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.

Friday Afternoon Puppy!

What dreams trouble a simple dog's sleep? We'll never know.

An emerging classic of the Alterwebs. Thanks (as usual) to Peakay for the heads up.

Six In The Morning

1 "OVERALL TRYING TO HIDE THINGS" The Saskatchewan government apparently hasn't put out a press release on employers who've been convicted for unsafe workplaces since the Sask Party came to power in 2007. The Opposition NDP correctly says this is crap. (StarPhoenix)

2 SASKTEL SILENT Saskatchewan's phone company won't talk about its text message profit margains. Well, maybe the reporter should've texted the question in. (Leader-Post)

3 BUS PRICE HIKE We missed this one, probably because we're too fixated on/agitated about condo conversions, but Regina transit rates might be going up. A bus pass will still cost less than most drivers pay for parking. But how about an expansion of service? (CJME)

4 DZIEKANSKI INQUIRY WRAPPING UP The Braidwood Inquiry into the incident of an unarmed Polish man fatally mega-tased by RCMP officers, is hearing final submissions (CBC). UPDATE: The Braidwood Inquiry has just exploded, and everything is in total chaos. (Globe And Mail)

5 "I'M SORRY IF YOU WERE TOO DUMB TO UNDERSTAND WHAT I SAID OR OF THE MEDIA REPORTED IT BADLY Alberta's Finance Minister doesn't offer much of an apology for out of touch and insensitive remarks she made about parenting before an audience of millionaires and business bigwigs (CBC). Okay, okay... to restate the problem with less sarcasm, the problem here is that many Canadian parents would love to stay at home but can't for varuious reasons (single parent households, low-paying jobs) so Finance Minister Iris Evan's speech was really, really hurtful. Like salt in a wound. Also Evans said some really bizarre things about education and mental illness. So come on. Let's get a better apology.

6 LOTS OF MEN ARE SCUMBAG RAPISTS Oh, god. Well not surprising I guess but apparently a quarter of South African men admit they've raped someone. One in 20 say they've raped someone in the last year. You know when feminists like my friend Bernadette Wagner say things like "there's a global war on women" and it sounds like an extremist kind of statement to some people? This is another example of why it's not extreme statements at all. It's a highly accurate metaphor. (Gaurdian)

Live Tonight: SNFU, Dog Day

Friday, June 19

SNFU, Last Plauge, The Puppies
The Exchange

SNFU's status as a great band seems tenuous right now. The punk rock group's last album, In the Meantime and In Between Time, was well-received, a feat since they'd been rocking together since 1981. But that came out back in 2004; since then, the band broke-up and regrouped for a second time. Now, the only founding member left is lead singer Ken Chinn. Regardless, their appeal as a live band is as strong as ever. With SNFU's high energy, hit-you-in-the-face humour, and large catalogue of classic Canadian punk, this could prove to be a great show. Also on the bill are Vancouver hardcore group Last Plague and local band the Puppies.

SNFU - Drunk on a Bike

Dog Day, York Redoubt

From the looks of it, these are two otherwise unrelated Halifax bands that O'Hanlon's managed to book on the same night. The post-punk lovers in Dog Day are making their way back home now. Night Group, their 2006 album, was released by Tomlab, the German label that's behind Final Fantasy, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, and the Books and that's cool as Henry Winkler in his prime. Nowadays, they're on plain old Outside, who released Concentration this past May. The noisy guys of York Redoubt are on their way to Sled Island Fest in Calgary and, with the four tracks they have up on their MySpace, are kinda blowing me away. Mix innocent vocal melodies, heavy math rock instrumentation, and occasionally dark-as-coffee lyrics, and you've got the appeal of York Redoubt.

York Redoubt

Dog Day - Happiness