Category Archives: Saskatchewan

Think Big

This video was just posted to YouTube by the Government of Saskatchewan.  The quote at 2:18 by Scott Saxberg of Crescent Point Energy.  Here is the extended quote from the directors cut.

“Saskatchewan is a different province in that they have a great regulatory regime and they are always continually optimizing it and they are trying to improve upon it and work with industry to grow that industry.”

That is not the role of the regulatory regime.  The role of a regulatory regime is to protect investors/citizens/environment from industry, not help grow it.  Also, the day after Hitachi makes massive cuts in Saskatoon, someone decided to post a video of it’s CEO talking about innovation in Saskatchewan?  Then the same Cameco CEO that doesn’t like to pay taxes here?  If I had paid for this video (as a taxpayer I guess I have), I want it scrubbed from the web and never shown to anyone again.

Bridge City 2.0

I have been asked a lot lately if Bridge City is now fixed.  For those of you not keeping track at home, I crashed Bridge City a few months ago and lost about 500 posts and photos.  I was devastated and felt like giving up on the project to document most of the important buildings and landmarks in Saskatoon. 

The Calgary Tower

Since then I have been uploading and putting back parts of the site that I had thought I had lost.  It’s a slow process but one that is making progress.

Right now there are 373 posts on the site with a new one going live each day from now until basically early 2017.  If I keep shooting at this pace, we should be okay through the end of 2018 in a few months.  That is awesome.  I am also backfilling a lot of posts on the day that I took them.  So if I took a photo in 2012, I am uploading it the day I took it in the timeline.  The good news is that it gives the photos their correct chronological context, the bad news is that I didn’t do that with version 1.  So a photo that I once posted in 2015 may be now posted in 2011. 

Some of you have criticized the travel sections because they are not from Saskatoon.  To that I say, “meh”.  I travel, I like taking photos and I like reading about the architects who build stuff.  You can deal with it.

I have also been asked what is the local response.  Traffic is up but engagement with builders, property owners and architects is also up.  I have also had some question the accuracy of what I have written here because their documents are different.  Those conversations are a lot of fun because mysteries or contradictory information is fun to resolve. 

The goal is 1000 posts by New Year’s Day.  90% of that will be Saskatoon.  So if you want to keep up to date, check back daily and browse the archives. It’s a ridiculous project and in some ways I wish I had never started but someone had to figure out the history of every building in the city didn’t they?  What’s that?  They didn’t?!  Darn it.

Some quick hits

  • So yeah, the infection in my leg is taking over my body again.  The specialist was hoping we had it killed but it came back in under 48 hours and started to move through my body.  Am back on antibiotics but right now my throat, ear, eyes, leg, and many joints hurt.  Also the fever is something else.  It was a year ago that I dragged myself into St. Paul’s Hospital and the doctor simply said after doing blood work, “this infection is killing you”.  A year later, it still seems able to do that.  Yes it still sucks.
  • Why do dogs sense that you have a fever and decide at that moment above all else, they need to hold you.  I love Marley but I am sick, the last thing I want is to wake up to a dog sleeping nose to nose with me and touching me.  She has twice tried to cover me up today as well.  Also, where is that service when I am cold and she is taking my covers?
  • I keep hearing that Bev Dubois is running for mayor.   This could be the greatest thing over for the Charlie Clark campaign even if Atch does drop out.
  • I watch Ken Burn’s The Roosevelt’s the other day.  The entire documentary series may be his best yet.  If you haven’t seen it, it is on Netflix. 
  • I’m missing something but I don’t understand Black Lives Matter protesting and disturbing the Toronto Pride Parade.   I am totally okay with protesting but I don’t know what disturbing the Toronto Pride Parade accomplishes when they are clearly not the ones that Black Lives Matter has an issue with.   Also, how does a festival that is about inclusiveness has a history of “anti-blackness”.    Then they wanted to kick out the Toronto Police floats who BLM sees as racist, even if their new chief is black.  At the end of the day, I don’t understand activists.
  • Kudos to John Tory, Kathleen Wynne, Naheed Nenshi, Justin Trudeau and all of the other politicians who took stands and participated or lead Pride parades in their cities.  You will notice that I left Atch’s name off that list.  His refusal to march in the parade like almost every other liberal and conservative politician in Canada boggles my mind.

Promoting Local

The other day I walked into my favorite restaurant and was immediately swarmed by the owner, the cook, and the waiter who all thanked me for mentioning their restaurant in The StarPhoenix and in an media interview I did.  They mentioned how people have come by because of what I say on Twitter and my blog as well.  I thought the whole thing was kind of cool but as I said, “I’m not the one making the killer lunch specials.”

