Saturday, 24 September 2016

REGINA VOTES 2016: Q&A WITH REGINA RESIDENTS

Hello Regina!!

I received an email from a resident recently that I wanted to share with you all. They posed a number of questions about Regina in order to determine their vote this October. I am extremely pleased to see anyone take the time to reach out to candidates, but to go to the extent this person did, I am speechless. This is the kind of attention and dedication that I feel all residents should put towards all elections, but most importantly, municipal elections, because after all, that is where you can have the most impact.

I will post the questions and answers below, and then add them to my "Campaign FAQ" page for future reference as well.

Thank you everyone for your continued support and attention to this election!

1)   Did you support the destruction of a functioning football stadium and its replacement with a new stadium at taxpayer expense?
I campaigned against this in 2012 when I ran for Mayor, for the simple reason that the current stadium is most certainly in decent enough shape to host the Rolling Stones, AC/DC and Sir Paul McCartney as recent as 2013. It hosted the Grey Cup in that same year. While it is certainly in need of updating and repairs, I feel the City portrayed the cost of these in such a manner that made it sound like the new stadium was the cheaper alternative. With that said, the new stadium is now near completion, and while I still don't agree with the need for it, we must now find ways to make it used as effectively as possible. I only hope that the promises to redevelop the current stadium site and the railyard do not disappear suddenly.

2)   If unforeseen issues arise requiring more spending to make the new stadium functional, should the taxpayers pay, or should the Riders and their fans pay?
This is a good question, and as an accountant, I would want to know the full details of what would be required. If there are deficiencies that were promised with the construction, and it is within the contract, I would first want us to go back to the builders to honour their commitment. If there were things that the City didn't consider and realize now that it's either do it or the facility cannot open to the public, I would be hard pressed to simply rubber stamp it. I would want to ensure we are balancing both sides of the balance sheet, and the good thing is we do have the current facility still able to be used until such time the new facility is deemed ready for the public. I feel the Riders got a sweet deal in this entire transaction, as they actually aren't paying one red cent for this new facility. Contrary to Mayor Fougere and Fiacco's assertions, the Riders "contribution" is actually money funnelled through them from sponsors. Not one single dime comes from the Riders accumulated surplus, which I feel is a kick in the teeth to taxpayers.

3)   Regina has one of the highest residential property tax rates and one of the lowest commercial to residential rate rations in Canada. Would you consider shifting the burden to commercial property?
I am so pleased that you posed this question. This is actually one of the items that I am campaigning on. I had discovered this over the summer through some research of a report done by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. I was shocked, but not completely surprised, to learn that in Saskatchewan, businesses pay only $2.13 for every $1.00 that residents pay. Contrast that to the national average of around $3.00 and the highest near $4.00. I most certainly plan to address this situation, and it would have to be some kind of compromise of reducing residential taxes and increasing corporate taxes. I have found through my own independent research that companies in Regina pay 30% less than similar assessed properties in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg. 

4)   The Regina Chamber of Commence supported the construction of the new stadium at taxpayer exense. Would you consider shifting the burden of paying for the stadium onto commercial property?
I will say this - the Regina Chamber of Commerce has been responsible for so many favours to the business community in our City. That is one of the reasons why they pay the lowest in the Country in contrast to residential taxes. I have personally expressed my frustration with the Chamber at City Hall on numerous occasions, partially because of their tendency to exaggerate statistics, such as "67% of businesses agree with so and so", when in reality they only represent 1,200 registered businesses, of which fewer than 15% typically respond to their surveys. So, in reality, it is 67% of 15% of 1,200 of how many businesses are in Regina. So, to answer your original question - I would do anything I can to ensure businesses are not being subsidized by residents and that would include the burden for the new stadium.

5)   Do you think Libraries should be closed?
While I have rarely used a library since I was in school, I do see the need for them and until such time that this becomes a global trend that libraries are closing, I would want to keep libraries open. I see them becoming about more than just books as people traditionally see them. With that said, if there are valid reasons anyone can provide to me for the contrary, or to possibly reduce the locations, I am always open to listening.

6)   Do you believe recreation facilities should be closed?
Absolutely not. On the contrary, in fact. This is one of my campaign platform ideas, and I feel that recreational opportunities are far too lacking in our City. We have a tremendous amount of greenspace, which is great, but not very many viable opportunities for our kids to partake in activities that don't cost much or anything at all. I want to see more skate parks opened and bmx parks (the city currently only has one of these along the grid road that is 13th Avenue by the airport), places for kids to spend their time productively, rather than resorting to situations that are less than productive like gangs or the like. Another popular item I have heard on the campaign trail (and over the past number of years) is a water park. Of course, to be most effective, this would have to be indoors. I think this is a great idea, as our current facilities really lack that "fun" factor that a water park would offer. As for the cost of it - we have a significant amount of room in our reserves and in our debt ceiling. Another viable option would be a P3 - which I don't normally support, but this is a good example of where that would probably be the preferred option.

