Apparently, Rider Nation Has Annexed The Whole Of The City

Great! The very day I’m packing for a return trip to Malta, the Leader Post drops a massive feature on the soon-to-open-for-realsies Mosaic 2.0.

It’s titled, “Building the dream: The long road to new Mosaic Stadium.” Online, that piece is connected to a slick video titled “Mosaic Stadium: The House That Rider Nation Built.”

That Rider Nation built? You don’t say.

There it is, happening right before our eyes, the creation of a civic myth. Funny thing is, like most myths, it may contain a kernel of truth but the bulk of it crumbles under scrutiny. Because, this heroic tale of Rider Nation (and the “people of influence” who lead it) building themselves a football home brick by brick with their own brawny hands only works if you leave out a bunch of numbers.

But I seriously don’t have time to get into the weeds on this on the blog right now. But! All day, as I’ve been prepping for vacation, I’ve been jotting down thoughts on Twitter (read: angrily ranting). And I’ve compiled those thoughts below…

See you a few weeks, Regina.

“Transportation” Master Plan? More Like “Procrastination” Master Plan

After years of consultation and labour, the Transportation Master Plan goes before council tonight. I haven’t kept it a secret that I have some issues with how long it’s taken for admin to get us to this point and with how thin on specifics the final document is.

In fact, my misgivings run so deep it’d be hard for me to cover all the red flags I see in the TMP. Instead, I’m going to focus on one section concerning parking policies where all my concerns reside, in microcosm:

Note how this section says all the right things: If we want neighbourhoods and businesses to thrive we need adequate car parking; but, if that parking is too cheap or too plentiful, then it will undermine efforts to build healthier transportation infrastructure like public transit, cycling and walking networks.

All of that is true.

However, beyond making those obvious observations, this section doesn’t actually do anything. It includes a list called “Policies and Recommended Actions” but there are no real policies in here and if you thought “action” might translate as “actual projects,” there are none of those either. Instead what we get is: review, examine, review, review, resource, pursue, examine, study, encourage.

In other words, this section of the TMP isn’t defining parking policies or actions that can be implemented in the city, it’s proposing seven more parking-related studies, give or take.

Or, I suppose you could bundle all those together, and turn them into one comprehensive parking plan. But considering the TMP took five years to get from conception to council, exactly how long will a comprehensive parking plan take? Another five?

And what about the rest of the TMP? This parking section is only goal number nine — and it includes seven-plus recommended areas of study. The Transportation Master Plan is broken up into 33 different goals, each with its own list of things to review, examine, research, study, ponder, consider, appraise, meditate upon, mull over and daydream about.

That’s a staggering amount of farting around with a clipboard that’ll have to be completed before anything in the TMP can even be considered for implementation.

Sure, we’re told, the TMP has a 25-year timeline. But it took us one fifth of that time just to get to the point where we’ll let council look at it. How will 25 years ever be enough to implement this 33-part vision? Because on it’s face, all the TMP does is lay out the next quarter century of plans and studies. It doesn’t actually lock us into doing anything.

I mean, look at the table of contents…

The vision statements and goals take up pages 15 to 61. Implementation is only pages 62 to 69. That’s 46 pages of goals — most of which require multiple new studies — versus just seven pages spent contemplating the actual implementation of that vision.  Even if I’m charitable and add in all that could be considered action items in the appendices — the maps and road network improvements — that’s only another 17 pages that can be counted as implementation. Just 24 pages in total.

Incidentally, hiding in the TMP appendices is a Complete Streets Framework which sounds great…

I’d include it in those 24 pages of implementation except it isn’t really a framework at all. Rather, it’s a proposal to develop a framework. In other words, something else we can study, plan and examine before hiring a Toronto consultant to put a “Made-In-Regina Solution” stamp on the cover.

Seriously, all those things in item 2) of the Complete Streets “Next Steps” are what I thought the TMP was supposed to be doing.

Thing is, the city’s been working on the Transportation Master Plan since at least 2012. Why weren’t these reviews and studies done as part of that work?

What’s more, the TMP we’re looking at today is, in substance, identical to the TMP that administration brought forward back in 2015. (I know because I did a side-by-side comparison.)

