Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Crime and punishment

Reading this morning's paper (SP Feb. 28/12) was like reading a criminal court docket. It seemed like one pedator after another was paraded out for public examination.

Michael Jeffrey got fourteen months in jail for child porn, and after time off for good behaviour (whatever that is) he'll be free to get on with his life. His lust for child porn will leave in his wake countless children, including infants, who are sentenaced to a lifetime of pain. And he thinks having his name on a sex offender registry will make his life "incredibly difficult."

Then we have serial rapist Grahm James who created pain, suffering and dysfunction to countless young men and their familes. The crown is asking for a maximum of be six years - with time off for good behaviour no doubt. I wonder if he's drawing a pension payment from the hockey associations that served as his hunting ground.

Then there is the on-going trial of Mark Stobbe and the search for a rapist at the university.

It makes me think that Prime Minister Harper might be on to something good with his tough on crime bill. The sentences these people recceive seem to be nothing compared to the damage they've done.

Monday, February 27, 2012

City mouse vs. country mouse

The Mayor suggests we should run our own census to the tune of $1.8 milllion because he believes the federal document is wrong on our population numbers and it would benefit us based on provincial funding done on a per capita basis.

This presumes that the province will do all its funding on a per capita basis, which would take money out of rural Saskatchewan. You have to question why the provincial government would take money from the rural areas which is the backbone of its support. A counter-argument would be that the cities benefit from economy of scale.

Do we really want to kill off what little is left of our rural areas?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Hill's Law

Clearly the clarification of election advertising going to Council next Monday is a direct result of Councillor Hill's billboards in the last civic election which he did not claim in his expenditures (SP Feb. 24/12.) He claimed it had nothing to do with his campaign but related only to a recycling program he is proposing for his ward. This may be an prime example of stretching the truth.

I would agree with Hill on his comments on the disclosure statements regarding the expense statements, that being rather than filling in one number for expenses they should be itemized. No one checks the validity of the reported dollar amount unless they are challenged. We don't really know what the expenses include or that in fact all expenses are reported.

Campaign donation are also at issue. No matter what number you pick, donors who don't want to be identified will cut the cheque for $1 less to avoid disclosure. Should all donations, large or small. be included?

He also raises the issue of incumbents using community association newsletters to promote themselves and that which they do. I don't know where you draw the line between communicating with constituents and advertising, but clearly incumbents get the edge on other candidates during an election year. Perhaps this relatively new practice should be suspended for a six month period prior to an election.

Or maybe its time for the province to set the rules through an amendment to legislation rather than having the incumbents setting the rules for themselves.

But the thing about rules, or laws, cagey people will always look for a loophole. It is those who look for loopholes that we should beware of.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A peak into Pandora's Box?

I don't know whether you can close Pandora's Box once it's opened. Gerry Klein's column today (SP Feb. 23/12) calls for a full disclosure on the negotiations between the federal government and the city on funding for the Remai Art Gallery of Saskatchewan so "the heat can be taken off this debate before the election campaign begins in earnest." Given the angst on this issue within the city, I don't think this will help our civic leaders much when they hit the campaign trail.

He also suggests a report should come to Council in the public portion of the Executive Council meeting. Why not at a City Council meeting when the whole of the public can tune in and listen to what is being disclosed?

Personally I get the sense that the majority of the public is ambivalent about the location, but concerned about the amount being spent on this item - as well as other major projects being done. To justify it by saying the federal government put condition on their contribution is not sitting well with taxpayers who know that federal dollars are also their tax dollars. Left pocket, right pocket or back pocket - its all tax money.

And then there is the operating costs . . . .

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The prodigal son?

I have a lot of empathy for the 10 senior residents at the Humboldt senior home who are being re-located by the Saskatoon Health Region. It seems harsh to take the elderly away from one home to another, but it does speak to the lack of fore planning by governments past to provide necessary accommodation to a growing population of elderly Saskatchewan residents in need of care.

In today's SP (Feb. 22/12) it reported that a son of one such resident now wants financial compensation for the trauma his mother has suffered. His mother is being moved to a new seniors' home, being given a motorized wheelchair, a bathtub lift, rent differential for about a year, return of her damage deposit and necessary medical personnel to ensure a smooth transition. She is not being put on the street nor is he required to take her into his home and care for her. You think he would be happy that she will have a decent place to live. Rather he comes across as greedy.

The Saskatoon Health Region reports it is spending about $25,000 per senior to assist in the relocation process. The reason for the move apparently is an unstable floor and a need for space for seniors that have need for even greater care. I hope these 10 seniors will settle into their new homes and have as good or better quality of life as they did to date.

As for sonny boy - take a hike.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Short term gains

I appreciate the efforts of the city to improve the quality of life in some west side neighbourhoods through enhanced housing and beefed-up policing (SP Feb. 21/12.) But until you deal with the root causes of crime, these efforts just mean you are moving the problems somewhere else.

