Category Archives: Saskatchewan

The reality of politics

During the federal election, I remember watching long term Parliament Hill reporters in shock at some of the NDP and Conservative MPs who were losing.  They all said the same thing; they were hard working, not hyper partisan, and cared a lot about constituent issues. 

I was reminded of the same when Cam Broten lost tonight.  I have known Cam for five or six years and have seen him work extremely hard as an MLA on a lot of different issues.  Because of Wendy’s job and the neighborhood we live in, she has referred many people to talk to Cam and seek his help.  Most times they have reported to her that Cam’s office was able to help them sort out their problems; even if it wasn’t a provincial issue.  He was a great MLA.   I was always happy to see him and he has been in Wendy’s and my home.

For a bunch of reasons, it didn’t work out for him as the leader of the opposition.  Winning such a tight leadership race which was essentially the centric base of the NDP versus the left wing made it impossible to consolidate the party.  It also probably didn’t help that the “socialist” Bernie Sanders was making inroads in the Democratic primary and the left wing Rachel Notley is Premier of Alberta (even if she won because of a right wing civil war).  There was this feeling amongst many is that Broten was too centrist for the NDP, even if that is the kind of leader that Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert were.  I don’t think the comments from Ryan Meili were overly helpful.  Neither was him not getting involved to help move the party forward.  It hurt Broten, it hurt the NDP.

Also, Brad Wall is incredibly popular.  How do you attack an incredibly popular Premier without upsetting people.  I keep hearing people he should have gone negative even more but that’s hard when people won’t believe it; remember, you have to believe in it for negative ads to work.  Also without the NDP having any rural strength, how do you actually act like a government in waiting.  This election was going to be bad regardless.  I said the upside was 20, the low was 5.  I predicted 14.  They got 10.

In the last week I could feel the vote collapsing for the NDP.  You could feel voters making the move to the Saskatchewan Party.  I don’t know why it happened but once it happens, it’s almost impossible to stop.   If Cam wasn’t the leader of the opposition, he would have survived with his seat but he was and Saskatchewan loses a hard working public servant.  That’s the reality of politics.

Tonight, the NDP need to do some soul searching.  Their party doesn’t exist outside of the inner city Saskatoon, Regina, and part of Prince Albert and now they have the same problem they came into this election with, a new leader, a caucus that didn’t run under the new leader, and nothing close to a rural breakthrough in sight.    It is a party that is a centre left party in a province that has swung to the right.  So whoever it is that is the new leader, have fun because one thing that we have learned is that being the leader of the Saskatchewan NDP could be the most thankless job in Saskatchewan.

2016 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship

As I wrote about on Thursday, Ford Canada sent Wendy, Oliver, Mark, and myself to the 2016 Ford World Women’s Curling Championship in Swift Current, Saskatchewan on Friday and Saturday.  Not only that but they gave us a 2016 Ford Explorer for the weekend to get us there and back.

2016 Ford Explorer

I was given the vehicle on Thursday which gave me a day to get used to it.  The Explorer is what you would expect from a luxury SUV.  Lot of room, heated seats, air conditioned seats, heated steering wheel.  Six cup holders up front.  Heated seats in the second row.  It also has different traction controls which on Thursday, it looked like I would need as we drove to Rosetown and then down south on Highway 4.

Interior of the 2016 Ford Explorer

On Friday afternoon as we got ready to leave for Swift Current, I was loading the SUV with our bags and I noticed it had a third row of seats.  Immediately Oliver volunteered to sit back there and chill out with his Nintendo 3DS.   I picked up Wendy from work and we headed south with Mark in the middle row.

Interior of 2016 Ford Explorer

While three rows is more than we need, having it is amazing when travelling with a family.  Both boys just did their own thing and didn’t say a word to each other.  Not only that but because they weren’t on each other’s nerves for the ride down, they seemed almost thrilled to hang out again in the hotel and dinner.  Not only did it make for a nicer drive, it made for a better drive.

The ride was the one thing I was curious about.  Last week at this time, summer was here.  Then winter came back and the weather was cool and snowy all week.  I was wondering how the Ford Explorer would handle the roads between here and Swift Current.  For those of you who don’t know, the Ford SUVs are incredible in slippery conditions.  They drop down, add extra stability, and more or less own winter.  Luckily the weather improved and it was a snow and ice free drive from Saskatoon to Swift Current and back.  Not being able to test the all weather capability of the Ford Explorer was okay with me but it is nice to know about when you need it.