What are we supposed to make of the two years since council first looked at the TMP and sent it back for refinements? As far as I can tell, all that’s changed are the fonts, the layout, and the writing’s been tightened up — mainly by removing detail and examples. There’s been no obvious progress on the plan in that time.

It really looks like two wasted years.

It’s also worth noting that over the last five years, a few efforts to improve the city’s transportation infrastructure have come forward that have been stalled or postponed because we’ve been waiting on this master plan.¹ Take, for instance, the cycling network: It’s been moldering all this time as admin has told us to hang on because the TMP is coming and it’ll address all our concerns.

All that said, there is a substructure to the TMP that seems solid enough, though, as I hinted above, it’s mainly relegated to the appendices: these are the maps of future bike and road network improvements. And there’s a list of specific roadway and cycling infrastructure projects. Great! But that’s the kind of detail I expected to see from the body of the Transportation Master Plan.

I have to wonder if maybe what’s going on is there’s stuff in the TMP that our council wouldn’t be too keen on if it was spelled out in detail.

For instance, in that parking policy section, there’s a reference to a parking pricing review. Funny thing, there was actually a motion years and years ago that would have examined the feasibility of pegging parking prices to transit fares. But that motion went nowhere. Pity. We could’ve had the proposal in Goal 9, point 2.37 crossed off our list already but, whoops, council isn’t so eager to get these things done when you lay them out all obvious-like.

Also, remember that time council passed the post-secondary bus pass and the attendant bus route expansion?  That UPass program was strongly opposed by Councillor Hawkins who said it smacked of “social engineering.” So, the UPass, while it so far seems to be a success, was hardly a slam dunk with city council.

It’s safe to assume then that if the TMP was a laundry list of specific action items and pilot projects, à la the UPass, the council debate on it would be a long mess of edits, deletions and horse-trading.

Still, if the goal of the TMP is to be a vague vision document that can then guide the harder work of designing specific programs in the future, then you’d think, if your organization was really enthusiastic about the goals of that document, you’d want to get it off your desk as quickly as possible so you could get down to the business of turning those ambitious notions into real policy.

Instead, just getting this vision thing to council took half of a decade.²

And there’s no guarantee that it’ll pass tonight.

Look, I get that governments are plodding, inefficient beasts. That’s a feature, not a flaw. They have to balance concerns businesses and households don’t. But I’d be a whole lot more sympathetic for how long this process is taking if the spirit of the TMP — it’s key goals and agenda — didn’t already exist in the new Official Community Plan. And in the Transit Investment Plan. And the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan. And in the Core Neighbourhood Sustainability Action Plan.

We’ve done all this before. We’ve put in days and months and years worth of broad public consultations that admin has then distilled down into the same list of platitudes about the need for sustainable growth and multi-modal transportation options. How many more do we need before we see some action we can be proud of?

We’ve been putting in the kind of work you’d think would get us somewhere. But Regina’s just spinning its wheels.

And that’s too bad.  At their heart, the TMP, the OCP, the TIP, DNP & CNSAP are all progressive, transformative plans. They contain the potential to make Regina a really awesome place to live.

I’m just worried I’ll be dead long before anything in them gets implemented.


FOOTNOTE
¹ I’d argue, putting off action while we wait for plans to be completed is a chronic problem at city hall. We currently have a really modest infill target for the city: 30 percent of new development is supposed to be infill while 70 percent should be greenfield. We’ve never once hit that 30 percent target since setting it. And when administration is challenged on this, they say they’re working on an “Infill Policy” that should be available… eventually. Next quarter. I’m sure.

² My son is six. Do you know how much he’s accomplished in the last five years? Way more than the TMP. Imagine if, for his sixth birthday party, my kid had presented us with an Age Six Action Plan that included “Review potty policy and examine feasibility of ending future diaper usage,” “Dedicate more resources towards own-name writing,” “Develop cost/benefit analysis of speaking in sentences” and “Pursue changes to naptime allocation.”

If he had, he’d at once appear super-precocious while at the same time being functionally way behind his peers.

We’d be like, “We think it’s laudable that you’re considering a Potty Use Policy. But you realize all the kids in your class were able to switch to exclusive potty use three years ago without first having to develop a ‘Made-In-Our-House Potty Solution’?