We all know that social media advertising works but one thing is that I have never understood about how politicians don’t use it more to promote their own ward businesses.  Economic development is an important part of any politicians local goals and I think they ignore the platform that being elected and their social media profiles give them to promote just that to promote business in their ward or constituency.

While I want my elected officials to look at the big picture, promoting the underdogs in the ward can be a good thing and as Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi has shown, it’s something that can be easily done in the evening during quieter hours.  Whether as a mayor or a councilor or MLA, what cooler project would it be to visit and promote your constituents businesses and organizations to a wider audience.  I’m talking Walmart’s but the family owned businesses that make up our smaller commercial districts.

Does it make a difference.  You should check out my email when either Wendy and I blog about a local business.  I write about it, you click on it, some of you stop by and buy from them and people are happy.  More politicians need to do this.  If it makes a difference for local businesses when I do it, imagine what can happen when they do it.

Lifestyle Choices

So the Mayor of Saskatoon wrote a statement condemning the attacks in Orlando.  Personally I don’t get these statements.  He is the Mayor of a city of 250,000 people several thousand miles away.  If it as it seems now that the shooter was a deranged ISIL fanboy, what does the statement do.  Cynically I think the statement arose after a large vigil was held at City Hall last night and after seeing it, Atch realized that not marching in the city’s Pride Parade was a political mistake.

So when he does issue it, he uses the phrase, “lifestyle choices” which denotes that homosexuality is a choice that people make and they are not born that way.  It’s politer than saying, “sinners” I guess but the connotation for many is the same.

Today after it was pointed out by myself and others that “lifestyle choices” is offensive, the Mayor’s communications assistant Richard Brown sent out an apology for the phrase which brings up some other questions.  If the mayor read over the statement, did the phrase “lifestyle choices” not jump out at him as offensive or did he just not read a statement put out in his name.  Either way it is offensive.

Is it too much to expect a mayor of Saskatoon to read the statements that go out in his name and understand that certain phrases are offensive?  Is it too much to want a mayor to be inclusive of a good part of the population in his own city?

A Short Disclaimer

Some of you have asked if I am helping with any political campaigns in the municipal election.  The answer is no.  I did no work on campaigns in the provincial or federal election either.

I will let you know that Wendy and I are friends with a few candidates and councilors like Jeff Jackson and Zach Jeffries.  I have hundreds if not thousands of political discussions over the last five or six years with them, often mocking and criticizing them.  I have called out Zach in columns and in the blog and I think I have been fair when I have done it.  I can tell you that I have never pulled a punch or a criticism of a politician because of a friendship and that has ended some friendship (which sucks by the way).

If Jeff wins, I can’t promise to call him out but if he does anything stupid or against the interests of the city, I most definitely will call him out on it somewhere.  He knows that and I am sure will tell me how wrong I am at a high volume when I do.

Some ask me if that influences what I write about.  Yes and no.  No in the sense that they don’t give me direction on what to write about.  Yes in that some of them are also reading and researching aspects of urban life and they bring up some interesting idea of policy being looked at or implemented somewhere, I read it and research it myself.  It’s just nerds sharing ideas on urbanism and cities. 

Wendy and I are both friends with Councilor Pat Lorje.  Both Mark and Oliver would consider her a friend as well.  Now that I think about it, most of our conversations have to do politics outside of Saskatoon.  American politics and even some Spanish discussions.  She also has given Wendy and I some solid parenting advice which we appreciate.  For those of you who follow my writing, you know that Councilor Lorje and I are on the opposite sides of some issues that both of us feel quite strongly about.  She has gone to great extent to telling me how wrong I was on columns in the past and I assure you she will in the future.

I also have a good working and personal relationship with Councilor Darren Hill.  We have grabbed the occasional drink over the years and mostly discussed issues relating the ward and city.  Most of those were constituent – councilor conversations but like all of politicos we do talk politics.  We also have disagreed on things over the years.  I have endorsed him the last two campaigns.  I may or may not this one but I think it is fair to Darren and anyone who is running against him to wait and see campaign platforms before I endorse.

Wendy and I both get along with socially with some other councilors.  I don’t offer up that much in policy suggestions but if I have read something similar to what they are musing about, I tend to fire them off some things.

Before you accuse me of being too close to council, let’s recall they hired a RCMP investigator to investigate non-existent leaks to me.   I also think as a group they collectively are one of the worst city councils in Canada.  Some of them have personally expressed their contempt and hatred of me in person and in writing.   I try not to take it personally.

Those of you who have seen me having a drink or a coffee with a politician need to know this, they aren’t asking me for advice and if they are good at what they do, they ignore any advice they give them.  I don’t care about the political process which is bad for a politician in an election year.  I am not a strategist, a tactician, or anything else.  I am a friend and a pundit but I tend to stay out of it during campaigns other than listen to funny door-knocking stories. 

