group.

In today's SP (Oct. 19/11) the Occupiers released their statement of purpose as creating "open, participatory and horizontally organized process . . . to build the capacity of an autonomous collective force to conduct itself within the public sphere." Huh?

It seems to me these disgruntled folks want to protest something, they just don't know what it should be. Sad to say there are so many causes they could have picked.

It appears they are just jumping on the American Bandwagon and protesting for the joy of protestation itself.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Greed and desperation

Councillor Penner's comment "It's a business day. It's not too different from any other day." (SP Oct. 18/11) in reference to Sunday probably won't sit too well with the Christian community. And I expect the churches along Spadina and in the Broadway area won't be happy when parishioners are leaving services early to plug meters, or worse yet, not attending because of the parking fees they have to pay on Sunday. I guess this is managing the turnaround of those Christians wishing to worship in their church of choice.

And Council didn't even have the decency to enact the meter charge to coincide with Sunday shopping hours. This isn't about managing services - its a money grab.

I assume because of the reference to January 1 that free parking on statutory holidays is off the table as well. And those New Year's Eve revellers who might wisely leave their vehicles overnight because of over-consumption may now consider driving away when they should be cabbing it.

As for the restaurants offering Sunday brunches, forget it. After January 1 I will be heading to the malls and outlying areas where I won't get dinged with a $14 ticket because I visited over a second cup of coffee.

As for those who must go downtown, hit the parking lots. If you are 15 minutes late getting back to your vehicle you only get dinged with a half hour parking charge vis-a-vis a expensive ticket.

And now that Council has feathered the coffers with an additional $395,000 it can contemplate another multi-million dollar capital project.

October of 2012 can't come fast enough.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A degree in decorum

It wasn't that long ago that the University of Saskatchewan rated at the bottom of the list for Canadian Universities. Under the leadership of President McKinnon we have moved way on up that list.

There has been significant increases for infrastructure replacement and repair, new programs, research money, donor dollars for scholarships - in short our university is in better shape than its been for a long while. I applaud President McKinnon for his work.

Serving 12 years on the school board, were time and time again political agendas tried to infiltrate and override education needs, makes me abhor politics in our education systems. If the USS-WORD Senators and their 100 so-called grassroots protesters feel there is a ground swell of public support to change the University Act they should run for public office and move on those legislative changes. Until then I expect the President, council and Board of Governors are bound to that Act that exists - one created by elected legislators. And that is democracy.

Disrupting meetings and tossing around allegations about the integrity of other Senators is not the way to effect change. Chair Nancy Hopkins has served the university for years and is a well-respected lawyer in the city. To my knowledge she has never compromised the university as a result of her professional or outside board activities. The fact that the USS-WORD attack her personally simply tells me their position on the issue is weak.

Protest to your hearts content. It is your democratic right. March, wave signs and put forward your position on issues. Preach your gospel. If you can get enough public support, change will happen. But if you can't, maybe you should reconsider your position and move on.

To the President and those in the Senate who conduct themselves with decorum, thanks for all the good work you have done for University of Saskatchewan and the students attending it.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Will he bust out?

How long can Dwain Lingenfelter contain himself in the avuncular role designed for him in this election? And will it work with the voters?

It must be killing him not to be able to come out swinging at Wall. This gentler Dwain runs against his political nature.

Link's announcement of a negotiation for revenue-sharing on resources with First Nations is a blatant vote buy. It was odd though that he would say "This will be a long and difficult discussion and debate that will go on." Its not a great way to start a negotiation if in fact you intend to honor the promise.

Honor may be the key word.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You can drive me crazy without a diverter

I think Councillor Heidt was correct when he stated "Every time we horse around with traffic patterns in this city we move the problems elsewhere." (SP Oct. 13/11) referring to the diverter to be installed at Avenue C and 38th Street. Its a popular short cut to the airport. It has also been used as a detour when Idylwyld has been shut down for repair or maintenance.

It brings to mind the diverter the city installed years ago at the top of the Broadway bridge to keep traffic from crossing over Broadway Avenue or turning left from Saskatchewan Crescent to go downtown. The reason this was done was because crossing over or turning left impeded the flow of traffic on the bridge. I think the better solution would have been a sign prohibiting crossing and turning during peak travel periods. Over the last year and a half this area has been shut down due to the closure of the Traffic Bridge and the construction of the lift station. Now local access is difficult and the residential detour roads have been chewed to hell thanks to the traffic flow diversion.

I wish someone had asked for a traffic study in this whole area and how to provide better access to Circle Drive and the airport for those needing to come down Idylwyld and then fixed the problem rather than simply moving it.

