Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

Archive for March, 2013

HOUSING CRISIS: WHY IS NOTHING BEING DONE ABOUT IT?

Posted by strattof on March 29, 2013

Regina’s housing crisis is only getting worse:

  •  In 2010, the last year for which figures are available, over 3,400 people used Regina’s shelter services.
  • Today, the city’s shelter system is filled to capacity.
  • Regina’s rental vacancy rate is 1%, the lowest in the country.
  • The average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Regina is $831, an increase of $139 (20.1%) over the past 3 years.
  • A full-time minimum wage worker, earning $1736 per month, cannot afford a one room apartment in Regina. Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines “affordable housing” as costing a household 30% or less of its before-tax income.
  • Earlier this month, tenants of a Cathedral area apartment block received notice that their rent was going up 77%. A public outcry forced the landlord to reconsider.

REGINA COMPREHENSIVE HOUSING STRATEGY

The Background

In December 2011, City Council dispersed $100,000 for the development of a Regina Comprehensive Housing Strategy. Prepared by an Ontario firm, SHS Consulting, the report was finally released March 22 2013.

Will the recommended strategies, if acted on, solve Regina’s housing crisis?

Housing Principles

The stated principles on which the report is based are impressive. They include:  

  • All residents should have a safe, secure, affordable and well-maintained home.
  • Policy and resources of government should be aimed at areas where there are gaps in the private market’s ability to address housing needs, namely the needs of low and moderate income households, and the needs of homeless individuals should be prioritized.

Useless Recommendations: The Private Market

Many of the recommended strategies rely on the private housing market to solve Regina’s housing crisis. As the report itself admits, the market does not work for “low and moderate income households” or “homeless individuals.” If it were in the interest of the private sector to provide truly affordable housing or social housing, it would already have done so.

Valuable Recommendations

The report also contains a number of valuable recommendations:

  • #2: Leverage the City’s land assets to increase the supply of rental, affordable and special needs housing. In fact, all of the revenue derived from the sale or development of City-owned land should be put into social housing.
  • #9: Advocate to federal and provincial governments for additional support for rental, affordable, and special needs housing.
  • #s10-14: This set of recommendations concerns the retention and repair of existing housing stock. As the report states, much of Regina’s rental housing “is in need of major repair.” Rental unit licensing is the answer.

LIVING UP TO HOUSING PRINCIPLES

WHAT CITY COUNCIL MUST DO

City Council must act quickly on the useful recommendations in the Strategy document. It also needs to act on the recommendations of those at ground zero of Regina’s housing crisis: affordable housing advocates and those suffering the consequences of the housing crisis.

Here’s a little list of “must do” strategies:

  • Pressure the federal and provincial governments to provide adequate funding for social housing.
  • Pressure the provincial government to pass rent control legislation.
  • Adopt a Housing First policy – like Calgary and Edmonton.
  • Require developers to include affordable housing in their plans or to pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • Deny applications for demolition permits when the apartment vacancy rate is under 3%.
  • Introduce rental unit licensing.
  • Put all of the revenue derived from the development of City-owned land into social housing.

If the City of Regina can build a “social stadium” – a stadium built with public money – it can also build social housing.

HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT

Safe, secure housing is a human right.

  • It is protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, [and] housing.”
  • The right to housing is also enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, signed into law in 1982. Because it puts their health and life at risk, homelessness breaches a homeless person’s Charter Section 7 rights to “life, liberty and security of person.”

REFINERY HOUSING?

Approving residential development right next to the Co-op Refinery? Have City Councillors lost their minds? The provincial Ministry of Environment advises against it. So do the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region and the Co-op Refinery. What is City Council thinking?

TAKE ACTION

Let Mayor Fougere know

  • That you want City Council to take concrete action to solve Regina’s housing crisis.
  • That the private housing market does not work for poor people.
  • That if the City of Regina can build a “social stadium,” it can build social housing.
  • That City Council should reconsider its approval of residential development next to the Co-op Refinery.