“Also, don’t you think the consultant fees you’re budgeting for are a little steep?”

City Council Warp-Up: You Want Parking Lots? We Got Parking Lots! But No Buses For Our Precious Little School Children. Screw Them!

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a council meeting that ended with cries from the gallery of “Shame” and “Disgrace!” But – oh joy! — that’s how the month-long council-meeting marathon rounded out.

Why so cranky, gang? Well, that was because 12 delegations came out and sat through a four hour meeting so they could stand and express their support for a motion from Councillor Stevens calling for council to affirm the importance of provincial Crown Corporations, only to have council vote that motion down in a seven to three vote.

Saskatchewanians do love their Crowns. Do not cross them.

Of course, their anger had been primed by the fact that council had just before this voted down another motion by Councillor Stevens, this one requesting city administration look into the feasibility of Regina Transit offering free bus service to school & daycare kids on field trips. That motion, however, wasn’t completely defeated as Councillor Young referred the substance of the motion to a meeting of the School Board Liaison Committee. But, fury was rising in the gallery because throughout debate of this motion council demonstrated a stunning lack of knowledge about Regina Transit.

I mean, it was embarrassing. I’m betting almost no-one on council has ever ridden a bus.

So all that happened. Council also passed the neighbourhood plan for Coopertown, a greenfield development that Councillor O’Donnell described as like putting a city of Moosejaw on the city’s northwest. Hey! No worries now about hitting that 30 per cent infill development target that the city has never, ever hit!

Council also took time out to laud, in the most laudatory of terms, the massively oversizedness of a new Costco surface parking lot.

We are so very proud of our asphalt wastelands. Three cheers for us!

Here’s a minute-by-minute twitter blow-by-blow of the Monday April 24 meeting. It will thankfully be the last meeting for a month.

 

You can stay up-to-date on all my council live-tweeting by following my live tweet account @PDCityHall.

City Council Warp-Up: Tax Hike Upon Tax Hike But Fewer Cuts Than Feared

Council finally had their meeting where they decided how to cope with the provincial budget cuts. You can click your way through all the twitter action below but here are the highlights in case even a four hour meeting condensed down to a bunch of 140 character chunks is too much reading for you:

Administration’s proposed 2.5% mill rate increase passed. So that’s in addition to the 3.99% mill rate increase already approved at the budget meeting in February. That adds up to a total of 6.49%. This is the highest property tax increase in at least 13 years.

Thanks to an early motion by Mayor Fougere, holiday bus service, the Leslie Lawn Bowling Green, the Regent Park Golf course and the Playescapes program were all saved from the axe. Together that added $294,800 in spending back onto the budget.

Councillor Bresciani put forward a motion to use last year’s surplus to save programs and limit the mill rate increase to 1.5%. That motion failed.

Councillor Stevens put forward a motion to save the summer street sweep; the recycling educational outreach program; and, the leaf & yard and hazardous waste depot and the treecycle. That motion failed.

Councillor Mancinelli put forward a motion to save the condo waste rebate, the landfill hours, the asphalt maintenance budget and the snow fencing. That also failed.

Councillor Flegel put forward a motion to save EVERYTHING by raising the additional property increase to 3.5% (which would have put our total mill rate increase for the year to 7.49%). That motion failed.

Councillor Hawkins put forward a motion to raise parking fines by $10. That motion passed and admin says that increase will offset the cost of the programs Mayor Fougere saved.

Worth noting that there was a lot of debate at the meeting and all the votes were close. There were no unanimous decisions.

And if the 6.49% combined property tax increase for 2017 has you steamed, remember, that’s just the city’s increase. Library and school increases are yet to come. And from what I’ve heard, the school property tax increase will be around 10%. No idea what the libraries will be asking for.

Anyway… here’s all the action from city council…

That’s it for another city council meeting. And there’s another coming right up. On Monday 24 2017 council is sitting for their regular monthly meeting. At this one they’ll be discussing the proposed Coopertown neighbourhood plan, the Regina Exhibition Assn Ltd annual report, the Regina Downtown BID & Regina Warehouse BID budgets, and a fire service agreement with the RM of Edenwold.

