6.30.2009

I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!



Yay, us. Al Franken has won his senate seat.

Rah Rah Break Down


While Rah Rah's largest national tour to date is nearing a close, the costs from it will last for awhile to come. Their van broke down in Ontario, and expenses for that ran up to two grand. They kept playing shows, though, and spirits seem to be relatively high as they make their way home.

(Recent tour history hasn't been great for Regina bands, with Thee Hoolies also suffering a broken van in the past year or so and Library Voices having their gear jacked.)

The band has a couple of dates at the Club coming up: July 4 with Sleepless Nights and July 20 with the Lovely Feathers and Pneumatic Transit. If you're going down to either or both of these shows, consider making a donation to offset their debt. My prefered method? Walk up to Marshall Burns, slip him a five dollar bill folded discretely into my palm. No eye contact.

R.I.P. Dave Batters


Various media are reporting that former Conservative MP Dave Batters has committed suicide. Batters was the Conservative MP for Palliser and was perhaps best known to prairie dog readers for his controversial, "family values" attacks on public funding for the Canadian film industry. Batters stepped down from office after a never-explained incident last Canada Day, announcing he was seeking treatment for anxiety and depression. Almost exactly one year later and he's dead. Awful. You can read the Leader-Post story here and the CBC story here.
Prairie dog and Dog Blog extend our sincerest condolences to his friends and family. Anxiety and depression are cruel.
UPDATE: Here's the story in the Globe and Mail.

6.29.2009

Sneak Peek


Three guesses as to what the cover story of our next issue which hits the streets July 2 is about.

Brutally Overpriced NHL Preseason Game Coming to Regina


















Photo by Whitworth, taken in Pittsburgh in February 2008.

Did I say brutally overpriced? I did! Know what? It is! Don't care! Still excited! Here's the press release, which just arrived in my in-box:

*

June 29, 2009
For immediate release:
Regina, SK - Evraz Place is pleased to once again welcome the National Hockey League back to Regina for a pre-season game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators on Monday, September 21st, 2009. Game time will be 7:00 p.m.

The last time an NHL game was played in Regina was almost three decades ago on September 28, 1990, when the Winnipeg Jets defeated the St. Louis Blues 7-6 at the Brandt Centre - which was then called the Agridome.

"The Tampa Bay Lightning are excited about the opportunity to play an exhibition game in Regina - one of Canada's true hockey communities" said Executive Vice - President and General Manager Brian Lawton. "Our players love playing in Canada"

The Lightning feature a mix of young and veteran talent, including 2009 second overall pick Victor Hedman along with first round pick Carter Ashton from Saskatoon and 2008 first overall pick Steven Stamkos, 1998 first overall pick Vincent Lecavalier, and 2004 Hart Trophy winner Martin St. Louis. The Senators counter with a strong lineup Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatlley along with ninth overall pick Jared Cowan of Allan, Saskatchewan. Final rosters are subject to change and will be finalized on September 21st.

Regina Pats season ticket holders and 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship package holders will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets prior to the Friday, July 3rd general pubic on-sale. Ticket prices are $79.50 to $109.50 plus applicable service charges and are available through all Ticketmaster outlets, on-line at Ticketmaster.ca, by calling 543-7800 or 1-800-970-7328.

*

Should be fun! Looking forward to seeing Stamkos and Hedman and maybe (if he hasn't been traded to Montreal) Vincent LeCavalier. Not the best year to see Ottawa probably but whatchagonnado? Funny how whoever wrote this misspelled "Heatley", who is virtually guaranteed to not be playing in this after his recent demand to be traded.

UPDATE (4:26 p.m.): Friend O' The 'Blog Tammi points out another, very funny typo: "Regina Pats season ticket holders and 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship package holders will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets prior to the Friday, July 3rd general pubic on-sale."

"No wonder tickets are so expensive," she says.

Six (More) In The Morning

Because Rosie didn't tell me he was doing one...sigh. Funny how our lists are completely different though. I like his better. Anywayyyyyyyy:

1 A VERY, VERY LONG WEEKEND WITH BERNIE The crook who defrauded investors of a Carl Saganian billyons and billyons of dollars is sentenced to 150 years in jail. Bernie Madoff is expected to instruct his lawyers to be total dicks about this, though, launching appeals and filings and all manner of legal horseshit to minimize his time and prison. Who's paying for these lawyers, again? (L.A. Times)

2 HONDURAS PRESIDENT OUSTED What does Honduras need an army for, anyway? Oh right, military coups. Well done. As you were. (New York Times)

3 IRAN INVESTIGATES DEATH The Iranian government is looking into the murder of 26-year-old Neda Agha Soltan, who was shot during riots after the country's recent election which is widely regarded as as phonier than meatless baloney. Neda's awful, awful death was filmed and broadcast around the world, painting the Iranian regime in a somewhat unflattering light. (Although in the story I linked to, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the media is using the death "to distort the pure and clean image of the Islamic Republic in the world". Uh huh.) Anyway, the quite possibly bogus, election-stealing Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the death "suspicious". (Guardian)

4 SASK. WOMAN WITH SWINE FLU DIES Story here. Our sympathies to her family. (Leader-Post)

5 ONTARIO SUSPENDS NUCLEAR REACTOR PLANS The province's Liberal government is worried about cost overruns, especially since the Conservative federal government's spring announcement that Atomic Energy Of Canada Ltd. will be privatized. (Globe And Mail)

6 CANADIAN MIGHT NOT BE BEHEADED AFTER ALL Care to take a guess which oil-rich, medieval backwater this story is happening in? If you said Saudia Arabia, you are correct. Ding!(StarPhoenix)

Rosie's Surprise Top Six

1 THE DEFINITION OF IRONY a comic book ilustrator and writer in the U.S. was detained for comics he had drawn and narrated .. about a comic book writer under suspicion at a time when the United States was becoming a police state. (Boing Boing)

2 DEADLY SURPRISE Guess what? Canada now supports the death penalty! No, I didn't know that either. (Impolitical)

3 SHORTER JEFFREY SIMPSON Given that Stephen Harper still gets his way with the Liberal Party, it's time to start wondering when the Dion-ification of Iggy will end, if it ever will. (Globe and Mail)

4 BRAIN DEAD Kate McMillian's smalldeadanimals blog is used as a wellspring of information for John Gormly's lazy producers and right-wing nutjobs who are incapable of thinking for themselves. Ottawa Watch, in examples here and here, illustrates why we should live in fear of the people who read her blog and take her seriously--and who live amongst us. (Ottawa Watch)

5 PHASE ONE: COLLECT UNDERPANTS The Jurist is a blogger who, when the big whistle blows, will support whatever the NDP does, whether it's defending medicare or electing Dwain Lingenfelter, Saskatchewan's version of Micheal Ignatieff, as its leader. But that doesn't mean his analysis of Enterprise Saskatchewan's Underpants Gnome School of Finance isn't credible. In fact, it just may be the best thing ever written about this program which is looking more and more like a boondoggle every day. (Accidental Deliberations)

6 A PERSONAL NOTE On Sunday I bought a pack of four iTunes cards from Costco. Apples on-line iTunes store will not let me redeem two of them. E-mails to Apple's customer service have gotten me exactly nowhere. Yeah, I'm mad.