Until the issue of reasonable access to Circle Drive off Idylwyld is resolved travellers will find new routes to use. And the nightmare of Circle and Avenue C is only going to get worse when the new bridge opens.

The area residents may have traded in traffic flow annoyances for inconvenient neighbourhood access.

Pick your poison.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's blowing here is not wind

It pains me to agree with Pat Lorje statement: "I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle because as soon as you announce a project is green everybody stands and salutes the flag."

I share her concern that a decision to invest $5 million on a project before all the reports are in, tabled and made public is foolhardy. Although I am not anti-wind turbine energy alternatives, I'm not sure that locating a turbine in the centre of a city or neighbourhood is the best placement. Nor should the Montgomery Place residents be deemed NIMBYs. They are ordinary folk that have invested their life savings in a home and should be concerned about, not just the effect on their everyday lives, but on their property values as well. But council has already invested $530,000 in consulting and is not about to let that go and its green.

However given Lorje's stance on other green projects, my cynical side suspects her concerns are more about garnering votes for next October and Montgomery has relatively high voter. turnout.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The cat came back

Hello one and all. I am back from a family wedding and mini reunion and just in time for the provincial election kick off, kick in or kick to the curb activities.

First of all, thanks to guest bloggers for filling in. I haven't had a chance to review the frivolity of the last three weeks but will do so as I turn my clock back to central time.

One of the first articles to catch my eye upon my return to Saskatchewan was the Airport Authority announcing its intent (or hope) to get a direct flight to a major centre in Europe. Hallelujah for international travellers. I know it doesn't mean much to those who don't travel, but to those who do it would be a godsend.

After a guelling 10 hour flight from Rome to Toronto we faced unbelievable security check queues in Toronto thanks to the work to rule activity of employees of airport security. People were missing their connecting flights or scheduled domestic flights thanks to security personnel. If these employees thought travellers would vent their anger on the corporation they are in dispute with, they were wrong. The anger of travellers was directed solely on the employees.

The idea of flying directly to Saskatoon and dealing with people who exhibit some good old "western hospitiality" is very appealing. The idea of not having a 4 hour wait in Toronto to catch a flight west is also very appealing.

Its good to be home.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are You willing to pay Nine Million Dollars on the Hilltops?

Guest Blogger here;

So a civic committee has approved a 9 million dollar upgrade for Gordie Howe Bowl. Now before I get started on why I am opposed to this it has nothing to do with liking football or even what types of civic services we want in this city. I am a sports friendly blogger.

This upgrade is purely for the benefit of the one private user and that is the Hilltops. If anyone tells you differently they are delusional. Yes high school football play some games there, but that is truly to appease those whiners on the west side that want this facility improved and need to show it is being used. They also feel they have been left out when it comes to civic facilities. Well the East side doesn't have an Olympic sized swimming pool not to mention a CUC or TCU. I know as a fact that some years ago the school divisions spent hundreds of thousands to have football (north American version) played on the sports fields behind the east soccer, including bleachers and lighting for night games.

I heard some time ago track people wanted the place improved but I don't see that happening in this proposal. If this facility needs an upgrade then the city should be asking the group using it to pay for those upgrades. The fact the city spent thousands of dollars on an external review to tell them how to make the facility useable to more than just one entity tells the story. BTW that would cost $30 mil. If the city has gone to a cost recovery basis for all other leisure facilities, are the Hilltops willing to do the same at this venue? I don't think so. It will be left again to local tax payers.

As per my previous blogs on wasteful spending this is just another example of money that could go to better use.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hit the road Jack and don't you come back no more.

Guest Blogger here,

I can't say I'm surprised the the City administration is trying to find new and lucrative ways to take more money out of the local tax payer. And it is in a way that councilors going into an election year can take to the public and flaunt as a model of taxation used elsewhere. Just because Edmonton's council went with a dedicated tax levy for roads doesn't mean our city needs to do the same. How can Regina put away more money for roads then we do? It's simple PRIORITIZE!!!!! Now had Administration said they want Council to dedicate an increased portion of taxes, what every that may be, to roads and I would be in favor of that. But to start piecemealing tax increases isn't going to get us where we need to be. First it was show removal, then it was garbage/recycling, the Local improvement levies, now roads. What's next a special levy to cover Councillors wage increases? If council agrees to this concept I say come election time we will all be singing "hit the road Jack and don't you come back, no more, no more, no more." and that goes for the lot of them.

Get to work council and find us some true savings and spend our tax dollars where we need it most in basic civic services not the filly handouts and wasteful expenditures.