Category Archives: Saskatoon

The mess that is Huskie Athletics

CBC points out the obvious that recruiting someone to replace Brian Towriss is going to be really hard.

Sumarah expects a nationwide search to replace Towriss, but isn’t sure how candidates will respond. He said any serious contender will want to speak first with Towriss before accepting the job.

“I think you’d kind of like to know what occurred, for sure,” he said about the resignation, which Towriss called a “mutually acceptable agreement” in the statement.

“You don’t want to walk into a hornet’s nest as a coach. I mean, the biggest thing a coach can have and get is support. You want to know you’re getting backing from the university.”

That backing is in question.  Cam Hutchison said it best in this column at the Saskatoon Express.

When it was announced the University of Saskatchewan had formed a Huskie Athletics advisory board of trustees, my first thought was Brian Towriss would no longer be the football coach.

I am confident in saying at least one person on the 11-person board wanted Towriss out.

With a six-to-five split between members of the public and employees of the university on the board, I fear Huskie Athletics is now being run by a citizen or a small group of them. It is the first board of its type in Canada. I find that interesting in itself.

Members of the board are David Dube, Diane Jones Konihowski, Tom Anselmi, David Sutherland, Shelley Brown and Ken Juba. U of S representatives are Patti McDougall, Greg Fowler, Debra Pozega Osburn, Chad London and Peta Bonham-Smith.

U of S president Peter Stoicheff appointed Dube as the first chair of the advisory board. Dube is a businessperson, philanthropist, member of the U of S board of governors and long-time supporter of Huskie Athletics.

Dube has sunk a lot of money into the football program. He is responsible for some of the special uniforms the team wears and funds game-day promotions. They have become spectacular events. I am sure Towriss loved being part of them.

Dube made it clear when the board of trustees was announced that change was long overdue at the U of S.

“Do you have the same cellphone as you had 20 years ago? I doubt it,” Dube said. “I’m sure you don’t fly in a 100-year-old airplane, or a 100-year-old car. This was a 100-year-old governance model.”

And you don’t play football for a 60-year-old coach who has been in the job for 33 years, apparently.

The advisory board, which reports to Stoicheff, was scheduled to begin its work last month.

Not long after it grabbed the reins, Huskies athletic director Basil Hughton announced his retirement. Last week, an emotional Towriss stepped in front of the media to announce he was stepping down after those 33 years as head coach. There is a pattern here.

I don’t get out of the office nearly enough for news conferences. I didn’t want to miss this one because I had a feeling the announcement was going to pertain to Towriss’ future with a program. Was he going to be fired?

I had one question prepared: “What was the role of the advisory board in making this decision?”

Right off the hop, an emotional Towriss announced he was stepping down. A month earlier, Towriss told The StarPhoenix he would be back in 2017 unless someone thought otherwise.

Clearly, someone or a group of someones thought otherwise.

I changed my question.

“Was the decision yours, Brian?”

He stumbled, but toed the company line.

I had a phone call when I returned to the office, confirming what I suspected. A tweet from an insider, since deleted, said people are being naïve if they believed Towriss was leaving of his own volition.

The boosters have been given the U of S Huskies.  It’s as simple as that.  The Huskies are not an athletic department of the University, they are a play thing of wealthy donors.  Have fun recruiting someone to fill that position.

Mark’s latest project

Last fall I saw that Mark was taking Yearbook as a class.  I kept telling him that there is no way he gets a credit for taking yearbook.  We had that conversation at home, on the walk to Bedford Road (to fix his computer generated schedule) and right into the guidance councilors office where I found out that yes, he gets a credit for it.

As part of doing this, he has been assigned to photograph the guys basketball team all season long.  You can find his shots from the game on his website.

Senior boys basketball action at Bedford Road Collegiate.  Photo by Mark Cooper

He took a lot of photos, only a few turned out and he realized he photographed the ball too much and not the players but he had fun and now has a season of both junior boys and senior boys basketball to photograph.  I guess that means I have a season of photos to help him critique. 

