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Archive for January, 2013

THE STADIUM: A FINANCIAL AND SOCIAL DISASTER

Posted by strattof on January 26, 2013

  • The image the City presents of the stadium is a “Concept Design.” 
  • It was produced by the London England-based firm, Pattern Design, along with Mott MacDonald and P3 Architecture, at a cost of $575,000.
  • At additional cost, a Pattern Design architect was flown in from London for the unveiling of the concept design.
  • As City officials admit, the final design for the stadium is likely to bear little resemblance to the concept design.
  • In other words, the concept design was a very expensive public relations exercise.
  • The stadium project is on the agenda of the January 28 meeting of City Council. The documents for this meeting show that the whole funding model for the stadium is dangerous, damaging, and disastrous for the citizens of Regina. (Instructions on how to find these documents are available on the back of this pamphlet.)

STADIUM PROJECT FUNDING FACTS

ESTIMATED COST OF STADIUM PROJECT

Capital Cost                                                       $278.2 million

Maintenance Cost                                              $188.8  million

Debt Servicing Cost                                           $166.2 million

Total Cost                                                          $633.2 million

According to the City’s RRI Stadium Project Funding and Financing document, this $633.2 million dollar stadium will have a “30 year life-cycle.” In other words, it is a throw-away stadium.

DEBT CITY WILL INCUR FOR STADIUM PROJECT

Loan from Province                                          $100 million

City Debt                                                           $100.4 million

Total Debt                                                         $200.4 million

If interest rates stay the same, the interest on this debt will total $133.2 million.

ESTIMATED COST TO REGINA RESIDENTS

  • $261.9 million in Property Taxes is to be paid through a 0.45% mill rate increase each year for 10 years, starting in 2013. By 2022, the mill rate will have increased by 4.5%. This rate will remain for 20 years and continue to be allocated to the stadium project.
  • Since the province contributed $80 million to the stadium project, Regina residents will also pay for the stadium through their provincial taxes.
  • Regina residents who attend games will pay a new facility fee of $12 per game ticket.

FLAWED FUNDING MODEL

The funding model for the stadium project is a house of cards. As the Stadium document indicates, “if any of the assumptions in the financial model change,” the model will collapse and Regina citizens will be on the hook for even more money.

Here are some of the risk factors listed in the document:

  • Cost overruns, which are very likely, given the size of the project
  • An increase in interest rates, which are currently favourably low
  • Less than expected Rider game attendance
  • An increase in maintenance costs

The document also warns that stadium debt will diminish financial resources available for other more urgent projects.  

THE MOST URGENT PROJECT: AFFORDABLE RENTAL HOUSING

In the run-up to the municipal election, Michael Fougere promised that an affordable housing summit would be his “first order of business” if he were elected. Mayor Fougere seems to have forgotten this pledge. Perhaps he needs to be reminded.

We don’t need a stadium. We already have one. We are in desperate need of affordable rental housing.

Regina’s rental vacancy rate is 1%, the lowest in the country. It has remained at or below 1% since 2008. A 3% vacancy rate is considered normal.

  • In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, over 3,400 people used one or more of Regina’s shelter services.
  • Many others double bunked, couch surfed, or lived in overcrowded, unhealthy conditions. Some even lived in cars or garages. These latter groups could easily double the number of homeless people in Regina.
  • Between 2006 and 2010, homeless shelter use in Regina rose by 44.5%.
  • A fulltime minimum wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in Regina.

SOLVING THE HOUSING CRISIS:

WHAT REGINA CITY COUNCIL CAN DO

City Council cannot solve all of Regina’s affordable housing problems, but it can do many things. Here are 3 of them:

  • In 2007, Saskatoon had a rental vacancy rate of 0.6%. Today it is 2.6%, which is near normal. Clearly Saskatoon is well on its way to solving its housing crisis. Regina City Council should find out what it is Saskatoon has been doing. 
  • Regina City Council can require developers to include affordable housing in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • Regina City Council can pass a bylaw prohibiting the demolition of apartment blocks when the rental vacancy rate is under 3%. If such a bylaw had been in existence in 2012, the 46 unit apartment at 1755 Hamilton Street would still be standing. Now 1755 Hamilton Street is a vacant lot.

TAKE ACTION

            –Go to the City of Regina website.

            –Scroll down to “City Council and Committees” on the left  and click on it.

            –Click on “View Meeting Calendar, Agendas & Decisions.”

            –Scroll down to “City Council Meeting, Monday January 28 2013” and click on  “Agenda.”

