Category Archives: Saskatchewan

Exploring Saskatoon

Last summer on one of the rare days the infection in my leg was under control, I went out walking with Wendy in Mount Royal for several hours we our cameras.  We were just taking in the neighborhood and capturing some of the more interesting buildings (there are not a lot) for Bridge City.  Two things of note while on that walk.  Mount Royal has some of the widest streets in the city which totally messes with the scale of the neighborhood.  Mount Royal is for driving.  Secondly a week later someone asked me if  I was running provincially or municipally against Troy Davies as they had seen Wendy and I out door knocking.

The answer was that I am not running for either but I got a kick out of the observation and question.  I was out trying to get some shots on this ridiculous project I am trying and that is to document every neighborhood in Saskatoon of it’s interesting buildings.  In the process I am learning a lot about each neighborhood and what makes it tick.

Last weekend I created a shot list of almost 200 churches, buildings, and structures that I wanted to capture in 2016, all organized by neighborhood.  This means that if you see Wendy and I out, we are not door knocking or running for office but capturing some of the buildings in the neighborhood for Bridge City.  We have probably parked our car and are walking the neighborhood rather than driving it.

By far the worst neighborhood to photograph so far is Mount Royal.  Not only is it huge but it has several buildings in it that are worth shooting.  They are also evenly distributed across the neighborhood which means that you can’t park and knock off five or six of them quickly like you can in Nutana.  

The blandest neighborhood so far is either Lakeview.  Mostly residential, not much interesting other than Holy Spirit and the Lutheran church, cookie cutter schools, and the access to their lake is a bit of a pain to get into.  There are the McMansion’s but I don’t generally photograph not historic residential.  That and the Saskatoon Police really don’t care about me walking around downtown with a camera but I imagine there would be a call if I started snapping photos of people’s homes in the burbs.

Another one is Westview.  Gorgeous neighborhood with so much character but other than the park and a nameless strip mall, it has almost nothing of interest in it.  It’s weird, I’d like to live in it but it just isn’t that photographic.

Oddly enough, another one that I find bland is Montgomery.  It has the VIA Rail terminal in it but not much in terms of great non-residential architecture.  The school is bland and there isn’t any interesting other buildings.  In the end  I have walked a lot out there and haven’t really had a great payoff.  That being said, it is a great history lesson for Mark as I grill him on street names and why they were significant.

Perhaps the worst thing to capture are schools in that you can really only ever do it over the summer or on weekends.  Some (actually many) of their entrances face the wrong way which means you have limited light to get a good shot before they get overrun by shadows from the homes across the street or you are shooting into the sun.   There are also a couple of churches that are that way.  They face north and their design and landscaping means their entrance is really, really dark and hard to get a good picture of.   That and some are really ugly.  If I was the City of Saskatoon, I’d start banning the warehouse type churches that you see in some neighborhoods.  They really are atrocious.  If churches can’t build something that enhances the neighborhood (and most do), then maybe they should be restricted to the industrial areas if they want to build a warehouse.

Lastly, some of you share my obsession with the architects of great and not so great buildings in Saskatoon.  My biggest goal this spring is to find out a list of Saskatoon and Catholic school board architects without having to go into each school.  It seems to be a well guarded secret.

Young People Staying

Good ad by the Saskatchewan Party although it doesn’t do well on the whole accuracy meter. 

Young people are still leaving Saskatchewan but it is immigration that is keeping the provinces population up.  Also, the government in power during the time  that Wall is speaking of, was not a NDP government, it was the Grant Devine administration in which Brad Wall worked for as a staffer and later chief of staff.   As far as people leaving the province during that time, the population in Saskatchewan actually grew by 40,000 people.

Political ads never let the facts get in the way of a good ad.

Suburban Office Complex’s are Obsolete

Something for Saskatoon business owners to remember.

What tenants want in an office building is changing, and the old model of the isolated suburban office park is going the way of the fax machine. That’s according to a new report from Newmark, Grubb, Knight and Frank [PDF], one of the largest commercial real estate firms in the world.

Suburban office parks are losing their luster, industry analysts say.

The old-school office park does “not offer the experience most of today’s tenants are seeking,” according to NGKF. As a result, the suburban office market is confronting “obsolescence” on a “massive scale.” More than 1,150 U.S. office properties — or 95 million square feet — may no longer pencil out, the authors estimate, though a number of those can be salvaged with some changes.