Wendy was incredibly sick on Friday and slept for most of the way.  While the highways isn’t the best, the ride was quiet enough and smooth enough that she slept from outside of Saskatoon to almost Swift Current.  She woke up in time for me to discover the seat massager which helped her with a really sore back.  Combine that with heated seats, it made a big difference in her weekend.  Wendy made a good point in writing about the weekend, the heated seats feel amazing if you are under the weather.

Of course the best part of the drive was that we listened to ESPN Radio.  On ESPN, they aired constant commercials for Zyppah which is an anti snoring device.  So Wendy is sleeping and snoring up a storm and every time the commercial comes on, we all crack up.  Well except for Wendy, who was snoring.

Motel 6 in Swift Current, Saskatchewan

When we got down to Swift Current, we check into the Motel 6 suite that Ford booked for us.  It is a great hotel and was fine for the family.  We got unpacked and went for a drive around Swift Current while we decided on dinner.  Everyone we talked to suggested Wong’s Kitchen which is where we ended up.   After ordering an order for 4, we all laughed when it came out.  It was the biggest portions that I have ever seen in my life.  It could have fed 10.  After barely making a dent into pile of food, we called it a night and went  back to the hotel.

If I have one complaint about the hotel it is that the chain doesn’t have a feedback form online so I can leave comments about how great of stay it was.  Yes some idiots stumbled into the hotel early in the morning and woke everyone up but that isn’t the hotel’s fault.  Being a concrete building, I only heard it on my floor and no clomping around above me.  The room was clean, the service was good, and the free coffee was appreciated.

The next morning was early.  All of us wanted to get up and explore a bit of Swift Current and get a good meal before heading to the Credit Union iPlex for the start of the curling.   We got up, went to Humpty’s, stopped by Cypress Motors Ltd. and picked up our tickets and then checked out downtown Swift Current.

The Imperial Hotel in downtown Swift Current

Innovation Credit Union in Swift Current

Customs and Excise in Swift Current, Saskatchewan

The architecture of First United Church

First United Church in Swift Current, SaskatchewanFirst United Church in Swift Current, SaskatchewanFirst United Church in Swift Current, Saskatchewan

Then it was off to the Credit Union iPlex to get our seats before the Opening Ceremonies began.

Heading into the Credit Union iPlex2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsMark and Olvier before the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

I learned something very important yesterday.  It doesn’t matter how loud you are or how many speakers your public address system has, it means nothing when 13 bag pipers walk into your hockey arena.  The M.C. wasn’t quite done yet when the Pipes and drums from Saskatoon Legion #63 decided to make an entrance.  No matter what needed to be said, the room belonged to these pipers. 

Opening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

There is nothing quite like 13 bag pipers going all out to start an event off right.

Opening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsOpening ceremonies of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

Before you ask where the photos are of Team Canada, the additional lighting that was installed to illuminate the ice worked great but Team Canada was marched in right in front of us, outside the additional lights.  To make a long story short, my photos of them sucked. 

So the after the pipers, piped, the drummers drummed and the speakers spoke, we had two hours to kill.  I have written about how bad the food was at SaskTel Centre is before.   Then I go to Swift Current where the food is absolutely amazing.   There were so many choices that it was kind of overwhelming.  Not only were there choices beyond burgers and nachos, there were good and exciting choices.  So instead of leaving the arena, we ate there and were thrilled with our choice.

There was a souvenir area that I went in with Wendy.  I wanted to give her a curling rock themed toque but she said absolutely not.  Instead I got her a t-shirt, a coffee cup, and a pair of curling rock shaped earrings.  Oliver wanted a Canadian flag to wave so I got him that and a pin.  Everyone was full and happy when they sat down for the start of the first draw. 

Draw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling ChampionshipsDraw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

For you curling fans out there, Canada fell into a deep hole, climbed out of it, gained the lead, lost the lead, and then won in overtime.  It was a little tense for those of us who were right there.  We were all happy and relieved when Team Canada pulled out the win against a great team from Denmark.

