Tag Archives: Regina

Jobs losses at Casino Moose Jaw and Regina

This is interesting

A restructuring at Casino’s Moose Jaw and Regina will see 55 out-of-scope jobs lost, in the management and administration areas. Terminations are effective immediately.

SaskGaming made the announcement Wednesday, pointing to a decrease in revenues over the past year. In-scope jobs are not being affected.

Compensation packages as well as career counselling is being offered by both Casino’s.

50 jobs are being terminated in Regina, while Moose Jaw will see 5 jobs terminated.

 If I remember correctly, neither Casino Moose Jaw or Regina make as much money as the government had hoped do the fact that if you are a high roller, you don’t want to gamble locally and instead you travel to gamble.  It is interesting to see that despite the boom, revenues are down at Sask Gaming.  

Any suggestions as to what the cause is;

  • People realize that Casinos win more than they do?
  • If you can escape Regina or Moose Jaw you will?
  • Competition with SIGA?
  • Rent increases and a tight rental market eating up disposable income in Regina and Moose Jaw?
  • Maybe they do have the “loosest slots” in the province?

Distracted Driving in Saskatchewan

Last week Ford invited myself and some other bloggers to the RCMP barracks in Regina to an event hosted by the RCMP, SGI, and Ford (via their Capital Ford dealership) about the dangers of distracted driving.

RCMP

After going to the closed course, we were joined by high school students from Regina who according to their media interviews, all drove while texting, surfing the web, and using social media and really saw nothing wrong with it.  The problem with it is that distracted driving kills more people in Saskatchewan than driving under the influence and RCMP are finding more and more accident scenes where there are no skid marks people didn’t even brake.

They set up several stations.  One was a closed course about driving while texting.  That didn’t go so well.  Surprisingly at another station, most people could not even eat and drive at the same time (which reinforced what several cops have told me over the years), and another one features people fixing their hair and putting on makeup while driving.  The end result was there was pylons flying all over a course that was not that challenging.  

Ford's Distracted Driving event in Regina

What was scary was even as the kids got out of the cars and walked to their next station, what were they doing?  Texting.  It going to be a long road ahead if we are going to change this but it was a good start by Ford, SGI, and the RCMP in changing minds.  Of course who do they learn this behaviour from?  Their parents.  While kids text on the phone, parents in Saskatchewan talk and drive on the phone (and we aren’t talking hands free either).  It all needs to stop.

The RCMP also had a crime scene investigation display where they had their Dragonfly drones out on display (I really wanted to fly one) and had a couple of accident scenes set up.  My only regret for the day was that I never asked the RCMP if I could test drive this.

RCMP Tricycle

How much fun would a high speed chase be on a RCMP tricycle?  I could have taken on any mall cop in the greater Regina area.

I posted the rest of the photos from the day here.

The Saskatoon Advantage

So after watching the videos about Detroit, Edmonton, and Calgary, I give you the first video about Saskatoon that I found on YouTube that was published by one of our own agencies.

Yes, the number one video by the City of Saskatoon is not about how awesome Saskatoon is, it is about the worst part of Saskatoon and how we don’t remove snow from residential streets.  Well done Saskatoon.  Of course SREDA has created Living Saskatoon but take a look at the videos, oh wait, there are none.  Just text, one photo, and some links.   It is like we aren’t even trying.

In Edmonton’s white paper on how to build a more prosperous city, taxes were important but even more important was the creating and the sharing of the Edmonton brand to attract top people and businesses to Edmonton.  Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi talks about the same thing and the need to attract top talent to Calgary and they will create more jobs and wealth.  It was actually something that Regina’s Pat Fiacco did quite well for them.  While Saskatoon’s video about snow removal talks about how hard it is to live here, Edmonton is talking about how it makes them stronger and more competitive.

Saskatoon on the other hand hasn’t quite got it yet.  We still think that if there are jobs, people will come but there are jobs in Alberta, Manitoba, and British Columbia as well.  People are making money in Regina, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw and yes, that is the competition.