This Week At City Hall

Must be holiday time for folk at city hall because, unless something is coming up later in the week that isn't on the city's website yet, there's nothing scheduled this week.

6.28.2009

Miracle on Grass



Not quite a repeat of 1980, but the United States gave it a gallant effort. (MSN)

6.27.2009

Transformer Afternoon Goodness

Before they were Transformers, they were a Japanese toy line called Diaclone along with a couple of toys from line called Microman (although those mostly became Micronauts). Then Hasbro bought the rights - hired Marvel Comics to come up with names (courtesy of Jim Shooter, Dennis O'Neil and Bob Budiansky), a back story and a comic book tie-in and the rest is history.



It's not quite Megatron but it's close although the gun totting kid in the commercial is kinda creepy.



And look no testicles.

Jazz Me Up, Baby


This is a tale (okay, just a blog post) of two Jazz festivals: The Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival which nominally is a province-wide festival, but has left Regina's Jazz crowd perennially disappointed. This is the first year of JazzFest Regina, not the first time it's been tried, but it looks hopeful. There are free stages today and concerts tonight and tomorrow. Next week the Sasktel version lands in Regina with the Robin Nolan Trio at Bushwakkers on Monday (look for the tiny type at the bottom of the page for Regina venues). Hop on it! You've already missed PJ Perry, pictured here because he gives me funny feelings. 

Saturday Morning Cartoon, Part Two

It's a double bill of Saturday morning cartoon goodness.

Roger Ebert called Transformers 2 "a horrible experience of unbearable length, briefly punctuated by three or four amusing moments. One of these involves a dog-like robot humping the leg of the heroine. Such are the meager joys. If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination."

For those who went anyway and need to wash off the smell of shame after watching Michael Bay's Hollywood blockbuster crap this is for you.

It's the real Transformers.



Saturday Morning Cartoon

Michael Jackson is dead but he will forever live on as cheaply animated kid in this Saturday morning cartoon that aired on ABC between 1971-1973. Michael got into many wacky and musical adventures along with a couple of mice named Ray and Charles, a snake called Rosie and of course his brothers.

The Jackson's were all too busy to actually voice their own characters but strangely enough Diana Ross managed to voice herself in the deput episode.

6.26.2009

Friday Afternoon Kitty!



A vintage TV commercial for the Mercury Cougar, featuring a real, live cougar and a certain much-loved actor and model who passed away yesterday. Rest in peace, Farrah.

Class Dismissed




Here's a blast from the past for anyone who's getting a report card from elementary or high school today. (YouTube) And no, I don't know how my initials ended up on that desk.

Six In The Morning

1 MICHAEL JACKSON IS STILL DEAD Here's the obituary from the Los Angeles Times, a report on his poor health in the Guardian and the Rolling Stone tribute and archives.

2 SASK PARTY PROPOSES LOWERING THE TAXES OF THE PROVINCE'S WEALTHIEST RESIDENTS I'm just calling it like it is. That's how this would play out. You want a bunch of phoney media "balance", read this. (Leader-Post).

3 FIRST NATIONS UNIVERSITY WANTS THE DAMN MONEY The troubled institution demands its withheld federal funding (The Star Phoenix) but still won't do anything about its dysfunctional board of directors which a Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nation's Report recommended restructuring back in 2005 (First Nations University of Canada's website).

4 THEY'RE PROBABLY TORTURING IRANIAN PROTESTORS Is there a tax-deductible "foriegn plot" I can mail a cheque to? I'd like to help. (Guardian)

5 EXILED CANADIAN COMES HOME Abousfian Abdelrazik is getting on a plane and coming home to Canada after a ridiculous six-year security exile because somebody said he was a terrorist although no evidence was produced and then the Harper government sat on its ass until courts ordered them to help a Canadian citizen because that's their freaking job, and, jeez. (Globe And Mail)

6 THIS IS OLD NEWS BUT IT'S FUNNY From a Monday CBC story I just found now...

An Alberta Conservative MLA had the following quote on his blog for some insane reason: "Ladies, always smile when you walk into a room," wrote Tory Doug Elniski, adding "there is nothing a man wants less than a woman scowling because he thinks he is going to get shit for something and has no idea what."

The vastly entertaining comments have since been removed from the blog but CBC has a link to the cached post, which you can read here. To me, Elniski is more like an out-of-touch, sexist but still probably likeable dad rather than an evil sexist scumbag.

(Now, if you want to bash Alberta Tories for saying stupid things, I recommend you read about this incident.)

Elniski also recently made some comments at a Pride parade that incensed some people--something about bumping and grinding lesbians and dudes in ginormous stilettos, but he was clearly smitten with the event and having fun so I'm going to defend him on that one. We can't pummel Conservatives for everything. (CBC)

6.25.2009

Michael Jackson Is A Goner*


TMZ reports that Michael Jackson has died of a heart attack, at the age of a (young) 50. He leaves a confusing legacy, to say the least. His death also steals the thunder of Farrah Fawcett, who also died earlier today (NY Times).

* Their deaths have also sparked a debate here at Dog Blog over the definition of the word 'goner': dead or just doomed? Send us your answers before another celebrity craps out today. Whatever the case, 'goner' works with Jackson, since bits of him were just as dead -- and just as doomed -- as they were yesterday, when he was still mostly alive.

"What's A Schintzle House?"

Being that I am a subscriber (and not a street picker-upper) to prairie dog means that I am usually a few weeks behind on the issues. So I can only beg that you bear with my lateness.

The recent (to me, anyway) reunion of the Extroverts, as covered by the 'dog some weeks past, reminded me of a favourite Facebook group, Regina Old School Punk Rock. I am not a member, as I was a wee child in west-end Toronto during the time this group covers, but I recognize enough faces from the pictures to make it an entertaining read.

There is, however, only one image in the group of Scott Tremblay, and this must be rectified.

You see, though I have been shacked up with Mr. Tremblay for a number of years, and have born his child and all, that one blurry group shot on Facebook is the only image I have ever seen of him between the ages of 15 and 29. So I thought I’d offer a bounty: international candy from Japan, Mexico and France (Woot! TO the junk-foodie’s paradise!) sent to whoever can find and post a clear and ideally quite goofy picture of the aforementioned gentleman.

Farrah Fawcett, R.I.P.



































Farrah Fawcett, actor, pin up, and owner of the mother of all hairstyles has died of cancer (NYT).

6.24.2009

Victoria Park Redesign


















Mayor Pat Fiacco and posse announce City Square project

Big changes are in store for Victoria Park as the city takes the first step in its long-awaited and much-anticipated initiative to revitalize the downtown by transforming the park into a City Square that will serve as a focal point for community activity in the downtown. Together, the feds, province and city are ponying up over $7 million to realize the vision first articulated by Office for Urbanism during public consultations to develop a Downtown Neighbourhood Plan (DNP).

