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Archive for January, 2014

REFINERY HOUSING: THE SOMERSET NEIGHBOURHOOD

Posted by strattof on January 30, 2014

On December 16th, Regina City Council approved the development of a new 3,100 person neighbourhood, Somerset. Located north of Uplands, Somerset is in close proximity to both the Evraz steel mill and the Co-op Refinery.

Concerned about air quality, the Regina-Qu’Appelle Health Region and the provincial Ministry of the Environment both opposed the plan. So did Evraz and the Co-op Refinery.

Four councillors voted against the development: Sharron Bryce, John Findura, Shawn Fraser, and Barbara Young. Mayor Michael Fougere and the six remaining councillors voted in favour of the development. What were they thinking?

SOMERSET: AIR QUALITY ISSUES
The developers describe Somerset as a “progressive,” “logical” and “safe” development. Yet they acknowledge they have not carried out any serious air quality analysis.

Oil refineries are a major source of air pollution. According to the Environment Canada website, they release a number of air pollutants, including sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and benzene.

Each of these pollutants is a known trigger of asthma. Children are particularly susceptible to the damage caused by air pollution.

The pollutants are also linked to heart and lung disease in adults.

According to a Leader-Post editorial, “Residents of north Regina neighbourhoods have long complained of episodes of poor air quality due to strong smells from the [refinery]” (December 28 2013). Why have these complaints fallen on deaf ears?

SOMERSET: LAND TITLE CAVEAT

QUESTION: If Somerset is so “safe,” why is a caveat going to be placed on every Somerset land title, notifying prospective lot buyers “of potential noise, odour and aerial pollution associated with adjacent heavy industrial uses” (City of Regina, Somerset Neighbourhood Plan)?

ANSWER: The intention of the caveat is not to protect the health of Regina citizens. Rather it is to protect the developers, along with the City of Regina, from future lawsuits by Somerset residents who have been made ill by air pollution.

SOMERSET: SAFETY ISSUES
On December 24th, just eight days after City Council approved the Somerset plan, there was a huge explosion at the Co-op Refinery. It was the fourth time in two years there had been a major safety issue at the refinery.

This is what Mayor Fougere had to say about Somerset after the explosion: “It’s a safe development, and until we hear otherwise, it will proceed” (CBC, Dec 29 2013). The first phase of the project is slated to begin in the spring.

Doesn’t the mayor know that refineries are, by definition, flammable and explosive?

UPLANDS
Parts of Uplands are also adjacent to the Co-op Refinery. Some councillors use Upland’s proximity to the refinery to justify their support for the Somerset project. There are several problems with this argument:
1. When Uplands was built in the 1970s, the refinery was much smaller.
2. There was also much less understanding of the effect of pollution on human health.
3. The wind direction means that Somerset will get more pollution than Uplands does.
4. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Or as Councillor Shawn Fraser put it: “The fact that we’ve built near the refinery before is not, in and of itself, enough of a reason to do it again” (Prairie Dog, December 26 2013).

Why is this development going ahead? Who stands to make a profit from it? Are politicians putting business interests ahead of the public interest?

ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM AND CLASSISM
According to the developers, houses in Somerset are going to be “affordable.” Affordability is to be achieved through “higher densities and smaller lot sizes,” as well as through “housing design and construction approaches that aim to focus density vertically rather than horizontally” (December 16, 2013 meeting of City Council).

Who is going to buy these tall, slim, “affordable” houses on narrow lots? In all likelihood, it will be landlords who will turn them into rental housing. As for the tenants, they will be people with few options.

Environmental racism/classism is the location of low-income and/or racialized communities in close proximity to environmental risks.

AN ALTERNATIVE
Develop Somerset as an urban forest with walks and a few lawns with flower gardens. Trees trap dust and absorb carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide.

TAKE ACTION

It is a duty of City Council to protect the health and safety of Regina’s citizens. 

Let’s thank the 4 City Councillors who voted against the Somerset plan and hence for protecting citizen’s health and safety:   

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

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

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

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

Let’s help Mayor Fougere and the 6 City Councillors who voted for the Somerset development to reverse their decision:   

Mayor Michael Fougere 777-7339 or mayor@regina.ca

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

Ward 4: Bryon Burnett 737-3347 or bburnett@regina.ca

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

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

Ward 9: Terry Hincks 949-9690 or thincks@regina.ca

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

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IS REGINA MISSING THE BUS?

Posted by strattof on January 23, 2014

The past four years have seen a dramatic increase in Regina Transit ridership. In just the past two years, ridership has grown by a whopping 13.8%. That’s an additional 752,994 rides!

Still, in the past four years, there has been no significant increase in Regina Transit’s operating budget. Moreover, the surplus revenue from additional rides keeps being put back into general revenue.

Regina City Council is throwing Regina Transit under the bus (pun intended). It is forcing Regina Transit to try to improve transit service without any increase in the transit budget.

6 REASONS FOR IMPROVING REGINA TRANSIT
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 is safe. In 2012 there were 6,012 traffic accidents in Regina, involving 1,624 injuries and 9 fatalities. Although Regina Transit’s fleet of buses is on the road 18 hours a day, in 2012 transit buses were only involved in 61 accidents, resulting in a mere 28 injuries and 0 fatalities.

3. 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.

4. Transit saves Regina taxpayers money. Fewer vehicles on the read mean fewer dollars spent on repairing and building roads.

5. Transit gives you time to relax. You can read or meditate or chat on the bus with no safety worries.

6. 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 not to drive.

LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF USING PUBLIC TRANSIT

*Discover the history of Regina Transit: http://www.regina.ca/residents/ transit-services/regina-transit/transit-history/
*Google “It’s smarter to travel in groups” and watch three short, funny YouTube videos.
*Watch the PBS documentary Taken For A Ride: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ob2bYUtxlxs
*Read Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile, by Taras Grescoe, available at Regina Public Library.

HOW TO IMPROVE REGINA TRANSIT
To further increase ridership, transit 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

Because there has been no increase in its operating budget, Regina Transit has only been able to address the items in the first two bullets and these only in a limited manner: extending transit service to a few new areas and introducing some express routes.

Moreover, because of budget limitations, making these improvements has meant cutting back on service in older parts of our city.

DOWNTOWN FEEDER BUSES
Mayor Michael Fougere and some City Councillors are backing a plan that would force transit riders to transfer to smaller “feeder” buses to get to and from downtown. Imagine 40 transit passengers getting off a regular size bus with their purchases, strollers, and walkers and scrambling to get on a 20 seat feeder bus.

This is not a way to improve Regina Transit!

PARATRANSIT
In 2012, 1,400 calls for paratransit went unanswered because of a lack of resources. “Equal access for persons with disabilities to public services is a human right” protected under the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code and Canadian law (Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission, 2013).

PUBLIC TRANSIT BENEFITS EVERYONE! TAKE ACTION

Let Mayor Michael Fougere and your City Councillor know you want

  • An annual 20% increase to the transit budget for the next four years.
  • All surplus transit revenue to be reinvested in Regina Transit.
  • The feeder bus plan to be scrapped.
  • The provision of enough paratransit buses and drivers for all calls for paratransit service to be answered. 

Mayor Michael Fougere  777-7339 or mayor@regina.ca

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

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

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

Ward 4: Bryon Burnett  737-3347 or bburnett@regina.ca

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

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

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

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

Ward 9: Terry Hincks 949-9690 or thincks@regina.ca

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

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR CANADA AND CANADIANS

Posted by strattof on January 3, 2014

It’s a new year, a time for new beginnings.

Let’s reflect on the changes we need to bring about in our country, province, and city to make life better for all Canadians. We also need to resolve to follow through on those changes.

A vast number of New Year’s resolutions – 88% – typically fail. What do we need to do to become part of the 12% that succeed?

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS
Making the world a better place for all who dwell here

WHAT REGINA CITY COUNCIL CAN DO

1. Reverse its decision on residential development right next to Co-op Refinery.
On December 16, City Council approved developing a new neighbournood, Somerset, between the Evraz steel mill and Co-op Refinery. Concerned about air quality, the Regina-Qu’Appelle Health Region, the provincial Ministry of the Environment, and the Co-op Refinery itrself all oppose the plan.

On December 24, there was a huge explosion at Co-op Refinery – the fourth explosion and/or fire at the facility in two years.

Kudos to the four councillors who voted against the Somerset development: Sharron Bryce, John Findura, Shawn Fraser, and Barbara Young.

Let’s resolve to help the development’s supporters – Mayor Michael Fougere and the six remaining councillors – come to their senses.

2. Apply the standard definition of “affordability” to rental housing.
Sky-rocketing rents have caused a homelessness crisis in Regina. The city’s shelter system is filled to capacity.

According to the standard definition of affordable housing, “the cost of adequate shelter should not exceed 30% of household income.” Yet the city’s new housing plan uses a “made in Regina” definition of affordable rental housing as “housing with rents at or below average market rent” – rents which are out of reach of many.

Let’s resolve to address our homelessness crisis without such linguistic/political trickery.

3. Ban the cosmetic use of pesticides.
Over 170 Canadian municipalities have banned pesticides. But not Regina. In 2002, a citizens’ campaign to introduce a ban ended with City Council voting against it.

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.”

In Regina, let’s resolve to give the word of the Canadian Cancer Society more weight than that of the pesticide industry lobby.

WHAT THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT CAN DO

1. Pass rent control legislation.
Current legislation only requires landlords to give one year’s notice of rent increases. The amount of increase is left to the discretion of the landlord.

2. Raise the minimum wage to $17 per hour.
The minimum wage is $10 per hour – not enough to allow a full-time minimum wage worker to afford a one bedroom apartment in Regina. $17 per hour would give workers a “living wage” – just enough money to meet basic needs.

3. Increase natural resource royalties and taxes.
Mexico receives a 49.9% rate of return from mining, while Sweden receives a 28% return. Saskatchewan, by contrast, receives a mere 10% return from potash and 9.8% return from uranium. The natural resources of Saskatchewan belong to the people of Saskatchewan – all generations of us.

Let’s resolve to tell our MLAs to make life more affordable and equitable for all the people of Saskatchewan.

WHAT THE HARPER GOVERNMENT CAN DO

1. Make Canada a more equal society.
The gap between rich and poor is growing in Canada. More unequal societies have more health and social problems. Here are three measures Ottawa can take to reduce the gap:
●Develop a long-term national affordable housing program.
●Introduce quality universal early childhood education.
●Properly fund First Nations education.

2. Set serious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets and develop a plan for meeting them.
On the 2013 Climate Change Performance Index, Canada ranks 58th out of 61. We are one of the top ten CO2 emitters in the world. To protect tar sands development, the Harper government has gutted environmental regulations.

3. Free Omar Khadr
Khadr should never have been imprisoned in the first place. Only 15 years old when he committed the crimes he is accused of, he is, under international law, a child soldier.

Let’s resolve to tell our MPs to respect equality, the health of our planet, and international law.

We look forward in the hope that one day soon

PEACE WILL BREAK OUT & JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL

  

 

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