Wascana Centre Unveils Goat-Brand Herbicide

If you’re in the vicinity of Wascana Hill in the eastern section of Wascana Centre near the Science Centre in the next few days and happen to spot a herd of 40 goats traipsing around don’t freak out. The herd’s been brought in to do some old-fashioned weed control by grazing on the caragana that grows wild there and interferes with the ability of prairie grasses and other flora to survive in what’s known as the Habitat Conservation Area.

The goats were released on Friday and will remain until Monday. This afternoon between 1-3 p.m. there will be a special opportunity for the public to see the goats in action. Representatives from Friends of Wascana Marsh will be there to explain what the goats are up to.

Pick of the Day: Last Call at the Oasis

Directed by Academy Award winning Jessica Yu (Food, Inc.), this documentary explores the looming threat to the water supply of heavily populated states like California and Nevada due to factors like wasteful usage, pollution and a general overall inability to comprehend that in an arid climate water is an extremely precious resource.

Last Call at the Oasis runs tonight and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the RPL Theatre and Friday and Sunday at 9 p.m. Here’s the trailer:

Keesmaat Named Toronto’s Chief Planner

Over the last number of years, the City of Regina has undertaken several studies with the goal of revitalizing centrally-located neighbourhoods like the downtown and north-central. Not all of those studies involved Jennifer Keesmaat (pictured) and her Toronto-based planning outfit but a substantial portion of them did.

These projects are very much works in progress, and their ultimate success is still far from assured. Whether that was due to poor planning choices, or entrenched special interests at City Hall and in the broader business community that have profited quite handsomely from the way the city has developed over the last 60 years (ie. low density, car-dependent urban sprawl) is a fertile topic for debate.

Anyway, the Globe & Mail reported yesterday that Keesmaat, whose firm Dialog (formerly Office for Urbanism) has also worked with the University of Regina to develop a master plan to guide future campus development, has been appointed chief planner for the City of Toronto. In that capacity, she’s expected to butt heads with the current mayor Rob Ford who, word has it, is a big champion of low-density, car-dependent suburban living.

In other local urban planning news, Cohlmeyer Architecture, the Winnipeg-based firm responsible for the initial design of City Square Plaza in downtown Regina, is suing the city for $600,000 which it claims it is still owed for work done on the $12.6 million plaza. Mid-way through the project, you’ll perhaps recall, the city parted ways with Cohlmeyer, with then project manager Denise Donahue saying that with all the weather delays and other challenges the project experienced (like unmapped utilities on 12th Ave) the logisitics of continuously having to consult with the Winnipeg firm caused too many delays. Here’s a CBC report on the lawsuit.

Colorado Springs Residents Are Probably Too Stupid To Live

Whitworth’s Global Warming Post was The Theory, Here’s A Look At The Evidence

Bob Cesca is one of my favourite American bloggers, and one of his most recent posts – with information from Bloomburg News – perfectly illustrates how the ‘don’t tax me, ever’ crowd and the global warming deniers in the United States have sown the seeds of their own destruction.

Colorado Springs is the Ground Zero for the American conservative movement – home to Focus On The Family, home of the United States Air Force Academy (the USAF is home to the greatest concentration of religious nutbars in the American armed forces) and the political base for one Dick Cheney. Last week, wildfires ravaged suburbs around the city, and, well, take it away Bloomberg News …

The city where the Waldo Canyon fire destroyed 346 homes and forced more than 34,000 residents to evacuate turned off one-third of its streetlights two years ago, halted park maintenance and cut services to close a $28 million budget gap after sales-tax revenue plummeted and voters rejected a property-tax increase.
The municipality, at 416,000 the state’s second-largest, auctioned both its police helicopters and shrank public-safety ranks through attrition by about 8 percent; it has 50 fewer police and 39 fewer firefighters than five years ago. More than 180 National Guard troops have been mobilized to secure the city after the state’s most destructive fire. At least 32 evacuated homes were burglarized and dozens of evacuees’ cars were broken into, said Police Chief Pete Carey.

