Tonight, starting at 5:30pm, city council will consider their 2011 budget. You can either come down to city hall and watch the action live or you can catch it on TV on Access. It should be a pretty interesting discussion seeing as council will be trying to get through a 4.13 per cent mill rate increase. But to make things a little more lively, you can play the Budget 2011 Drinking Game!

See, this is what happens when your city hall reporter and your cocktail columnist are the same guy.

Whenever a councillor, city staffer or delegation says one of the following phrases or raises one of the following topics, you have to take a drink — either a shot of liquor or a healthy swig of beer. There are four difficulty levels corresponding to how challenging you want the drinking to be.

Level 1: I Have To Work Tomorrow
Regina’s Vision: You must drink any time anyone quotes, in whole or in part, the city’s 2020 vision. In case you haven’t heard it so many times now that you have it seared indelibly into your gray matter as though you’ve been branded internally, here it is:

Canada’s most vibrant, inclusive, attractive, sustainable community, where people live in harmony and thrive in opportunity.

Level 2: I Work In Retail, So Who Cares?
• Your Worship: Follow the rules for the I Have To Work Tomorrow Level and you must also take a drink whenever a councillor explicitly addresses a comment or question through the mayor. Usually they’ll do this by saying something like, “Through you, Your Worship.” Technically, all questions and comments are addressed through the chair of the meeting. But councillors don’t always make a deal of it. To add a little extra challenge to this level, take an extra drink every time Ward 1 councillor, Louis Browne, uses the phrase “Through you, Your Worship.”

Level 3: I Hate My Job, Bring It On
• Questions for Administration: Follow the rules for the I Have To Work Tomorrow and I Work In Retail levels, and you must also take a drink whenever council asks a question of city staff. It’s budget night, so staff should be under the gun quite a lot.

Level 4: Boss Level
• Infrastructure Deficit: Follow the rules for the I Have To Work Tomorrow, I Work In Retail and I Hate My Job Levels, and you must also take a drink whenever the problem of the infrastructure deficit is raised. This refers to all the work on roads, utilities and city facilities that needs to be done but we can’t afford to do. City administration estimates Regina’s infrastructure deficit over the next 10 years to be on the order of $2.1 billion.

In the comments to this post, try to guess what problem city council will blame for the need for a mill rate increase. Last year, the provincial government got the bulk of council’s ire for bailing on fulfilling their commitment to raising the Municipal Operating Grant. This year, the province has come through with the full amount but we’re still seeing a need to raise taxes. What will council blame this time?

What we’re looking for here is the overarching narrative for the meeting. Individual councillors may mention other tangential problems, but the correct answer here will be what the mayor and the bulk of council raise most often as the reason that they’ve been forced to support a hike in property taxes. The city budget’s Big Bad, if you will.

I will personally, at some point (I’m sure we’ll eventually have a prairie dog event for our readers…. Stephen?), buy a drink for the first person to guess correctly in the comments below.

Good luck!