Draw 1 of the 2016 Ford World Women's Curling Championships

So this is the Russian skip.  She never said a single word the entire game.  She was playing (and destroying) the Italian team whose skip talked the entire game.  One sheet over was the Japanese team who screamed, pleaded, and begged the rock to do what she wanted it to (it worked as her team won) but the Russian skip was quiet all game.  Never yelled the Russian equivalent of hurry or hard once.  Of course from where I was watching, the Italian team was out classed so maybe she was quiet because she didn’t need to say anything.

After leaving the Credit Union iPlex, we fueled up and started the drive home.  It’s a great driving SUV.  I am still really partial to the Ford Escape, if I was looking for something larger, the Ford Explorer is a great option.  It made a long drive seem effortless.  If you are looking for a larger SUV that seats seven, this is what you are looking for.  I drove over 600 kilometers in it and didn’t have a complaint.  Even more importantly, no one else in the family did either.

Last night w got home in decent time and called it a night.  While the Motel 6 in Swift Current was great, there is nothing quite like sleeping in your own bed, even if that means you have to fight a dog for space and covers.

Wendy writes about her weekend with the Ford Explorer and the 2016 World Women’s Championships here.

Overheard in Swift Current

I was down in Swift Current this weekend.  It’s a gorgeous city that has benefitted from the oil boom tremendously.  You see it everywhere from box seats in the Credit Union iPlex to new buildings throughout town.  Better wheat and grain prices haven’t hurt either.

Every conversation I was a part of… while checking into the hotel to breakfast at the Humpty’s to the conversations around me at the curling contained one word; layoffs and how scared people were as they hit closer and close to home.

Oil is the economy in Swift Current.  Oil and farming.  With the family farm nearly extinct (something you really notice driving down Highway 4), there  are less and less opportunities to make money.  That was the boom of the oil fields.  People who had no choice to go to Alberta for work could stay at home and get jobs.  Now neither option is on the table and people are scared.

I have heard some people say, “why can’t they go back and farm”.  40 years ago that was an option.  Family farms were smaller which meant smaller and less expensive machinery, land values were smaller and you could make a living on a section or a section and a half of land.  I’ve had friends who have tried to start up farming.  It was almost impossible to do, even with family help.  Equipment costs are one hurdle but with corporate farms able to pay well above market rate for farmland, the small farmer doesn’t stand a chance.

So what’s the plan for the provincial government?  Not a lot actually.  Neither the Saskatchewan Party (let’s be honest, they’ve run out of ideas) and the NDP (who are ignoring rural Saskatchewan in this election) don’t have any.  The Saskatchewan Party is paving highways and is going to replenish the rainy day fund (which they have depleted running deficit after deficit when times were good) when oil hits $75 a barrel. 

Are they delusional?

Note to the rest of us, $75 a barrel oil is delusional.  It may not return for years.

Which gets to my point.  The Sask Party is more or less telling us that this is a momentary blip and things will be okay on the other side.  It’s good politics but horrible governance because they don’t know if things get better ever again.   It reminds me of when Grant Devine used to say and believe that things will be okay as soon as the rain returns and the prices rebound.  It never did in his time in power and people were hurt.

There isn’t an easy solution.  Saskatchewan doesn’t have a large manufacturing  base but part of me wonders that small targeted investing and mentoring in larger Saskatchewan towns and smaller cities as a way to help people start and grow small businesses is needed.  We have the same kind of things in the city with Ideas Inc and whatever it is that SREDA is doing (basically the same thing as Ideas Inc is doing but I am too lazy to Google it.  Oh wait, it’s called Square One and it the same kind of thing as Ideas Inc but without office space.) 

Make it competitive.  Go after only the  best ideas.  Keep politicians out of it.  Use the model of Y! Combinator.

Twice a year we invest a small amount of money ($120k) in a large number of startups (most recently 107).

The startups move to Silicon Valley for 3 months, during which we work intensively with them to get the company into the best possible shape and refine their pitch to investors. Each cycle culminates in Demo Day, when the startups present their companies to a carefully selected, invite-only audience.

Maybe that is the wrong model, maybe it is the right one.  All I know is there needs to be a long game of building entrepreneurial capacity and hope in Saskatchewan that isn’t based solely on the price of Brent crude.   The Saskatchewan Party kind of flails at the topic when they suggest it to be easier for more home made food to be sold in gas stations.  Outside of the entire discussion of food safe practices and the rather demeaning nature of this policy, they are right in that it needs to be easier for home based businesses to make money and hopefully hire employees.