Progress on the DNP has lagged somewhat in recent months. In August, the plan is expected to go before the Planning Commission and City Council. But with a municipal election set for October, critics are worried that further delays are inevitable. Still, the tri-partite commitment to the City Square project is definitely a step in the right direction. Under the plan, 11th and 12th Ave are to be converted to two-way streets, with the latter capable of being closed to traffic between Lorne and Scarth to accomodate festivals and other special events. Steps are also being taken to curtail summer turf wars in the park.

As well, the Scarth Street mall might be opened up to traffic. Sacrilege? Not really. Unlike now, downtown Regina is to become uber-pedestrian friendly, so vehicle speeds will be limited to the 30 k.p.h. range, sidewalks will be widened and plenty of safe and convenient pedestrian crossings will be established.

Further details (albeit of poor graphic quality) are available here (City of Regina). Look for more in our July 2 issue.



















The public discusses proposed changes. Some are excited, others complain about downtown parking.



















Model of the new-look Victoria Park.



















Grimace!

The Imperiled Municipal Policy Puzzle

Monday night's council meeting taught me one thing -- and it's something I've suspected for a while -- no matter how carefully and wisely drafted a municipal policy is, without constant vigilance (and occasional outrage and fury) from the community, politicians will happily allow developers to rewrite any parts they find inconvenient.

In the case of condominium conversions (backgrounder here), we have a policy that says they shouldn't be approved when the vacancy rate falls below three per cent. An exception clause is provided which says that the three per cent provision may be waived if 75 per cent of residents support the conversion and none of the residents feel they will suffer hardship as a result of it.

By passing so many condo conversions, council will argue (and has argued) that they are adhering to this policy. With each new conversion, they carefully make certain that they have the needed tenant support and that there are no outstanding letters of outrage from them. Fair enough. And yet, no one seems to recognize that the policy says that they "may" approve a conversion under certain circumstances. Not that they "must" or "will" or even "should." The suggestion in this language is that when the vacancy rate gets perilously low, conversions should be an occasional thing that happen only under extraordinary circumstances. Meanwhile, the stronger language in the policy is used to refer to the council's power to deny a conversion, saying that if the vacancy rate as determined by CMHC falls below three per cent, "a conversion application is to be denied" [my emphasis].

Can't get clearer than that.

And yet, while we have had a vacancy rate well below three per cent for the last two years at least, all but one condo conversion has been approved over that time.

Seems that in the mind of council that "may" and that "is to be" have been swapped around.

Be that as it may, in light of council's failure to protect Regina's rental stock, a community has gathered to oppose these conversions. Angry citizens have appeared before Regina Planning Commission and city council to express their concerns about affordable housing and the loss of rental suites to the tide of conversions sweeping the city's inner neighbourhoods. The opposition has even become more organized of late as the Regina Anti-Poverty Network has struck a housing subcommittee, its first order of business being to raise the alarm about condo conversions.

And while all this activism has only managed to stop one conversion, it has succeeded in improving the lot of those tenants who live in buildings that have been converted. To assuage the troubled conscience of council by mitigating any possible hardship their tenants could suffer, developers have been encouraged to include ever more progressive provisions in their tenancy agreements. To get to that magic "75 per cent of tenants approve of this conversion", they are now regularly offering lifetime tenancy to residents 70 years of age or older, three or five years of guaranteed tenancy, and -- remarkably -- rent controls ensuring tenants won't have to pay more than 85 per cent of market rent for a comparable suite. Lately, developers are being expected to guarantee that 75 per cent of their units will remain rentals. And a few developers are even offering rent-to own schemes and lifetime tenancy for long term residents.

There are problems with all this, obviously (and they're fodder for another blog post) but without a doubt, the tenants who face condominium conversion today are far better off than those who went through this a year ago.

Council and RPC can likely take some of the credit here for waving their power to deny a conversion in the face of the development community. And I've heard council repeatedly give credit to certain developers for coming forward with such generous residency packages.

But none of this would have happened if community organizers like Christina Luberti, Peter Gilmer and all the people who've protested and spoken out hadn't been constant thorns in the side of council.

So, while the condo policy isn't succeeding -- as written -- to protect the rental supply, it has been put to good purpose in protecting tenants.

Meanwhile, more than four hours into the same meeting, after most of the gallery had (understandably) emptied, council approved a 70 unit apartment building on E Quance Street.

Sounds swell. More rental stock on it way. Councillor O'Donnel even said of this development "this is wonderful, this is the way it should be."

As we blogged before, city administration had recommended denial for this apartment because it was planned for a commercially zoned area. They pointed out that putting a residential development there violated the Official Community Plan and that area's neighbourhood plan.

It has been argued (in this Leader Post article) by Garth Frederickson, the Bison Properties developer behind this apartment plan, that this is the "right project in the right place." He said that he doesn't adhere to "the old view that here's where this stops and this starts, and it's going to be homogeneous until we get to that point."

He makes the OCP sound like some kind of antiquated, social engineering document. But there are good reasons for zoning the east of the city the way it is. Not only does it protect the interests of businesses along the highway who set up shop expecting the area to be a commerical zone busy with car traffic lured off the highway, but it also serves to discourage the sprawl of residential out to the fringe of the city.

In their report on the Quance proposal, city staff even note, "there is not a current shortage of lands appropriate for high density residential development.... Vacant lands framing the downtown are specifically identified for such high density residential development in the draft downtown plan. Within various built-up communities there are various areas in transition where high density residential re-development would aid in revitalization of aged housing stock and mitigate population decline."

Mayor Fiacco, during discussion of this application, noted, "It would be different if we had ten applications before us... then we could be a bit more picky about which areas we want apartment's built, but that's not the case here."

Of course, one could argue that the whole point of having an Official Community Plan that outlines where residential developments should and shouldn't be built is so that when developers are casting their eyes about Regina and looking for lots on which to build apartments, they'll choose places that the city feels are more desirable while avoiding places that don't fit with our vision of what kind of city we want to become.

If it were to deny applications such this one on Quance Street, council would be telling the development community that we do not want Regina to become one of those cities that sprawls off ad nauseum toward the horizon. That we want to increase our density and build up population in areas that are already served by infrastructure.

Instead, at the end of discussion on the Quance Street development, council directed city staff to look into rezoning the area around it to accomdate more residential.

A perusal of apartment applications that have come in over the last 11 months suggests that developers have been trying to build such apartments on the eastern fringe of the city since 2003 at least. Now, thanks to a rental squeeze that makes any proposal to build apartments look apetizing, not only have they been granted their wish to build there, but the OCP will be changed so that no future applications of this sort will be breaking the rules. In essence, the developers have been allowed to rewrite the Official Community Plan.

And all this happened because of a lack of media scrutiny and community activism against such actions.

But don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming anyone in the community or the media even. It's hard to get upset about new rental units being built in the city, no matter where it is. But that doesn't change the fact that, thanks to projects like this one being encouraged, more and more of Regina's lower and middle income renters will be shunted off to the fringe of the city. And, more ominously, council has demonstrated that they are unwilling to enforce plans and policies that, when the chips are down, become inconvenient for the development community.

If you care about the vision for this city that's being laid out in things like the Downtown Plan and the Core Community plan, then this should be a worrying development. In the draft Downtown Plan, for instance -- and especially in the Built Form Framework -- there are many provisions that over time may be seen by developers as too restrictive.