            –Scroll down to “CR 13-6, RRI Stadium Project Funding and Financing” and click on it.

            –Click on the first item under “Files.”

  • Attend the January 28 meeting of City Council. It starts at 5:30 pm. Let’s pack the gallery!
  • Attend the SOS Save Our (Mosaic) Stadium rally in front of City Hall, January 28, 4-5 pm.
  • Remind Mayor Fougere he promised that an affordable housing summit would be his “first order of business” if he were elected: Service_Regina@regina.ca or 537-9888.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Posted by strattof on January 26, 2013

CLIMATE FACTS

  • The upper safety limit for CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million. Today the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is 394.39 ppm, well over the safety limit.
  • For the past decade, there has been an average annual increase of 2.1 ppm per year. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing at an accelerating rate from decade to decade.
  • The leading cause of the increase in atmospheric CO2 is the burning of fossil fuels.
  • Rising CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere are the main cause of climate change.
  • Global temperatures have already been pushed up 0.8 degrees C. To avoid dangerous climate change, the increase in global temperature must be below 2 degrees C.
  • Many scientists believe that climate change is the single biggest threat facing the earth today.

C A N A D I A N   M A D N E S S

  • Canada is one of the richest countries in the world. Yet we have one of the worst records when it comes to taking action on climate change. We are amongst the top 10 CO2 emitters in the world and we are the only country to have withdrawn from the Kyoto Accord.
  • Canada’s Kyoto target was a 6% reduction of emissions  by 2012 compared to 1990 levels. Instead, between 1990 and 2008, emissions increased by 24%.
  • Since taking office in 2006, the Harper government has been steadily weakening environmental laws. 
  • In 2012, the Harper government totally gutted environmental regulations, forcing the legislation through parliament in 2 omnibus budget bills, C-38 and C-45. 
  • The reason for this madness? To protect tar sands development, which the government subsidizes to the tune of $1.3 billion a year.

TAR SANDS: AN ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER

  • Tar sands development accounts for 6.5% of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is Canada’s fastest growing source of emissions.
  • Tar sands operations poison the air, landscape, and water with pollutant emissions, including sulphur dioxide and benzene, up to 100 kilometres away.
  • Tar sands extraction takes 3 barrels of water to produce a single barrel of oil. This water ends up in toxic tailings ponds along the Athabasca River.  These ponds leak 3.8 billion litres of contaminated water into the Athabasca River every year.  
  • Tar sands expansion is devastating the rich ecosystem of Alberta’s boreal forest.
  • Tar sands oil is more corrosive than conventional crude. Tar sands pipelines will inevitably leak, contaminating other landscapes and waterways.
  • According to NASA climate scientist James Hansen, burning tar sands oil in addition to conventional oil will be too much for the atmosphere. “It will be game over for the climate.”

LESSONS FOR CANADA: OTHER MODELS

The aggressive model of economic and resource development that Canada is following is wreaking havoc on the Canadian environment: air, land, forest and water. It is also helping to keep the world on the path to catastrophic global warming.

There are other models of economic and resource development. Here are 3 Canada can learn from.  

GERMANY

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Germany decided to replace nuclear power with renewable energy. Within G20 countries, Germany has the largest amount of its electricity produced from renewable sources. Canada ranks 13th

LESSONS FOR CANADA: ●Stop subsidizing the tar sands industry. ●Start making substantial investments in renewable energy.

FIRST NATIONS IDLE NO MORE MOVEMENT

Idle No More is in part a protest against measures in Bill C-45 that weaken the environmental protection of Canada’s waterways. The bill also exempts pipelines from environmental oversight. In the words of Pam Palmater, an Idle No More spokesperson: First Nations are Canadians’ last, best hope of protecting the land, water, sky, and plants and animals for their future generations.”

LESSONS FOR CANADA: ●Scrap all legislation passed since 2006 that weakens environmental regulations. ●Hold meaningful advance consultations before making legislative changes that affect First Nations.

ECUADOR

In 2008 Ecuador passed a new constitution that gives rights to nature. Nature –  rivers, trees, birds, fish, ecosystems – has the constitutional right to exist and prosper for its own sake. Now Ecuador is proposing to not exploit huge untapped oil reserves that lie under Yasuni National Park. Leaving the oil in the ground will protect the biodiversity of the park and help combat climate change.

LESSONS FOR CANADA: ●Begin to discuss the constitutional protection of nature. ●Leave tar sands oil in the ground.