Young girls don't go out prostituting themselves because they like having sex with sleazy men. They do it for money and because they have no other means to earn it. Drug addicts do not mug people or rob homes for any other reason than they need money and robbery is easy access to money. The same can be said for most vices.

Throwing offenders in jail only provides a short-term relief to the problems. Poverty, lack of education and discrimination are the issues that have to be tackled and it will require a co-ordinated effort on the part of all levels of government. It requires hope for the future for marginalized citizens.

Decent affordable housing and access to life's necessities may provide some hope, but they also have to have the opportunity advance beyond bare necessities and create something for themselves. To do less may mean we are simply creating tomorrow's ghetto.

This is a start and I hope it doesn't stop here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

RAGS and riches

What is the real value to surveys and online polls?

I was one of the lucky 600 called on the Mendel survey. I didn't feel any response I could give to the various questions asked reflected my real views on the issue but simply whether or not my support was hot or tepid. It implied support was there.

The Mendel survey reported positive results in favour of the new RAGS project. Subsequently two online polls reported the exact opposite. For the online polls both sides were working the phones and emails to have their people vote. So do any of the results accurately reflect the opinions of the general public?

Our public will not pay large admission fees wherever the gallery winds up. And taxpayers do not seem to support increased tax subsidies. Please let there be a half way mark.

My worst fear is as the battle continues there will be no survivors and we will not get a much needed beefed up art gallery.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A tip of the hat

I was very surprised with Mayor Fiacco's announcement that he would not seek re-election in the next civic election. The man was riding high in the polls and I expect would have handily won had he decided to run. It's easy for politicians to hang in after their "best before date" and it takes a lot of self-confidence to walk away from a sure thing to pursue new endeavours. He states he accomplished what he wanted to when he first ran and feels no need to stick around for the ribbon cuttings. He appears to be a man without a big ego.

Given these traits I suspect whatever he has planned will meet with success. I wish him well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Justice for all

I'm not a Vellacott fan, but I was happy to see him win his defamation suit, although the award was insignificant especially if he wasn't awarded court costs. I think it sends a good message that it is one thing to question a politician's stand on an issue or founded facts on their character, but unfounded allegations intended to smear their reputation is not acceptable.

Asking a yes or no question, designed to leave the impression that its true, is the same as stating the untrue accusation. By example, if you ask the yes or no question "Are you still beating your wife." even if you answer no it implies that you once did or that your no response may be untruthful.

Over the last few elections we have been heading into the US style of negative smear campaigns and I for one would like it to stop. Maybe a few judgments like this will help curb these actions.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Does anyone care?

Saturday's SP (Feb. 11/12) reported further delays on the opening of Lorne Avenue and the negative impact on the small businesses affected by the closure. The city offers its empathy, but empathy doesn't pay their bills.

I live in this area and haven't seen anyone working around the site in months, although we have had a very mild winter. We haven't had heavy snowfall and should not expect excess water from melt. We have been boxed in for years as a result of the Traffic Bridge closure, the lift station development and closure of Lorne Avenue due to the South bridge construction. Our side streets have been chewed up as a result of detoured traffic.

It think its time for less empathy and more action.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rose-colored glasses and rear view mirrors

Economist Eric Howe made a comment the other day that Saskatchewan's boom is resource based, to enjoy it, but not to expect it to last forever. Today he was somewhat mocked by Gormley and respected by Mandryk. I tend to agree with Howe.

Resources are commodities that fluctuate wildly. Not too many years ago Saskatchewan's economy was based on wheat sales. Every business held its breath annually to see whether or not the farmers were going to have a good year, which would mean they would have a good year. We are now diversified and not dependent on any one resource - but nonetheless dependant on the commodities market. You only have to look back a few years when the provincial budget went awry because potash revenues did not materialize. This year Premier Wall is cautious on spending because "potash prices have softened."

I took Howe's comments to mean enjoy this boom, but remember that every boom eventually flattens and plan your financial future accordingly.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The fork in the road

A short while ago the city announced its long-term plan to grow the city up rather than out. Our increasing population was going to be accommodated within the existing footprint. It was to be density over sprawl.

Shortly after that, in speaking with a builder/developer, he said it wouldn't work and that people respond by taking their money to surrounding bedroom communities to get what they wanted, being their own little patch of land. He also said that that the average lot cost in the city is now $150,000 and of that about $35,000 represents new levies imposed on developers by the city, which are passed on to homeowners.

With the release of the recent census data it would appear that migration is already happening. Martensville is the hottest spot, followed by Warmen. It makes sense when you think about it. Living in a bedroom community means you have easy access to the amenities of the city without bearing the costs.

