News And Horrors From The Last Two Weeks

Fun With Funding: Cons Prime Pre-Election Pork Pump

You had to know a federal election is coming when Harper’s austerity-minded government loosens its purse strings and sprinkles gold all over Canada’s cities.

Regina, for instance, will see three programs funded to the tune of $617,600 from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program— a fund set up to honour the country’s sesquicentennial.

The announcement was made on July 31 by Regina-Lumsden MP Tom “Type-A Guy” Lukiwski and the funds will be split between the Wascana Centre Authority and the Saskatchewan Science Centre (both in the Liberal-held Regina-Wascana riding), and the Northwest Leisure Centre pool (in the up-for-grabs Regina-Lewvan).

Oddly, only the Northwest Leisure Centre pool project appeared on the list of three projects which city council had put forward for Canada 150 funding at their July 27 meeting. Beyond the pool, council had been hoping to improve the Northwest Leisure Centre’s outdoor play equipment and fund upgrades to Confederation Park (which is right next to the new stadium site and within Conservative-held Regina-Qu’Appelle). Those projects will have to find funding elsewhere.

In an interview with Lukiwski, Leader-Post city hall reporter Natascia Lypny raised the suggestion that the funding announcement may be seen as political. The Conservative minister responded nonsensically, “Our political opponents would suggest that it’s done for partisan purposes. I would just suggest: could any of them say that this money being dispensed today to these organizations is not worthwhile?”

Worthwhile? Sure. But the timing is DAMN convenient. /Paul Dechene

Evraz International Trade Centre: Nothing To P3 Here

Conservative Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was in town July 23 to announce the federal government’s contribution to the construction of a $38.4 million International Trade Centre at Evraz Place (which lies in the new riding of Regina-Lewvan).

The Conservative government will partner with the Saskatchewan provincial government to cover $22 million of the construction cost while the city will be kicking in another $11 million. The remaining $5.4 million is expected to be picked up by the private sector.

The International Trade Centre will replace 13 aging building on the Evraz site the city says are beyond their useable life and it will house events such as the Canadian Western Agribition and Canada’s Farm Progress Show.

Funding for the city’s portion of the project will come from the $30 million General Reserve Fund, depleting that fund by a little over a third. According to Mayor Michael Fougere, there is no plan at present on how to replenish that fund.

“We’ll get a report from administration on how that looks in the future,” he said after the July 27 meeting at which council committed their $11 million portion to the International Trade Centre.

The construction project will be managed by Regina Exhibition Association Ltd (REAL), the municipally owned corporation that runs Evraz Place. And while the administration report notes that the city’s contribution to the project is capped at $11 million, it also notes, “As with any large capital project, there is a risk of cost overruns for which the City may be ultimately held responsible. A reasonable estimate of this risk cannot be made at this time.”

Risk from a construction project? If only there was some procurement tool that could negate the city’s exposure to fiscal damage! Like, say, a Public-Private Partnership! Unfortunately, as the project costs under $100 million, Mayor Fougere says it was too small to be considered for a P3.

“I said before we’re not being doctrinaire on P3s. They work and don’t work. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re not,” said Fougere. “We don’t screen everything through a P3. That’s not what we’re doing here. We’re saying this is a different process altogether.” /Paul Dechene