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.

 

On Today’s Awful Hate Crime In Orlando

Well fuck this horror. Dan Savage covers the massacre comprehensively here. Jeet Heer weighs in here. The Guardian has its usual excellent coverage here. There’s a candlelight vigil at Q Nightclub in a few minutes (8 p.m., 2070 Broad St.). It’s open to all ages and everyone’s welcome.

A few additional thoughts:

1. On religion Faith-based bigotry has got to end. Doesn’t matter if its Christians, Jews, Muslims or Rastafarians — there needs to be be zero tolerance of any beliefs that any alleged deities oppose LGBTQ equality. We saw again today that bigoted religious ideas have deadly consequences for LGBTQ people. If your church/synogogue/mosque/faith community is prejudiced against queers, leave it for a better one (or if you’re tuff, fight back and change it).

2. On conservatives Both in Canada and south of the border, conservatism has become synonymous with both unrestricted gun owner rights and homophobia. Guns case in point: in 2014 then-Justice Minister Peter MacKay wore a shirt supporting ownership of assault rifles. What an asshole. And homophobia? Two words: Brad Trost. Canada’s Conservatives only reversed their bigoted official position on same-sex marriage a couple of weeks ago — kinda late, guys. I want to live in a country where conservatism is an honourable, reasoned and legitimate political position. It hasn’t been for a long time (with a few rare exceptions). Fix your shit, conservatives.

3. On guns Look at any bullshit situation and it’s almost always about the money. For example, it’s blatantly obvious the National Rifle Association and other lobby groups allegedly fighting for Americans’ “right” to own assault rifles without restrictions are doing it because there’s big money in guns and money matters more to them than people’s lives. They don’t give a shit about anyone’s rights. It’s about profits. That said, it’s also obvious a lot of individual gun nuts support unlimited gun ownership rights because they think the threat of violence their weapons create keeps the socialists, feminists, minorities, atheists, gay agendavists and “libtards” from getting too uppity. Gun nuts want people to be afraid of them. It’s the only way their bigoted ideas can get respect these days. Something to keep in mind. See you at the vigil.

Government Opts For Investment (And Debt) Over Austerity in 2016-17 Budget

SaskFlag_605I’m writing this in advance of heading to the Legislature this morning for a press conference by Saskatchewan Finance Minister Kevin Doherty prior to him delivering the province’s 2016-17 budget this afternoon.

Based on my understanding of the embargoed copy of the budget that I obtained on Tuesday, despite all the gloom and doom that had been forecast, this doesn’t really qualify as an austerity budget. Yes, revenues from resources are down substantially from where they were a few years ago (around $968 million according to a government background document). But instead of slashing programs and department budgets, government spending will actually increase this year to $14.458 billion from $14.295 billion in 2015-16.

Budgetary allocations in most instances either remain the same as last year (as in the case of the Saskatchewan Arts Board and Creative Saskatchewan), or even increase, as in the case of funding for Health, Municipalities, Education, Agriculture, Highways and a whole lot more.

What’s more, these increases are being achieved with only a modest jump in the deficit from $427.2 million to $434.2 million. Tougher medicine may lay in the future, as the government says the budget marks the beginning of a process of “transformational change” in how it delivers programs and services.

Questions that will be asked as part of this process include: What programs and services should be the role of government? Are they being delivered in a cost-effective and efficient way? Could programs with similar objectives be consolidated to save delivery costs? Could different governance models provide administrative savings while still meeting the needs of Saskatchewan people?

Where all that will lead is anyone’s guess. But for now, the government is holding off on any tough decisions related to our altered fiscal reality in the wake of a global slide in resource prices.

Oh yeah, and one more thing. The government is planning to borrow another $1 billion this year to help tide us over. Similar to the $700 million it borrowed last year, the debt isn’t included in the deficit calculation. As noted above, it’s projected to be $434.2 million, but when you throw in an extra billion dollars of debt the true shortfall is $1.434 billion.

If this was a NDP government presenting this budget, I can well imagine what the outcry would be from the various chambers of commerces, taxpayers federations and independent business associations that are out there. So we’ll see what happens later today.

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”

Brad Wall’s Dumb Throne Speech Doesn’t Believe In Science

Lots of stupid stuff in Tuesday’s Throne Speech (Ronald Reagan? WTF) but I’ll focus on this interesting bit:

“My government believes in a strong Saskatchewan within a strong and united Canada. But it is troubling that today, there are some in this country who, given the opportunity, would shut down major parts of Saskatchewan’s economy and put thousands of hard-working Saskatchewan people out of work, all in the name of some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality. There are those who are not comfortable with and even oppose much of what we produce in Saskatchewan and how we produce it – oil and gas, coal and uranium, livestock and grains.