It is also a good time to remember that when our civic leaders speak of our growing and thriving metropolis having a population of 250,000 they are speaking of Saskatoon Region, not just the City of Saskatoon. And to also remember it is only those that live within the city limits that pay the cost of our rapid growth and wear the debt.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What am I missing?

I am stymied by the argument put forth by labour with respect to opposition to the proposed CETA agreement, particularly the one about privatizing Canada's drinking water and sanitation systems. I thought during the potash debate it was clear that our country had control over its resources and could restrict outside corporations' activities here. Can anyone tell me what this is about?

Councillor Clark says this agreement will tie our hands into the future to do the things we need to do to develop our local economy. I thought most of the city's tenders had a rider that allowed consideration for other elements outside of best price.

Councillor Loewen said that we already have a procurement policy that is open to bidders from around the world and that CETA doesn't add much to the arsenal in terms of getting advantages. If that's the case, why oppose the agreement?

And I am taken aback that Councillor Iwanchuk was absent for this vote and to speak to the motion she put forth.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Is there a better way?

Is money the only way to compensate victims of institutional wrong-doing?

I do not make light of the abuse young boys may have suffered at the hands of the very people charged with their care and rehabilitation at the Paul Dojack Youth Centre (SP Feb. 6/12). I believe that anyone connected with meting out that abuse should be charged and tried for their crime. Victims should be given counselling and whatever other supports they need to recover.

If you are an innocent victim of a car accident, you can no longer sue for financial compensation for pain and suffering. Supposedly you get all necessary services to aid in your recovery.

The only people getting rich off these claims are the class action lawyers. Scarily, Regina lawyer Tony Merchant says this is just the tip of the iceberg and that these sorts of things must have been happening in other similar institutions. I expect he means our prison systems.

I don't know what the right answer is, but I don't think it's throw some money at it and hope it goes away.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Timing is everything

So Councillor Pat Lorje wants to be paid more money for the great job Council is doing and points to her counterparts at the Provincial level. Perhaps she should have continued her political career as an MLA.

Alternatively she wants more Councillors or to designate the position of Councillor as a full-time job. If Councillors are to be designated as full-time, then I would expect everyone holding outside jobs or running businesses to give up those other jobs and to park their butts at City Hall and punch a time clock as do other civic employees.

This Council collaborated with the province to increase their term of office without input from their voters. If they now want to implement changes to their status or give themselves whopping raises, we have a civic election coming this fall and she should lobby for referendum questions on the ballot regarding these issues.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A straight answer please

I know it is the year in which Councillors will try to profile themselves on issues related to their own wards and I expect that is what Councillor Darren Hill is trying to do in asking for a review on the future of the Traffic Bridge. Thus he raises the issue of the Traffic Bridge vis-a-vis a North Bridge (SP Feb. 2/12.) But there is a time when you have to look at the city as a whole and not just your own turf.

I assume Hill knows that the province has a long-term plan for a perimeter highway around the city connecting to a North Bridge as a route into Northern Saskatchewan. It is not intended to be just a city bridge but a provincial crossing and I expect the province will be bearing much of the cost.

I also assume he knows that a least a half dozen years ago the city had reports done on all the bridges and the University and Broadway bridges will need massive and expensive repairs in the not too distant future. When one of those bridges is closed for repairs, pressure is placed on the remaining bridges to carry the traffic load. And in its day, the Traffic Bridge carried a surprisingly high volume of traffic.

I do think when the South Bridge opens that a considerable amount traffic will be diverted from the city centre bridges. But the city also has a plan to increase the density in the core areas through in-fill projects and, in particular, the city centre. I recall the goal was to increase downtown residency to 10,000 souls.

It seems to me it is poor planning to want to double the size of our population within the existing city footprint without a plan as to how all these folks will get about the city.

As well, I thought the issue of a full service bridge vis-a-vis a pedestrian/bike bridge had already been determined. And I won't get into the heritage issue.

Could we not just have a valuable dialogue on this matter rather than political monologues?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Hail Mary pass

I am wondering if there are too many people in leadership positions that have suffered head injuries related to sports activities. I speak of the news items in the SP (Feb. 1/12) that report explorations to secure a CFL franchise for Saskatoon together with a stadium.

We are living in a period where citizens are struggling to secure affordable housing, expressing concerns about the homeless and growing line ups at food banks, together with a medicare system that may be in crisis. Added to the fray are reports from the Prime Minister and Premier that "revenue challenges" may equate to austerity measures. And yet we have people exploring high-cost sports teams and arenas.

They point to Alberta having two professional teams. Calgary has a concentrated population of about a million people along with numerous wealthy corporate head offices with money to spend. Edmonton is around a half million in population. And the whole of Saskatchewan boasts a little over one million in population spread out over a huge geographic area.

And let's not forget the number of times our Roughriders have claimed financial stress to rally the sports fanatics province wide.

Merciful God let this end quickly.