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Saskatchewan

Top 25 Photos of 2014: #17 – River Landing at Dusk

River Landing at Dusk

According to Flickr, this was my 17th most interesting photo of 2014.

Top 25 Photos of 2014: #18 – Don’s Photo & Ace Food Truck

Don's Photo

Flickr thought this was my 18th most interesting photo of 2014.  The Ace Burger Food Truck parked outside of Don’s Photo in Saskatoon.

Top 25 Photos of 2014: #19 – Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints

Top 25 Photos of 2014: #20 – Saskatoon Housing Coalition

Saskatoon Housing Coalition

My 20th Most Interesting Photo from 2014 according to Flickr is of the Saskatoon Housing Coalition offices.

John McGettigan: Candidate for the Saskatchewan Party Nomination in Saskatoon Stonebridge Dakota Constituency

So I heard that John McGettigan was running for the Saskatchewan Party nomination in Saskatoon Stonebridge Dakota.  I then found this speech from a couple of years ago he gave at a Teacher’s Rally where he questioned the Brad Wall lead Saskatchewan Party governments intelligence, passion for education, and commitment to our children.

Now he wants to be a part of the same government he bashed from the front of the legislature.  It’s been a long time since I have been involved in partisan politics but I don’t think it works like that.

Of course it actually gets weirder with this odd campaign announcement on Facebook where he seems to think he is running to be a cabinet minister.

Why is John McGettigan running for the Saskatchewan Party?

So if he isn’t named to cabinet (and given the perks to the position) is he going to quit?  Who makes those kinds of declarations (or doesn’t at least take away his campaign managers computer) as they announce their nomination?

Statement from Darren Cannell

Okay, so the reason the Sask Party has “messed up” education is that they don’t have the information needed to fix it?  The bureaucrats, the meetings with the unions, the work with the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation, meetings with John McGettigan himself … that isn’t getting them the information they need?  So only McGettigan himself once elected and presumably named as Minister of Education will then share this information on how to fix education in this province.

It’s so weird.  It is like he is running to be education minister and that is it which even if you have no idea how the world works, you have to know our system doesn’t work like that.

In case you are wondering if that is all.  No.  There was this statement by his campaign manager.

Darren Cannell

Again, this man needs to have his computer taken away from him.  This may be the most disastrous start to any nomination campaign that I have ever seen.

Top 25 Photos of 2014: #21: Ace Burger Food Truck

Ace Burger Food Truck

My 21st most interesting photo of 2014 was snapped at the PotashCorp Fringe Theatre Festival.  It’s the famous Ace Burger Food Truck moments before I ate my first Ace Burger.

Whatever one might say about Saskatoon City Council, they really got food trucks right.  When you look at the massive mess quite a few other cities have made of their food truck by-laws and licensing, we really did it right here.

Top 25 Photos of 2014: #22: Affinity Campus

Affinity Campus

Affinity Campus was my 22nd most interesting photo of 2014 according to Flickr.  It was also the most popular photo on Bridge City throughout most of the year.

Introducing the 33rd Street Business Improvement District

Some really good news for Mayfair and Caswell.  From the City of Saskatoon news release.

Saskatoon City Council has recently made possible the final step in creating Saskatoon’s newest Business Improvement District (BID), which includes both sides of 33rd Street from Alberta Avenue to Avenue G.

“We are tremendously excited about establishing a BID for 33rd Street.  The business owners in this area have worked very hard to achieve this goal, and it has now become a reality.  We couldn’t be more pleased with Council’s decision,” says Nicola Tabb, representing the 33rd Street BID Organizing Committee.

At its November 24, 2014 meeting, City Council approved Bylaw No. 9235 – The 33rd Street Business Improvement District Bylaw, 2014.  A BID is an area of commercial and industrial property owners and tenants who work in partnership to create a thriving and competitive business area.

Over the past two years, a group of dedicated business owners on 33rd Street have worked toward organizing a BID, which is made up of a variety of unique businesses such as restaurants, shops, services, and a major grocery store.  The business group saw the potential in forming a BID to improve and enhance the appeal and viability of the district now and into the future.

“The creation of a BID benefits not only the 33rd Street commercial district, but the city overall,” says Alan Wallace, Director of the City of Saskatoon Planning and Development Division.  “The success of other BIDs in Saskatoon has directly resulted in thriving, attractive areas where residents and visitors alike can come to work, shop, and play.  The 33rd Street BID will certainly create the same positive impact for their commercial area.”

The 33rd Street BID will begin operations in 2015.

Great job by the businesses that reside on 33rd Street.  If they can accomplish a fraction of what has been done by the Riversdale BID; Mayfair, Caswell, and of course some businesses in the area are going to benefit greatly.

Heckling Grieving Families in the Legislative Assembly

From Murray Mandryk

The pain in Nancy Macfarlane’s voice echoed off the marble pillars in the legislature’s rotunda as she talked about the 30-centimetre bedsore that her late mother, Margaret Warholm, had acquired in Regina’s Santa Maria Senior Citizens’ Home.

