News Briefs

SASKFILM: THE FINAL CURTAIN FALLS

At 3 p.m. on Monday Sept. 30, SaskFilm shut down their operations for good, bidding a final farewell as Saskatchewan’s film commission.

SaskFilm was launched in 1989 by the Progressive Conservative government of Grant Devine and, over the years, helped facilitate hundreds of productions and fostered an industry that developed over 20 years. What, if anything, will ever perform a similar function in this province again remains up in the air at the moment. The Creative Saskatchewan agency was announced in February of this year, yet it has so far given no indication how it might help independent producers develop feature films or episodic television.

Creative Saskatchewan’s mandate is to market creative productions in the province, not to create incentives to bankroll them. But on Tuesday Oct. 1, eight months after the Creative Saskatchewan agency was announced, a job posting for CEO of Creative Saskatchewan was released on the Saskatchewan Arts Board’s website. So, we may soon be hearing more about how (if at all) this agency will help independent producers.

At press time, Prairie Dog was unable to contact anyone at Creative Saskatchewan for comment, but will be following up on this story in a future issue. /Vanda Schmöckel

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NON-CONFIDENCE MOTION: TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT

On Friday, Sept. 27, the University of Regina council nearly passed a motion to hold a non-confidence vote in President Vianne Timmons and Vice-President Thomas Chase’s ability to lead the University.

Which is rather a big deal.

The motion was defeated by only one vote, and Timmons, who said she was “troubled” by the results, told the members of the council that she was not comforted by the victory and was “not proud to be president of a divided campus”.

Timmons promised to address the concerns raised and make changes.

The vote doesn’t signify the end for those pushing the motion, however.

Lee Ward, a political science professor who spoke in favour of the motion at the meeting, worries that without an actual vote on non-confidence the process ”hasn’t really resolved the major issues behind the  motion.”

Ward doesn’t see this outcome as a victory for Timmons.

“The majority of council did not vote against the motion. The yes vote plus the three abstentions was 137 to only 135 voting against the motion. Moreover, given that the 25 or so administrators in Council likely voted unanimously against the motion, then it is clear that the majority of faculty at the meeting did want to hold a vote of non-confidence in the President and Vice-President.”

The motion flows from an emergency University of Regina Academic Council meeting in the spring which convened for the first time in over two decades. The meeting was a response to faculty concerns about budget transparency, administrative bloat and the controversial “Academic Program Review” or APR process.

The APR at the U of R threatened to close and merge programs at breakneck speed. The process proposal released in January suggested the entire process should be complete by February 2014 — only 13 months.

Though a motion passed in the spring Academic Council meeting has essentially paused the APR process,  the final report released last week suggests the Academic Program Review is ongoing.

With neither side satisfied by the vote results, one can expect the tug-of-war over which side will “make changes” to continue. /Katherine Norton

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RYAN MEILI: SWIMMING UPSTREAM

Ryan Meili is best known for his work as a doctor, author and a couple of failed runs at the leadership of the provincial NDP and for federal MP.

Now, he’s at the ground level of a new national organization called Upstream, which is hoping to shift the Canadian political conversation when it comes to health.

Think of Upstream as half think-tank, half action-bank. Academics and advocates will focus research on evidence-based, people-centred ideas before rolling out campaigns concentrated on those ideas.

Meili has been driving the conversation on social determinants of health — and how those should affect decision-making — for several years now. Upstream has already partnered with the Broadbent Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“Health outcomes are determined far more by income, education, housing, nutrition, employment, the weather and environment than they are by access to health care,” says Meili.

With that in mind, one of the first campaigns Upstream will take on is pushing for a provincial poverty reduction strategy.

“When someone lives in poverty, not only is their life more difficult, it’s also more expensive for all of us,” said Meili.

Meili said he’s hoping to change the conversation in a way that has the public bugging the powers that be, rather than the usual suspects.

“It’s really focused on informing the public,” he says.

Meili can expect at least some critics to brush Upstream off as a thinly veiled ploy to move his personal political agenda, given his history with the NDP.

“It’s certainly not going to be the Ryan Meili show,” he says. /David Fraser

2013-10-03