Council trades its drama llamas for chin-CHILL-as, and that’s all right by me

City Hall | Paul Dechene | July 8, 2021

City hall has been so boring the last few weeks. It’s glorious. Updates, committee appointments, discretionary use applications and zoning amendments. Nothing so controversial it warranted more than a delegate or two.

No one has cried in Henry Baker Hall for two full months! This is the kind of soothing tediousness that keeps me covering city hall.

I know it can’t last. Things will be back to making my head explode any day now. But for now let’s focus on the positive and start this City Hall Top Six-a-thon[1] with some upbeat Regina news and see where we go from there…

1. SKATEBOARD & PICKLEBALL, SITTING IN A TREE! K-I-S-S-I-N-G! Back in 2013, the City closed an indoor skate park that had been operating on the REAL (Regina Exhibition Ass’n Ltd) campus. The building it was housed in had to come down to make way for the new stadium, and that was a bummer because that skatepark had been the centre of the city’s skate culture for years. Admission was only $3 for a day, meaning it offered an inexpensive, all-season recreation option for kids who didn’t have a lot of money for fees and equipment, and who didn’t have an interest in hockey or football.

Ever since then, the Regina Skateboarding Coalition has been on the lookout for a new home for the city’s skaters.

Meanwhile, pickleball — which I’m pretty sure is a racket sport and not a naughty euphemism — was becoming wildly popular among older Reginans. However, appropriate court space for pickleball, especially indoor space, has been in short supply.

Well, city administration found a solution for both castaway skaters and underserved pickleballers in the form of the Canada Centre Building on the REAL grounds. The bulk of the facility is only being used six times a year during events like Agribition. And the space is huuuge.

Council voted at their June 23 meeting to invest $2.8 million to rehabilitate the Canada Centre Building. In the end, one end will be taken up by 12 pickleball courts while the other will house a skatepark designed and built by the RSC. In between, there’s room for four basketball courts. The volleyball courts that currently occupy the front of the building will remain. The renovated facility will be dubbed the Canada Centre Recreation Hub.

2. CANNABIS WHATEVER Remember when the federal government decided to make cannabis legal and we were all bracing for the coming Potpocalypse? The economy was going to grind to a halt because everybody would be stoned, one in three cars would be crashed alongside the road, little babies would be sneaking out of preschool to steal gummies to soothe their teething woes, and all our teenagers would be drooling maniacs because they’d fried their poor, developing brains.

Funny thing, city council had a look at their first Cannabis Update at their June 2 meeting, and turns out none of that happened.

The report referenced Regina Police Service data from Oct. 2019. It found that one year after legalization, the RPS had not seen an increase in impaired driving rates, nor in cannabis-related workplace incidents. There also wasn’t any notable increase in youth cannabis consumption.

The biggest problem to emerge was one of the city’s own making. With the province having lifted controls on the number of cannabis stores that can open in cities, Regina’s hyper-restrictive zoning policies for cannabis retailers have made it difficult for marijuana entrepreneurs to find storefronts to rent.

Currently, Regina only has 11 licensed stores though applications for 11 new stores are awaiting SLGA approval.

Administration is looking at possible zoning amendments to accommodate more cannabis shops. These recommendations will come in a report later this year.

3. POOPIN’ IN THE DOWNTOWN Last summer, we were supposed to get a pilot potty in the downtown plaza (as in, a public potty pilot project, not a potty for pilots). Council had earmarked $90,000 to cover the temporary facility for one year, the goal being to get an idea how a permanent facility would work.

As with so many things, the potty pilot was pulled due to COVID. Likely helping with that decision was the fact that the only company interested in supplying the pilot potty came in with a bid $70,000 over budget.

In light of this, administration recommended at their June 23 meeting that council skip the pilot step (how daring!) and just get on with building an accessible public washroom facility on the plaza.

Administration estimates design of the facility will cost $50,000, while construction will come in at around $500,000. Maintenance costs are estimated to be a minimum $100 a day for twice-daily cleanings.

Potty design will be done in 2022. Potty construction will commence in 2023.

4. DO THE DEWDNEY The Regina Revitalization Initiative has been stalled since the completion of Phase One: “Build Football Stadium”.

Colour me unsurprised.

Phase two was supposed to be development of the former CP rail lands north of downtown. The concept plan for that was passed by council in Jan 2020 but that came with the admission that waiting for private developers to fully build out The Yards community could take 20 or more years.

In the meantime, administration is going to begin work on the connected Dewdney Avenue Rehabilitation project. At the upcoming (as of this writing) July 7 meeting of Executive Committee, administration will be seeking $750,000 to hire a consultant to do detailed design of what Dewdney between Albert and Broad Streets will look like.

That Executive Committee meeting happens while this issue is being printed, so I’ve no idea what council will decide. I bring it up only to note that this Dewdney project happens against the backdrop of council’s decision to make becoming a 100 percent renewable city a policy priority and a separate decision that the The Yards will be designed to be a net-zero community.

It will be interesting to see if administration hires a consultant with expertise and enthusiasm for designing streets that fit council’s environmental priorities.[2]

5. DITCH THE DEWDNEY Seeing as we’re planning to redesign a portion of Dewdney Avenue, now is a perfect time to change the street signs and give it a new, better name.[3]

As always, there are concerns on social media that we’re eroding our history by changing street names. I have great news! That’s garbage.

We don’t name streets to remember history. Street names aren’t mnemonics. We name streets after people to honour them. It’s part of the process of exalting them. Some of those people, in hindsight, shouldn’t be exalted. Like Lord Dewdney. We’ve all been getting a history lesson of late, and we know the real Dewdney now.

You can’t leave a name like that lying around. Just like you have to pressure wash a wall somebody painted “Fuck You” on.

Dewdney is a curse word. It must go.

6. CONVERSION THERAPY: BRING ON THE BANAt the end of council’s April 28 meeting, Councillor Dan LeBlanc passed a motion for administration to draft a conversion therapy ban bylaw. Meanwhile, the federal ban, Bill C6, has become stuck in limbo because the Senate took their summer break before voting on it. If rumours of a fall election come true, that will kill the bill outright.

This means that a municipal conversion therapy ban, rather than being a complement to the federal effort, is now the only way to guarantee this harmful practice will become illegal.

The proposed bylaw text is expected sometime this month. The public will be able to speak to it and councillors will be able to propose changes on the floor of council — or stall it even longer by referring it back to administration. Keep an eye out for this.

[1] Prairie Dog used to run these cool, short Top 6 columns every issue. There was one in the news section, one in the arts section and one in whatever that other section was. This column’s format is my homage to that lost, pre-“Facebook stole the ad revenue” era of abundant content.

[2] Concept sketches for the Dewdney redesign in last January’s Yards neighbourhood plan don’t include bicycle lanes, instead marking out space for “potential future bicycle lanes.” If administration isn’t prioritizing alternative forms of getting around when they’re imagining a new Dewdney, I worry what kind of consulting firms they’ll think are acceptable.

[3] Council must be breathing a sigh of relief that they voted to put Vic Park’s John A. Macdonald statue in storage. If they hadn’t, that fucker would’ve been painted red top to bottom and pulled down by now. See? Boring IS better.