“If we had known how bad her back really was, we would have done something,” a tearful Macfarlane said Wednesday, referring to the raw fleshy bedsore she photographed after her mother was admitted to the Regina General Hospital. “But we weren’t told until we saw it in the hospital.”

That was three days before the 74-year-old Warholm – malnourished and weighing 89 pounds, according to her medical report – died on Oct. 6, 2013 Many see the Saskatchewan legislature as a place of anger, sanctimony, studious reflection or maybe even frivolity. But the often-overlooked emotion – especially present in the rotunda when woeful tales like

Margaret Warholm’s are retold into the microphones of reporters – is sadness.

Health Minister Dustin Duncan’s problem is that he has virtually asked to take ownership of every sad tale like that of Warholm.

She had been a Santa Maria resident for two years, having transferred from a long-term care home because of her spinal stenosis. Her pain and mobility issues were so severe she could no longer feed herself or even turn over in bed.

Besides the sorrow and the feeling of guilt that there had to be something more they could have done to ease the suffering their mother endured in her final days, Warholm’s children brought a lot of anger to the legislature.

They are angry over both the medical care and staff at Santa Maria – the latter of whom, the family said, did not pay enough attention to their mother and weren’t forthright about her bedsores. Warholm’s medical records show she had recent spinal fractures – possibly from a fall.

Santa Maria’s executive director admitted earlier this month that “a number of matters related to the care of Mrs. Warholm should have been better managed.”

But the reason Warholm’s children were at the legislature Wednesday was to express their anger toward Duncan. “He failed us,” Leanna Macfarlane said.

Admittedly, such sadness and anger expressed towards the minister can be misplaced. This is somewhat the case for Warholm’s family.

Duncan surely cannot be personally blamed for the specific treatment Warholm received in Santa Maria. Moreover, it was Duncan who first suggested the case be investigated by the provincial ombudsman and on Thursday morning he wrote to the ombudsman requesting a formal investigation. Duncan was respectful, sympathetic and professional Wednesday, unlike unhelpful caucus colleagues Nancy Heppner and Doreen Eagles, who heckled in the chamber that this case was all about “creating drama”. Those heckles presumably were aimed at the NDP Opposition, which raised the issue, but Warholm’s family thought they were aimed at them.

But Duncan is also the minister who told us a year ago – after ordering health district CEOs to tour every nursing care facility in the province – that what was subsequently reported was unacceptable and not the kind of treatment he would expect for his own loved ones.

Yet his government’s response was a mere $10 million for emergency funding (the districts requested $18 million) last fall and there was no additional money in the spring budget.

What is wrong with Nancy Heppner that she would say that a grieving family was in the Legislature “creating drama”.  Really Ms. Heppner and Ms. Eagles?  Their mother died because of neglect from a provincially funded nursing home.  Has politics made you so bitter that every single time someone has a problem with the provincial government that you think it is partisan ploy?  That heckling sickened me.  

Sometimes governments fail their citizens.  It happens under Progressive Conservative, CCF, NDP, Liberal and even Saskatchewan Party governments.  When it involves the death of someone in your care, you don’t heckle, you take responsibility and fix the problem.  If you can’t do that, it’s probably time to retire.

In order to save healthcare in Saskatchewan, we have had to pay $1m in hotel bills

This is getting ridiculous

Since signing the contract with an American consultant in 2011, the provincial government has doled out close to $1 million for his hotel bills.

The contractor is John Black and Associates (JBA), who was signed up to reform Saskatchewan health care through lean – a system to streamline health services and cut costs.

Since the 2011-12 budget year, Black and his colleagues’ flights, hotels, per diems and other miscellaneous travel expenses have collectively cost Saskatchewan taxpayers $2.5 million.

NDP Leader Cam Broten called the amount “obscene.”

And while Health Minister Dustin Duncan admitted “it’s a lot of money,” he said it was important to put it into the context of building up lean expertise in the province so Saskatchewan doesn’t “have to rely on those outside consultants.”

The government knew from the outset it would be spending $40 million on the JBA contract and that “travel was going to be a part of that,” Duncan said.

“This whole journey into lean is a part of trying to make the (health) system more sustainable.”

What’s next, adding Alison Redford to the cabinet?

I am actually not opposed to lean in the same way that others are.  I have read a fair amount about it and have seen what it can do for healthcare.  There were some excellent videos from the Saskatoon Health Region that show how hospital units have saved time, money, and improved patient care.  Those small things add up.

At the same time could the Saskatchewan Party have picked a more polarizing consultant?  $1m for hotel bills.  $2.5m for flight and travel.  What kind of hotels are they staying in.  Even at $250 a night, that is over a decade of hotel rooms and all since 2011.  As @toddintune (who just did the math and tweeted), maybe we need to get the lean consultant a lean consultant to lower hotel costs.

Top 50 Photos of 2014: #48 – Cabela’s

Cabela's

Of my 50 most interesting photos on Flickr, this was rated #48 and is a shot of Cabela’s in Saskatoon at night.  It was one of the first night shots I took with my Pentax MX-1.

Atchison could face toughest challenge in 2016

The StarPhoenix brought back the City Hall Notebook (it hadn’t really gone anywhere but for a while it was as silent as City Council during the transit strike) with a fantastic post by Phil Tank on Don Atchison’s re-election chances.