“Walkability and activated environments are at the top of many tenants’ list of must haves,” the report states. Office parks in isolated pockets without a mix of uses around them must have “in-building amenities” –including a conference center, a fitness center, and food service — to remain competitive, according to NGKF: “If tenants are not going to be able to walk to nearby retail or a nearby office property to get lunch, they had better be able to get it at their own building.”

This is the same for many businesses.

The study took a close look at suburban office submarkets in and around Denver, Washington, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. In the “southeast suburban” Denver office district, for example, office buildings within a quarter-mile of the new light rail line had a 1.7 percent vacancy rate. For those outside a quarter-mile, vacancy rates were nine percentage points higher.

NGKF’s findings don’t mean that office tenant preferences are in perfect alignment with walkability, however.

This explains the tension in Saskatoon’s governance who are older and therefore prefer to drive.

Parking was also important to the marketability of buildings in suburban Denver. The report notes that a lot of older management personnel prefer to drive, while younger workers want transit access. So buildings that offered both were in the highest demand.

So do you build a office complex (or a city) for the past or for those you want to attract.  So far around here, it is about building for the past.

City of Saskatoon land branch sales fall by $100 million

This is bad news for the City of Saskatoon for a variety of reasons.  The one reason is that it provides funding for civic services and some of the profits were expected to pay of some of the growing city debt that our bridge building spree has cost us.

Long explained most of the land sale revenues go to paying Saskatoon Land expenses like servicing, marketing, land costs and administration.

However, since 2007 about $123 million from land sales has been redirected to pay for other civic initiatives, including another $4 million in the 2016 budget.

“There’s been a lot of benefits from the city being in the business of selling land,” Long said. “At the end of the day, it’s up to city council where the money goes.”

The other thing it means is that this is $100m less in development that is happening in Saskatoon.  I have heard from realtors, contractors, and increasingly laid off or under employed trades people that the boom is over and they are struggling.  Others are making plans to head back to British Columbia or Ontario.  The grass may have been greener in Saskatoon for a while but the fall of oils and the stagnant mining industry has taken it’s toll on a lot of people in Saskatoon.  This is just one of the many number of indicators that show us that things aren’t good right now in Saskatoon.

Council decides to revisit debate on public art funding because two councilors don’t like it.

Saskatoon City Council debates 1% art funding again because Eric Olauson didn’t like it the results the first time so here we are again.  Reporting from the CBC.

Saskatoon city council is still trying to figure out what it’s going to do about public art. At Monday’s council meeting, councillor Eric Olauson tried to rescind a policy to earmark one per cent of the budget of significant capital projects for public art.

The rest of Saskatoon City Council decided to move ahead with this last year but Councilors Olauson and Donauer bring it up again.

Last year, council decided that for high profile civic capital projects of $5 million dollars or more, one per cent of the city’s contribution — up to half a million dollars — would be earmarked to include a work of art. 

The public art reserve is one of the topics that dominated discussion around the council table during the annual city budget review on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Councillor Randy Donauer also questions the policy.

"What we had brought to us at budget this year was a half a million dollar project to put art on sound walls and on fire halls that I don’t think is line with what public perception for funded art is."

He said if art is inside a fire hall, the public won’t see it. If art is on a sound wall it can be vulnerable to graffiti.

Actually, in Saskatoon and elsewhere, graffiti artists leave art walls alone.  It is bare walls without walls that are vulnerable to being tagged.  As for the art indoors, by that  logic, all art should be taken outside of public buildings.

Donauer wants council to re-examine the policy and decide where and when public art should be built.

Council once took hours to debate the kind of material a fence should be made of in Sutherland.  Can you imagine a debate on where and what kind of art should be built?

Meanwhile councillor Charlie Clark said he believes there is some confusion about how the policy is applied.

"Intuitively it’s not one that you would think ‘OK we want to spend a lot of money to add public art into.’ Although I have had a lot of people say those sound walls are pretty boring. And they end up being a scar on the landscape in a way because they’re just plain and divide neighbourhoods from each other."

He said there are innovative ways to make them more interesting while the walls are being constructed.

He gave an example to a privately owned wall along Warman Road intentionally covered by graffiti, which he said has become quite "beloved in the community."