►Phone: 306-777-7339

►Email: Service_Regina@regina.ca

►Attend Mayor Fougere’s next Meet and Greet session, April 5, 9 – 11:30 am at the Mayor’s Office in City Hall

Advertisements

Posted in justice | 2 Comments »

WORLD WATER DAY, MARCH 22 2013

Posted by strattof on March 21, 2013

In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 22 World Water Day. It is a day for focusing our attention on critical water issues.

This year World Water Day has a special meaning for Regina:

Without consulting the citizens of Regina, Regina City Council, at its February 25th meeting, approved a public-private partnership (P3) contract for the city’s new $224.3 million wastewater treatment plant. The P3 deal would see a private company not only design and build the facility, but also finance, operate, and maintain it over a 30-year period.

It is a very bad deal for the citizens of Regina.

P3 WASTEWATER PLANT A VERY BAD DEAL: 5 REASONS

#1 The P3 deal will cost Regina taxpayers more than if the City of Regina were to retain control of the facility.

According to City Council, the P3 deal will save Regina taxpayers money. Thanks to the Harper government, it is true that a P3 deal is now the only way to access federal government  infrastructure funding. If Regina chose not to go the P3 route, it would lose $58.7 million in federal government money.

However, this does not mean a P3 wastewater plant is a good deal. $58.7 million in federal government funding will not make up for the additional costs of the P3 arrangement:

  • Cities can borrow money more cheaply than private companies. Private borrowing has higher interest rates than public sector rates.
  • P3 loans are usually paid back over a longer term than direct municipal borrowing. In this case it’s a 30-year period.
  • The public will not only pay for the service, we will also pay for the profits that must be paid to shareholders in the private company that is operating and maintaining the facility over the 30-year period.

Who benefits most from P3s? Large multinational P3 corporations.

#2 The P3 deal will result in a reduction of service quality.

Private companies minimize cost in order to maximize profit. When they take over a public service, such as wastewater treatment, they typically cut costs by laying off workers and reducing safety measures.

The water and sewage system in Hamilton-Wentworth provides an instructive example. In order to cut costs, the private company running the plant laid off half the workers. The result? A disastrous reduction in service quality with raw sewage being dumped into Hamilton Harbour. In the end, the city had to step in and take back the plant, as well as clean up the mess. 

#3 The P3 deal will be bad for local workers and contractors.

  • P3s save money by laying off workers, using non-unionized labour, reducing wages, and cutting hours.  
  • P3s squeeze local contractors out of business. Local construction firms cannot compete with big out-of-province companies. Our P3 wastewater treatment plant is likely to be built and operated by a huge multinational corporation.

#4 The P3 deal takes an essential public service out of public hands. 

Technically, the City of Regina may own and control the wastewater treatment plant. However, since the plant will be financed, operated, and maintained by a private, for-profit company for 30 years, it will actually be nearly impossible for the City to maintain control of the facility. For this reason, the P3 deal can rightly be viewed as a transfer of a public service into private hands.  

#5 The P3 deal is undemocratic.

Regina citizens were not consulted. The P3 deal was not an election issue. Nor was there any public consultation.   

At a cost of $224.3 million, the wastewater plant is the second largest infrastructure project Regina has ever undertaken.

TAKE ACTION

KEEP WATER IN PUBLIC HANDS

  • Attend the launch of a petition calling for a referendum on the P3 wastewater treatment plant: Friday March 22, 7:30-9:30 pm, Artesian, 2627 13th Avenue.
  • Join Regina Water Watch: www.reginawaterwatch.ca
  • Let Prime Minister Harper know you want the federal government to stop forcing municipalities to do P3s when they need federal funding for infrastructure projects: pm@pm.gc.ca or 613-992-4211.
  • Let your City Councillor know you want Regina City Council to put pressure on the federal government to provide infrastructure funding without forcing municipalities to do P3s.