Some quick post-election thoughts

  1. Some Charlie Clark supporters need to chill out more.  I made the joke on Tuesday about another election happening so soon after the civic election and that it felt like Charlie Clark had accomplished nothing since being elected.   It was a joke.  Learn to laugh.  Either that or you need to stop following me.
  2. In the run up to the Ford election in Toronto, every time a scandal would hit Ford (and they were serious), people would say that Ford was finished.  He actually became more popular.  I tend to think the same thing happened to Trump.  People saw themselves in him.  That isn’t a good thing as we found out with Ford and America will find out with Trump.  The good news is that Toronto went the opposite way the next election with John Tory.  So if they can survive four years, there is hope.
  3. Trump did not win, Clinton lost.  Trump’s vote total didn’t increase and in fact many Republicans did not vote for him.  The reality with Clinton is that more Democrats chose not to vote for her.  We sometimes look back at the Clinton years with rose tinted glasses but a lot Americans hated Bill Clinton when he was in office and that hatred and distrust never left.  Would I vote for Trump?  Never but there is a lot of animosity towards Clinton as evidenced by the fact she lost Arkansas.
  4. Winning the presidency didn’t make Donald Trump less dangerous and unacceptable. It made him more so
  5. Trump’s victory will impact Saskatoon.  Murray Mandryk hits on the economics in his excellent column today but I am talking in other ways.  Wendy works with the public.  Many of you see her there and are wonderful to her.  Wendy is also an immigrant and came to Canada in 1975.  Being from Guyana, she is of mixed ancestry because of their history of indentured slavery.   Nothing bothers her at work until this last month when she would deal with a flood of racist comments almost all day long about immigrants, her co-workers who are also immigrants, and people of color in general.  It was vile and disgusting.  Luckily her company has good policies on dealing with this stuff but the line out there about Trump’s victory normalizing racism and hatred against minorities having an impact on more than just
  6. For all of the positive talk about Keystone XL, I don’t know if it is the slam dunk that everyone is saying it is.  Here is why?  Canadian crude flowing down to the U.S. hurts their fracking industry which needs a boost in prices to be feasible.  That and Trump is protectionist and  I could see that the pipeline being stalled.  Again.
  7. There is the alt right.  I also think there is something called the alt stupid.  I have been told of how Hillary Clinton had a son that was an abuser and she covered it up (not the son but the abuse).  Umm, she has a daughter named Chelsea.   There was also the story about how her and Bill raised millions for Haiti but used it to build luxury hotels. 
  8. Kellie Leitch has no soul.  She knows that Donald Trump stands for.  She knows what Donald Trump did.  Yet all she cares about is cheap electoral gain at the expense of Canadians.  I have never had as little respect for a MP as I do Leitch and I live in the same city as Brad Trost.
  9. I tend to think that Trump will spend most of his first term in office enriching himself.  This will bring Democratic scorn which will mean retribution from him and the thugs he surrounds himself with like Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani. 
  10. I’ll just toss this in there but it is in-excusable that Saskatchewan Party MLAs blocked an investigation into what went wrong with the Global Transportation Hub.  As Murray Mandryk pointed out, In legislative public accounts committee on Tuesday morning, Sask. Party backbenchers Glen Hart, Larry Doke, Warren Michelson, Jennifer Campeau, Herb Cox and Randy Weekes did their utmost to ensure anyone who had anything to do with the GTH decisions (including Boyd himself) will now never be held to account by a formal legislative body.  By doing this, they have failed at the primary responsibilities as MLAs which is to hold the government (the cabinet) to account.  Those MLAs are representing you, they are representing the office of the Premier.
  11. This chart shows you the divide in America.  It’s an urban/rural divide as much as it is a Republican/Democratic one.The GOP/Democratic Divide county by county
  12. Despite Trumps win and the dark times ahead, I remain committed more than ever to trying to build a great city and community.  It’s not a time to give up, it’s a time to dig in, help out, and serve others.  If we don’t, all of the progress that has been made will be lost.

Saskatoon Corporate Chaplaincy

My friend Darren Friesen has worked as a prison chaplain in prisons and as a corporate chaplain.  He is launching a Saskatoon Corporate Chaplaincy which works with small, medium, and large companies to basically help employees work through issues at work and home when needed.

Here is what he does.