One wonders if this council will have the stones to hold developers to the high standards this plan is trying to set.

Six In The Morning

1 WE HAVE TO BUILD A NUKE PLANT. HAVE TO. I MEAN COME ON, GUYS Cameco's Jamie McIntyre says Sask's gotta go nuclear. The uranium company's vice-president of environmental leadership, speaking at a Regina Chamber of Commerce meeting, says Saskatchewan's uranium is too important not to develop. "In fact, nuclear power may be the quintessential sustainable development technology,'' the Leader-Post quotes him as saying. Editorial comment: you know, more than a few people whose companies DON'T stand to make money from the Saskachewan government's atomic boner have different ideas on that "sustainable" stuff.

2 NURSES AGAINST NUKES The province's nurses don't want a nuclear reactor and they've got the research to prove it's a bad idea. But they also don't want an isoptope reactor, which I'm not sure is a wise political position. "Our concern is for Saskatchewan, and let other countries take on that development," said Rosalie Longmore, head of the Saskatchewan Union Of Nurses. A little too NIMBY for my tastes. (CBC)

3 CONTROVERSIAL UNION LIKES CONTROVERSIAL LAW The Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) gets behind Bill 80. (The StarPhoenix)

4 CITY CENTRE PLAN ON PARADE The City's Centre Square scemes will be unveiled today in Victoria Park. The public is invited to attend the viewing, which goes from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the park's east side. The Leader-Post has a two-sentence story on its website about this here--in case you think I'm LYING and you want verification. (Also a nice lady e-mailed me a press release, so it's all for true--for reals you guys!) now hopefully the event won't be crashed by gangs, assholes or other hyper-testosteroned malcontents. (CJME)

5 IRAN CLUSTERFUCK SHAMBLES ALONG And onward march the thugs and thiefs. They're killing prostestors. They're arresting political opponents. They're even scapegoating soccer stars. Plus, a report I heard on CBC this a.m. but can't find a link to at the moment said the government is bringing in a notorious torturer--implicated in the case of a raped and murdered Canadian journalist a few years back--to extract "confessions" from demonstrators. See? See? Supreme Leaders and religious governments ARE ALWAYS A BAD IDEA.

6 BUSINESS IS BOOMING Canada is a top supplier of ecstacy, says the United Nations (Globe And Mail). And apropos of that, here's Lily Allen's thoughts on drugs, from the awesome album It's Not Me, It's You:

6.23.2009

Pics From Last Night's Council Meeting


















Fifty or 60 people turned out for the meeting. In this pic, Nicor president Ross Keith addresses council with gravel-voiced determination.


The Regina Anti Poverty Ministry's Peter Gilmer asks Council to turn down four condo conversions. (Council doesn't.)



Ward 4 Councillor Michael Fougere, who chairs the Regina Planning Commission, which recommended passing the condo conversions council is considering this night.


Regina Mayor Pat Fiacco asks that one conversion application be sent back to City Administration so they can negotiate a better deal for tenants. (It is.)



Nicor president Keith and property owner Jason Diewold, who touts his properties' rent to own option.

Surviving the Recession



Finally, an economic stimulus strategy that we can all get behind (or some of us, anyway). (The Onion)

Dogged Determination


With all the stray dogs wandering around the pages of the June 18 issue, here's something else that got lost in the shuffle. It's a news brief I wrote that didn't get run, and considering the fast one Wall & Co. seem to be intent on pulling with the UDP report and the public consultations currently underway it deserves airing. Dan Perrins isn't supposed to submit his report until the end of August, yet the Globe & Mail story cited in two posts yesterday on Wall floating the idea of building a nuclear reactor in Saskatoon states that a decision could come as soon as August. Assuming the government is actually interested in reading the report, those timelines don't exactly match up. Yet when it comes to the ability of Saskatchewan citizens to proactively protect the environment, as the below report demonstrates, we don't have a lot of leverage.


Saskatchewan Receives Failing Grade
Environmental report cards are nothing new. Green activists have been releasing them for years as a way of evaluating the sensitivity of different jurisdictions, from provinces in Canada to countries around the world, to environmental issues.

On the eve of World Environment Day on June 5, Friends of the Earth Canada released its first annual report card on environmental rights available in law to Canadians (see http://www.foecanada.org/ ).

Ten criteria were examined, including the ability of individuals and organizations to initiate investigations and law suits related to suspected environmental misconduct, whistleblower protection for people who reveal instances of misconduct, measures to compel governments to respond to complaints, and so-called SLAPP protection which would prevent polluters from launching strategic lawsuits to dissuade individuals and groups from bringing forward their concerns.

Of the 13 jurisdictions examined, Yukon received the highest grade (B+). Ontario (B), Canada (C+) and Quebec (C+) also received passing grades. Every other jurisdiction was assigned a failing grade, with Saskatchewan, Alberta and Prince Edward Island all receiving Ds.

“What actions individuals and groups can take is largely dependent on what the government allows for in legislation,” says report author Jody Lownds. “We also need to keep in mind that our report doesn’t factor in any implementation gaps between what people can do in theory and how government processes actually work. Typically, there’s big gaps between what governments are supposed to be doing to allow their citizens to get involved and what’s actually happening on the ground.”

When it comes to environmental stewardship, says Lowds, traditional notions of property rights and legal standing are inadequate to address the dynamic nature of our eco-system. “In Alberta, for example, there’s an Environmental Appeal Board, where people who aren’t necessarily directly involved in a permit or environmental assessment can appeal a decision. But the test for standing is so strict that it’s not enough to simply be someone who’s concerned about the quality of your water and air. Unless your property interests are involved, you’re usually not able to [participate].

“One of the outcomes of this report, we hope, is that individuals and groups will start to lobby governments for better environmental rights,” says Lownds. “At the federal level, Friends of the Earth, along with Eco-Justice and Sierra Club of Canada, did put forward a draft Canadian Environmental Bill of Rights. Given the current political climate, though, it’s been difficult to make any headway.”

Carla Beck to Run for School Board Seat

We received a heads up tonight from Carla Beck that she is seeking election as school board trustee in subdivision 5 -- John Conway's old position.

Carla is a medical social worker in the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, a community organizer with Real Renewal and one of the people behind the Walking Schoolbus initiative we blogged about a while back.

She is also a noted critic of the current school board's plan for schools in Regina.

“One vision of renewal has been articulated by the current 10-year plan. I support a different vision,” says Beck, “one that values small, neighbourhood schools and reduced class sizes, decreases our reliance on busing and fossil fuels, values heritage architecture, and encourages local democracy and community involvement in schools.”

At the same time, she notes that she supports the board's efforts to make schools the centre of their communities by, for instance, integrating them into multi-use facilities.

City Council Update

















Councillors Michael Fougere (Ward 4, southeast Regina), Wade Murray (Ward 6, centre-northeast), Sharron Bryce (Ward 7, north) and Jerry Flegel (Ward 10, north of Regina amid the golden Prairies). Photo by Stephen Whitworth.


It was a six hour council meeting -- Whitworth and I stuck it out to the bitter, bitter end. Apologies if this is shorter than it should be....