LEARN MORE ABOUT P3s

Read

►    The Council of Canadians’ fact sheet on P3s: http://www.canadians.org/water/documents/WWD/2009/WWDFS-0309-P3s.pdf

►   Asking the Right Questions:A Guide for Municipalities Considering P3s, by John Loxley: http://cupe.ca/updir/P3%20Guide_ENG_Final.pdf   

Watch the YouTube video Putting Water Back in Public Hands: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlSM1TPm_k8

Posted in environment, justice, peace activism | 1 Comment »

PUBLIC TRANSIT BENEFITS EVERYONE

Posted by strattof on March 15, 2013

3 R E A S O N S   T O   U S E   P U B L I C   T R A N S I T

1.   Transit cuts greenhouse gas emissions.  One bus load of passengers takes the equivalent of 40 vehicles off the road, reducing emissions by more than 15,000 tonnes a year.

2.   Transit saves you money. Downtown parking costs on average $140 per month. Add fuel cost to that. A 30-day adult bus pass costs $62. If your employer participates in the Employer Pass Program, you will pay only $53 per month for a bus pass.

3.   Transit is safe. In 2011, there were 5,647 traffic accidents in Regina, involving 1,452 injuries and 5 fatalities. Although Regina Transit’s fleet of buses is on the road 18 hours a day, transit buses were only involved in 36 accidents, resulting in a mere 5 injuries and 0 fatalities.

5 OTHER INCENTIVES FOR USING PUBLIC TRANSIT

  • Transit is time efficient. No more shoveling or scraping every morning.  No more circling the block in search of a parking spot. From most locations in the city, the bus will get you downtown in less than 30 minutes.
  • Transit saves Regina taxpayers money. Fewer vehicles on the road means fewer dollars spent on repairing and building roads.
  • Transit gives you time to relax. You can read or meditate or chat on the bus with no safety worries.
  • Transit makes streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Transit also provides more space for necessary vehicles, such as ambulances, fire trucks, taxis, and delivery vans.
  • Transit helps everyone. Folks who serve us in hospitals, restaurants, and stores need transit to get to work. Businesses need customers and workers to get there. Transit is essential for people who cannot afford, or do not have the health, to drive a car. It is also necessary for people who choose to be environmentally responsible by not driving.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BENEFITS  OF USING PUBLIC TRANSIT

Discover the history of Regina Transit: www.regina.ca/residents/ transit-services/regina-transit/transit-history/  

Google “It’s smarter to travel in groups” and watch 3 short, funny YouTube videos.

Watch the PBS documentary Taken For A Ride: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob2bYUtxlxs

Read Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile, by Taras Grescoe, available at Regina Public Library.

IMPROVING REGINA TRANSIT

In the past two years, ridership on Regina Transit increased by a whopping 18.8%. That’s an additional 945,795 rides! This increase is due mainly to the growth of our city in both population and size.

To further increase ridership, service will have to be improved in the following ways:

  • Extend transit service to new areas of the city
  • Make routes faster
  • Provide more frequent service
  • Provide earlier and later service
  • Offer holiday and full Sunday service, following Saturday schedules
  • Double Paratransit resources and service

Regina transit is currently engaged in a review. Its objective is to improve service without increasing the current transit budget. This is an unrealistic goal.

As a result, Regina Transit is only able to address the items in the first two bullets: extending transit service to a few new areas and making some routes faster. A much more substantial improvement in service is needed.

TAKE ACTION

  • Sign the petition calling for improved bus service, available every Thursday, from noon to 12:30 pm, at the corner of Scarth St. and 11th Ave. from the Making Peace Vigil. The petition is also being hosted by Eat Healthy Foods, 3030 12th Avenue. And it is available online: http://johnkleinregina.wordpress.com/transit/ 
  • Let your City Councillor know you want increased funding for public transit. 
  • Suggest to Mayor Fougere that he follow the good example of New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, and use public transit to get to work at least once a week.  

Posted in environment, justice | Leave a Comment »

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

Posted by strattof on March 7, 2013

Friday March 8 is International Women’s Day. First observed in 1911, International Women’s Day is an occasion for celebrating women’s social, economic, and political achievements.