The easy option will be to try  to do this with government spending on mega projects or pie in the sky schemes to attract manufacturers to Saskatchewan.  Anyone recall that airplane manufacturer that was going to make airplanes in Saskatoon?  That turned out well didn’t it?  I can go on and on about the NDP schemes as well.  Megaprojects aren’t saving rural Saskatchewan.

The only thing going on in rural Saskatchewan is resource extraction of some sort and unless we want to keep living a boom and bust cycle, finding ways for rural Saskatchewan to be about more than oil, farming, and government jobs, something has to change and right now, it isn’t even a political discussion.

(Ford) #ExploreSask

Ford Canada is lending me a 2016 Ford Explorer to take to Swift Current tomorrow and take in some of the 2016 Ford World’s Women Curling Championship.  

2016 Ford Explorer

I don’t know if Ford knows this but the drive from Saskatoon to Swift Current is a lot of fun.  First of all you drive from Saskatoon to Rosetown which is no fun at all.  Then once you turn south, the drive gets better.  You get into some hills and curves.  The scenery is great.  There are giant wind farms.  There is Saskatchewan Landing.  Just thinking about taking that SUV down to Swift Current makes me smile.  I love driving that road.

So why am I doing this?  Well let’s get this out the way.

  • I don’t work for Ford.  Nor am I paid for anything that I write about Ford vehicles.  They give me complete freedom to write what I think about their cars. Over the years when I have written about things that I may not like, I have been contacted by people from Ford asking for more feedback and ways I think it could work better.  That’s it. 
  • Basically the only restrictions that Ford places on me is insurance related and I am not allowed to smoke in the car.  Since I have never smoked, that isn’t an issue.
  • For this trip, Ford Canada is paying for my hotel (at the Motel 6 in Swift Current), gas, and some of the food.  I mention some of the food because I decided I wanted to pay for the red licorice I am buying tomorrow out of my own personal money.  That way I don’t have to share if I don’t want to.
  • Having thought long and hard about this but if I could own any car in the entire world, it would be a Ford Escape Titanium edition.  You have your favorite vehicle, that is mine.  I love that vehicle and every Ford I write about is compared to how it stacks up to that car. 

Okay, so I mentioned Ford is putting Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I up at the Motel 6 in Swift Current.  The place looks like the inside of an Ikea show hotel.  I can’t wait to take some photos and show you.  I actually am nervous sleeping in it because I am afraid that someone is going to wander through and want to buy part a piece of furniture on their way to go and look at oversized coffee mugs.  The most cutting edge hotel in Saskatchewan is a Motel 6 in Swift Current.  Try to get your head around that. 

There isn’t a lot to do in Swift Current but I will see what I can photograph and explore there.  Several locals have given me some suggestions on where to eat.

Once we eat and are secured safely back into the Motel 6 with the NCAA basketball tournament on, I’ll post a review on how the 2016 Ford Explorer handles and a little bit about the trip.

One last thing, Mark is in driver’s ed but doesn’t quite have his learner’s license yet.  In his (delusional) mind he was so close to test driving the Ford Explorer that he could taste it.  Then I told him that he had to be either 18 or 21 to be able to drive one which pretty much crushed his spirits, hopes, and dreams.  He was quite happy tonight to be able to ride in the front seat.  As he said, “all he had to do was picture being in the U.K. and it was like he was driving.”  I admire his spirit.

Tammy Robert is blogging over there…

In case you missed it but Tammy Robert is blogging again here.  If you are reading my blog, you are clearly looking for correct opinions and commentary but if you want the, err, contrarian view to what is correct and right, check out her site.

For the provincial election, Tammy is doing some excellent commentary on the campaigns.  If this election gets you excited, her blog may be the best one out there.

Ward 3: Running Against Ann Iwanchuk

Councillor Ann IwanchukThis election series is dragging on as long as the GOP nomination race.  I had hoped the series would have been done by now but I’ve been sick with the leg again (still).  The medication is taking a lot out of me. 

I’ve tackled Ward 1 (Darren Hill), Ward 2 (Pat Lorje), and now it is off to Ward 3 and a look at one would run against Ann Iwanchuk if you were going to do so.