Meeting started with four condo conversions. Two were approved (15 Barr Avenue and 125 Froom Cr.) and two were referred back to city administration (230 E Broadway Ave and 2620 5th Ave) because there was some concern that tenant hardship hadn't been completely dealt with there.

The city also approved the expansion of the Prince of Wales library branch, the extension of the contract for Paratransit service, a zone agreement for the Souls Harbour Mission and a zoning exception for an apartment building to be put up out Quance way.

Also approved the purchase of a couple low floor buses, tax exemptions for the food bank and airport authority, a boost in transit fees, and funding of $10,000 for the Folk Fest's 40th anniversary while giving $10,675 to the Science Centre for it's 20th. Don't really much care that the Science Centre got a little extra money, it's such a tiny amount in the grand scheme of things --- but why $675 dollars exactly? Such an odd number.

Oh, also, you want to keep chickens in your backyard? Sorry. It's practically illegal now.

1.5 DOGS TOO FEW

Boy, were we ever off in the dog deigning department! In my riveting masterpiece on first nations gas bars, Cowessess seems to have lost one dog (that's why they're on the cover and the text says they won, and because they did). Creeland also got dinged by a half dog, which would have upped their count to three.

The official score on the gas bars around town: Cowessess Gas and Grocery, 4.5 dogs; Saulteaux Junction, 4 dogs; Creeland Mini-Mart, 3 dogs. Along with the extra dogs, I would like to send our thank to all three of these businesses for their participation in this very important research.

6.22.2009

2 dogs too many

Dear Readers,


In case anyone thinks I'm an idiot for giving Sonic Youth's new album 5 prairie dogs (PERFECT and EXTRAORDINARY MASTERPIECE) I didn't. For the record I've never given any review a perfect score. 4.5/5 is the highest I've ever gone, and that's only for something really incredible that I think everyone should listen to. The review I wrote was actually 3/5 (a good listen but really, who are we kidding, this ain't no Daydream Nation folks). It's a typo. The suits at the head office have asked everyone to please burn your copy of this weeks Prairie Dog and to never speak of it again.
With love,

Andrew

(Selective) Support For Local Media

Over at The Sasquatch, editor Jenn Ruddy has a good editorial on politicians championing corporate media outlets like CTV when other news organizations are struggling. You can read it here.

I agree with Ruddy's point: this lining-up behind CanWest and CTV is irritating. While Brad Wall pleads on CTV's behalf, CBC is being starved by government (Friends Of Canadian Broadcasting). And locally-published Briarpatch, the parent magazine of The Sasquatch, faces cuts to its funding (StarPhoenix).

Where's their shout-outs from the Premier?

Sure, we need local CTV. But we need local CBC too. And we need Briarpatch and The Sasquatch and Planet S and prairie dog and the Leader-Post. You don't get a full perspective on the place we live in from one news outlet.

Our politicians need to remember that.

Wall Wants Istotopes!

Here's a link to a Globe And Mail article about Premier Brad Wall's newly-announced plans for nuclear in this province: in short, Brad Wall says Saskatchewan should build a research reactor at the U of S.

Well maybe we should, and maybe we shouldn't. But hats off to Dog Blog commentor Jurist, who predicted Wall would leverage Canada's need for medical isotope production to build support for a full-scale nuclear reactor. Wall is not a stupid politician.

Anyway, the Opposition takes a swat at this development on their website. In a press release, NDP MLA Sandra Morin asks: “How is it that the premier of a province can announce that he plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a nuclear reactor in two to three years in downtown Saskatoon without public consultation, without a plan and without a firm dollar figure[?]”

Well, good question.

Meanwhile, the other nuclear plant--the one Bruce Power wants to build--isn't for medical isotopes, of course. It's for power generation. And its opponents hate it. They say will be 1.) a cash sinkhole 2.) an environmental nightmare 3.) a distraction from sustainable energy options like wind, solar and conservation 4.) a power source for awful, pollutey oilsands extraction 5.) backdoor privatization of Saskatchewan's power grid and 6.) a strategy to transfer a ginormous pile of money to Bruce Power.

Beatty was at stakeholder consultations this a.m. and will report back when he has a chance. There will be some analysis in the next issue of prairie dog (July 2), as well.

Incidentally, the Globe and Mail story also reports Brad Wall ran on an election pledge to build up the province's nuclear industry. Here's their quote:

"Mr. Wall ran on a platform that included a pledge to build up a full-fledged nuclear industry in Saskatchewan, which already produces nearly a quarter of the world's uranium, but does little beyond extract the ore."

I don't remember this pledge, though it's possible Wall said something vague about getting more money from uranium (sarcsm: which I guess is why the Uranium Development Partnership (UDP) wants to lower royalty rates, eh?).

But I am pretty damn sure Wall didn't promise that his government would build two nuclear reactors.

The Globe and Mail really needs to get someone out to these UDP meetings. They have no idea what the opposition to nuclear is saying. Either that, or they have no interest.

Live Tonight: Sleepless Nights

June 22, 2009

Sleepless Nights, Axis of Conversation
The Club


When posting reviews of their most recent album, Turn Into Vapour, Sleepless Nights aren't only showcasing the glowing ones, one such review even saying that the band "seriously turns down the fun and turns up the suck". But, Sleepless Nights frontman A.A. Wallace doesn't seem to be the sort to let that stop him, nor has the band's ever changing lineup. Since 2003, they've been pumping out high energy indie pop, and there's little sign of them slowing now. Also appearing are Calgary-natives Axis of Conversation, just coming home from North by North East and moving onto Sled Island Fest.

Sleepless Nights - Got Caught

Six In The Morning
























1 CAN I GET A COST BENEFIT ON THAT $2 BILLION? The Globe and Mail talks to Saskatchewan's nuclear boosters about our proposed controversial reactor, and imply it's a replacement for Chalk River. Huh? What? They're gonna get letters on this one.

2 ANOTHER USE FOR THOSE BILLIONS What about power transmission lines so we--and our neighbouring provinces--can make the most out of wind? (StarPhoenix)

3 TORIES SNUB PRIDE PARADE The last sentence of this Leader-Post article is the newsworthy one.

4 WHEN SCIENTOLOGISTS ATTACK Former members are saying Church Of Scientology leader David Miscavige hits people. Could these tales be true? (Guardian)

5 BAN THE BURQA: SARKOZY France's president less-than helpfully says that traditional Muslim dress debases women. (New Your Times)

6 OUR POOR, PARCHED LITTLE PALS Water-deprived rats are running amok in Swift Current. Poor rodents. But seriously, release the snakes. (CBC)

This Week at City Hall


Monday, June 22
City Council (5:30 pm): Housing will be front and centre this week as four condo conversions and one new apartment building are to be considered. Twelve delegations are scheduled to speak on those items alone. (If you're looking for background, try wading through the Curious Case of the Continued Condo Conversions, the Enigma of the Inevitable Apartments, Revenge of the Condos, What Will an Extra $300 a Month Get You?, Regina Rental Scorecard, and this This Week at City Hall.)