Sounds insane? Yeah. It gets better:

Six of the nine candidates in last year’s nonpartisan mayoral election, including the victor, Mayor Steve Bach, signed a pledge to oppose any tax increases.
Richard Skorman, one candidate who didn’t, was flooded with angry e-mails after saying in a debate why he opposed such a pledge. What, he asked, if the city got hit by a major wildfire?
“Resources have been very stretched, and we were always worried,” Skorman, a 60-year-old small business owner and former city councilman who lost to Bach in an April 2011 run- off, said in a telephone interview.

If you live in a house like this, then you have no farking business complaining about the amount you’re paying in taxes.

If I’m an insurance company, there’s no way in Hell I would authorize a damage claim payout. The citizens of this community refused to pay for the basic level of fire and police protection – that’s negligence.

I wonder if any of those Bible thumpers in Colorado think that God is punishing them, the same way many of them thought God was punishing New Orleans with Hurricane Katrina. I wonder if any of those Tea Party activists who decry any form of government spending now wonder whether it would have been better to spend their money on paying for firefighters and police. Or maybe when scientists say that global warming is a problem, you don’t tell the world to look the other way because it might interfere with your lifestyle.

Naw. Not while there are gays and abortion seekers around. This is America, remember?

So who pays when people can’t pay – or in this case, who WON’T pay? That’s right. Everybody else. The state of Colorado sent in National Guardsmen to patrol the area and assist firefighters because the municipality’s voters voted in politicians who LAID OFF MUNICIPAL POLICE OFFICERS AND FIREFIGHTERS! So, who are the freeloaders? Who are the ones sucking off the public teat, expecting the world to pay for their mistakes? That’s right: Mr. And Mrs. Tea Party.

If they don’t learn anything from this disaster – that public works are an important way to keep you homes safe, that you’re not safe unless your community is safe, and that nobody wins until everybody wins – it’s possible that Tea Party types in general, and Colorado Springs residents in particular, probably are too stupid to live.

Police Crackdown

Received a press release from the Regina Police Service yesterday stating that they would be stepping up enforcement of a city bylaw that prohibits alternative modes of transportation outside of walking on City Square plaza. Here’s what the release says:

The Regina Police Service is reminding the public that skateboarding is not allowed in the downtown, which includes the new CitySquarePlaza.  Police will be stepping up enforcement of the City of Regina Traffic Bylaw sections that pertain to bicycles, and pedestrian assisted activities including in line-skates, scooters and skateboards in Regina’s downtown.

The Traffic Bylaw 9900 clearly states that bicycles shall not be driven on a pedestrian mall and there is also a clear prohibition of any pedestrian-assisted activity (including skateboarding) on sidewalks in the downtown and any pedestrian mall.  As an example, anyone found skateboarding on the City Square plaza is subject to a $60.00 ticket under the Traffic Bylaw.

As a cyclist, I have a bit of a problem with this. I’d never cycle through the plaza during a time of peak usage like when the Farmers’ Market is on or there’s a lunch hour crowd lined up to partake of the food truck food. But I live on the Scarth Street Mall, and if I was headed somewhere southwest of the downtown, like to the 13th Ave Safeway to pick up groceries for example, during a non-peak time when the plaza is virtually deserted, I think I’d prefer to take that route (while cycling at a safe speed) instead of 11th Ave west to Albert St. or a pinched Hamilton St. south to 13th Ave.

I don’t see a problem with skateboarders cutting through the plaza on their way somewhere else during those times either. Using the plaza as an unofficial skateboard park is probably another matter as that sort of activity does tend to damage the concrete and wood structures that the skaters use to practice their jumps on.

Having said all that, I cringe every time I see some bonehead cyclist moving at break-neck speed through the Scarth Street Mall on a busy summer day, or doing the same on a downtown sidewalk, whizzing past pedestrians and flying through crosswalks with no thought for the safety of themselves and other people. I also see motorized scooters on the mall during busy day-time periods and they can move at a pretty good speed.

Hell, even opening the downstairs door to our office can be dangerous on occasion as some people who are passing through the mall (including skateboarders) don’t like the paving stones and prefer to stick to the ribbon of concrete that’s laid out along the mall’s west edge. But if they’re moving too quickly, you can’t see them coming, and no matter how cautiously you open the door, the potential of a collision exists.