LEARN MORE ABOUT:

CLIMATE CHANGE

  • Google: Bill McKibben website
  • Google: David Suzuki climate change basics

TAR SANDS

  • Andrew Nikiforuk, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, available at Regina Public Library
  • Google: David Suzuki tar sands

OTHER MODELS FOR DEVELOPMENT

  • Google: Idle No More Manifesto
  • Google: What if Mother Nature had rights?
  • Google: David Suzuki Andean adventure

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR THE CITY OF REGINA

Posted by strattof on January 12, 2013

It’s a new year and we have a newly elected City Council. It is a time for new beginnings. 

We must reflect on the changes we need to bring about in our city to make life better for all Regina citizens. We also need to resolve to follow through on those changes.

88% on New Year’s resolutions typically fail. What do we need to do to become part of the 12% that succeed? Success is essential to our city’s well-being.

AFFORDABLE RENTAL HOUSING

Regina is in the midst of an affordable rental housing crisis. The rental vacancy rate is currently 1%, the lowest in the country.

While the City of Regina cannot solve all of Regina’s affordable housing problems, there are many things it can do.

RESOLUTIONS FOR CITY COUNCIL

1. Pass a bylaw prohibiting the demolition of apartment blocks until the supply of rental housing returns to a healthy state. Toronto has had such a bylaw in place since 2007.

2. Require developers to include a certain number of affordable housing units in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.

3. For the attention of Mayor Fougere: Hold your housing summit as soon as possible. When Michael Fougere was running for mayor, he said he would make an affordable housing summit his “first priority.” Nearly 3 months have passed since he was elected, yet there have been no housing summit announcements.

ACCESSIBILITY MATTERS

Equal access to social, political, and economic life is a human right, protected by the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and by the Canadian Human Rights Act.

RESOLUTIONS FOR CITY COUNCIL

1. Eliminate the pedestrian “walk” button on traffic signals. The buttons are impediments to mobility for many people, especially in winter when piles of snow often make them inaccessible to all but the most athletic. Signals should automatically allow pedestrians to use the crossing alternatively with road traffic.

2. Repair crumbling curb cuts and sidewalks. Crumbling curb cuts and sidewalks not only make it difficult for people with disabilities to fully participate in the life of the city; they present an impediment and a danger to all citizens.

3. Enforce the designated parking bylaw in all areas of the city. The City of Regina wants people to know “that stopping or parking in an accessible parking stall is illegal and causes major difficulty for those who really need it.” However, the City does little to enforce the bylaw.   

RECREATIONAL FACILITIES

The City of Regina is spending $300 million worth of taxpayers’ money on a new stadium for the Roughriders. At the very least, it should increase the funding it allocates to recreational facilities. Such facilities have the potential to improve the health and welfare of all Regina citizens.

RESOLUTIONS FOR CITY COUNCIL

1. Extend the season for all outdoor swimming pools. Open on the May 24th weekend, close September 22, the first day of autumn.

2. Make admission to all outdoor public swimming pools free for children 12 and under.

3. Maintain public tennis court surfaces and fences.

4. Develop more bike lanes. The Smith and Lorne Street bike lanes are a real boon to cyclists travelling through the city. Badly needed now is a commitment to a cross town route into the downtown.

PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT

Protecting the environment means protecting human health.

RESOLUTIONS FOR CITY COUNCIL

1. Develop more bike lanes. Biking is more than a leisure activity. It provides an environmentally friendly transportation alternative. New cars produce on average 135.7 grams of CO2 per kilometre. New and old bikes alike produce 0 grams of CO2 per kilometre.

2. Invest more in Regina Transit. One bus load of passengers takes the equivalent of 40 vehicles off the road, reducing emission of pollutants by more than 15,000 tonnes a year. To increase ridership, Regina Transit needs to lower fares, provide more frequent and earlier and later service, and offer holiday and full Sunday service.

3. Ban the cosmetic use of pesticides. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, “Research linking pesticides to serious health issues is significant and growing. Leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast, brain, prostate, lung, pancreatic, stomach, kidney and other forms of cancer have all been linked to pesticides.”

NEW YEAR’S ACTION

Help the Mayor and City Councillors make and keep New Year’s resolutions that will improve life in Regina for all its citizens.