Also on the schedule are the relocation of the Prince of Wales library branch, paratransit vehicle maintenance, the purchase of two low-floor buses, tax exemption requests from the food bank and the airport authority, a buffer-strip for Prince of Wales Drive, a proposal for two biocide-free park spaces, transit fare increases, plans to draft a new animal bylaw, changes to indoor arena ice fees, and much, much, much more.

If you plan to attend (and we hope you do) you might want to bring food. And your jammies. The agenda is taller than my daughter. You can download it on the city's website.

6.21.2009

The Enigma of the Inevitable Apartments

At their Monday night meeting, council will be considering the case of a proposed 73-unit apartment complex to go up at 3725 E Quance Street. If approved, this building will complete a trilogy of rental developments planned for the far east end of Victoria Ave/Highway One. The others are at 3351 E Eastgate Bay and 3730 Eastgate Drive.

The Quance Street development is interesting in that it is going before council with no recommendation from Regina Planning Commission attached to it. At the June 11 RPC meeting, the question of this development resulted in a tied vote. And instead of waiting until a meeting where more committee members could be present who could perhaps break the deadlock, committee chair, Ward 4 Councillor Michael Fougere -- who will be championing this project before council -- chose to move the application through the system. (You can read the Leader Post coverage here.)

City administration recommended denial for this application for a variety of reasons. Among them is the fact that the property is situated in an area zoned Major Arterial Commercial (MAC), which means it's meant for large-format retail that's built for car traffic -- not pedestrians. The road it's on is a feeder onto the highway so the closest thing to residential that's appropriate here is a motel. That's why the Official Community Plan indicates that an apartment building is not an acceptable use of the property. (Hence the need to go before council before turning sod for it.)

The other two apartments in this trio are in similarly inhospitable environs. For instance, the Eastgate Bay development -- which is intended to serve the senior's market -- is more than half a kilometre from the nearest busstop and only two thirds of the route to it has a sidewalk. More alarmingly, it will also be located within 120 metres of the Husky Truck Stop. Not only will the seniors in the Eastgate Bay building have to put up with the sound of idling trucks, the station occasionally serves rigs hauling dangerous goods. According to our traffic bylaws such vehicles are not allowed within 150 metres of residential properties.

Also of note, as all three buildings are poorly served by pedestrian infrastructure, the cost of retrofitting these neighbourhoods to accomodate residential foot traffic will be borne by the city.

Despite the fact that our plans, planners, policies and bylaws indicate that putting up residential in such a residential-unfriendly zone is inadvisable at best, these projects are still making their way through the system and finding favour with many on Regina's council.

In fact, just as Monday's Quance Street application will get before council despite enough opposition on RPC to bring the committee to a stalemate, the 3730 Eastgate Drive project made it before council despite a great deal of official opposition. That project (which was considered last October) was actually voted down by Regina Planning Commission (a rare thing) -- RPC as a body actually agreed with the recommendations of its staff. And yet, the Eastgate Drive project went before council and it was council that approved the project. (Update: Just spoke to Councillor Browne and apparently even reports that RPC votes to deny go before council. Who knew? This might be the first RPC denial I've seen.)

When you think of where these buildings will be built, you have to wonder, who would want to live there? The landscape is dominated by parking lots that are nearly always almost empty and only completely full one day out of the year. Streets are wide. Sidewalks are few. It is a land of asphalt, exhaust and howling wind. It's territory ceded to the automobile.

Thing is, no one wants to live there. I certainly don't. I'd wager none of the people on council and RPC who are pushing these buildings through despite the fact that they contradict the vision of our Official Community Plan would want to live there either.

But with our perilously low vacancy rate, many in Regina will find they have nowhere else to go.

Iran Update: Tehran Quiet?

After the Iranian government's weekend of brutality and murder, Tehran has apparently settled into an uneasy calm, reports the Guardian.

Meanwhile, the New York Times says Iran's clerics are divided. Gee, some men of deep faith apparently feel uneasy when troops shoot protesters after a rigged election.

Speaking of rigged elections, over at the Atlantic Andrew Sullivan--who's been doing a great job following the news in Iran--links to a report about possible (i.e. definite) vote fraud. Apparently there were more votes than voters in the June 12 election. And this is the official government report, not some tally by a touring U.N. democracy carnival or similar hippies. Well I guess these things happen, too bad kids have to be murdered as a result, whatchagonnado?

Good people, good country, rotten, brutal leaders. Give 'em the boot and prosecute where necessary.

Note: I'll continue to post angry, angry inks on this daily for at least the next week. You've been warned.

Happy Father's Day!


Bill Zeman has a blog called Tiny Art Director. The hook? His four year-old daughter tells him what to draw (or paint) and he draws (or paints) it. And she hilariously critiques it.

Why do you need to know about this? Because it is 52 million googaplex kinds of awesome.

And it's Father's Day so it seems fitting to talk about it.

You can find Tiny Art Director here.

Zeman is a Brooklyn, NY-based artist, illustrator, blogger and parent. Here's a link to his illustration blog. Apparently they'll be a Tiny Art Director book in 2010. I can't wait.


6.20.2009

Regina Rental Scorecard

With housing likely to be the focus of much debate during Monday's council meeting, it seemed a good time to look at how Regina is doing in its struggle to alleviate the rental crunch.

Do you like numbers? Yeah, me neither. Still, I went back over city council decisions from July 2008 (the oldest up on the city's website) through to now and tallied up how many rental units have been lost to condo conversions and how many new rental suites have been supported by council in some way.

(I should note, the numbers here include the applications being considered Monday as though council approves them -- which, I will venture to say, is a fair assumption. If, however, it turns out that some are denied, these numbers will need to be adjusted.)

Anyway, here we go....

Between July 2008 and June 2009, 239 rental units were in buildings which Regina Planning Commission (RPC) greenlit for conversion to condominiums. (101 of those units are being considered by council on Monday.)

179 units were in buildings where an agreement was struck with the city so that 75 per cent of the units would have to remain rental suites.

Assuming the developers abide by that restriction, that means 156 of the 239 rental units can be expected to be turned into condos.

Meanwhile, RPC has supported the construction of 416 rental units (70 of which will be considered Monday).

Most of those are in the form of new apartment complexes for which the city granted discretionary use applications. But, 102 units in development were supported directly by the city through tax cuts and/or grants.

What does this all add up to? Well, if everything goes as planned, Regina should eventually see 210 more rental suites as a result of the last 11 months worth of decisions.

Sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Considering the current rental market consists of around 20,000 units, this represents a little more than a 1 per cent increase in the rental pool. A modest improvement. And, assuming all 210 units stay vacant for a while and don't get snatched up by people moving into the city or people displaced by condo conversions, that could help our vacancy rate creep up to that magic three per cent level.

There are a few things to keep in mind here, though.

First, that 75 per cent provision will only be in effect for five years or until the vacancy rate gets up to three per cent. Once either of those conditions is met, another 179 rental units will become vulnerable.

Second, if the city had followed it's policy to deny condo applications once the vacancy drops below three per cent, instead of only an anticipated net increase of 210 units, the rental pool could have been expected to grow by 416 units.