If all goes to plan, I’ll be back in Henry Baker Hall live tweeting that meeting as well from @PDCityHall.

I See More City Council Warp-Ups In Your Future

Council is meeting AGAIN tonight to discuss what measures they’re going to take to deal with their ten-point-something million dollar, Brad-Wall-induced budget hole.

Again?!? “What mean you ‘again’?” you may ask. Oh just that, this will be the third meeting council has held specifically to deal with the loss of the grants-in-lieu program and the one percent PST boost.

Most recently, council met last Monday, ostensibly to deal with the budget shortfall (previewed here). They didn’t quite make it that far. They listened to delegations then they ended the meeting and postponed deliberation of administration’s proposed cuts and property tax hike.

And so — finally, actually, totally — making real live budget decisions is what tonight’s meeting is supposed to be all about. Fun starts at 5:30pm. And with the help of the Gods Of Good Bureaucracy, I’m hoping to be home by 9pm. That’s assuming, of course, that there are no new delegations on the agenda for tonight. In theory, there shouldn’t be any seeing as that’s what last week’s meeting was about.

What do you want to bet Chad Novak will find some way on to a microphone tonight?

To prepare, you may want to catch up on what was discussed last week. If so, here are all my tweets collected for your delight and amusement. And yes, this storify starts with a pic of Chad Novak from the neck down. I was trying to take a pre-council selfie with a hoard of lawnbowlers in the background. But Novak kept blundering into the frame. Go figure… Chad Novak getting in the way of something getting done at a council meeting? How appropriate.

 

So that’s it. The April 10 meeting warped up in time for the April 18 meeting.

And guess what, we’re all getting together again next week. The whole gang of us: council, the media, disgruntled citizens, hopeful developers, Chad Novak. This’ll be for the regularly scheduled council meeting.

I joked a few weeks ago that I should have unlocked some kind of achievement for live-tweeting two council meetings two nights in a row. I have so surpassed that feat by now. And if I survive next week’s meeting, I’ll be demanding a goddamn trophy for live tweeting five council meetings in as many weeks.

You getting this, Whitworth?

Okay, before I sign off, here is a handy summary of everything I’ve written/recorded so far on the subject of the provincial budget:

If you want to catch all of tonight’s council live tweeting as it happens, tune your twitter to my live-tweeting account @PDCityHall at 5:30pm.

Property Taxes Rising Again And Other Crappy News

On Monday April 10, city council will be cracking open the 2017 budget — the one they only just passed in February — and patching the $10.3 million hole that the provincial budget left in their revenue.

This Friday, city administration released a draft of the measures they’re recommending. It’s not pretty. Most noteworthy is an additional 2.5% property tax increase.

That’s on top of the 3.99% property tax increase council already approved for this year. So, if this extra mill rate bump goes through you’ll be paying an extra 6.49% in property taxes this year.

And that’s just on the city portion of your property tax bill!

Regina libraries also saw their provincial funding completely eliminated in Brad Wall’s austerity budget. They’ll have to make that up somehow and if they don’t cut programs or people, they can also request a mill rate increase.

On top of all that, your education taxes are expected to up by 10%.

So, just on the property tax side of things, the provincial budget is definitely going to be hitting your pocketbook.

But the 2.5% extra tax bump proposed by the City of Regina will only cover about half of the $10.3 million they need to make up.

To offset another $1 million, the Regina Police Service will be postponing some capital expenditures and withdrawing money from their reserves.

And the City itself will be cutting back on about $2.5 million worth of programs and services. Which ones? Here’s a partial list:

GONE: transit services on statutory holidays, Play Escapes program, Regent Park Golf Course, Leslie Lawn Bowling Greens, collection depot program (including leaf & yard waste, household hazardous waste, treecycling), Heritage Conservation Awards ceremony, Agribition transit grant, fall herbicide spraying, summer road sweeping program, condo waste rebate, Snow Busters program, print version of the Leisure Guide

REDUCED: curbside garbage collection (going from weekly to bi-weekly pickup), maintenance of city flower pots, tree pruning, snow fencing, asphalt maintenance budget, landfill hours

Note that council will be debating all of this at Monday’s meeting and so there’s a chance that some of these programs can be saved or that the mill rate increase could be reduced.