“They would prefer that those sectors did not exist and that the thousands of jobs in those sectors did not exist. They look at those jobs like they are somehow harming the country and the world. To those people, my government has a message. You are wrong. You could not be more wrong. Saskatchewan feeds Canada and the world. Saskatchewan supplies energy to Canada and to the world. What we do here makes Canada a better place. What we do here makes the world a better place. My government will take every occasion to stand up for this province, to defend those vital sectors and to stand up for every one of those jobs.”

Full dumb speech here. Thoughts:

1.) “…there are some in this country who, given the opportunity, would shut down major parts of Saskatchewan’s economy and put thousands of hard-working Saskatchewan people out of work…”

Very few if any environmentalists demand the immediate end of the oil economy. Environmentalists aren’t stupid people living in a fantasyland of rainbows and lilac-scented unicorn farts. Everyone realizes turning off the pipelines tomorrow is not feasible (everyone also realizes that plastics, which come from oil, are useful and fun). At the same time, climate change is real and scary as hell, and the world’s energy economy needs to change.

It’s not the fault of environmentalists that politicians and oil boosters spent the last 30 years doing “fuck” and “all” to address this real social and economic challenge, so maybe dial down the environmentalist bashing? Thanks!

2.) “…all in the name of some misguided dogma that has no basis in reality.”

What dogma, that climate change is real? Climate change IS real. Let’s go to John Oliver:

Case closed.

3.) “They would prefer that those sectors did not exist and that the thousands of jobs in those sectors did not exist. They look at those jobs like they are somehow harming the country and the world. To those people, my government has a message. You are wrong.”

Who’s wrong about what now? Reality is more nuanced than that brain-dead crap paragraph about make-believe environmentalist boogeymen suggests. But I guess when you’re a government overseeing a tanking, one-dimensional (resources) economy and rising unemployment, not to mention acting like you’ve got something to hide concerning a weird-looking series of land sales, you’ll take any boogeyman you can find.

UPDATE: I’m not the only person who’s annoyed. There’s a petition asking Brad Wall to stop being dumb.

More Prayer In The Legislature Stuff

The Centre For Inquiry Canada has started a national petition campaign calling on the Saskatchewan government to end the practice of opening each session of the legislature with a Christian prayer as has been done since 1905. The Centre is also calling on Premier Brad Wall specifically to cease issuing an official Christian-themed Christmas message in his capacity as premier of Saskatchewan.

Both the prayer, and the Christian-themed message, go against the grain of a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in April 2015 that held that the state and its various agencies and representatives owe a duty of neutrality to all citizens in matters of religious belief or non-belief.

You can find out about the petition here.

Petition Circulating To End Prayer In The Legislature

The other day I posted about the Shift To Reason conference that was being held in Regina on Saturday. One initiative to come out of the conference, according to this CBC report, is a petition asking the Saskatchewan government to end the practice of opening each legislative session with an Anglican-derived prayer as has been the custom since the province entered Confederation in 1905.

The petition is a belated response to a Supreme Court ruling in April 2015 in a case involving city council meetings in Saguenay, QC that also opened with a prayer. In an unanimous decision, the court said that the state owed a duty of neutrality to all citizens in matters of religious belief (or non-belief) and that having a prayer at the start of a city council meeting violated that principle.

Following that ruling, Regina city council indicated it would end its practice of starting meetings with a prayer. While the ruling dealt specifically with a municipal council, the Supreme Court’s use of the word “state” seemed to leave open the possibility of the ruling having implications beyond the municipal level.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall was quite vocal in his belief that prayer had a place in the legislature and that his government was not interested in applying the Supreme Court decision to legislative proceedings. I did a news article on this issue in April, and wrote a follow-up editorial in June, suggesting that position likely wouldn’t pass constitutional muster.

It is true that, unlike city councils, provincial legislatures (and the federal Parliament) do enjoy a degree of autonomy from the legal framework we operate under as ordinary citizens. That autonomy is known as “parliamentary privilege”. But as I noted in my editorial, it operates only in very specific circumstances and is tied to rights that are absolutely indispensable to our elected representatives carrying out their legislative duties.