If you have any thoughts or concerns about my objectivity, let me know.  I’d love to hear them.

A week

His sunglasses are packed somewhere

I took this photo of Mark today just minutes before we drove him to Bedford Road Collegiate and dropped him off for his school canoe trip.  He is headed to Sturgeon Lake and if all goes well, he will return Tuesday.  If it doesn’t go well, this photo will help search and rescuers find him.

As we pulled up to the school, other kids were walking up with full body pillows and big luggage.  It reminded Mark and I over every failed exploration documentary ever.

The Expedition brought along fine china and suits from the best tailors in London.

Provided he does get back, we will take another trip on Saturday with the 2016 Ford Flex (Thanks Ford Canada, we appreciate it) to Prince Albert National Park.  After stopping in Waskesiu, we will pick up our back country permit and then we drive north past the Waskesiu Marina until we see this sign.

Grey Owl's Cabin in Prince Albert National Park

Then we take a big gulp, tighten up our hiking boots, grab our bags, and then start to walk for 17 kilometers until we get to Northend Campground.  When we get there, we will make camp, store our food up high and then push on for another 3 kilometers until we get to Ajawaan Lake and see Grey Owl’s cabin.

Once there, we will check it out and then head back to the campground for the evening.  I am told that nothing beats smokies and Kraft Dinner after a long hike in the backcountry so I will put that to the test.  Personally I think perfectly barbecued steaks would be ideal but Wendy doesn’t want to carry the barbecue and Oliver is balking at carrying a full propane tank for it.  It’s obvious someone hasn’t bought into my vision for the ideal hike.

As for gear, Wendy, Mark, and I all have expedition sized packs. 

I get to carry:

  • Mountain Hardwear Drifter 2 Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Clothes
  • Camera gear (
  • Primus Classic Stove and fuel
  • Water
  • Coffee Press
  • Stanley Travel Mug
  • Mess kit
  • Food
  • Hatchet (Northend campground has firewood but I need to split up kindling)
  • Headlamp
  • Multi-tool and knife.
  • Wendy is carrying

    • Sleeping bag
    • Clothes
    • Pot for boiling food
    • Food
    • Water
    • Travel mug
    • Mess kit
    • First Aid Kit
    • Headlamp

    Mark is carrying

    • Eureka two person tent
    • Sleeping bag
    • Clothes
    • Water
    • Mess kit
    • Travel mug
    • Food
    • Lantern
    • Headlamp

    Oliver is carrying up

    • Sleeping bag (it’s fleece and a lot smaller than other sleeping bags)
    • Clothes
    • Mess kit
    • Travel mug
    • Water
    • Food
    • Headlamp
    • Flashlight
    • Bushnell Backtrack GPS (he won’t need it but he got it for his birthday and is super excited about it)

    Marley is carrying

    • Dog food
    • Dog dishes
    • Bear bell

    We also have some things like GPS’s (which aren’t needed as the trail follows the lake but it is nice to know how much further), headlamps, flashlights, and some reading material for Friday night.

    Food is pretty simple.  We are all a fan of Marty Belanger’s hiking videos on YouTube and he has this short video on how to pack food for a multi day hike (I just refuse to use instant coffee).   He pre packs his meals into zip lock bags which do for each of us.

    Friday Meals

    • Breakfast at home
    • Lunch
      • Tortilla shells
      • Broccoli and Cheese Rice to go inside of shells
      • Cliff bars
    • Dinner
    • Kraft Dinner
    • Smokies cooked over a fire announcing to all Black Bears in Prince Albert National Park that we have food they might enjoy.  We will cook these 100 metres or so from campground as suggested by Parks Canada and common sense.
    • Chocolate bars for dessert
    • Tea and hot chocolate
  • Snack
    • Oysters over the fire

    Saturday Meals

    • Breakfast
      • Oatmeal
      • Granola bars
      • Hot Chocolate
      • Coffee
    • Lunch
      • Sidekick pasta
      • Tuna wraps with tortilla

    Raman noodles as needed and we do have enough food in case there is an emergency.

    The only thing that concerns me is that we both have two person tents and the dog likes to sleep between Wendy and I.  That could be for a long night where one of us is sleeping in the vestibule.   That person could be me.

    If all goes well, we will be out by mid afternoon on Sunday and back in Waskesiu for supper.   The Ford Flex has both air conditioned and heated seats.  I am unsure at this time which I will be turning on first as we leave the parking lot.

    This expedition does have it’s own website here.    We’ll be posting much more once we are done there.

