Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

REGINA VOTES 2016: 6 QUESTIONS FOR CANDIDATES

Posted by strattof on September 23, 2016

  1. Do you think Regina needs an anti-racism campaign?

Regina is in denial. Many of us, including a number of our prominent officials, believe Regina is not a racist city. How then do we account for the following?

THE FREQUENT OCCURRENCE OF INDIVIDUAL ACTS OF RACISM—for example, racist abuse shouted out a car window.

INSTITUTIONAL RACISM—that is racist policies and practices that are embedded in institutions and work to maintain conditions of inequality. For example:

  • Segregation: Regina is an extremely segregated city, with its primarily Indigenous North Central neighbourhood, “Canada’s worst neighbourhood,” according to Maclean’s, cut off from the city’s more affluent areas.
  • Inadequate Housing: 37% of First Nations households in Regina live in inadequate or overcrowded housing.
  • Child Poverty: Regina has an Indigenous child poverty rate of 41%, the 2nd highest in Canada.
  • Unemployment: The unemployment rate for First Nations in Regina is more than three times that of the general population.
  • Police Surveillance: Excessive police surveillance is the norm in North Central. Racial profiling is a city-wide practice.
  • Lack of Representation: Regina has no Indigenous City Coucillors. Yet Indigenous people make up about 10% of Regina’s population.
  1. How would you address Regina’s affordable rental housing crisis?

The good news is that Regina’s rental vacancy rate has improved, rising from 1.8% in 2013 to 5.3% in 2015. The bad news is that rents too have increased—by 84% between 2005 and 2015.

As a result:

  • Regina has a growing population of homeless people.
  • Many Regina residents have to choose between paying the rent and buying food.

While City Council cannot solve all of Regina’s housing problems, there are things it can do. For example:

  • Require developers to include affordable rental housing in their plans or pay a fee into an affordable housing account.
  • Identify empty buildings that can be converted into affordable housing and, with the help of the business community, NGOs, and volunteer citizens, convert them into affordable rental housing.
  • Develop a program to build 100 new units of affordable rental housing a year, with matching funding from the province.
  • If City Council can spend $73 million of Regina property taxes on a new stadium, it can spend $73 million on affordable housing. 
  1. If elected, what will you do to make Regina Police Service more democratically accountable?

The Board of Police Commissioners is supposed to scrutinize the conduct of Regina Police Service (RPS). In fact, it functions mainly as a police cheerleading squad.

The Board has five members, three of whom are City Councillors, including the Mayor who chairs the board.

The current chair’s standard response to any criticism of the RPS is to say it is “the best police service in Canada.” Much of the public portion of each and every board meeting is dedicated to accepting hundreds of “letters of appreciation”—notes of praise from Regina citizens. Criticism is not permitted.

What is needed is a robust level of civilian oversight.

  1. Do you think Regina should adopt a living wage?

In May, City Council voted to delay until 2017 any decision on a motion that the city adopt a living wage policy for city employees. In the words of Mayor Michael Fougere, such a policy is “premature.”

A living wage is the amount two working parents, with two children, each need to earn to meet the family’s basic needs and ensure it does not slip into poverty. Regina’s living wage is calculated to be $16.46 per hour.

By contrast, Saskatchewan’s minimum wage—10.72 per hour as of October 1—is a poverty level wage.

Many US cities and some Canadian cities, including Port Coquitlam and New Westminster, have adopted a living wage.

Regina should follow suit. After all, our city pays 700 city employees in senior positions $100,000 or more! (Mayor Fougere is a member of this six-figure salary club.) The living wage should also be extended to cover employees of firms contracting with the city and then to all workers in Regina and the province.

  1. Where do you stand on TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline?

The Energy East pipeline will cut right through Regina in the Harbour Landing area. It will carry 1.1 million barrels of tar sands oil a day.

  • TransCanada has a poor safety record. A spill would have a devastating impact on our city.
  • The pipeline will expand Canadian tar sands production, thus driving dangerous climate change.
  • 2016 is set to be the hottest year ever recorded.

Toronto City Council passed a resolution banning the transport of tar sands oil through the city by rail or pipeline. Mayors from the entire Montreal metropolitan area have spoken out against the Energy East pipeline project.

Regina needs to follow these good examples.

  1. Do you support Regina’s adoption of the Blue Dot Movement’s Declaration of Citizens’ Right to a Healthy Environment?

The Blue Dot refers to planet earth as seen from outer space. The Movement is an initiative of the David Suzuki Foundation.

When the Blue Dot motion calling on the City of Regina to respect citizens’ right to a healthy environment came before Regina City Council in January, Council voted to postpone making a decision.

What kind of City Council does not want its city’s citizens to have a healthy environment? 125 other Canadian municipal governments have already passed the Blue Dot resolution.

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