Over the noon hour, I crashed a scrum at the Legislature that provincial gaming minister Ken Cheveldayoff probably didn’t want to call. It was supposed to be held at 11 a.m., but was moved back to 12:30, which started a few rumours around the internet that the federal government was going to cough up a nominal amount for environmental clean-up or amateur sports for the proposed domed stadium on the CPR rail yards site (about $10 to $15 million); just enough that they can come to the grand opening and not act like Jehovah’s Witnesses who won’t come to the wedding or the funeral but expect to eat at the reception. As it turned out, they didn’t even offer that much.
Just before the event, I was joking with Dean Guthiel from CBC Regina and another reporter that I didn’t know but who probably works for Mothercorp. I said that the real reason why the feds wouldn’t provide money for the project was that it would increase the likelihood that Regina would host the Gay Games. Dean laughed: the other reporter, who has long curly hair, big eyes, stands about five feet tall and dresses in an Annie Hall-style fashion, looked at me with the same expression Data did on Star Trek: The Next Generation every time he encountered something unexpected. Good grief, doesn’t Mothercorp keep archives any more?
Cheveldayoff didn’t come out and say it, but the proposal for the $430 million proposed domed stadium, complete with retractable roof, is deader than Elvis. (CBC Saskatchewan) The whole project was based on the idea that the federal government would pay about 25 per cent of the project: as it turns out, they won’t provide a farking cent.
I’ll have a lot more to say about this in an upcoming edition of the prairie dog, mostly because it’s a cover story. But right now, the issue goes beyond a new home for the Roughriders — the real story in future years will be the relationship between the ruling Conservative party and the Saskatchewan voters who (a) have supported the Cons for the past generation with a reflex best associated with Pavlov’s dogs and (b) who, in this case, have not only been taken for granted, but in this case have been taken for fools.
In his press conference, Chevaldayoff made it sound as if the federal government asked the questions regarding the facility; then they provided the answers, and then told the province that they were wrong. It was clear that the federal government didn’t want to fund this proposal; but they were willing to string the province, the city of Regina, and Roughrider fans along until yesterday, the province’s drop-dead date for the proposal.
Would Regina have received such a jerkaround from Ottawa’s hands if Stephen Harper had been prime minister during the proposals to dredge Wascana Lake — the ‘Big Dig?’ Would we have had useless idiots such as Andrew Scheer and Tom Lukiwski lecturing us about the joys of an algae-filled swamp in the middle of Wascana Park? If the City of Regina and the province launch a similar campaign for, say replacing the Regina Public Library’s Central Branch with a new facility (built in 1962, it’s never been renovated and it’s in about the same shape as Taylor Field — not very good and in dire need for expansion/renovation or replacement), would we get the same brush-off from Stephen Harper’s Ottawa?
The Roughriders are a motherhood issue in Saskatchewan: if a proposal they like can’t get the time of day from Harper’s government, then what project will?
Maybe a downtown domed stadium isn’t the best idea (that’s something that’s been up for debate at my home and at prairie dog editorial meetings), but at least at least Cheveldayoff and Regina mayor Pat Fiacco have an idea about the future they want for Regina and Saskatchewan expressed through this project. And, in their defense, if you don’t want a downtown football stadium — sorry, ‘multi-use entertainment complex,’ then you’d better come up with a plan B for an area of the city that will lie vacant when the CPR pulls out to the multi-modal site in the next couple of years.
It’s pretty clear with Scheer and Lukiwski’s performance over the dome proposal, they don’t have a clue of what kind of Regina they want to see in the future — apart from jails everywhere — or if they do, they’re too scared to tell Saskatchewanites what it really is, and they’re too scared of Stephen Harper to do their first job — represent their constituents.