The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away — Apparently

As most readers have probably heard by now, Saskatoon’s been struggling with a bit of a crisis lately with an unstable riverbank that’s threatening a number of homes in the Nutana area. The instability’s been linked to above average precipitation in the city over the last few years that’s elevated the water table, although really it’s just a natural part of water and soil dynamics in a major river like the South Saskatchewan.

In a June 23 Star-Phoenix report, that point was made by Saskatoon’s general manager of infrastructure services Mike Gutek. Here’s a link to the article here.

Another story that’s been making headlines in Saskatoon in the last while concerns a complaint Ashu Solo has made with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission after he attended a city-sponsored dinner to thank local volunteers that city counsellor Randy Donauer opened with a Christian prayer. Here’s a link to a Planet S story about the controversy in which Solo argues that a prayer like that at a secular civic gathering violates “the separation of religion and government.”

Now back to the riverbank story. When I read the Star-Phoenix article, a couple of quotes from Gutek jumped out. The first is from mid-way through the article, while the second is at the end.

“It’s inherent in the natural geology of the area. It’s a dynamic situation. Nothing is ever the same. We have what God gave us for the dirt. We have our weather conditions. We have man-made construction. It all goes together and it’s a combination of things.”

“The slope is the same as the day God gave it to us,” he said. “ … It’s an inherent reality of the South Saskatchewan riverbank.”

I’m not sure if Gutek was speaking metaphorically. At another point in the article he mentions “Mother Nature” which could be taken as a euphemism for the geological and meteorological forces that are currently at work. But it does seem odd that a city official would so directly invoke the name of God at a press conference. Unless Gutik actually is a Creationist who believes that God literally did create the riverbank. In which case, I’d be kind of worried if I lived in Nutana.

Pick of the Day: Peace Out

This documentary by Charles Wilkinson focuses on the Peace River district in northern Alberta where a host of massive energy projects are in the works to feed humanity’s growing, and seemingly insatiable, demand for energy. You want tar sands, you got tar sands. Along with thousands of wells where shale gas is being collected through hydro-fracking, a major dam and even a nuclear power plant.

Obviously, the impact these developments will have on the formerly pristine Peace River will be catastrophic. And while Wilkinson demonstrates that with alarming clarity, he also points out that if we weren’t such energy hogs in our daily lives much of the pressure we currently feel to develop our energy resources with reckless abandon would disappear.    

Peace Out screens tonight at the RPL Theatre at 9 p.m. Here’s the trailer.

Pick of the Day: Keyhole & One Life

The double-bill at the RPL tonight and Sunday is definitely a study in contrasts.

At 9 p.m. (7 p.m. Sunday) you’ve got the latest from Winnipeg auteur Guy Maddin called Keyhole. Its central character is a deadbeat dad/gangster named Ulysses Pick. Pick is played by Jason Patric, and as the character’s first name indicates, the film’s narrative arc is inspired by Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.

Only instead of spanning countries and lasting years, the journey that Pick embarks on takes place within the walls of his home where he travels, room by room, from the back door to the master bedroom, where his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini) awaits. Here’s the trailer.

One Life, the second part of the doublebill, screens at 7 p.m. Saturday (9 p.m. Sunday) It’s a British documentary (narrated by Daniel Craig, although much of the original footage was shot years ago for David Attenborough’s BBC series Life) that examines diverse strategies animals use to survive and procreate in our Darwinian world. Here’s the trailer.

Another Alberta Oil Spill

As the Harper government moves to “streamline” regulations governing protection of the environment and fish habitat through provisions contained in Bill C-38, there’s news from our neighbour to the west of a 3000 barrel oil spill into a tributary of the Red Deer River near Sundrie, Alta.

The river is the main source of drinking water for the city of Red Deer (population 90,560) located just a few miles downstream from the spill location, and clean-up efforts are currently underway. For Plains Midstream Canada, the spill is the second in a little over a year at one of its pipelines. In April 2011, it had a 4.5 million litre oil spill near Peace River.

Here’s the CBC report.