One avenue the city is not presently considering is withdrawing cash from their General Fund Reserve to spackle over their revenue hole. Here’s administration’s justification for that:

Using reserves to support the 2017 budget shortfall is not a realistic option. The use of reserves to support on-going costs will only delay the need to address the underlying issue and impair future financial flexibility. Current reserve levels are moderate, but not excessive when the total value of the City’s assets is considered. Administration is recommending the utilization of onetime savings rather than reserves in 2017 to provide time to review alternative revenues and/or ongoing expense reductions.

Drawing from reserves might be an attractive way out of these cuts as we have about $26 million (last I checked) in our General Fund Reserve that we could pull from.

And depleting municipals reserves is what Brad Wall has been advising Sask cities and towns to do — in the most condescending terms. On twitter…

 

Yep. Consultation between levels of government is happening on social media.

The future is bullshit.

Also… it’s pretty galling for Brad Wall to be browbeating cities into using up their reserves when it was his government’s wild spending that used up the provincial rainy day fund — leaving Saskatchewan with little-to-no reserve buffer to use to soften the current financial downturn.

Why, it’s almost like the Saskatchewan Party has smashed their piggy bank and spent everything in it and are now treating every piggy bank in the province as theirs to smash when they see fit.

I have more to say on all of this but I’m going to save it until after tonight’s council meeting. I’ll be live tweeting starting at 5:30pm from my live-tweet account @PDCityHall.

I will doubtless be groggily writing something for Thursday’s P-Dog once that meeting is finished.

And, for background information on what’s led up these municipal cuts, you can check out the last two episodes of Queen City Improvement Bureau, the radio show I do with Aidan Morgan on 91.3 CJTR, Regina community radio. We get deep into the weeds on Grants-In-Lieu. And, boy howdy, it’s just about as thrilling as it sounds.

 

City Council Warp Up: Glockenspiel Will Glocken Again, There’s Hope For Craft Brewers

Is there some kind of achievement unlocked for live tweeting city council two nights in a row? Because I deserve that.

Here’s a collection of tweets from the March 28 meeting. No budget emergencies this night. Just your typical “how’re we gonna fund a glockenspiel?” kind of meeting.

Also on the agenda was the food and beverage service at the new stadium and this inspired a group of local craft brewers to appear before council and ask for some assurance that Regina’s small breweries will be able to sell their cold ones in the stadium. Spoilers: Local craft beer in the stadium is highly likely.

Emergency Council Meeting Warp Up: Provincial Budget WTF? Edition

Council canceled their regularly scheduled meeting to hold a special emergency session at which they batted around ideas for how to cope with the provincial budget. Normally, provincial budgets don’t require emergency sessions. This was a big, unprecedented deal.

The three big areas of concern the city faces are:

  • The province is ending the Grants-In-Lieu program whereby they get reimbursed for the property taxes SaskPower and SaskEnergy aren’t paying. This’ll damage the city’s bottom line to the tune of $10.7 million-a-year when fully implemented.
  • City staff estimate the 1% increase to the Provincial Sales Tax will cost the city an additional $3 million a year.
  • The province cut funding to Regina’s libraries. That’s a loss of $600,000 to the RPL budget.
  • The province disbanded the Wascana Centre Authority and took control of Wascana Park. What that means in the long run is anybody’s guess.

Council won’t make any decisions about what to do about all this until after another special session they scheduled for April 10.

Until then, you follow all my live-tweets from their emergency session below.

City Council Warp-Up: Carmichael’s Moving, Blue Dot Approved

Council’s February 27 meeting was a quick, civil and productive affair. I wish they all went like this. And I wish I hadn’t dozed off while reading the report on the engineering fee increase for Drainage Area 8. It looks like it might’ve been super important but I still don’t have a clue what it’s about. Next time I have insomnia maybe I’ll take another shot at it.

You can follow my city council live tweeting live by following me at @PDCityhall.

Two Blocks Of Bike Lane On 13th? WHYYYYYY?????