Saskatoon is home to Potash Corp of Saskatchewan (who is having a bad day today but they’ll bounce back), Cameco (bad last couple of quarters) and we hope they bounce back, BHP Billiton’s Canadian head office, a vibrant downtown, and a lot of outside investment by developers like Lefevbre & Company (you have to look at their website right now, don’t worry, I’ll wait), and success stories that are home grown.  You can make money in Saskatoon and have a great quality of life.

Of course we need to start to realize that a) we need to compete with other cities and b) we can compete with other cities (and win).  That being said, we need to put on a better first impression than a video about snow removal.

Of course here is one of Regina’s efforts.

Maybe no video is better than that video.

Off to see the Royals

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A couple of months ago I got a note from our MLA, Cam Broten who knew that Mark did a fair amount of volunteering with me at The Salvation Army and now at The Lighthouse whenever I have a task that needs to be done.  Cam nominated Mark to win a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal.  A week or so ago this arrived in the mail inviting Mark to the Saskatchewan Legislative buildings to meet Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall in a ceremony and tea.  Tomorrow morning we will be driving down to Regina so that Mark and Wendy can be a part of the ceremony.  Yes I said, Wendy as Mark only gets one guest and I am not it.  Wendy would prefer that I go as she is nervous about it but I saw the Duke and (then) Duchess of York in 1989 in Saskatoon and I thought she would enjoy it.

Sadly I couldn’t even get into the Legislature as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are apparently a really big deal so I have a couple of hours to kill in Regina by myself while Mark and Wendy are living it up.

Column: Invest in people to curb crime

My latest column in The StarPhoenix.  I know this generally gets posted on Monday’s but the internet at Arlington Beach was unusable and by the time I got home, the work week was upon me.

The StarPhoenix Saskatoon is second only to Regina in Canada’s crime severity index, despite our crime rate dropping for the seventh straight year – a reduction of nearly 11,000 crimes annually from the peak of 2003. However, there’s still is a lot of crime on Saskatoon’s streets, with 25,600 events reported.

Whose fault is it? Police Chief Clive Weighill says crime is a reality of prairie life: "Until we can change the social contributors to crime we’re not going to see decreases across the Prairie provinces," he said in an interview with The StarPhoenix.

"We have a large segment of our society that’s marginalized, living in poverty, poor housing, reduced availability for employment. Unfortunately, crime is a linked outcome to this.

It’s going to take some big changes to the social strata across the Prairie provinces."

I agree. What’s troubling is that no one has much of a plan to deal with it. How do you change the culture of a community away from criminal or anti-social behaviour once it has become the norm?

A lot needs to change.

The Americans have been trying to tackle this problem for decades, with limited success. The Head Start program, whose goal is to prepare for kindergarten children growing up in poverty stricken neighbourhoods, has been around since 1965. Some cities have been known to fire all of the staff in a school if test scores are too low.

In Saskatoon, we see our community schools trying to make a difference by providing food and clothing programs. While both Head Start and our community schools have had some success, both are too limited to tackle the wide range of issues that contribute to poverty.

The Harlem Children’s Zone has taken a different approach. It’s an education/ housing/crime prevention approach that provides assistance to children from birth all the way to the job market – a much larger commitment compared to providing preschool education or lunch programs.

The Harlem project is a 22year commitment to ensure that those with the most obstacles to overcome have a reliable support system.

The family traditionally has played this role. However, as we see the disintegration of stable family structures in some parts of our society, someone else needs to step up. Would you rather have the Terror Squad or a Harlem Children’s Zone stepping into that gap

The latter is tackling all the issues that stand in the way of a child’s success – housing, education, public safety, health care, transportation and food safety.

The interconnected problems that Chief Weighill mentions need a comprehensive solution. The idea is to help children as early in their lives as possible, and to create a community of adults around them who understand what it takes to help children succeed.

