The Harper Government Poops On Democracy

Politicians are often guilty of hyperbole. But with the “Save Your Vote” town hall he’s holding in Regina March 21 to discuss Bill c. 23, NDP MP Charlie Angus might actually be guilty of understatement.

“In the British parliamentary tradition there’s a long history of non-partisanship, and this is an unfortunate decision by the Conservative government to act in such a blatantly partisan fashion,” says Noah Evanchuk, a Regina lawyer and NDP candidate in the 2011 federal election.

That’s not just the NDP’s assessment either. The Globe & Mail, PostMedia columnist Andrew Coyne, Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand and Conservative godfather Preston Manning have all blasted the Fair Elections Act.

“For me, one of the biggest problems is that the Conservatives are doing away with voter ID cards and eliminating vouching, where people bring their neighbour who swears a solemn oath they’re who they say they are,” says Evanchuk. “It’s a process that’s regularly practiced and there have been almost no incidents of wrongdoing because it’s a criminal offence to bear false witness.”

In the eight years the Harperites have been in power, they’ve had several scrapes with Elections Canada. Rather than buttress its powers to investigate wrongdoing as they claim, Bill c. 23 moves its investigative arm to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

That, in effect, leaves it up to the government to investigate itself if another robocalls or in-out scandal happens.

Another curious provision would permit the winning party in each riding to appoint the central poll supervisor in the next election instead of Elections Canada.

That’s like saying because the Riders won the Grey Cup in 2013, they get to appoint the referees for the 2014 CFL season.

In ramming Bill c. 23 through parliament, Evanchuk says, “the Conservatives have limited committee time and refused to hold hearings to get input from Canadians. So we’ve taken it upon ourselves to hold town halls across Canada, including Regina, with the aim of getting input.” /Gregory Beatty


No Surprises As City Picks Stadium Construction Team

Surprising absolutely no one, deputy city manager Brent Sjoberg announced on March 14 that Regina has chosen PCL Construction to lead the development of our new stadium.

You may remember PCL from their other local construction hits such as the RCMP Heritage Centre, Hill Towers 1 and 2, and the City Square Plaza.

Sjoberg said the city is still working towards finalizing contractual and financial details with PCL, and as such he provided no drawings or details of what the winning design will look like. However he could confirm that the new design will be different from the concept drawings the city contracted British architect Dipesh Patel to design in 2012.

Sjoberg expects that dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s on the contract will take about eight weeks, and so we can expect to see stadium designs and details of the deal made public in May. And he confirmed the project is still on track to be on time and on budget — and said that by “on budget” he means the $278 million cap that was set for the stadium project.

As for when we can expect to see work on the stadium begin, Sjoberg says that ground will be broken as soon as possible once this construction season begins.

Council will consider a report on the PCL decision at their March 24 meeting. /Paul Dechene


Free Range Farmers’ Market?

Don’t suppose you have a spare empty building downtown you’d want to rent out to the Regina Farmers’ Market? Seems the winner of 2013’s Best Public Event category is hoping to find a new winter home.

For years they’ve held their winter market in the Cathedral Neighbourhood Centre on 13th Avenue. But according to the market’s manager Ada Bennett, they’ll soon outgrow that space.

“It was an excellent fit: walking neighbourhood, bus lines, accessibility, all main floor. It worked well. But we’re at this point now where we’re set to grow. We’ve got a strategic plan that is very assertive that is saying we’re going to grow, we’re going to be the biggest farmers’ market in Saskatchewan. We want to wow you guys. We want to be even better than the Best Public Event, darn it,” she says.

Bennett notes though that finding space downtown that’s large enough for their purposes and that fits the market’s rent budget is an extremely difficult task.

“We are a non-profit co-operative,” she says. “We just don’t have access to tens of thousands of dollars to be able to pull this off. In my dream world, $2 million would fall in my lap and I’d buy a building for them and it would be solved.”

If only there were some kind of empty building right next to the City Square Plaza that they could take over. You know, something like the Harvard-owned Gordon Block (former home of Novia Café), except it’d have to be a building that hadn’t been boarded up, abused and left to the bats and black mould.

Bennet’s ultimate hope is that eventually the market can fulfill a serious need for the downtown.  For that to happen, they’ll have to find a home. But with the downtown rental market being what it is, there’s a chance that the farmers’ market vendors will decide to pack up the winter market and move it elsewhere in the city. It’s even conceivable that they’ll bring the summer market along with them.

Bennet, however, says that the downtown is too good a fit and expects the outdoor summer market will stay put.

“My recommendation would be never close down on City Square Plaza. It’s too good for them.” /Paul Dechene