Ixnay on the Fishnay

If you were planning on heading down to Wascana Lake today with your ol’ fishing pole in the hope of catching a delectable piscine creature of some sort to fillet and fry up for supper, be advised that effective yesterday Wascana Centre Authority has implemented a bylaw change that prohibits fishing in Wascana Centre.

Prior to yesterday, the WCA noted in a press release, fishing was permitted except in areas where it was expressly prohibited through the posting of a sign. While the WCA hasn’t ruled out the possibility of fishing being allowed down the road, at this point it is not deemed safe due to the sketchy quality of the lake water.

According to University of Regina researcher Peter Leavitt, monitoring of the lake over the last 16 years reveals that, in the summer, “dissolved oxygen levels have routinely fallen below the lowest acceptable values as defined by Canadian water quality guidelines for the protection of aquatic life. Oxygen values that low make it difficult to sustain a healthy summer sportfish population.”

Following the Big Dig in 2004, WCA introduced an underwater aeration system to pump oxygen into the lake. To ensure a healthy aquatic ecosystem, though, further steps will need to be taken to reduce the amount of pollution that goes into the water through the rural river system (ie. fertilizer, farm chemicals and other pollutants) and city street runoff drains.

Until then, local anglers will have to go elsewhere for their fishing fix.

Chasing Dragons

 “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.” Revelation 12:3

The above quote is only one of numerous mentions that dragons get in the Bible. Red is only one of the colours that dragons apparently come in too, at least in the minds of the Christian Right. Some dragons that hardcore conservative Christians believe in are green, and according to this video from the Cornwall Alliance, they have an unholy obsession with privileging nature and the environment over human beings. Here’s the link.

Rosie Has Another Top Six. Don’t Get Up To Thank Him

1 IT ONLY MAKES SENSE, SOMEWHERE Minnesota senator: Birth control pills and RU-486 are evil because they promote sexual promiscuity in women. But Viagra? Nectar of the gods!

2 THE FIACCO FIASCO Monday’s report to Regina city council pretty much says that the last five years of planning for a multi-purpose facility on the old rail yards was a waste of time.

3 CLOTHES MAKE THE FOOTBALL TEAM (RICHER) The Saskatchewan Roughriders have had eight different uniforms since 2005 –- the regular home and away, the green retro third jerseys, the white retros, the black jerseys, the 1966 throwbacks (home and away) and the centennial red and blacks. But keep shelling out, Rider fans: the new golf shirts jerseys are now available.

4 MORE ABOUT GWYNETH PALTROW’S SEX LIFE THAN YOU MAY WANT TO KNOW As well as Zoe Saldana’s and Jane Fonda’s. Sarah Silverman? Well, that’s different.

5 PEOPLE WHO DON’T WANT THIS TO HAPPEN IN CANADA ARE TERRORISTS IN THE OPINION OF THE HARPER GOVERNMENT When Peter Kent gets his head out of his ass, he should be reading what has happened to Louisiana and Alabama fisheries in the wake of that oil well blowout two years ago.

6 SO MUCH FOR HARPER GOVERNMENT BEING TOUGH ON CRIME And so much for Conrad Black’s pledge to turn his back on Canada.

YOUR MUSICAL MOMENT OF ZEN First song on my iPod this morning: Joan Armatrading, “Drop The Pilot”.

To Make a Farm

Considering all the changes that have been happening in Canadian agriculture lately, what with the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly on the marketing of grain for export, the possible sale of Viterra to the Swiss conglomerate Glencore, and the likelihood that supply management in the dairy, egg and poultry industry will be on the trading block as the federal government pursues expanded trade agreements with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, this film by Steve Suderman is certainly timely.

To Make a Farm is a documentary where Suderman looks at five young Canadians from non-farming backgrounds who decide to take on the challenge of becoming small-scale farmers. To give you a sense of what the film’s like, here’s a link to a short excerpt.

To Make a Farm screens at the RPL Theatre Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. Along with the Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative, the RPL will present Suderman as a special guest at the Saturday screening.

Jane’s Walk

No pick of the day today, just a heads up about the fourth annual Jane’s Walk that goes May 5-6 in Regina.