Well we onto Ward 3, a race that has become far less interesting with it looking like Mike San Miguel won’t be running again.  So there will be no Iwanchuk/San Miguel III, something that political pundits all over the city will miss watching.

Ann Iwanchuk won in a 2011 by-election and won in 2012 against Mike San Miguel.  Some people feel that San Miguel would have won if he hadn’t put out a poorly thought out attack ad on the last week of the campaign.  He may have but the attack ad went out and Iwanchuk won. 

This is how close the election was.  Ann Iwanchuk was driving the #11 car.

Ann Iwanchuk wins the 2012 election and 2016 Daytona 500

(okay, that was actually Denny Hamlin winning the 2016 Daytona 500 but you get the point… it was a close race). 

With Mike San Miguel not running again, Ann Iwanchuk should have a clear path to re-election.  If I was thinking about running against her, I hope I’d have someone to talk me out of it.  Here is why.

  1. Iwanchuk is a one term incumbent.  She has name recognition in the Ward.  That isn’t everything.  Rik Steernberg had it and was killed by Iwanchuk in the by-election that saw her win her seat on council but still, it’s a big advantage.
  2. Her husband, Andy Iwanchuk was also a long term MLA in the area.  That helps a lot with name recognition and also a network for a campaign team.
  3. She was backed heavily by labour in the last election and it’s an area where labour matters.  Again, it’s not just the money that matters, it is unions endorsing her.
  4. Iwanchuk is fairly quiet in council (well compared to some of her colleagues) and hasn’t made any boneheaded statements.  I disagree with some of what she says but that doesn’t mean that what she said wasn’t thought out.  So unlike many long term councilors, there isn’t this collection of memories of head shaking moments that might be embedded in an electorate.
  5. I have long heard she handles constituent problems and issues promptly and thoroughly.
  6. Lastly several councilors have told me that she is incredibly effective in closed door meetings (yeah I know, another in-camera leak)
  7. Her expenses are boring.  The only thing that stands out is that she sponsored a tournament with the Saskatoon Aces (no one else did anything like that which I find interesting as I think hockey parents are a good voting block to target).  I guess this would the ideal time to point out that her website is offline.  Maybe some more money spent on expenses would be helpful.

So if you want to waste a couple of months of your life and $15,000 so you run against her, here is how I would do it:

  1. Ignore the Mike San Miguel vote totals.  Those came in a by-election and then a quick election just months afterwards in which San Miguel worked hard the entire time building profile and voter blocs.  I don’t think it is going to be replicated.
  2. While Iwanchuk is reportedly excellent with dealing with constituents, she is only a first term councilor.  That means that there is a good chance she hasn’t had to deal with so many voters that they have all developed a bond yet.   That is a small opening but if you are looking for hope, keep looking there.
  3. I wrote after the transit lockout how much people living in her ward were hurt by the lockout and how silent all councilors were all over it.   Being a councilor in a Ward where transit is heavily relied on (and offers some horrible service), that could be a significant issue in some parts of the ward.  The problem is that will they vote in significant numbers on one issue?  I doubt it.   I only bring that up because if there is one councilor that would be hurt by it, it would be her because of the demographics of Ward 3. 
  4. The biggest threat to Iwanchuk is if a tide of change sweeps through council.  If the preferred mayoral candidate runs on a platform of change and it catches, it will bring out voters that are looking for something different.  That isn’t limited to Iwanchuk, that is every politician.  That being said, I just don’t see it.  As I will get to in a later post, I think the status quo will be the defining story of this election.

You are basically reduced to door knocking and hoping your well liked incumbent thinks the election is in November of 2017.  Good luck with that.

It’s going to be a boring election in Ward 3 no matter who runs against Ann Iwanchuk.  While I have heard of one person considering a run, by the time the summer comes along, I could see her run for re-election be uncontested.

Ward 2: Running Against Pat Lorje

Here is the next edition of “Running for City Council”.  Darren Hill and Ward 1 were featured here.  Now I wander across 33rd Street into Ward 1 where we look at Pat Lorje, the long time councilor of the riding.

Saskatoon Ward 1 Councilor Pat LorjePat Lorje is currently a city councilor for Ward 2 in Saskatoon,Saskatchewan. She previously held the same position from 1979 to 1991, when she resigned to stand as the New Democratic candidate in Saskatoon Wildwood in the 1991 provincial election.  She was re-elected to the Ward in 2006, 2009, and 2012.