City hall has scheduled a public info session for March 2 about proposed road improvements at 13th Ave and Lewvan. Included in the plan are a couple blocks worth of “future” east- and west-bound bike lanes between Lewvan and Pasqua. This suggests city planners are eyeing 13th as the site of a long-anticipated east-west bike corridor.

I am not a fan of this idea. Not a fan, at all…

If you want to get more info on this road improvement, the city’s public info session is March 2nd from 4 to 8pm at the Regina Sportplex Fieldhouse, 1717 Elphinstone Street.

2017 City Budget Warp Up

I’m waking up every morning wondering if today’s the day the whole system comes crashing down. Governments everywhere are teetering on the brink of collapse. Around here, Brad Wall is besieged by a slow gathering of inconvenient evidence about his government’s fiscal mismanagement and hinky Global Transportation Hub land deals. In Alberta, Notley’s reward for running the province in a manner falling well within the range of normal for the ’80s PCs is to be harassed and threatened to the point where she needs a security detail. Trudeau’s bloom has begun to wilt and the three frontrunners to lead his opposition are each some brand of toxic moron. And then of course there’s Trump… ’nuff said.

The world is burning around us. But there is one tranquil oasis of governance you can rely upon: Regina city council. On Mon Feb 13, they gathered to debate the 2017 budget and you may not agree with any of the goals laid out in that document, but holy crap, at least no nuns were ripped off in its construction, there was no line item which read “Build A Wall (to keep immigrants out)” and no one in Putin’s inner circle was secretly manipulating its outcome.

It was a boring, boring, boring, no big surprise budget. Thank all the Gods of Sensible Bureaucracy. And thanks to city administration for assembling something long, tedious and, dare I say it, entirely reasonable. Sure, I have a laundry list of things I’d like to have seen in this budget — the continued failure to support the Housing First program financially is shameful, for instance — but at least this wasn’t a clusterfuck. Can we all agree on that at least? It wasn’t a clusterfuck.

For those who just want to know the key deets: Council voted to nudge down the proposed property tax and utility rate increases. The property tax increase will be 3.99% this year (down from 4.18%). The utility rate increase will be 4% (down from 5%).

For those who crave a council play-by-play, here is a collection of my live-tweeting from that Feb 13 council meeting.

Prairie Dog Writer Tortures Self By Live-Tweeting Experience Of Reading Entire 2017 City Of Regina Budget

Hey guys! It’s been a while since I live-tweeted the city budget. But I’m doing it again. I’m compiling my sessions into little storify session here on the blog.

Here’s Part 1: Budget Highlights! Enjoy. I know I am!

You can follow along in Real Time! by following my live-tweet twitter account, @PDCityHall.

Thoughts On The Cathedral Mayoral Forum

That was a pretty poor turn-out for last night’s mayoral forum, Regina. The Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre was barely half full. I get that the race for the mayor’s seat looks to be pretty much a foregone conclusion, but there are more reasons to attend a candidate forum than just checking out the horses and seeing which one you want to bet on.

Council agendas are highly regimented and you stray from them on pain of stern warning from the chair. A mayoral forum is your chance to set the agenda and make the mayor talk about issues that maybe haven’t crossed the council floor in a while.

And sometimes they’re fun. Last night wasn’t fun. Not exactly. But it did happen. And I was there. And the wifi in the Neighbourhood Centre is crap so I didn’t even try to live tweet. Instead, I came home and fired off a short twitter essay on the event. This is it.

More thoughts on the 2016 City Election are coming. In fact, Whitworth has me writing a thing for the next Prairie Dog. I will try to keep the number of “Oh, for fuck’s sakes” to a minimum.

Overthinking Ghostbusters

I started tweeting about Ghostbusters yesterday and had some trouble stopping. The inspiration for the tweet rampage was the latest trailer for the reboot film. I wasn’t terribly impressed. I mean, it looks fine. That is, OK fine. Just nothing… spectacular.