This is an option that doesn’t rely on new capital projects or resources, but moving people out of silos to become part of an integrated solution. If we are honest with ourselves, it’s not going to happen any time soon. Even if we started today, the payoff will be more than a decade away.

Saskatchewan does not have a poverty reduction strategy. So, while a variety of projects are undertaken, they seem to fall under the category of, "Let’s spend a lot of money and hope it works."

Slightly more than 15 per cent of Saskatchewan residents fall under the poverty line, among them 35,000 children. Poverty reduction conversations often resolve around the need for governments to provide more in direct payments, but there are many exciting economic empowerment ideas across North America that are providing sustainable jobs.

Housing is my area of interest, but I know that without an integrated plan of training, job creation, food security, health and safe, affordable housing, you won’t achieve the results required to make another big dent in the 26,000 crimes we see in Saskatoon.

The greater the investment upstream in poverty prevention and giving people good economic opportunities, the less money you spend downstream on policing and corrections.

Police have made great progress in crime reduction. It’s time for the provincial government to step up and work on the rest of the factors that will make Saskatoon and Regina safer cities to live in.

Column: Handling debt poses challenge

Today’s column in The StarPhoenix.

The StarPhoenix Former mayor Henry Dayday wrote to council in May questioning how much debt the city was taking on and how Saskatoon residents were going to pay for it.

He pointed out that the city has $175 million in debt on its books and potentially another $225 million related to new projects, which will take a toll on cash reserves and add a lot of new debt.

As he sees it, it’s a total that was expected to push the city to its debt limit of $400 million, which is starting to remind some of us of the 1980s.

A look at the city finances leaves a couple of impressions. First, $400 million in civic debt is a lot of money and to be at our debt ceiling makes many people nervous. It’s like when you’ve run up your credit card to the limit. Not only can you not do anything until it’s paid down, but paying it off takes up a lot of money that could be spent elsewhere. Let’s hope the city at least gets reward points.

Does that mean that civic finances are in bad shape?

Some on city council say it does, but Standard & Poor’s recent report on city finances maintained our AAA credit rating. The bond rater does mention some clouds on the horizon – higher debt from the capital projects and some pension liabilities. Reading the S&P report shows it’s concerned, but not especially so, about Saskatoon’s debt level, which it expects to peak in 2014 at about 30 per cent of revenues. It’s a lot of debt, but it’s not crippling.

Looking at other western Canadian cities, an independent benchmark of Saskatoon’s finances and services (we are compared to Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg) was tabled on Feb. 23. It shows our credit rating to be higher and we compare favourably to other cities in most services offered and how much we pay for them.

The only area we really lag behind is in mosquitoes per capita (Winnipeg), NHL franchises and CFL teams.

Not surprisingly, we will soon lead the group in large, box-like riverfront art galleries.

When it comes to debt per capita, Saskatoon is at $526.91. Regina is at $549.80, while Calgary leads at $2,310.61. Moose Jaw has the highest per capita debt of Saskatchewan cities, at $1,168 At $400-million debt, our debt per capita would start to look like Moose Jaw’s – high, but manageable. As for taxes, our per capita tax burden compares well not only to that of other western Canadian cities, but it’s around half of the Canadian average.

It’s not how much debt a city has, but how it will pay for it. It’s a question Dayday raises and one worth exploring. Looking at growing cities with high debt levels, Red Deer’s debt limit is 1.5 times city revenues and it is approaching 90 per cent of that limit.

Its plan is to pay down its $183-million debt $2.1 million a year, which is similar to trying to pay off your credit card by making the minimum monthly payment. Calgary budgeted debt reduction into its mill rate increases in an attempt to lower its burden, despite its growing economy and larger tax base.

Paying off civic debt is not a lot of fun and a mill rate increase may be something that Saskatoon may have to do. In his letter Dayday says: “The city has been experiencing a boom period, but as in the past we know that times change.”

In the 1980s it was low commodity prices and in the ’90s it was taming a massive provincial deficit that made for a most significant challenge. Both held the city back, which contributes to the spending debate now.