Because we still live in a world of gender inequality, it is also a time for reflecting on the action required for more progress to be made toward realizing gender equality. There are many challenges ahead.

GENDER INEQUALITY IN CANADA: 10 KEY FACTS

 1.         More women than men live in poverty in Canada. In Saskatchewan, one in every eight women is poor, while for men it’s one in every eleven.

 2.         Women earn less than men in Canada. Women who work full time, year round, earn only 81 cents for every dollar earned by men.

 3.         60% of minimum wage workers in Canada are women. The minimum wage in Saskatchewan in $10 an hour.

 4.         Only 39% of unemployed women are receiving EI benefits. 45% of unemployed men collect.

 5.         Women do more than 80% of the unpaid care giving in Canada.

 6.         In a 2008 UNICEF study of 25 wealthy nations, Canada placed last in the ranking of early childcare and education services offered.

 7.         In the business sector, women make up 47% of Canada’s work force, but fill just 17% of corporate officer positions in Canada’s 500 largest organizations.

 8.         Women constitute 50.4% of Canada’s population, but hold only 24.7% of the seats in the House of Commons. Canada ranks 45th in the world in representation of women in the national parliament, behind many poor countries, including Rwanda and Afghanistan.

9.         51% of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16.

10.     Canada came 21st on the World Economic Forum’s 2012 global gender equality index. The index measures how the world’s countries share their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations. It shows that, in terms of gender equality, Canada was in 14th place in 2006 when the World Economic Forum first started to compile the index.

VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN CANADA

  • A Canadian born baby girl has a 50% chance of being sexually or physically abused in her lifetime.
  • Every six days in Canada, on average, a woman is murdered by her husband or boyfriend.
  • The rate of violence against women in Saskatchewan is more than double the national rate.
  • Saskatchewan has the highest rate among the provinces of violence against women.
  • Saskatchewan has the highest rate among the provinces of violence against girl children and teens.
  • Regina has the second highest rate among cities of violence against women by an intimate partner.
  • Regina has the highest rate of serious sexual assaults among other cities.

MISSING & MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN

  • There are 582 recorded cases of missing or murdered Indigenous girls and women in Canada.
  • Of these, 67% are murder cases. In other words, most of the women (393) were murdered.
  • The number of murdered Indigenous women in Canada is disproportionately high. While Indigenous women make up only 3% of Canada’s female population, they represent approximately 10% of all female homicides.
  • Young Indigenous women are 5 times more likely than other women of the same age to die as a result of violence.
  • 60% of the women and girls were killed in an urban area, 27% in rural areas, and 13% on-reserve.
  • 16.5% of the women were killed by a stranger. Only 6% of non-Indigenous women are killed by strangers. Indigenous women are almost 3 times more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Indigenous women.
  • Only 53% of the cases involving murder have been solved, compared to 84% of all murder cases across the country.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY EVENTS

THURSDAY MARCH 7

  • 2 screenings of documentary film Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women: 6 pm & 8 pm, Research and Innovation Centre 119, University of Regina. Admission is free.

FRIDAY MARCH 8

  • Screening of documentary Raising Voices, a film about women leading the way for change and ending HIV/AIDs transmission, with speakers from the AIDs Program, South Saskatchewan: 1 – 4 pm, Language Institute Theatre, LI 215, University of Regina. Admission is free.
  • Grandmothers 4 Grandmothers International Women’s Day Concert, presenting Jeffery Straker: 7:30 pm, Westminster United Church, 3025 13th Avenue. This is a fundraising event. Tickets are $30 and are available at Ten Thousand Villages, Cobb Swanson Music, and Bach and Beyond.

FRIDAY MARCH 8 – SUNDAY MARCH 10

Free streaming by the National Film Board of Canada of Karen Cho’s award-winning documentary Status Quo? The Unfinished

Posted in justice | Leave a Comment »