  • 24 / 7 / 365 Crisis Care
  • Workplace-Based Assistance
  • Addictions Support
  • Bereavement Care & Funerals
  • Marriage Preparation & Weddings
  • Stress Reduction Strategies
  • Suicide Intervention
  • Hospital and Prison Visitations
  • Specialized Referrals
  • Customized Workshops
  • Permission-based Spiritual Care
  • Life Coaching
  • Strict Confidentiality
  • Strengthening workplace culture
  • Lay-offs
  • Job dismissal

Darren is too modest to brag about what he does but I can name a couple of situations where he actually intervened in what would have been dangerous situations where not only the offender would have been hurt but so would innocent victims and defused them and got the person help.  He’s excellent at it and if you are looking for something better than a phone based Employee Assistance Program, this could be what you need.

Some thoughts on Pat Lorje losing in Ward 2

Pat LorjeSome of you know this but Pat Lorje is a good friend of Wendy‘s and mine.  She was a friend as a councilor and I am proud to call her a friend of mine now that she is not.

I don’t have any thoughts on her loss, the people of Ward 2 did that but I am going to share something about Pat which will probably make her mad.  Why, because Pat has the honor of telling me off for more columns than anyone else.   Not only that but she does it better than anyone else.  More about that later.

Pat won’t remember this but I remember literally running into her in the Legislature.  I was running for the Progressive Conservatives under Bill Boyd in the 1995 election and Pat was a NDP MLA.

Along with Bill Boyd and Dan D’Autremount I was heading to the Legislative cafeteria.  Storming at us was Pat Lorje who informed us that they were serving liver (I think).  That stopped all of us in our tracks and we all took her lead and headed the other way.  I am not sure where Pat had lunch but the Tories went to Outback Steakhouse.

Later I crossed her at The Salvation Army and we met more formally.  She had made some incorrect statements (I’m trolling her) about social agencies and we invited her to talk with us about her concerns.  We dealt with each other on a variety of issues and later became good friends.

Not only did she become my friend but Wendy’s and Mark‘s as well.   Privately during the worst of Wendy’s depression a few years ago, Pat’s ability to project her personality literally helped Wendy get through the tough times.  For Wendy, if Pat could deal with the city, she could get through her depression.

She was over at our house once with several other politicos.  She told a funny story about a politician that Mark should not have heard and one that hated me (still hates me) deeply. The problem was that Mark was sitting very quietly and as still as a statue in the corner because he wanted to hear this story.  Pat noticed him about the same time everyone else did and didn’t miss a beat and introduced herself by the name of the politician she was talking about.

If Pat phones, Mark will still tell me, [insert scandalized politician’s name here] called.

Pat’s friendship always surprises some people because we have very different opinions on a lot of things.  I have taken aim at her in more than one column.  Those columns have always been greeted with a phone call and being told exactly why I am wrong in very clear language.  Generally I explain back why she is completely wrong. I don’t think either one of us have ever backed down.

Of course the only thing I did that made her really mad was several years ago.  Sean Shaw and I disagreed with a policy she had worked on for years and we had both lobbied the rest of council to vote against it.  They did and Pat was livid.  After a week of being told off, we made peace at the Rook and Raven.  We didn’t concede anything but we did pick up her glass of wine.

Like all losses there are a lot of factors.  Hilary Gough ran a winning campaign and there was a feeling of change that moved across the city.  Only Montgomery voted for the status quo and Atchison and no doubt that hurt Lorje.

So why am I writing this?  I don’t know but there seems to be a general lack of class that happens by the chattering masses when someone loses.  There was more than post and tweet that crossed the line.  Yet there is a side to all politicians that we never see.  Pat Lorje wasn’t just the Ward 2 councilor or a politician, she was and is a great friend to my family.  I’ll miss debating with her but I look forward to spending time in the future.