As individuals, Saskatchewan MLAs can pray or not as they wish. But when it comes to a state-sanctioned prayer in the legislature, it’s impossible to contemplate a court in the 21st century holding that prayer was indispensable to MLAs carrying out their duties and that parliamentary privilege therefore protected them from an unanimous Supreme Court ruling.

Hopefully we won’t have to go through a costly legal battle to have this issue resolved. But given the Sask. Party government’s track record on stubborn adherence to patently unconstitutional positions, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Law Day Luncheon

thomas-albert-cromwellLaw Day has been held in Canada every year since 1983, and is designed to commemorate the signing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which was done by Queen Elizabeth II with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau looking on on a breezy day in Ottawa on April 17, 1982.

To celebrate Law Day this year, the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy and The Canadian Bar Association, Saskatchewan Branch are hosting a luncheon on Wednesday April 6. The guest speaker is Supreme Court Justice Thomas Cromwell (pictured). Cromwell was appointed to the court by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2008, and is the lone Atlantic Canada representative on the nine-member bench.

The title of the talk Cromwell will deliver is “Legal Services & Access to Justice” which will doubtlessly touch on the ever-increasing cost of lawyers’ services and the negative implications for ordinary Canadians when they find themselves in a legal pickle of some sort or another.

The Wednesday luncheon is being held at the DoubleTree Hilton at 11:30 a.m., and tickets, which are $40, must be purchased in advance. You can find more information here.

Lean: The Musical

lean-the-musical-poster-finalThe Lean program that the Saskatchewan Party government introduced a few years with much fanfare and considerable expense to try to improve efficiency in the health care system has been a hot topic of debate in the run up to the April 4 election.

Some regard it as the greatest thing since sliced bread, while others pillory it as a huge waste of money and time.

On March 20-21, Saskatchewan Public Interest Theatre takes a satirical poke at the whole idea of Lean and the wisdom of trying to apply market-driven audit principles from the factory floor to so-called caring professions such as health, or in SPIT’s case, education, that defy easy analysis in economic terms.

“Over the past several years the Saskatchewan government implemented Lean initiatives in health care services and started implementing them in education,” said playwright Trish Elliott in a SPIT press release.  “This play is a fun tongue-in-cheek take on the Lean program. When it comes to Lean, there’s no shortage of absurdities to poke fun at!”

The above poster has all the performance details, and you can find out more by visiting the Saskatchewan Public Interest Theatre website.

Weekly Reckoning

weekly-reckoning1 TAKE THAT, FUTURE ROBOT OVERLORDS Google’s AlphaGo is a frighteningly good (and sometimes creative) program that has been beating humans in games of Go. Finally, a human has triumphed. Go champion Lee Sedol managed to force the machine to resign from a game after five hours.

2 OUTREACH After 9/11, Zarqa Narwaz knew she had to do something to fight against Islamophobia. So she started with visits to her daughter’s class and a bag of Kinder eggs.

3 WHEN NOT TO CONGRATULATE EACH OTHER Sheriff’s deputies from Coweta County, GA, handcuffed Chase Alan Sherman and tasered him until he died. Then they high-fived each other.

The county coroner has ruled the death to be a homicide.

4 MOVIE NOT SO WHITE 2015’s critical and box-office blip Exposed, a gritty NYC drug crime thriller starring Keanu Reeves, was originally called Daughter of God, a psychologically complex movie about a Latina woman in NYC starring Cuban actress Ana de Armas. The director took his name off the film in disgust after heavy studio editing effectively turned it into a standard thriller. But what was the original film like?

5 COULD THERE BE A SURER SIGN OF GLOBAL WARMING? The Milky Way opened early this year.

 

A Tale of Two Provinces

When I wrote this post, the provincial election campaign had yet to be formally declared. Unlike at the federal level, where there seems to be no limit on how long a campaign can be (witness the Harper Conservatives 11-week marathon campaign last fall), election campaigns in Saskatchewan must be no shorter than 27 days or longer than 34 days.

Since election day has been set already for April 4, this event tonight at Central Library will fall within the time-frame of the campaign. It’s official title is Tale of Two Provinces: Voting In Saskatchewan & Alberta, and it involves a presentation by Saskatchewan historian Bill Brennan which will look at the divergent history of the two prairie provinces that came into Confederation at the same time, but have followed markedly different political paths — at least, until recently.

Brennan’s talk goes tonight at Central Library at 7 p.m. You’re asked to register in advance at the RPL website.