So yeah, she has some name recognition in the Ward and gets a lot of her support from the neighborhoods of Montgomery and Caswell Hill.  It’s not that other neighborhoods don’t like her, it is just that none of the turn out in enough number to determine an election. 

So what would my strategy be if I was running against a well known incumbent councilor?  During the last election, a politician said that it didn’t matter what their opponent did, they just had to worry about getting to a certain number of votes and there was a number of ways to get to that vote total.  The same thing would apply in Ward 2 and the secret is to cobbling together a coalition of voters who are frustrated with city life in Ward 2 and getting them out to vote.  This is how I would do it.

Montgomery

The NDP haven’t faced a serious re-election battle in Riversdale since Jo-Ann Zazelenchuk beat Roy Romanow in 1982.  They generally won handily in the area but that has started to change.  I have written before about the declining margins of victory that Danielle Chartier has won by in Saskatoon Riversdale which has gotten to the point where she is vulnerable to being beaten by the right Saskatchewan Party candidate (Not sure Marv Friesen is that candidate but you never know).  My point is that it looks like parts of that ward are voting right wing more often.  No longer is Montgomery home to veterans, it is home to an eclectic group of people who haven’t been voting for Lorje since before I was born.

Despite Montgomery being her base, it’s been a tough time for the neighborhood.  Despite several passionate speeches to City Council, Lorje wasn’t able to stop the wind turbine (which was a good idea until it came back economically unfeasible) and the construction of hundreds of new units of apartments.  The new City Operations Centre is going south of Montgomery.  The South Circle Drive Bridge and Circle Drive bring 24 hour traffic noise by Montgomery.    For a community that thinks of itself as a first among equals, much has changed a lot and people aren’t happy about it.  In the end, the wind turbine might have been the best of all things that could have happened.

Convincing those voters to either vote for you or stay at home on election day.

The Montgomery Apartments

Even if the older part of Montgomery holds, there are a lot of new voters to the community in those apartments.  They aren’t long term supporters of Lorje and are open to anyone who is going to go after them.  A flyer drop to those apartments reinforcing some of Lorje’s and Montgomery’s residents statements about those apartments could make it really awkward for her. 

Riversdale

The same thing with the Riversdale BID.  Lorje has been a large proponent of the business aspect part of it but against social programs being located there.  In a community that has seen it’s share of gentrification, a campaign reminding voters that Lorje has been against the services that are needed to help them could bring out voters in Riversdale.    Lorje and I have disagreed for years on these kinds of policies but that doesn’t matter.  If the voter is against gentrification, the answer is that it has happened because of the focus on business development on 20th Street with the kind of growth that has locked out local people.  If they are frustrated with the ongoing issues with crime and social issues, it is because there is no room for the social agencies to help them.  The question always is will Riversdale and Pleasant Hill  turn out in enough numbers to vote?  History says no.

Crime

Crime is rising in the city (thank goodness the City of Saskatoon Police were there to save us from the Compassion Club) and it is increasingly violent and more serious in Ward 2 where it is heavily concentrated.  This is one of those issues that is almost impossible to blame on Lorje, the issues are beyond the control of any one councilor but because of the incredible density of it in Ward 2 residents feel it.  To be honest, this isn’t a big issue to attack the incumbent with and it won’t be that hard to beat back but it could be problematic if people are frustrated in Meadow Green, Caswell Hill, Riversdale, and Pleasant Hill and are asked, “Do you feel safer than you were in 2012?”  For most, the answer is no.

Swept Away?

Is Lorje prone to be swept away if a sea of change finally hits City Hall?  Actually no.  That is the advantage of being an outspoken councilor, she has her own brand of politics that is separate from the rest of City Councils.  If a mood to change sweeps across the mighty South Saskatchewan River, Lorje is in a good place to ride it out.

Re-Election Chances 

It all comes down to whether or not someone can figure out the issues to motivate your coalition of voters to turn out on election day.  I think it could happen but it would be a long and drawn out campaign combined with a mayoral campaign that can bring out non typical voters.  If that happens, it could be the race to watch on election night.

What I Want My Mayor To Be

Well that was fun.  My column this morning on the Mayor missing the first day of the Big City Mayor’s Conference got a lot of feedback.  When I say feedback, what I am really saying is that most people hope I move out of the city soon.