How many of these capital projects have been discussed and planned for years?

Before we get too caught up with what to cut, we need to have a discussion about what those challenges in the future will be. Rising energy prices, the lifeless and debt-ridden American economy and global warming. Two of those issues will reshape Saskatoon beyond recognition both positively and negatively, and all three of them, if handled poorly, could severely hinder the city’s ability to pay off its debt.

You have to start the discussion somewhere, so in next week’s column I will look at how rising energy prices will reshape Saskatoon.

Here are some of the background links.

Next week’s column is about the impact peak oil is going to have on the city and how it will affect our long term future.  This won’t get much more of a passing mention in next week’s article but both the Rockefeller’s and Bill Gates are betting on algae being the future of carbon based petroleum.   That being said, Shell is betting against it.  It’s an interesting possibility, even if it won’t come to market in time to stop massive crude oil price shocks.

The Regina of Ontario

I’m in Mississauga for a couple of days near the airport for a Social Services conference and am staying at the Delta Airport West hotel.  The hotel is nice and the staff was great.  I was about to rave about the hotel until I found some boogers in my coffee cup as I finished taking a drink from it.  I fully expect to be dead by morning. 

I had plans to take the Go Train into Toronto tonight but I haven’t been feeling well and am just tired.  I am rooming with our Corrections Coordinator and after getting into the room, grabbing a bite to eat, I lost my motivation to head out and we watched a wide variety of YouTube clips while listening to the party next door get rowdier and rowdier (I can’t hear them right now.  They may have quieted down).  While the posting here won’t interest many of you over the next couple of days, I will be posting notes and thoughts to both Twitter and here.

A Review of Regina’s new logo

Regina Infinite Horizons 
City of Regina Brochures

Regina’s got a new logo that has generated some international attention.

Enough quoting. The R icon is definitely attractive and eye-catching. While there could probably be a few more twists, both literally and metaphorically, in the ribbon to make the dimensionality work a little better, I think it’s a fairly convincing result. I like how the color changes at each twist and the overall shape is fluid and organic. The typography is acceptable and although it isn’t my favorite type in the world, there is nothing to really fault there. The ribbon as visual element in the identity materials can start to feel very cliché when it wraps around buildings, but it is a nice extension of the logo. As far as city logos go, this one is quite inviting.

Personally I think the idea is a copy of CTV’s ribbon branding from 1998.  Even Sportsnet Connected has a similar idea for an opening sequence.

Driving Safe in Regina

Most of you know this blog’s unofficial mission is to never miss a chance at taking a shot at the City of Regina whenever we have the chance (when I was toilet training Mark, I used to get him to say when flushing the toilet, “See you in Regina”) but this is too easy.

13 of Regina’s buses were deemed unsafe by SGI this week.

13 of Regina’s buses were deemed unsafe by SGI this week "We know we have fleet challenges," said Onodera, noting that most of the issues SGI identified were with buses from groups purchased in 1990 and 1992 — those vehicles have now reached the ends of the expected lifespans, he said.

Both older buses that have been refurbished and used buses the city recently acquired are in better condition.

It’s long been known that the 1990 and 1992 buses — of which there are 27 in total among the city’s total fleet of 105 — will need work, and the department has a plan in place, Onodera said. The city has been buying inexpensive used buses with life left in them, to replace those older ones. The department doesn’t plan to refurbish those buses from the early 1990s due to significant costs, for which funds could be better allocated elsewhere, Onodera continued. The SGI audit "accelerated" the timing, he said, noting the inspections are being looked at as positive because they call attention to the need for resources to maintain and replace assets.

"The situation’s under control," he remarked. "Nothing is a surprise to us."

So does that mean that the City of Regina knew that they had buses that were considered unsafe to drive and they just kept driving them?  They didn’t take action until there was a SGI audit?  I would love to see the details on what was wrong.