Some last minute election thoughts

  1. I think Charlie Clark wins the mayoral campaign because they a) have lists and b) the ground game.  That being said with my prior history of election predictions…  I really have no idea.
  2. Despite every suggesting otherwise, I really have no contact with the Clark campaign.  The last time Charlie and I talked was at Sean Shaw’s goodbye party and we talked about how many cameras I owned.  In a weird role reversal, I couldn’t give him an answer.  I was sick pretty much since then and didn’t attend any City Council meetings.  On the other hand, I endorsed him so some of you will call me a Charlie Clark stooge.  It happens.
  3. I don’t really know what happened to the Moore campaign but it seems to be a bunch of stances that over reached and from the emails and comments I got, started to undermine some trust and confidence.  The “hands in the cookie jar” release was brutal.  It never should have happened.  Here is why.  When you make an attack like that, people have to believe something is up.  The things with Charlie Clark and Donald Atchison, people believe that if either one of them found your wallet full of cash on the street, they would call you up and give you back.   There isn’t a hint of scandal around Atchison or Clark.    When you go negative at that time, your attacks backfire.  It also undermines your efforts to be a victim with mean tweets videos right after.  So yeah, it was a bad week.
  4. I also think saying Saskatoon is in a financial crisis was mistake from the Moore campaign.  I have looked and looked and looked at those numbers.  I have asked City Hall staff, other councilors, gone through my vast database and even talked to a contact at a rival rating service.  Saskatoon is not in a financial crisis.  The credit card is kind of maxed out for a few year while we pay some stuff off but it’s not a crisis.  Most of the debt is at a really low rate.  I don’t agree with all of it but things go back to normal in a few years.  Finally for the last two years councilors have been having casual conversations with me about future spending and slowing it down.  They have concerns as well but there does seem to be some plans in place for prioritizing things.
  5. I think campaigns do this often but instead of doing what you were doing to get close to the lead, they decide to do something different to push them over the top.  In the end, it almost never works.  Instead, double down on the strategies that made people like you in the first place. 
  6. Some of the campaign teams have expressed regret for how this campaign got out of control.  To them I say… well I want to say…. okay… I am going to say it, “Fuck you”.  You are the ones that did what you did to make it get out hand for short term gain to win shots against the other side that no one cared about.  You could have said no but you didn’t so don’t express regret to me that relationships are ruined and that people (including people who are just voters) got hurt.  You did it with eyes wide open and you knew the consequences to friends and the city.  So yeah, I don’t care if you are sorry.  Nothing is worth lying about, attacking people personally, and basically being assholes in the name of power.  As someone hilariously tweeted, the good news is that one Wednesday night, three mayoral campaigns will have lost.
  7. Who ever runs the SassyGal account has cost the Moore campaign many votes, including Wendy’s.  Moore’s campaign team has said over and over to me that it isn’t them but then distance your campaign from it by calling it out.  Sadly as anyone who reads it knows that it is an insider writing it and it reflects poorly on the entire campaign.  When Jason Kenney does a better job of distancing himself from troll accounts than local campaigns do, you have a problem.  Amazing how an account with only 65 followers can do so much damage. 
  8. I have no idea what is going to happen in Ward 2, Ward 6, Ward 8, or Ward 9.  Incumbents win in the rest.
  9. I am not cut out for politics.  The practice of a campaign where every four years you try to end someone’s career isn’t something that I enjoy watching.

At the end of the campaign, the mayor is going to have to lead a very divided city.

Things I think I know

  • I write this guide to vlogging over at the Don’s Photo blog yesterday.  I had done one back in April based on Casey Neistat‘s setup but some of the feedback was that it was too expensive.  Of course thinking through more affordable options now has me thinking about picking up either a Canon EOS Rebel T5i or a Canon EOS Rebel SL1 and Canon’s 24mm f/2.8 lens.    That’s the problem with being given the freedom to write this stuff, I end up selling to myself.  At the price point, the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 is a great camera and with the size of that an the lens, it is not much bigger than the $1600 Fujifilm X100-T with the same sized APS-C sensor.  That and I love the 35mm focal length for almost everything.
  • Speaking of work, we are doing a fall photo walk starting at the Diefenbaker Canada Centre tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Some colleagues are joining me and then we will head to Alexander’s for some food and drink afterwards.

It's this Sunday

  • We are going to do a winter one after Christmas.  For photographers in Saskatchewan Christmas is both awesome and horrible.  We get all of this gear and then are trapped in winter for months.  So during Wintershines, we will head downtown, take some shots of people skating at the Cameco Meewasin Skating Rink @PotashCorp Plaza, head through the downtown to the Saskatoon Farmer’s Market and use some of the gear we all got for Christmas.  It should be fun.  Cold but fun.  Also I just cut and pasted the skating rink name into this post from Meewasin’s page.  I just noticed the @PotashCorp in the name.  Interesting.
  • I expected the Broncos to be 8-8 this season so the losing isn’t unexpected.  They might get to be 10-6 but since they won the Super Bowl last year, I can’t complain.
  • I love the Blue Jays but if Cleveland won the World Series in the same season they won the NBA championship, I wouldn’t be upset.