Following this talk, there’s another election-orientated event at Central Library on Thursday March 10. It’s drop-in event called Shhh, We’re Talking Provincial Politics and it will involve discussion of issues that are in play in this election. It starts at Central Library at 6:30 p.m.

Weekly Reckoning: Things That Happened Edition

weekly-reckoningEvery week things happen: things: events and people colliding off each other into ever-more complex concatenations of what ends up being just more things happening. And every week, we sit quietly in a corner and wonder whether the ever-expanding cloud of happenstance points to some design, or whether, once again, it’s nothing but a random whirlwind of flux and death and sadness with the occasional ice cream cone thrown in to keep us around for another week. Then we take a nap.

1 IT’S A MAN’S MAN’S MAN’S WORLD (BY DESIGN) In news that shouldn’t surprise anyone, everything from seatbelts to medicine is designed by men – to the detriment of women. If ever there were an argument for more women in STEM fields, here it is.

2 MILLENNIALS AREN’T RUINING HOTELS Hotels are ruining hotels.

3 GOODBYE TO MISS DAVIS Nancy Reagan died at 94, reminding us that the Reagan presidency actually happened. But what did she do before she and Ronald entered a life of politics? She was a Hollywood actress from 1948 to 1962. Yes, I’m sure you knew this already.

4 “THEY PREFER NAMES LIKE RUTH, PETE, BOBBY, CHARLOTTE AND PEARL” Two professors of language and literature ran computational tests to determine the differences between contemporary novels by authors with an MFA and those without. The results were… well, let’s just say that you can take your tuition money and spend it on a writing studio somewhere.

5 SOMEONE TELL THE SASK PARTY THAT CHILDRENS’ FACES ARE FULL OF OIL Do you like language schools in Saskatchewan? Well, sucks to be you then.

Banned Books Cafe 3

Held annually to promote the Canadian Charter rights of intellectual freedom and freedom of expression, Freedom to Read Week runs Feb. 21-27 in 2016.

To commemorate the week, the Regina Public Library is holding its third annual Banned Books Cafe. What that involves is local notables reading excerpts from books that have previously been challenged as obscene, blasphemous or on some other grounds.

People who will be reading this year include current RPL writer-in-residence Nilofar Shidmehr, journalists Ashley Martin and Merelda Fiddler, and educator Randy Lundy.

Banned Books Cafe 3 goes at the Central Library Film Theatre on Wednesday Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. You’re ask to register on the RPL website.

Weekly Reckoning: Letterboxed Edition

weekly-reckoningPeople ask me if “recondite” is defined as “a reckoning so explosive that it’s like dynamite.” Which is a weird question! The answer, obviously, is no.

1 HAN SHOOTS FIRST, AGAIN For years, it’s been impossible to see the first Star Wars movie (you know, Episode IV: A New Hope) without George Lucas’ CGI tinkering and digital upgrading. Somehow, a group of diehard Star Wars fans calling themselves Team Negative 1 found a print of the original film, and now you can watch a restored version of the film! If you’re willing to go poking around on torrent sites, that is.

2 OKAY, BUT RIGHT AFTER THIS WE DESTROY THEM ALL Welcome to the “mosquito factory,” a lab where scientists perform research on mosquitoes to discover cures for Zika and so on. Apparently those terrible proboscis-bearing hemophages are useful. At least for now.

3 SWINGLINE SWEET CHARIOT Here is an article about one of the coolest objects of all time: the stapler.

4 IRAQ IS DOING JUST GREAT Corruption and falling oil prices are wreaking havoc on Iraq.

5 WHAT IS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY WITHOUT A BUSH? Jeb Bush has quit the nomination race, which is as good an indicator as any that the traditional Republican party of conservative American aristocrats in a complete shambles. It’s too bad, because he was probably the closest thing they had to a real candidate.

Weekly Reckoning: Nobody Knows Anything Edition

weekly-reckoningAaaaaaaaand reckon!

1 R-RATED SUPERHERO FILM DOES MASSIVE BOX OFFICE, SURPRISING THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSED TO KNOW ABOUT THESE THINGS Deadpool, the film about the eponymous hero with the body of Ryan Reynolds and the soul and vocabulary of a 14 year old boy, is destroying box office records with an opening of over $150 million, or about three times the studio forecasts.

2 WE SHOULD ALL BE SO LUCKY Most of the world was uncomfortably cheered by the death of Antonin Scalia, the ultraconservative Supreme Court justice who basically embodied the zombified ideals of the religious right. Here’s a thoughtful roundup of thoughtful pieces on the man’s life and legacy and so on. But if you read only one of these pieces, make it the one about his judicial opinions, because damn, he could be one witty dinosaur.