Since ending my little diatribe, I’ve read that Doctor Detroit (aka, Dan Aykroyd) has seen the film and he likes it — says it has more laughs and more scares than either the original or the sequel. So there’s that. Maybe it won’t be a tremendous, Stay Puft Marshmallow Man sized flop. But after all the hating over the female-led cast and the hullabaloo over it being a reboot and not a sequel, I realized I had some feels on the issue so I tried to get them all down yesterday. And then I storified them up for you…

Carbon Capture Costs You, Again

boundarydamwebDid you catch the communications games your Crown utilities are playing with their rates? The Leader Post’s Bruce Johnstone ably breaks down SaskPower and SaskEnergy’s joint announcement which came out the Friday before the May long weekend. Here’s the thrust of that announcement in short…

• Oh no! SaskPower is increasing their rates by five percent come July 1!
• But that five percent only works out to $6 a month. Small beans!
• And SaskEnergy is lowering your bill by $1.70 a month!
• Put ‘em together and your utility rates are only going up $4.30 a month! Smaller beans!

Then Johnstone throws a bucket of inconvenient nuance on the good news…

• Ooooh… SaskEnergy’s rate reduction doesn’t take effect until November 1. Not July 1, like SaskPower’s rate hike.
• Double oooooh… SaskPower is hiking their rates by another five per cent Jan 1 2017.
• Put together that’s a $10.30 monthly utility hike starting next year.
• $10.30 a month is a lot more than the $4.30 a month the Crowns want you to pay attention to.

It was the old “Don’t look at the big cumulative hike a-coming, focus on the smaller one right in front of us” trick. I find it annoying but at least Johnstone wasn’t fooled.

Continue reading “Carbon Capture Costs You, Again”

Happy Birthday, Parking Lot

1755proposal

Hey Regina. Long time, no blog. Just checking in to provide a little update on a story we covered the heck out of back in the day.

Remember 1755 Hamilton Street? It was once the site of an apartment building. But city hall let the owners tear it down at the height of the housing crisis, thus putting 46 low-income households out onto the street at a time when the vacancy rate in Regina was functionally zero percent. Then, after that little debacle, council granted the owners a permit to turn the site of that bulldozed apartment block into a surface parking lot even though that’s specifically not permitted under the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan.

Of course, that parking lot permit was supposed to be temporary. For three years only.

We chronicled the whole sorry saga of 1755 Hamilton in some detail, on both the blog and in the paper, in articles titled things like: “Some Parting Thoughts,” “And Housing Becomes Parking,” “Convenient Parking, Well Aren’t You Feeling Real Dirty,” “Westland Tries To Buy Time With Fancy Drawings,” “Parking As Predicted,” “More Ranting About How The City Has Failed Renters,” “People Used To Live Here,” “It’s Not Quite Dead Yet,” “Learned Helplessness” and “Renters Lose Again”.

Well, that temporary zoning was passed on March 18, 2013. And as it’s now April of 2016, that means the three years are up as of last month.

And guess what! Instead of coming forward three years later with a keen development plan for that site, the owners of the 1755 Hamilton surface parking lot are — big honking surprise to absolutely no one at Prairie Dog — requesting a three year extension for their parking lot. You can see the development application that’s appeared on the city’s website by embiggening the graphic at the top of this post.

That temporary surface parking lot is kinda starting to look like a downtown fixture now, eh?

Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Parking Lot”

Council Meeting Warp-Up: Blue Dot Be Praised (And Put On Pause)!! Country’s Greenest Council Creates New Asphalt Nation Of Timhortonistan!!

I live tweeted much of the Jan 25 council meeting while in the same room as my 5-year old (who was playing Minecraft). That was pretty nice. What wasn’t so nice was thinking about having to explain to him how our city council postponed signing onto a declaration saying that a healthy environment is a human right because they needed to get a report from administration about the possible implications from being party to such a declaration. You know how it is, signing on to a non-binding feel-good doc like that isn’t something you leap into recklessly.

“But, kiddo, let me tell how later in the same meeting, they didn’t even hesitate to approve a Tim Horton’s for the city’s northeast that will boast a 69-stall surface parking lot. Can you think of a better use of our green-space than that? Incidentally, the parking required by law for that site would be nine stalls. This new Tim Horton’s will have a parking lot nearly eight times larger than that. Talk about overachievers!”

“But yeah. Council cares about the environment. So no need to get discouraged. Enjoy the planet we’ve bequeathed you, my son. Probably shouldn’t think too hard on the climate. But at least you won’t have trouble finding a place to park while you drink a boiling cup of bitterness.”