I’ve posted on this event before, noting how it was inspired by the theories of the late Toronto and New York-based urban planner Jane Jacobs on the value of designing walkable neighbourhoods to allow people to connect with each other and their surroundings instead of just bombing around in hermetically-sealed metal/plastic/glass shells ie motor vehicles.

With this event, which originated in Toronto in 2007, and is now held in dozens of cities across North America and Europe, residents volunteer to lead walking tours of neighbourhoods to highlight unique aspects of their history, architecture and overall importance in their community.

The tours are free, and take place at different times of the day, so it’s possible to take in a number of them over the course of the weekend.

If you visit this link you’ll find a schedule of the tours that will be happening in Regina. In the advance publicity I received from Jane’s Walk organizers, four walks were cited: Martin Gourlie provides a look back in time at the town of North Regina; Dennie Fornwald returns to give her midnight walk in the Heritage community; Conservationist Jim Elliott explores the natural and built history around Wascana Lake; and James Hoffman returns to host his very popular tour of historic Germantown.

More Cannabis News

Here’s a link to a CBC story about a competition called the Harvest Cup that’s going to be held in Saskatchewan this fall where farmers who are licensed by Health Canada to grow cannabis will compete to see who is producing the best crop.

It ties in nicely with the story I did in our April 19 issue about 4-20 and the growing calls from respected medical experts like Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Moira McKinnon that cannabis should be decriminalized and regulated in our society.

Some items of note. When I interviewed Head2Head’s Tim Selenski he said that with our generally sunny skies and reasonably warm summers, Saskatchewan had virtually unlimited potential to grow cannabis.

Also, the benefits of the plant aren’t just limited to medical and recreational use. There’s literally hundreds of different industrial applications for the plant and its fibres.

Finally, as the CBC story notes, when a person is licensed by Health Canada to grow cannabis, they are limited to growing enough for themselves and two other licensed users. As Lundstrom notes, he could be growing for 500 people, providing a safe, affordable and quality product for people who are in medical distress. But he currently is legally prohibited from doing so, which pushes people to the black market and helps fuel criminal/gang activity.

Are Albertans Held Captive By The Oil Industry?

Here’s a link to an interesting article in The Tyee where Mitchell Anderson proposes that when it comes to the oil industry, Albertans suffer from Stockholm Syndrome. That’s a term that was coined in the 1970s to describe a psychological condition where a person who is held hostage, through the stress of the ordeal, actually begins to develop sympathetic feelings for their captor.

Had Alberta the type of royalty regime proposed by former PC premier Peter Lougheed back in the ’70s when the first energy crisis hit, Mitchell notes, it would now have a Heritage Fund in excess of $200 billion that could be used to fund all sorts of programs for the benefit of Albertans. Instead, successive PC governments have ratcheted down royalty rates to the great benefit of the oil industry, but to the general impoverishment of the province.

True, in today’s political climate Lougheed, who in my mind ranks as the best premier Alberta’s ever had, would be labelled a radical pinko leftist commie bastard or some other inflammatory slur. But instead of running perennial deficits Alberta’s public finances would be in much better shape.

In contrast to Alberta, Mitchell observes, Norway set a reasonable royalty rate for its off-shore oil resources, and now has a $570 billion fund to use for the benefit of Norweigans today and for generations to come. Mitchell also notes Newfoundland was initially bullied by the oil industry when its off-shore resources were being developed, but that former premier Danny Williams held firm and was able to secure a much more favourable royalty deal that includes an equity stake in the Hebron oil field.

That’s the magic of natural resources, I guess. Under free trade agreements, corporations engaged in activities like manufacturing and r & d do have some leverage to demand concessions or they can pack up and move elsewhere. If they want to access a natural resource in a stable political climate with a reliable infrastructure network and dependable labour force, though, they don’t have the same clout. Of course, if you infect the government with active lobbyist for your industry, you can still get your way. That’s why following Monday’s election, Alberta might slip further into captivity as 13 of the Wildrose Party’s 87 candidates, according to Mitchell, have direct ties to the oil and gas industry.