3 HOW TO GET AHEAD IN CODING (FOR LADIES) A study of code repositories discovered that women are often considered to be better coders – but ya know, only if they hid the fact that they were women.

4 HOW TO GET BY IN THE SPANISH CIVIL SERVICE A waste water treatment plant employee in Spain did not show up for work for at least six years. Nobody figured it out until he was due to receive an award for longstanding service. I guess the takeaway here is that waste water treatment plants are so great that they don’t even need monitoring.

5 THE DIVORCE IS LITERALLY GOING TO BE MURDER A Saskatoon man donated his kidney to his fiancée.

Another Political Fight Brewing

With the death of United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia at age 79, another political fight is brewing between Republicans and Democrats.

The duty of nominating a replacement to the nine-person court would typically fall to President Obama. Scalia was a right-winger on the court with a strident passion for interpreting the U.S. constitution in an extremely literal and reactionary manner. An Obama nominee, especially a youngish candidate with a progressive bent, would tip the balance from a rough conservative/liberal split for the eight remaining judges to a 5-4 liberal majority.

Republicans are arguing that with Obama in the last year of his presidential mandate, he should leave the task of appointing Scalia’s successor to his successor. Democrats, though, argue that the court is facing a number of important legal issues, and that delegating the nomination to Obama’s successor would necessitate the court being short-staffed for over a year. 

If Obama goes ahead though, he would surely face opposition in the Republican controlled Senate which must confirm his nomination.

Should be fun.

MAVIS!

Directed by Jessica Edwards, this Canadian/US documentary explores the life and career of American gospel/soul singer Mavis Staples. Still active in her mid-70s (her two most recent albums in 2010 and 2013 were both produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy), Staples and her family group the Staples Singers have had an undeniable impact on music history.

But Staples also worked as a civil rights activist, and that aspect of her life is also examined by Edwards in her documentary.

MAVIS! screens tonight at 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 7 p.m. at the RPL Theatre. Here’s the trailer:

Weekly Reckoning: Checkon Yourself Before You Reckon Yourself Edition

weekly-reckoningIt’s a reckon every second around here.

WENCHES WELCOME HERE Local vanity project owner Jason Hall is in hot water this week after an ad for event staff at Kitschbomb Stonehall Castle asked for applicants’ measurements. Hall seems to be under the impression that his reputation as a landlord is making him a target for ire, rather than the fact that he asked for women’s exact measurements.

FINALLY, SOMEONE WITH THE RIGHT IDEA Slate’s Daniel Engber takes a look at the state of the world and decides that the best solution is to eradicate all of the mosquitoes. What a great idea! Even if they’re not showing up to the party with Zika and malaria and chikungunya and that old dengue fever, they’re still making off with our blood and leaving nothing but itchy bumps behind. Let’s whip these welters.

I’M STARTING TO THINK THAT FLINT IS JUST DYSTOPIA’S TEST LAB You think that lead content in Flint’s water is a disgrace? It’s so much worse than that.

Y IN THE SKY January 28 marked the 30th anniversary of the Challenger shuttle explosion. Jason Kottke has a round-up of stories on the disaster.

JUSTIN TRUDEAU: CETAPHILE? I’m aware of how tortured and ridiculous that pun is, but these are ridiculous, torturous times. Especially when you discover that Justin Trudeau wants to ratify the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, or CETA.

Exploring Utopianism In Saskatchwan

UtopiaIn 2001, MacKenzie Art Gallery curator Timothy Long put together an exhibition called A Better Place that looked at the concept utopianism in the modern world. One source of inspiration for the show was a famous quote by Saskatchewan CCF premier Tommy Douglas which read: “Courage, my friends; ’tis not too late to build a better world.”

Humanity’s utopian spirit, over the centuries, has been expressed in many different ways, from political movements and revolutionary communal settlements to fictional scenarios in novels and movies and even, in the case of the MacKenzie exhibition, visual art.

On Wednesday Jan. 20, Alex MacDonald will be giving a talk called Exploring Utopianism In Saskatchewan at the Prince of Wales branch library. MacDonald is the author of a 2007 book published by the Plains Research Centre Cloud-Capped Towers: The Utopian Theme in Saskatchewan History and Culture (cover image above).

The talk goes at the Prince of Wales library at 7 p.m. You’re asked to register on the RPL website.