Mayor Michael Fougere: Service_Regina@regina.ca or 777-7339

Ward 1: Barbara Young: byoung@regina.ca or 539-4081

Ward 2: Bob Hawkins: bhawkins@regina.ca or 789-2888

Ward 3: Shawn Fraser: sfraser@regina.ca or 551-5030

Ward 4: Byron Burnett: bburnett@uregina.ca or 737-3347

Ward 5: John Findura: jfindura@regina.ca or 536-4250

Ward 6: Wade Murray: wmurray@regina.ca or 596-1035

Ward 7: Sharron Bryce: sbryce@regina.ca or 949-5025

Ward 8: Mike O’Donnell: modonnell@regina.ca or 545-7300

Ward 9: Terry Hinks: thinks@regina.ca or 949-9690

Ward 10: Jerry Flegel: jflegel@regina.ca or 537-9888

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IDLE NO MORE: WHY ALL CANADIANS MUST SUPPORT THIS MOVEMENT

Posted by strattof on January 3, 2013

THE BACKGROUND

Idle No More began in Saskatchewan, the idea of 4 women – 3 Indigenous and 1 non-Indigenous. Concerned about the implications of the Harper government’s second omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45, they wanted to educate their fellow citizens. 

So, in November 2012, they held a teach-in at Saskatoon’s Station 20, calling the session Idle No More.

Under Indigenous leadership, Idle No More quickly became a fully fledged political movement, demanding change from the federal government. Adopting an array of non-violent creative actions, including rallies, protest marches, flash mobs, and round dances, it has spread from coast to coast to coast – and beyond.

Idle No More is supported by Indigenous communities and leaders, the environmental movement, some national unions, including the Postal Workers Union of Canada, as well as many non-Indigenous Canadians. It calls for justice for all peoples in Canada.

STANDING UP FOR DEMOCRACY

Idle No More started as a response to the Harper government’s second omnibus budget bill, Bill C-45. An omnibus bill is a proposed law that packages together a number of different bills or measures into one piece of legislation to be accepted in a single vote.

Omnibus bills are not illegal. However, if an omnibus bill is lengthy and puts together many unrelated measures, it becomes an affront to and an assault on democracy. 

Bill C-45 is 457 pages long and combines 60 different measures. As a result, MPs – not to mention ordinary Canadians – will have had difficulty knowing what is in the bill. The scale and scope of the bill also means that the measures were not subject to the usual detailed clause-by-clause analysis by committees or parliament.

In short, omnibus bills, such as Bill C-45, are a stealthy way to slip legislation past the Canadian public and to force it unscrutinized through parliament. 

PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT

Bill C-45 radically alters the Navigable Waters Protection Act, Canada’s first environmental law, passed by Parliament in 1882. The changes drastically weaken the environmental protection of Canada’s waterways, excluding 99% of Canadian lakes and rivers from federal environmental oversight. The bill also exempts pipelines from the act.

These changes will have a negative impact on all Canadians:

  • They put clean drinking water at risk.
  • They will negatively affect fish and fisheries.
  • They violate First Nations Treaty rights. Waterways were never surrendered. The changes were made without consultation or consent.

Who will benefit from these changes? Natural resource industries. Projects, such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline, will now have free reign to disrupt and impact Canadian waterways with no regard for the environment or human health.

Bill C-45 is not the Harper government’s first attack on environmental regulations. Since 2006, it has been working to dismantle environmental monitoring systems that stand in the way of resource development.

Every resource development project in Canada has a First Nation next to it.

First Nations are Canadians’ last, best hope of protecting the land, water, sky, and plants and animals for their future generations.” – Pam Palmater, an Idle No More spokesperson

SAFEGUARDING INDIGENOUS LAND TITLE

Bill C-45 makes changes to the Indian Act. In particular, it alters some of the regulations around land title, making it easier for First Nations to lease land for commercial development.  

These changes are part of the Harper government’s plan to bring in legislation allowing private ownership of land on reserves and the sale of reserve land to members and non-members alike.

Reserve land is traditionally communally owned. The changes to the Indian Act were made without consultation. The main aim of such land title legislation is to weaken Indigenous rights to land in favour of non-Indigenous resource industry interests.

As the Idle No More Manifesto puts it, if reserve land can be bought and sold, “We will be left with nothing but poisoned water, land and air. This is an attempt to take away sovereignty and the inherent right to land and resources from First Nations peoples.”

HONOURING TREATIES

All Canadians, whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, benefit from the Treaties. For example, the Cornwall Centre and Taylor Field are situated on Treaty 4 land.

First Nations have kept their side of the Treaty agreements. The Canadian government, on the other hand, has frequently failed to recognize its Treaty commitments.

These failures include:

  • Education: A child who attends school on a reserve receives on average 25% less in government funding than other Canadian children. Education is a Treaty right.
  • Housing: On-reserve housing is a Treaty right. Reserve housing has been chronically underfunded since at least the 1950s.
  • Resource sharing: Much of Canada’s wealth comes from the exploitation of natural resources, many of which are on First Nations land. Wealth derived from these resources is not being shared, as spelled out in Treaty agreements.