This is why I am voting for Darren Hill in Ward 1

Wendy and I live in a tough neighborhood in Saskatoon.  Some of our neighbors struggle and Wendy and I hear about those struggles.  For whatever reason they have problems with City Hall and they talk to Wendy about it.  The first answer is to have them talk to Darren HIll.  The story is always the same.  Darren helps them.  There is a phrase that you can’t fight City Hall.  Well sometimes you don’t have to.

Darren Hill campaigning for a tigers votes in 2012

That stuff matters to me.  Knowing that people who have had a rough time struggle can get help.  They can with Darren.  One of Wendy’s co-workers had no luck with her councilor and Wendy mistakenly told her to talk to Darren (thinking about where she worked rather than where she lived).  Darren helped her resolve her issue in minutes.

The other reason I endorse him is that a lot of people online think I hate Darren and always want me to run against him.  We joke around online and he torments Wendy (It’s a hilarious story and Mark and I are firmly on Darren’s side on this) in person and online but I agree with many of his stands and have no reason to run against him.  There were some votes that made me question what he was thinking but overall he does a good job representing the diverse Ward 1 and his constituents and deserves another term on Saskatoon City Council.

Here is funny story to pass along. I can’t remember the reason but someone called The StarPhoenix wanting to talk to me about something.  In that situation The StarPhoenix doesn’t give out my cell but I get the message and a return number emailed to me.  So I call a women up and somehow it came out of nowhere that she hates Darren so much, she can’t even stand to see his name is writing.  Later that day I was talking to him and he knew who I was talking about without me giving him the persons name.  He can’t resolve all of the issues but I know he has made an effort on so many of them.  For the record, I think that hating an elected official so much you hate to see their name in print in next level. 

About that photo, I grabbed it from Flickr account and at first glance, the photo’s thumbnail looked like he was dropping a baby.  Instead he is campaigning for white tigers votes at the Saskatoon Zoo.  You just know that sometime during this photo op there was some bloodshed as the tiger tried to attack him. 

Ward 5 Roundtable

Last Tuesday Lenore Swystun, Hilary Nelson and myself sat down with Randy Donauer and Paul Miazga and chatted for 30 minutes about Ward 5, challenges confronting the city, and why we should vote for them.

The audio stinks in this because I haven’t had any time at all to edit it, play with the levels and convert to MP3 since last week. I’ll fix it tomorrow morning.

Ward 3 Roundtable

Lenore Swystun and myself hosted Ward 3 councillor (and candidate for re-election) Ann Iwanchuk on CFCR’s Civicly Speaking.

Councilor Iwanchuk gave her reasons for re-election, talked about development in Ward 3 and explained to us why the budget process was as messy as it was.

You can listen to the MP3 of the show below.

Marley vs. Darren Hill

So some of you have wondered what is up with the Marley vs. Darren Hill thing.  Some of you think too much.  Don’t read too much into it.  I live in Ward 1, Marley lives in Ward 1, Hill is the councilor and incumbent in Ward 1…

There really isn’t much thinking at all about it.  Hilary’s sister’s cat Nano is making a credible run for Mayor and Marley is joining the slate.  In other words it was a late night joke that seemed funny at night but really isn’t right now.

Marley for Ward 1 Councilor

My other point for doing this is to show how easy it is for anyone to do a personal page.  It drove me crazy when I can’t find an elected officials website and when I call them on it, they always go, “well I need to get it redesigned” or some other excuse.

For most politicians, the reason I am on their website is that I need some information from them, like a phone number or a email address to contact them with.  It means an About.me or similar page would do all of that for people really, really easily.  You can even use your own domain name with it.

So if you are a prospective councilor, school board trustee, or any elected official, put one of these together and make it easier for people to find you.  It takes 5 minutes and if you use the about.me url, it’s free.