One friend asked me that if I was Atch’s chief of staff, what would I do to make him a better mayor in 2016.  I really don’t have a problem with Atch personally and I think some things can’t change but here would be my list for what I think any mayor should do.

  1. Represent us on the national stage well.  That means showing up for things like the Big City Mayor’s Caucus when the federal government changes.
  2. Engage the population well.  Nenshi, Tory, Ivison, and a lot of other mayors use Twitter to not only communicate but listen to citizens.   He needs a website.  My preference would be that we did mayor.saskatoon.ca but even mayorofsaskatoon.ca would work as his platform for which to inform the public.  A couple of years ago I visited Michael Bloomberg’s mayoral website.  I was blown away but the design and the content.  I could find essential services information, New York City research, and all of his initiatives.  Really, how much does that cost?  It’s all being prepared anyways, so why not make it available to the citizens.  Using social media, you can not only talk to people but listen and make them feel heard and connection to their mayor.  Some do it better than others but there are people who have ideas, problems, and issues with the city.  Give them a voice and help them be heard.
  3. Be transparent: That debate over Atch posting his schedule online (which he did exactly once) was insane.  All he has to do is post the special interests he meets with.   Nenshi does this on this website.  It lists community groups, consular visitors, business leaders, and the occasional celebrity.  It doesn’t give away secret negotiations (which the Mayor doesn’t often do, city managers do) or even his lunch plans.  It does let Calgarians know what their mayor is up to and what people are shaping his decisions.  Why can’t Saskatoon’s mayor do the same thing?  Why can’t the Mayor of Saskatoon have the same disclosure as councilors do over travel and other expenses? 
  4. Acknowledge all of the data that is out there instead of going, “Saskatoon is different”.  This isn’t just about complete streets, density, homelessness, suburban sprawl, bike lanes, or policing.  It is all of them.  Other cities have fought our battles, been confronted by our problems (and found solutions) and many have researched the results.  Yet that kind of thinking if rarely shown in Saskatoon.  It is the kind of thinking that should come from a Mayor’s chair.  They are the one that is there full time, has a staff, and sets the tone.  Can you imagine a data driven City Hall adopting best practices from across the continent?  No I can’t either.  Is it too late to recruit Michael Bloomberg into Saskatoon?
  5. Be able to articulate where you want the city to go and become.  I am not just saying “1 million people” but do you want it to be a car driven city that is all about freeways or a city based around public transit and alternative forms of transportation?  You can’t be for everything, have a vision and drive it.  Let the people decide what they want, if it isn’t that vision, well that is the cost of leadership.
  6. Be financially responsible but understand the need for good investments that will save the city money down the line.
  7. Hire the best managers in the country.  Get managers who will push council as much as they will be directed by them.  Calgary’s manager calling for investment in the city was great.  Jen Keesmat calling out John Tory’s plan for the Gardiner Expressway is how cities are supposed to work.  Strong leaders bring conflict but they also bring out great ideas because they are all working on making Saskatoon a world class city.  I loved to see Mike Gutek battle with City Council, not because I liked to watch the fireworks but because I honestly felt that we were making progress as a city during those questions and answers.  Hard questions were asked and hard answers were given back.  That is often where progress is made.   On the flip side, the transit debacle showed that competence is hard to come by in our own City Council and administration when they locked out the ATU once illegally and then tried to do it again.   If you are going to lock out the transit drivers and make your own citizens going through hardships, at least do it correctly.  Maybe it is time to look outside the city for top talent.
  8. Speak bluntly about the city’s issues.  I miss Ralph Klein but we all know what Calgary was going through when I lived there.  The same thing with Nenshi today.  We are going to face some challenges ahead and some of them are because of the federal and provincial governments.  Others are going to be from the business and non-profit communities.  Call a spade a spade.  The Mayor doesn’t need to be everyone’s best friend, they need to be the leader of the city with our interests at heart.
  9. Go the galas but attend the community barbecues as well.  There are a lot of people in this city that will never be able to afford a Mayor’s Cultural Gala or Swinging with the Stars but things like a community barbecue mean a lot to them.  Be at the events on both sides of the river and for all economic classes.  There is more to the westside then the Farmer’s Market.

I don’t know if anyone running has those traits but the more they do, the better off the city will be.

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.