    Saskatoon City Council Roundup

    • I updated the Candidate tracking page here. With Jeff Jackson’s candidacy, Evan Drisner and Charlie Clark campaign websites.
    • Jeff is a good friend of mine.  I am just tossing that out there in terms of disclosure.
    • A little shocked to read that Drisner singing the praises of Eric Olauson.  Most would have considered Olauson a terrible councilor that contributed little to the city.   He was unprepared for most meetings I watched, didn’t appear to have read his council packet, and was more interested in his version of partisanship than anything about constituents.  Yes he was elected as a MLA but on the coat tails of the most popular Premier in provincial history.
    • I have heard from several that Atchison’s fundraiser was not a success.  Corporate tables sold out but where full of junior associates and staff and the individual seats were less then half full.  Oddly enough people keep pointing out that Atch didn’t thank people individually or work the room.
    • Atch isn’t marching in the Saskatoon Pride Parade again.  I really wish this wasn’t an issue and that had done it before.  He is invited every year and every year he comes up with a ridiculous excuse (or just is silent) on why he doesn’t do it.  I’m not a politician but I too am missing the Pride Parade.  Wendy, Oliver, Mark and I are hiking to Grey Owl’s cabin that weekend.  We have attended in the past though.
    • For those of you who say, “It’s his personal choice if he wants to attend the event.”   Fair enough but no one forced him to run as mayor either. When you seek public office, there are certain obligations.  As almost every Canadian mayor and politician has shown, marking in a Pride parade is an important part of that.

    Sturdy Stone Centre

    Sturdy Stone Centre in SaskatoonSturdy Stone Centre in SaskatoonSturdy Stone Centre in Saskatoon

    It’s ugly no matter what angle you photograph it from. 

    This 13 story building was built in the Brutalist style of architecture and opened in 1977. Floors 3 to 7 are used as a parkade, with the remainder of the building being office space. It was designed by the architecture firm of Forrester, Scott, Bowers, Cooper and Walls.

    This was formerly the site of the Standard Trust Building, a seven-storey office building. It was built in 1912-1913 and demolished in 1976 to make way for the Sturdy Stone Centre. Public concern raised about the demolition of that building caused the Saskatoon Heritage Society to be formed.

    Well this doesn’t look good.

    So the other day I was messing around with my photo project Bridge City and everything went wrong with the database.  My WordPress database was messed up.  The backup was less messed up but it was a mess.  I felt like hurling.

    For those of you know follow it, you know that I have uploaded about 750 high resolution photos of Saskatoon to the site, organized by neighborhood.  For the historical buildings in Saskatoon, I tracked down the architect and learned a lot about the city in the process.  There was David Webster the father and David Webster the son.  Many historical records claim David Webster as architect when he wasn’t and some historical records have contradictory information which often means the building construction is more complicated than we ever thought.  Personally I think at one point in our city’s history, if we didn’t know who the architect was, someone at the back at the room yelled out, “David Webster” and someone said, “sounds good” and that was it.

    The project has been a lot of fun as I have spent many a day off buried in archives and online tracking down a list of questions that I can’t find an answer for.

    Since the project is to document the important buildings in the city, it has gotten me off the couch and out in the streets, often with Mark and Wendy in tow as we try to capture the building.  This process has attracted building owners, neighbors, and even Saskatoon City Police officers to see what I am up to and then share some of what they know.  It’s been a lot of fun.

    The good news is that the photos aren’t lost but the information and research is.  For a couple of days I was torn between recreating the site or just posting the photos here.

    From a branding perspective, having my photography under my site and name makes the most sense but I really like being able to browse by neighborhood and creating a resource that is used by a lot of you.  For all intents and purposes my Flickr account does the same thing but I enjoy going through it, researching what I have captured and filling out the site.

    The plan is to upload and post 10 archival posts a night to Bridge City and of course one new one each day.  Hopefully the site will be back to where it was (and maybe even better) by late summer.   So if you are one of the people that checked it out and used it as a resource, thanks for reading, commenting, and correcting.  I love the input.

    I get asked all of the time why I spend so much time documenting and capturing the city.  Basically as a writer, I find myself writing about what is messed up with the city.  I write about social justice and City Hall.  I deal with politicians who look me in the eye and lie to me.  That kills one’s enthusiasm for the city you live in.

    Then I go out with my Pentax K-3 or a cheap point and shoot and I see the city in a different way.  The city slows down.  There is time for coffee and chatting.  I find myself falling in love with this city all over again.  In the end, carrying a camera and shooting some photos or video connects me to the city and it’s people.  That’s still kind of important to me.

    Albert Community Centre

    Albert Community Centre in Saskatoon

    The Albert Community Centre was built in 1912.  It  is a designated Municipal Heritage Property located in the Varsity View. Originally built as the Albert School, the two-and-a-half story brick building served as a public school until 1978 when the building was sold to the city and became the Albert Community Centre.  It is one of the “castle schools” designed by local architect, David Webster.