Expect more of this as we get closer to the provincial election where Olauson is desperate to raise his profile and prove his conservative credentials. 

Aunt Beth

I had a great aunt named Elizabeth.  The only reason I knew that is that it was on her Christmas stocking.  I always knew her as Aunt Beth.  She was my grandmother’s sister.  Never married, a chain smoker’s chain smoker, and staunch New Democrat.  She adopted our family growing up as hers and so every Christmas she would come down from Regina (she lived in the senior’s complex that looks like a giant suitcase – you know the one I am talking about) to stay in Saskatoon for a couple of weeks.  She also came down for her birthday and all of our birthdays.  Often for part of the summer and almost always for Labour Day weekend although for that I don’t know why.  Probably to see us off for school.

She travelled the world in between those trips so when I say she lived in Regina, that may have been an overstatement.  Since she did live alone, she never really got the family dynamic down.  She used to drive me crazy when on a Friday night and I was getting read to watch Miami Vice, she would come into our living room and and turn to Dallas.  I would just sit there and quietly put my socks back on.

Of course her entire extended family other than myself and my mom were New Democrats.  Strong New Democrats and union organizers.  Being part of a family where debating politics was a passion, having Aunt Beth here was great as there was a true to life New Democrat in our house who was both as obnoxious as my mom and I were as really funny as well.

The best debate was over Christmas and it was never spoken.  Being Progressive Conservatives, we would have a Christmas card from Grant Devine and Brian Mulroney over our mantle.  That wasn’t going to cut it for Aunt Beth.  So after one year of enduring this, the next one there was a card from Ed Broadbent and Al Blakeney on our mantle, placed just in front of the Devine/Mulroney cards.  The best part was that we never saw Aunt Beth put her cards in front of the other ones and she never saw me put the conservative cards back out front.  It would discretely change several times a day over well over 100 times over the holidays.   I never acknowledged by any of us publically other than a little snicker whenever someone was really discrete with it.  This went on from 1987-1991 when she passed away.

It’s funny but as partisan as all of us were back then, I don’t think a single harsh word was ever spoken about each other’s politics (lots of jokes though), we kept the intense arguments for what was important (I remember getting off the phone with her and she was livid and wanted to speak to my mom.  She had just gone to the Roughriders game and it was a blowout and she wanted to yell about it).  That was the only time I remember her getting angry over anything.

I still miss her.  She was a lot of fun to be around but the biggest lesson she taught me was the family and respect was far more important than making a political point to someone.  We had great talks about all sorts of policies and different world views but it was never personal (well the jokes were) but having your Christmas card in front of the other guys was really important.

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #30 – Third Avenue United Church

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #30 - Third Avenue United Church

Back in January I was out for a walk on a warm winter day.  I captured this with my Pentax K-30 with a 28mm f/2.8 manual focus lens.  Flickr seemed to like this more than I did.  That being said, Third Avenue United Church is a hard building to photography from the street.  The ugly pine tree and overhead wires take away a lot from a photograph of the building. 

Top 31 Photos of 2015: #31 Scotiabank in Downtown Saskatoon

Scotiabank in downtown Saskatoon

According to Flickr, this was my 31st most interesting photo of 2015.  It was taken with my Pentax MX-1 while walking along 2nd Avenue in March.  If I remember correctly, the Google Street View car glared at me when I pulled my camera out which confused me since he was driving a giant camera himself.

I’ll be counting down and posting a new one each day until the end of 2015.

Hiking the Kingsmere Lake Trail in Prince Albert National Park

Easy 1.5 – 2.0 km One Way Hike

On Sunday, Wendy, Mark, Oliver, Marley and I drove to Prince Albert National Park and hiked the Kingsmere River Trail at the far end of Kingsmere Road.  The first 15 km of the road out of Waskesiu is paved with narrow shoulders but the last 17.5 km is gravel and pretty soft.  It’s not a road you would want to drive on after a couple of days of rain.  It takes about 15-20 minutes to get the parking lot and picnic area with washrooms.

The trail shares the trailhead with the start of the Grey Owl trail.  Take the path for the first 500 metres before you come to a clear sign that directs you to the Kingsmere River Trail and the stairs that take you into the valley. 