Third, considering how much the city has grown and is hoping to grow over the next couple years, it seems likely that 210 units (or 416, for that matter) will be insufficient to satisfy the city's need for new rental accomodation. Sure, there will probably be more rental built in the future. But there are also a few more condo conversions in the queue. What that adds up to is we're seeing the amount of rental space increase at a crawling pace when what the market needs is a brisk walk at the very least.

And fourth, a large portion of the new rental suites under development are to be built on the edge of the city. 191 of them, in fact. Those'll be going up around E Eastgate Dr and Quance St. (Another 70 units are slated for 110 N Broad St. While that's pretty far north, it seems to be a more residential-friendly area and not isolated among big box stores and parking lagoons like the Eastgate and Quance developments.)

Thus, as the bulk of the conversion applications have come from the city's centre, the 156 households that have been displaced by condos will likely find themselves hunting for a home on the fringe of the city.

A People Better Than Their Leaders


Photo of a supporter of candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi taken a while back. This is a face of change, and this is what the old clerics fear. The site I swiped this pic from--Tehranlive.org--hasn't been updated for a few days (no updates? In a police state? Go figure!) but it's worth checking out. Here's the link.

Iran Update (Language And Anger Warning)

So, as expected, all hell is breaking loose in Iran (the Guardian). Protesters are rioting and government soldiers are killing them. If you want to ruin your Saturday--and hey, why not? a lot of Iranians are having their weekends ruined!--check out Andrew Sullivan's live blog over at the Atlantic. There's gruesome, tragic videos of death and mayhem, too. Wheee.

Oh, and to make a few obvious points with absolutely necessary strong language: 1.) fuck tyrants. 2.) fuck religion when it's twisted to justify slaughter, and I don't care if it's Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Zoroastrianism or Jedi and 3.) fuck the so-called protectors of the public good -- be they soldiers, police or militias--who murder unarmed civilians. If you're wearing body armor in Iraq today you're the bad guy. Fuck you.

And by the way, just to put my massive rage in context for people who aren't used to me totally flipping out, I've had a huge soft spot for Iran for a long time. It's seemed to me a country full of dynamic, strong, intelligent and wonderful people with the bad luck to be ruled by a pack of cave-dwelling religious thugs from the stone age. I'm no kind of expert on the country whatsoever but I always had a gut feeling the people of this country were fundamentally smart, funny, friendly and irrepressible and (before the Republicans were turfed in the States), I spent a couple of years freaking out over the fact that Cheney and co. clearly wanted to bomb them (4. and fuck Cheney, Bush and company).

To see these wonderful, brave people lying dead and dying in the streets, it's too much. This regime needs to end so Iran can grow. There's a flower here that can make the world a lovelier place.

Out with the cheaters, liars, desperate power-graspers and "supreme leaders". Out with religious governments.

Saturday Morning Cartoon

What's worse than a Dukes of Hazzard cartoon? How about a Dukes of Hazzard cartoon that stars replacement Dukes Vance and Coy. It's hard to believe but in 1983 Hanna-Barbera brought The Dukes to Saturday morning kids with a General Lee that could inflate its tires and the wrong Duke Boys racing around the world against Boss Hogg.

Bo and Luke were back for season two without any logical explanation. Somewhere between Hong Kong and Switzerland Vance and Coy mysteriously became Bo and Luke but the bad jokes and weak animation remained the same.

6.19.2009

A Personal Message

Not to abuse the integrity of this blog or anything but... gonna anyway.

Happy birthday mom, couldn't do this without you.

Will Iran Explode This Weekend?

A quick post as I get ready to head home (possibly via le pub du l'alcohol yummilles). Haven't said anything about Iran today, but the country should be the big story this weekend and I'd be wicked if I didn't post something. Earlier today Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, said that his country's recent, fishy-seeming-to-many elections were valid, and added that there'd be trouble--BIG trouble--if the protests/riots continue. (Guardian)

He's not saying what the big trouble might be, but does say the election-losing politicians will have "blood on their hands" if, um, something bad happen.

The line has been drawn. I have a hard time believing young Iranians are going to back down. Keep an eye on the news this weekend; this is important stuff.

UPDATE: I just realized this is Dog Blog post #500. It took us long enough to get online--we launched this blog last fall, six or seven years into the era of "everyone needs a website". Better late than never! And I'd say we're off to a good start.

Monday's Council Meeting to be a Humdinger

Further to this absurdly long post (sorry about that... got carried away again) it looks like there will be fireworks aplenty at Monday's council meeting. Six delegations will be speaking against four condo conversions. Considering council's track record (only one conversion denied in the last year and a half), it seems likely that, despite our still-low vacancy rate and the outpouring of community outrage against them, the applications will be passed. Call me a pessimist. Or an optimist, if you're in the market for a like-new condo.

Prairie dog will be there, of course. (Me and Whitworth, at least.) This promises to be about as exciting as city council can get. (I know, I know, that isn't saying much.) Plus it'll be a good chance to see the current council members in action in advance of this October's municipal election. Wondering where your councillor stands on housing? On Monday, all will be revealed.

Anyway, we're hoping some of the Dog Blog readers will join us at the meeting. If you do, come over and say hi.

The Curious Case of (Continued) Condo Conversions

Monday's city council meeting agenda has just come out and I don't know if I've ever seen one quite so long. Looks like the the largest chunk of the meeting will be taken up by four condominium conversion applications and the delegations that are coming out to speak for and (mostly) against them.

Alongside them, council will also be considering an apartment complex that is slated to go up at 3275 E Quance Street -- that's way out on the eastern edge of the city.

Taken together, these five items are significant in that they show how, where housing is concerned, the decisions of Regina Planning Commision are completely at odds with the recommendations of the city's Department of Planning and Sustainability. Have to wonder if this doesn't make for some tense dealings between them.

In the case of the condo conversions, city staff recommended all four be denied due to the city's abyssmally low 0.7 percent vacancy rate -- just up from October's 0.5 percent. Despite this, planning commission recommends all four be approved by council.

(For more on the hows and whys of this, check out this post by Whitworth or the condo writeup from the June 4 prairie dog.)

City staff have argued repeatedly that they have to recommend denial for these applications because city policy indicates that they should not be given approval if the vacancy rate is below three per cent. An exemption is granted under the policy if 75 per cent of renters don't object to a conversion and if no one identifies hardship would result from it. The city solicitor's office, however, has advised RPC repeatedly that in their legal opinion that exemption may not be valid under the provincial condominium legislation and they cannot guarantee it would protect the city from litigation.

In an effort to rehabilitate the city's aging multi-unit housing stock, RPC and council continue to approve conversion applications. Considering this track record, it seems pretty likely that the four applications before council on Monday will also be passed -- despite the fact that six community delegations will be coming out speak against them. (Plus, the gallery is expected to be pretty close to full with people alarmed by the conversions.)

At the same time, these could be among the last conversions to come to council before Councillor Clipsham's condo conversion moratorium takes effect. (There are two more applications that are still being negotiated between city staff and the developers.)

As has been pointed out to me by a couple councillors, this moratorium on condo conversions is an unprecedented move for our city council. And, they claim, it should be seen as a decisive move to deal with the affordable housing crunch in the city.