You can follow along with my live-twittering next council meeting on my @PDCityHall account. A city hall report will likely appear in next week’s Prairie Dog magazine. And Aidan and I will no doubt discuss it during the the next meeting of the Queen City Improvement Bureau, which is a radio show we do every Thursday at 7 pm on 91.3 CJTR, Regina’s community radio station.

Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Robert J Sawyer, Author Of Hominids

robert-j-sawyer-author-photo-by-bernard-clark-colorThe big announcement came this weekend that over 190 nations had signed on to an agreement in Paris to move their economies in the general direction of away from fossil fuels. It’s being hailed as historic.

All nations signing on to the Paris Agreement, rich or poor, have committed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with the overall goal being to limit global warming to well below 2° Celsius. Included in the document is even an aspirational target of 1.5°C.

Yay, team. But there’s still no popping of corks around the Dechene household. I’ve yet to get over the betrayal of the Kyoto Accord. And while world leaders were forging this climate deal, their trade ministers and business-development minions continue to toil away at a series of trade deals like the TPP and CETA that may make any international program to curb carbon emissions completely moot

As I said in the comments to another post (on a completely different topic), pessimism is my operating system. And that’s especially true where international climate change treaties are concerned. I see no reason to update to the new optimism OS. It’s barely out of beta.

For now, I’m going to wait and see what the Koch Brothers’ countermove is.

Thing is, I really, REALLY hope the world got it right this time. The alternative — runaway global warming — is just too awful to contemplate.

But contemplate we did. For the current Prairie Dog, we contacted three Canadian science fiction writers and asked them what our planet may face if these international deals continue to fail. They had a lot of very sobering things to say on the subject. So much I couldn’t fit everything into the article. So I’m posting longer versions of those interviews here.

This is the third and final interview in the series. It’s with Hugo and Nebula award winning author Robert J Sawyer who’s 23rd novel, Quantum Night, is coming out in March. It’s set largely in Saskatoon, in and around the Canadian Light Source. 


PRAIRIE DOG: What happens to the planet and our society if these climate summits keep failing and we don’t find a way to limit global warming?

ROBERT J SAWYER: My fervent hope is, just like any group of unruly teenagers who have deadlines months in advance for school assignments, they get their homework done at the last possible moment. Of course, there are those who think we’ve passed the last possible moment to contain it to under two degrees. I am hoping that finally all of the time wasting will come to an end.

So I don’t want to be painted as the guy who says, “We’re doomed and here is what it’s like.” 

That said, if we do drop the ball across the globe and we do face two degrees or more celsius of change, it’s going to be a completely different world.

Continue reading “Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Robert J Sawyer, Author Of Hominids

Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Nina Munteanu, Author Of Darwin’s Paradox

nina-nov2015To mark the end of the COP21 climate conference in Paris, I contacted three Canadian science fiction writers and asked them what might happen to the planet if we can’t reach an international deal on greenhouse gas reductions. The article that came out of those conversations is titled Apocalypse Hot and is in the Dec 10 Prairie Dog.

The writers I spoke with covered more stuff than I could cram into my meagre word allotment. So, I’m publishing longer versions of those interviews here.

This is the second interview in the series. It’s with Nina Munteanu, a limnologist, ecologist and author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction such as The Splintered Universe trilogy and The Last Summoner. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Her non-fiction reflection on the meaning of water, Water Is…, is coming out soon.

We spoke for over an hour and I didn’t transcribe the entire conversation. Here are some highlights…


NINA MUNTEANU on what climate change is doing to the water: We are 70per cent water, the planet is 70 per cent water. Water is all around us and we are part of the hydrological cycle whether we think of that way or not.

Climate change is only an aspect of what’s going on with water. We’re talking about over population, the misallocation and misuse of resources including water. The way water is being used, it’s traded on the stock exchange right now. it’s commodified. I had a thing about how many Americans drink bottled water versus whatever else. It’s huge. We’ve commodified water. We grab it from one watershed — there’s the word mining water — they grab it from one water shed and then they bottle it and then they send it off to somewhere else.

Continue reading “Sci-Fi Writers Discuss Climate Catastrophe: Nina Munteanu, Author Of Darwin’s Paradox