These failures are the reason for the shameful conditions in so many First Nations

WE ARE ALL TREATY PEOPLE

CHIEF THERESA SPENCE

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence is now into the 4th week of a hunger strike. She is asking that Prime Minister Harper and the Governor General engage in a meaningful dialogue with First Nations leaders and commit to fulfilling Canada’s treaty obligations.  

Chief Spence first came to national attention in 2011 when she declared a state of emergency in her community because of the poor state of housing. Prime Minister Harper’s response was to accuse Chief Spence of financial mismanagement and to place Attawapiskat under third party management. This was an embarrassing blunder. Chief Spence took the government to federal court and won.

Chief Spence has said she is willing to die for her people. As of January 1, the Prime Minister had not scheduled a meeting.

BE IDLE NO MORE: TAKE ACTION

  • Learn more about the Idle No More movement by visiting the website: http://idlenomore.ca/
  • Contact Stephen Harper and urge him to end Chief Spence’s hunger strike by agreeing to meet with Chief Spence, along with other Indigenous leaders and the Governor General. 

   Email: pm@pm.gc.ca or Stephen.harper@parl.gc.ca

   Tel: Ottawa-613-992-4211; Calgary-403-253-7990

  • Sign a petition to help Chief Spence stop her hunger strike. Google “Chief Spence avaaz petition.”

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10 NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR CANADA AND CANADIANS

Posted by strattof on January 3, 2013

WHAT THE HARPER GOVERNMENT CAN DO

#1    Abandon all plans to buy fighter jets.

●Recently, the Harper government announced it was “resetting” its plan to buy a new fleet of fighter jets. Because costs had escalated from an estimated $9 billion to $46 billion, it was abandoning its sole-source program of buying F-35s from Lockheed Martin and would be considering other fighter jet models. ●But what are fighter jets, regardless of cost or model, good for? They are weapons of aggression meant for conducting first strikes. They will do nothing to protect Canada or to promote global peace. Indeed, the point of their purchase would be to allow Canada to participate in the next war launched by the US. ●The Harper government should abandon all plans to purchase fighter jets. Even if the warplanes cost a “mere” $9 billion, that money would be better spent on healthcare, education, and affordable housing.

#2    Develop a long-term national affordable housing program involving all levels of government, as well as co-ops and non-profit housing associations.

In 1973, the federal government instituted a national affordable housing program which, for the next decade, created about 20,000 housing units per year. In the 1980s, the federal government made spending cuts to that program. In 1993, it cancelled funding for new affordable housing altogether. The result has been the rise of mass homelessness over the last 20 years. Canada is the only G8 country without a national housing strategy.

#3    Provide proper funding for First Nations education.

for First Nations, education is a Treaty right. Under Treaty 4, which covers most of southern Saskatchewan, First Nations were promised a school on each reserve. Instead, the government implemented the genocidal residential school system. Today, children who attend schools on reserves receive on average 25% less funding than other Canadian children.

#4    Stop building prisons.

Crime rates in Canada have been dropping since the 1990s. Why, then, has the federal government initiated “tough on crime” legislation–laws that will make more Canadians spend more time in prison? The average annual cost of incarcerating a single offender in a federal prison is $100,000. That figure does not include the estimated $9 billion it will cost to build new prisons for the growing prison population. If even half of that money was invested in healthcare, education, and affordable housing, all Canadians would benefit enormously.

#5    Set serious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and develop a plan for meeting them.

On the 2012 Climate Change Performance Index, Canada ranks 54th out of 61. We are one of the top ten CO2 emitters in the world. Tar sands development is our fastest growing source of emissions. In its 2012 budget, the Harper government gutted environmental regulations in order to protect tar sands development. According to NASA climate scientist James Hansen, if Canada continues to develop the tar sands, “it will be game over for the climate.”

WHAT YOU AND I CAN DO

#6    We can join with others in Canada and around the world – in organizations, political parties, and citizens’ movements – to work towards peace and justice.

#7    We can tell our representatives at all levels of government  we want them to address Regina’s affordable housing crisis.  

#8    We can speak out against injustice, be it social, political, economic, or environmental.

#9    We can work for peace and justice in small ways everyday: at home, in the neighbourhood, in the city, the province, the country, and the world.

#10  We can live cleaner and greener: ●Buy less stuff ●Reuse and recycle ●Turn down the thermostat at night ●Use a clothesline, not a dryer ●Walk, car share, ride the bus.

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