Now, when that conversion moratorium was passed, there were over 20 applications in the queue that the moratorium did not apply to. That represented several hundred rental units. When I pointed this out (seperately) to Councillors Fougere and Flegel, and spoke somewhat preemptively of those units being "lost to the market", both councillors pointed out that each conversion application would be considered on its own merits and there were no guarantees that all or even the majority of them would be approved.

It's worth pointing out now that in the last year and a half, only one condo conversion application has been turned down. (That was the Viva Apartment application. And you can read about the fallout from that here.)

Meanwhile, there's this apartment building that's to be built out on Quance Street. City administration recommended denial on this because of its isolated location (it is faced by a big box store's loading dock on one side, a strip mall parking lot on another, and empty land/Prairie on the other two).

It could be argued that the need for 70 new rental units should override any concerns about building placement. And if this building is approved, that is likely how it will be spun by council.

But by recommending denial, city staff are following the Official Community Plan which states that housing shouldn't be placed scattershot around the city. You shouldn't have lonely apartment buildings surrounded by big box stores and parking lagoons. It doesn't make for a cohesive city.

Moreover, one could argue that this building and another similar complex at 3351 Eastgate Bay which was approved by council back in May are the worst concerns of conversion opponents coming to fruition: namely, that affordable housing in the core of the city will be lost to condo conversion, while new affordable housing -- along with the low income people who rent them -- will be shuffled off to the edge of the city.

Taken altogether -- the condo conversions while the vacancy rate is so low, the new apartments on the edge of the city (and don't get me started on a New Housing Incentives Policy which staff have prepared but Executive Committee has let languish in limbo) -- we have a worrying situation developing where policies are put together, city staff makes recommendations based on those policies but committees and council ignore those policies when it's convenient.

As Diane Delaney, co-ordinator of the Provincial Association of Transition Houses and Services of Saskatchewan, said of the last round of condo conversions:

"The city administration people are recommending not to do this. And these are people who are well educated, experienced professionals that they’ve hired to give them advice and then they consistently ignore what their own administration advises them. And it’s not even like they could replace them with a whole group of other people because any competent city planner would give them the same advice. But for some reason they seem to think they know better. Then one would have to ask, why is that? Why are they making decisions that fly in the face of what their own city planners are recommending? You can leave that open to people to speculate on why that may be."

That city policy and staff recommendations can be overridden so often does not bode well for, say, the Downtown Neighbourhood Plan. It may outline an exciting direction for the city. But it seems there's no guarantee council has to follow it.

Thoroughly FNUC'D, No Question About It

I don’t know if there’s a Cree equivalent of foot-in-mouth disease. (Leader-Post). But Clarence Bellegarde, the Chief of the Little Black Bear First Nation, a close political ally of Morley Watson (whose actions brought First Nations University of Canada to grief unparalleled in the Canadian academic world) and the chairman of the First Nations University of Canada board of governors, pretty much burned every bridge with two levels of government and the Canadian academic community have tried to build since its Feb. 17, 2005 takeover.

Sixteen people with PhDs (as of last count) – and about a third of its professors have left FNUC (Planet S). Enrollment has fallen by a third – mostly by third and fourth year students who learn that the college is falling apart, and if they want their degree to mean anything, they go into the University of Regina. The college has gone from being a source of pride to a joke in the Saskatchewan and Canadian academic world. And it will continue to be a joke – as long as aboriginal politicians continue to run the show into the ground, as they have done with most band businesses (the Landmark Inn) and enterprises (File Hills Internet, Lebret Eagles and Beardy’s Rage of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League).

Paul Martin -- no, not that Paul Martin, this Paul Martin (Paul Martin Communications) once explained this to me. The reason why most co-operative ventures and state capitalist enterprises fail is that the needs of the consumer aren’t always the needs of the owners of a business when the state is involved. For example, many state business ventures were create not to make a profit for the state, but to get people working or to ‘diversify the economy.’ But if establishing a profit wasn’t the most important thing, it wouldn’t run as well as a business that was mandated to provide a profit.

So it is with a university. FNUC’s mandate was to educate The Best and The Brightest of Canadian aboriginal society. That’s why the chiefs and a small cadre of aboriginal academics convinced two levels of government to establish the college. But whether as a side-effect, or whether it was the established goal of Morley Watson and then FSIN Grand Chief Alphonse Bird (and there’s evidence either way regarding this) FNUC isn’t doing that any more. It’s now a cog in the FSIN patronage machine, run by people who otherwise couldn’t get a job in academia or in the private sector.

And if I’m Saskatchewan’s advanced education minister, well, I should be feeling as if Chief Bellegarde is going to ask for a smoke afterward. (Leader-Post) The province gave FNUC close to $5 million to deal with its budget shortfall, its new collective agreement, and a study that rehashed the Anaquod report – in order to deal with their problems, and FNUC’s board of governors told them something involving sex and travel in that order. In the words of this long-established 12-step support group (AlAnon International), FNUC doesn’t see its funding agents as partners, or as people for whom they are financially responsible to. FNUC sees its funders as ‘enablers.’

Frankly, the only solution is for the feds to step in permanently. The Readers’ Digest version sees the minister of Indian Affairs doing something like this: the feds cut all funding – all funding – until the board of governors resigns and the FSIN turns over trusteeship of the Regina campus and FNUC to the federal government. There’s no sense in the FSIN keeping political control of the university any longer since they’ve demonstrated that they’re not capable of running a two-float parade, let alone something as complicated as a university, whose job is to fundamentally question – and provide answers to -- the political masters of a society.

The only other option would be a disaster of the first magnitude for Regina – the federal government closing FNUC in favor of establishing Departments of Native Studies in other universities – say, the University of Northern BC, Athabasca University, the University of Northern Manitoba, and the Universitie du Quebec-Abitibi. Not only would it mean an incredible brain drain in Regina (FNUC’s blood purges have been partly stemmed by having many of those jumping or being pushed out landing on their feet at the U of R), but also it would mean the end of a concentration of aboriginal thinkers, intellectually feeding off each other, which is what a good university provides.

That’s not going to happen under Stephen Harper’s watch. For all the bluster and blather about ‘traditional Indian decision-making,’ Chief Bellegarde’s thought process is the same as Leon Trotsky’s, George W. Bush’s or Gary Goodyear’s. Political hacks read science like one of those psychological inkblot tests: they read into it what they want. If a politician thinks the October Revolution was the result of the first stage of the creation of a New Soviet Man (Wikipedia) , or that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Birkenstock generation, (Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. Congress) or that the best way to ingrate your political party into Jewish life is to engage in some Palestinian-bashing (Impolitical), then woe betide anybody -- no matter what their education -- who gets in that politician's way. The politicians are never the ones to deal with the consequences of such actions.

In one way, you could argue that FNUC’s problems could go back to the time of the treaty signings (in southern Saskatchewan’s case, 1874 with the signing of Treaty 4). In those treaties, the Canadian and British governments agreed to recognize aboriginal governments as rulers over aboriginal people – but those governments have never agreed to anything like a bill of rights or a constitutional precedent to recognize its peoples’ rights. Institutions such as FNUC have progressed beyond the understanding of the FSIN: the only way they can respond, like an abusive spouse, is to lash out and take control.