At the bottom of the stairs you will come to a bridge where you can see the clear water flowing along the Kingsmere River. Once your across the bridge you will see a set of train tracks. These tracks are used for people to move small boats or canoes to Kingsmere Lake. Follow the tracks until you get to a dirt and later rock covered trail.  The dirt trail will bring you all the way to the Southend Campground. Once at the campground area, you will have a picnic area, stove, out houses, and bear stands. The campground area over looks Kingsmere Lake, and if you look over to your left you will spot a cabin with a boat, and that is the Park Warden’s cabin.

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I am endorsing…

Since the editor of the site is the same as the publisher, I am given tremendous latitude in who I endorse around here.

In Saskatoon West where I live, I have a choice between:

  • Randy Donauer: Conservative
  • Lisa Abbott: Liberal
  • Sheri Benson: NDP

Of the three, the NDP were the only ones that knocked on my door.  A gaggle of Conservatives walked by my door, looked at the address, checked their database and kept walking.  Apparently they were not interested in either Wendy or my vote in this election.  I wasn’t even robo-called called by the Conservatives or the Liberals.  So yeah, thanks for the effort teams.

For me the decision comes down to the Liberals and the NDP, both parties are outside of my federal comfort levels.  I have serious problems with both of their platforms but nothing compared to the problems I had with the Conservative campaign. 

I also have been poorly served by Kelly Block’s office.  When I used to contact Carol Skelton’s office, I always got a personal follow up from Skelton, even when she was a minister.   The one time I contacted Kelly Block’s about a serious issue, I was sent Conservative Party talking points by an assistant. 

I have watched Randy Donauer as a city councillor and I was greatly disappointed in the change I saw from the time he announced his candidacy until now.  He was always a fiscal conservative which is needed but to see him pander that almost exclusively in council meetings was frustrating.  From the time that he announced his candidacy, I called on him to resign his seat on council (just as I did when Councillors Paulsen and Hill did when the ran for the Liberals) which is the same as other some other cities require.

As for the Conservative record. 

  • Bill C-51 when the United States has proven that local police will abuse powers.
  • Elimination of the Mandatory Long Form Census
  • Botched military procurement (which to be honest, isn’t all their fault)
  • Seeing military procurement as a job builder rather than equipping the Canadian Forces with the best gear possible.
  • The Mike Duffy debacle
  • The Pamela Wallin debacle
  • The decision to shut down the senate without making a serious effort at reforming it.
  • Lack of participation with the Premiers
  • Cutting funding to the Homelessness Partnering Program
  • The feud with the Supreme Court of Canada
  • The lack of desire to fix unsafe water conditions on Canadian reserves.
  • Muzzling of scientists then lying about it.

I grew up in a Conservative household.  I was part of PC Youth.  I still defend Grant Divine when push comes to shove but I can’t defend this record.  Part of me thinks that if another Conservative government had acted like this, Stephen Harper would start his own party… oh right, that is exactly what he did do.

I thought Lisa Abbott has run a great campaign.  So great that it may cause an unfavourable vote split between the Liberals and the NDP but that it the first past the post system.  She has run the best Liberal campaign I have ever seen in Saskatoon West since I moved here in 1984.   Her candidacy (and the Justin Trudeau campaign) have made Liberals relevant in Saskatoon West for the first time ever.  I can’t speak highly enough of how she carries herself in this campaign.

As for Sheri Benson, she has been working on issues that political parties ignored during this campaign.  Poverty and homelessness for years through the Saskatoon United Way.  She has brought different social agencies together (it’s like herding cats but harder) and brought focus to issues that few care about.  If Lisa Abbott has been helped by the Trudeau campaign, Benson has probably been hurt by the mediocre NDP campaign (the phrase “You NDP’d that up” for when you should win but don’t is now entering our lexicon).

If I lived in Saskatoon Grasswords, I would vote for Tracy Muggli and in Saskatoon University I’d vote for Cynthia Block.  Both are excellent candidates that deserve to be in Ottawa.

Living in Saskatoon West, I am going to endorse Sheri Benson.  She has shown the ability to move local issues that few cared about forward and that is what we will need in Ottawa.  In a minority government, all parties will need people who can bring people together.  Sheri will do that for the NDP. 

That being said, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Lisa Abbott for her campaign.  She would also make a great MP from what I have seen and if either one of them are unsuccessful, I hope they run again either provincially or federally.