Democracy’s not a one-day deal, so get back to work, citizens

City | by Paul Dechene

If you’re looking for a civic election wrap-up and a rundown of the new faces on council, I’m afraid I have to disappoint. We go to press the day before the civic election and the paper hits the newsstands the day after it’s over.

It’s almost like the province picked a voting day that would be maximally inconvenient for Prairie Dog. Just one more way the Sask. Party’s putting the screws to us.

That said, it won’t take a mentat¹ to predict the outcome of at least one of the races. Unless something really scandalous² breaks in the next 24 hours, our mayor has become, once again, Michael Fougere. Even without the poll indicating a massive lead for the incumbent³ going into voting day, it should be obvious to anyone even cursorily watching the election that none of the challengers in this race have mounted a campaign that could generate the kind of city-wide support to dent Fougere’s Fougemony — not Tony Fiacco, Jim Elliott, Evangeline Godron, nor, least of all, the elusive Wayne Ast.

I’ve already heard the groans from some Prairie Dog readers about the inevitability of another Fougere mandate but come on, guys, it really could be a lot worse. You don’t have to agree with his every decision to at least concede that Michael Fougere has been a competent, hard-working, well-meaning politician.

And even if we can’t amicably disagree over policy, can we maybe take solace from the fact that in electing a mayor we aren’t getting a president? Sure, mayors chair meetings, get a staff, a sweet top-floor office and the opportunity to represent the city at national caucuses and summits, but at the end of the day mayors are just one vote out of eleven.

Unfortunately, it seems that in every civic election the mayor’s race — even one as predictable as this — sucks up all the oxygen. And yet, this time around we knew going into election day that there would be at least three new councillors on Oct. 27. Those three councillors represent 27 per cent of the votes that get cast, and those new voices could heavily sway the direction this new council will take. Each of those races was as important as the mayoral race.

Even more important, though, is the fact that unlike members or our parliament or legislature, mayors and city councillors have to face the public directly when making decisions. Whereas in the upper houses there is a formal, ritualized opposition in the chamber every day challenging the government’s direction, in city council, the citizens are that opposition. And that means any one of us can exert influence over those decisions.

Civic opposition to a council plan doesn’t always work, of course, but I have seen it happen. Sure, there were crowded angry galleries that came out to protest the funding plan for the stadium and the wastewater plant P3 that were ignored this session of council. But citizens did manage to stop a strip club from opening and a four-storey apartment building in Cathedral from being built.

So there’s that.

In this session of council, there will definitely be a need for loud voices from the public: the zoning bylaw is being revamped. All the city’s neighbourhood plans need to be hashed out. There are two more phases to the Regina Revitalization Initiative to be planned and executed. The city-owned portion of the Southeast Lands will be developed. Infill guidelines need to be drafted.

Problems of poverty, unaffordable housing and homelessness have yet to be solved. The city is still growing rapidly and eating up perfectly good prairie land.

Every one of those issues will require public vigilance and engagement.

So take heart, Regina. Maybe you didn’t like the result of the election, but you’re far from powerless and there’ll be plenty of opportunities to prove that on the floor of Henry Baker Hall over the next four years.

1. Human computers with limited prescience in Frank Herbert’s Dune series.

2. And the scandal would have to be earth-shattering. Like a Wikileak’s dump of Bill Boyd e-mails that reveal the entire Wastewater Treatment Plant P3 referendum was a false-flag operation engineered by “The Fouge” to distract attention from his involvement in the Regina Bypass project which is itself in fact an elaborate scheme to divert traffic away from Regina and towards a massive theme park development he’s building in the south of the province called “I Love Regina Land” which is a 1:1 scale model recreation of the Queen City, identical in every way except that the streets are pothole free and the glockenspiel is still standing.

3. That one poll by Mainstreet Research had Fougere leading with 41 per cent of the vote while the nearest challengers were Tony Fiacco and Wayne Ast at four per cent.