Atchison breezed through the 2006 and 2009 elections, easily beating challenger former councillor Lenore Swystun both times with 64 per cent and 58 per cent, respectively.

Then, Atchison faced his toughest challenge as incumbent in 2012 when political newcomer agricultural scientist Tom Wolf collected 48 per cent of the vote to Atchison’s 52. The mayor’s support has dropped six per cent each election.

Many politicians would read this result as a warning that it’s time to quit if a candidate can come out of nowhere and come close to victory. Not Atchison, who will become Saskatoon’s longest serving mayor at 13 years if he completes his current term.

All indications suggest Atch will be back to defend his crown in 2016. In a midterm interview, Atchison said he’s “leaning” toward running for a fifth term in two years. It would be a surprise if he bowed out.

His potential challengers must feel encouraged by the 2012 result, but must also be aware that a vote split three or more ways can result in anyone winning.

Did Wolf tap the entire extent of anti-Atch sentiment or was his support limited by his political inexperience?

Could an incumbent councillor with greater name recognition, like Darren Hill or Charlie Clark, have beaten Atchison two years ago?

Will Atchison fatigue be an even greater factor in 2016?

Top 50 Photos of 2014: #49 – Parrish & Heimbecker’s Saskatoon Mill

Parrish & Heimbecker's Saskatoon Mill

Not really on of my favourite photos, nor was it my best photo of the night but Flickr liked it and it is my 49th most interesting photo of 2014.

Sidewalk clearing in Saskatoon

I have mixed feelings about sidewalk snow removal in Saskatoon.  I rather enjoy shovelling snow in part because when I was younger, I would go out and do it with my mom who always had me shovel the neighbour’s sidewalks on both sides of the house.  She would have seen it as karma but in the end it was because my sister had a disability that made it hard for her to walk and for my mom, it was two fewer houses she had to worry about.

Now Mark and I shovel the walk in front of our house.  We have a corner walk so I have Mark shovel two houses down.  There has been some karma involved for him as our neighbour finds this unacceptable that Mark does it for free and pays him for it (he travels a lot and loves coming home to a clean walk).  Mark has extended her service from door to door and is now doing our deck.  Mark also let’s Maggi come out with him and bounds in and out of the snow.  Depending on Maggi’s mood, she can actually knock more snow into the walk faster than Mark can shovel it out.  Even that doesn’t seem to bother Mark.

Wendy who works at 33rd Street Safeway walks the two blocks home and often notes that no one else shovels their walks, including the church across the street from us which is a triple lot.  That’s a lot of snow to wander through, especially when it gets icy.

I am not sure why no one shovels their walks anymore.  Even our neighbour who travels shovels his walk when he gets home.  I have heard him out with an ice scraper before (which is why he loves it when Mark does it now).

The city came out with it’s snow angel program a couple of years ago which reminded citizens that they had to shovel their own walk and if they could, shovel someone else’s walk.  It seemed to work well for a couple of years and then the city grew silent about it.  Since then snow there seems to be less and less snow clearing going on which makes it really hard for our neighbours who have disabilities to get around.  Like Wendy they have to walk to Safeway on 33rd.  Unlike Wendy they are doing it in a walker, wheelchairs or a cane and the snow and ice has a huge impact on their ability to get around.

Not only are they battling sidewalks that are uncleared but deep snow and ice at intersections.  It’s frustrating for me to get around, it’s even more frustrating for others.

If I was city council, instead of spending $3 million a year on snow removal on sidewalks, I would instead spend the money on the following things.

  • Clear the snow off and around city parks.  Clear the paths and the sidewalks.  I have listened to city managers say this is the case for years and then walk by A.H. Browne and see it covered with snow and ice.  If it is being done, it isn’t done in a timely manner.
  • Work with snow clearing crews to make sure intersections are clear of snow.  Piling up snow on the corners is an insane practice.  It happens a lot.
  • Bring back the Snow Angels campaign but also start to fine places that are not clearing sidewalks.  Seriously.  Write tickets.  The city by-law is that you have 24 hours to clear it and there are houses that go all winter without shovelling.  Make them pay the cost to have it cleared.
  • Work out a plan so that infirm seniors or those with disabilities can have some help clearing it.  I’d do something with local schools.  Kids will shovel for money.
  • Plug $3 million extra into snow removal for roads, especially side streets.  I know this doesn’t make sense when you are trying to create a walkable city but our roadways are sometimes the biggest obstacles to walking, especially if you have a disability.  The ruts are brutal on your car but can be unsurpassable if you are struggling to walk or get around.
  • Saskatoon is Winterstrong

    Saskatoon in Winterstrong

    I have long said that Saskatoon could and needs to do winter better.  Instead of complaining about it, we need to embrace it like Edmonton has done.  With the arrival of winter today in Saskatoon, I decided to come up with a list of 30 awesome things to do in Saskatoon this winter (actually it is 28 things, one awesome thing is in North Battleford and one in PANP).  If you have any ideas, let me know on the page.  I’ll add them all.