Saskatchewan is arguably suffering the same fate as Alberta. When the Sask. Party first started out, it was essentially bankrolled by the Calgary oil-patch. And five years into its reign, it adamantly refuses to entertain any discussion of bumping royalty rates on non-renewable resources to ensure the province’s long-term prosperty.

In the area of potash, with several existing mines being expanded, and new mines being built, the prospect exists of the potash market very shortly being flooded. My understanding of the royalty regime is that when prices are high, as they were in 2008 (around $800 a ton), the province reaps a royalty windfall. When prices are low, the amount the province receives drops dramatically. Full-on production at bargain basement prices probably suits international mining companies fine. I hesitate to say, though, that it’s in the best interests of current and future generations of Saskatchewan citizens.

Environment Takes Another Hit

Having already come under fire for radically streamlining environmental reviews on projects like pipelines and mines, reducing the number of government departments that can participate in such reviews, and capping their length at between one and two years, the federal Conservatives have decided to further stack the deck in Big Oil’s favour by granting cabinet a veto over any decision made by the National Energy Board on a pipeline proposal.

So in other words, if the NEB turns thumbs down on something like the Northern Gateway pipeline (which would see bitumen transported from from Alberta to the B.C. coast for export to Asia) because of environmental concerns, the Harperites can sigh and in their best Church Lady voice say “Isn’t that special” and approve it anyway. Here’s the CBC report.

Pick of the Day: The Chocolate Farmer

Directed by Rohan Fernando, this NFB documentary screens tonight at the RPL Theatre at 7 p.m. It sees Fernando travel to a remote corner of the Belize rain forest where he meets Eladio Pop, a Mayan who seeks to provide for his family of six and honour his ancestral ways by harvesting and processing cacao beans by hand to make chocolate.

The film apparently serves as somewhat of a elegy for Pop’s way of life, which is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain in the wake of global competition from large-scale chocolate producers. 

Also on the bill is a NFB animated short about the Alberta tarsands called Black Gold.  Here’s a link to the trailer for The Chocolate Farmer.

Another doc is screening in town tonight too. It’s called Miss Representation, and it examines the way prominent women are represented (or, more accurately, misrepresented) in mainstream media. Miss Representation screens at W.S. Hawrylak School (2530 Assiniboine Ave. E.) at 6:30 p.m. Here’s the trailer.

Jane’s Walk 2012

The fourth annual Jane’s Walk is set to go in Regina on May 5-6. Named after the influential urban theorist Jane Jacobs (1916-2006), the walks started in Toronto in 2007, and have since spread to dozens of cities in North America and around the world.

As the title implies, the event is organized around walking tours of different neighbourhoods to enable people to join with each other to learn at street level about the unique history, architecture and personalities of their community. All of which are key ideas that Jacobs’ championed in her work.

For more on Jane’s Walk you can visit this site. What local organizers are interested in doing now is lining up volunteers to lead the walking tours. In past years, they’ve had maybe 20 spread over the two days. Certainly, there are neighbourhoods in Regina that have more well-defined identities than other neighbourhoods and therefore are natural candidates for Jane’s Walks. But I’m sure organizers are keen to have as many areas of the city as possible represented. If this sound like something you’d like to do you can get in touch with them at janeswalkregina@gmail.com

Glide (Tomorrow Edition): A Runway Event for Our Oceans

This event happens Feb. 23 at Envy Nightclub (2300 Dewdney Ave) at 7 p.m. It’s being hosted by an organization called Fin Free Regina in association with an organization called Shark Truth that aims to raise awareness about the wholesale slaughter of sharks (around 70 million annually) for their fins which are regarded as a gourmet delicacy in soup.

Shark Truth was started by Claudia Li, and she’ll be in town to speak about the situation, and to promote awareness about a private member’s bill (Bill C-380) that was put forward by New Westminster-Coquitlam NDP MP (I kid you not) Fin Donnelly that would ban the import of shark fins across Canada.

The evening will be hosted by Jayden Pfeifer (Red Hot Riot), and will include a performance by Belle Plaine, a fashion show featuring work by local designers co-ordinated by SEED Sustainable Style, a silent auction and refreshments.

For more info on Shark Truth visit www.sharktruth.com  Tickets can be obtained by calling SEED at 924-5426.