The Regina Dome

The Carrier Dome

CBC is quoting the NDP in saying that a new domed stadium would cost $600 million and I can’t see it as Ford Field only cost $430 million and is twice the projected size but whether or not they are right or wrong, I am not sure a dome stadium is a good idea for Regina or Saskatchewan. 

  • In a good season, the Saskatchewan Roughriders play 11 home games.  I can see the Riders fill a small Carrier Dome type stadium with 40,000 people for 10 of those games (one is a home exhibition game).  The University of Regina Rams would play four games a year there but in front of crowds that may not pay for the cost of opening the building so I won’t mention that.
  • Mosaic Stadium is not a nice stadium and I can’t envision a scenario where you could renovate it and bring it up to standards that Rider Nation deserves and wants.  We don’t want a lot but Mosaic Stadium offers even less.
  • There would be some more top flight concerts but how many bands can fill a stadium that big?  Three or four a year?  I bet it is closer to one or two after the original rush.
  • There would be some conferences but Regina is no Las Vegas.  How many conferences or trade shows will need that much capacity and Regina doesn’t have a lot of excess rooms already.

As a football fan, I prefer open air stadiums.  Yes playoff games in Regina are horrible to play in and attend but so are games at Lambeau Field, Commonwealth Stadium, McMahon Stadium, Gillette Stadium and a lot of other cold weather venues.  While Mosaic Stadium is a horrible place to be when it is cold, it is amazing to be outside in the summer.  Like BC Place, while you gain something in the fall, you lose something in the summer.  Plus, football is supposed to be played outside.

As a taxpayer, I am not so worried about the capital costs as I am about the ongoing operating costs.  Cities infatuations with domed stadiums seems a lot shorter than with traditional stadiums (anyone screaming to replace Notre Dame Stadium (built in 1930) or Wrigley Field (built in 1914, last cleaned in 1919), while how’s that abandoned Silverdome (built in 1973, kicked to the curb in 2008) doing?  Domed stadiums have not aged well compared with open air ones and tend to be big financial sinkholes, if you doubt me, I have two words and one link for you, Olympic Stadium (which seemed like a brilliant idea at the time).

If I was calling the shots on this, I would proceed slowly with the hope of building a stadium that stands the test of time rather than something that barely makes 30 years before the call for replacing it begins.

Regina MP commits suicide

Dave Batters committed suicide yesterday after struggling with depression for years.

The family of Dave Batters released a statement Tuesday morning confirming the 39-year-old died on Monday.

"The family of Dave Batters is grieving the sudden loss of their beloved husband, son and brother, who, sadly, chose to take his own life at home in Regina on Monday, June 29," the statement reads.

"Last fall, Dave courageously made public his battle with depression and anxiety when he chose not to run for re-election as the Member of Parliament for Palliser. He entered treatment and his family and friends hoped he would overcome his illness. Tragically, this was not to be.

"Dave and Denise’s family greatly appreciates the support of their friends during this extremely difficult time and requests that the media respect their privacy. Funeral arrangements will be announced at a later date."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper also issued a statement Tuesday afternoon.

"Those of us who knew and worked with Dave will remember him as a friend and colleague who worked tirelessly on behalf of his constituents in Palliser," Harper said in a news release.

"Dave ultimately lost his struggle with severe depression, but we should use his loss as a reminder that mental health illnesses affect Canadians in every walk of life. Too often, Canadians, such as Dave, suffer in silence out of fear of being stigmatized for their illness.

Saskatchewan at war with Canada

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I never knew but I am off to buy a Victory Bond right after I post this.

The Prime Minister appeared to be on a war footing while at a press conference to announce a highway project in Nova Scotia.

"We have to define what victory means in Saskatchewan," said Harper, when he was asked about Canada’s role in Afghanistan.

He quickly retreated from the slip of the tongue.

"I don’t know why I said that. I have no idea," Harper said.

Everyone at the press conference had a good chuckle, including the Prime Minister.

I didn’t know we were at war but it does explain what happened to Moose Jaw and Regina.