7)    Do you believe recreation facilities in low-income neighborhoods should be closed? (the last administration attempted to do this)
10000000% no. As I said above, I feel offering recreational opportunities to kids are a great way to keep them from less appealing options, like getting involved and gangs and crime. While it may not be the ultimate solution, it is certainly a way to show them that the City appreciates them and knows they have a meaningful contribution to our City now and in the future.

8)   Do you agree that Wascana Park should be opened up for commercial development (ie: office building construction)
This most recent situation with the Conexus office building, I do not agree with whatsoever. I campaigned against this over the summer, and was adamant that the City should not donate land for this purpose. If the university were using it for their own purposes, then it would be a different story. Granted, Conexus is a great community partner, and I am a proud member, I do not feel this is the appropriate use of the space. There were options available, and given our 15% vacancy rate downtown for office space, and the fact it went against the Official Community Plan and Wascana's own plans, it just seemed to be a no brainer that it shouldn't have happened. I was disappointed to see the lack of community backlash until after it was approved, but hopefully that serves as a wake up call to all residents to always be diligent with anything City Hall is capable of, regardless of how we feel they ought to decide.

9)   Would you reverse the City’s decision to allow Conexus Credit Union to build office space in Wascana Park?
If it is possible, absolutely, 100% I would do what I can to make that happen. Worst case, I would want to work with the partners to possibly get them to move it over to where the Conservatory is being demolished (this should never have been allowed to get to the point of no return either), so that there is minimal impact to the current greenspace and trees that make our park so beautiful.

10)  Do you support P3s for infra structure projects?
As I said above, I don't normally support P3's in any way, whatsoever, but I do admit there are times when they can make sense. A recreational facility like a water park, which can traditionally be viewed as a commercial venture, would be a good example. A private business might have a tough go of it in Regina, but with a P3, the government and the private company can work together to ensure the community's best interests are met.

11)  Do you agree that companies from out of province or out of country should be involved in Regina P3s?
No. Personally, I would much rather see preference given to Saskatchewan companies first and foremost. I realize this may go against our free trade agreements, etc. (at least according to Brad Wall), but Saskatchewan workers should always be given first priority. If a company coming in from out of province (or out of country) can somehow do a project for cheaper than our local companies, I would have to question the validity of their bids and what are they compromising on that our local companies are not. Most importantly, as an accountant, I would want to know what specifically is affecting our local businesses that doesn't impact those from out of province or out of country. It has to be, after all, a level playing field for all.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Introducing your Ward 4 City Council Candidate

Hello Regina!!

Well, today was a great day, both in terms of the weather, and in terms of the big announcement I was telling you all about just a couple of weeks ago. I held my campaign launch today, and I am officially running for Ward 4 in the Regina City Election 2016. I could not do this without the ongoing support and following from everyone out there, whether it be on my Facebook page, in person, on the street, or at City Hall.

Below is the Press Release that was sent to the Media, along with a copy of my door hanger that is being distributed all over Ward 4 over the next few weeks. If you want to display a lawn sign, my team has plenty to go around, and your support is always appreciated! You will also be seeing a billboard or two going up in Ward 4. I am taking this run for City Council very seriously, and I am putting a good amount of money into my campaign this go round. If you would like to support, any amount of money is appreciated, but by no means will I be soliciting funding from anyone as I do not want to have any perception of undue influence in my role as your next City Councillor.

Thank you again everyone, and as always, please remember....

It's Your Money. You Deserve Better!

#VoteJOE

PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANT CHAD NOVAK TO SEEK SEAT FOR REGINA CITY COUNCIL WARD 4

Regina, Saskatchewan - Over the past number of years, Chartered Professional Accountant, Chad A. Novak, has been advocating for individual rights at Regina City Hall on a number of different issues. Ranging from property tax breaks to water rate increases to the recent land donation in Wascana Park, Chad has stood strong toward the overall goal of equality and fairness for all taxpayers of Regina.

Knowing another run for City Council was inevitable, Chad had spent much of 2016 determining which areas of the City lacked reasonable representation, and what issues mattered the most to the majority of residents of Regina. After long deliberation with friends and family, Chad has decided that running in his own area of the City, that being Ward 4, would provide him with the best opportunity to win a seat on Regina City Council. However, in a unique twist, recognizing that many areas of the City are lacking reasonable representation, and noting that many issues are similar across the City, and thus impact residents all over Regina, Chad has vowed to be available City-wide for any residents that feel they aren’t being listened to by their local City Councillor.

Some of Chad’s recent advocacy successes has been bringing attention, and meaningful action, towards the dust problems along Winnipeg Street North and Pinkie Road, the Glockenspiel in Victoria Park and raising many questions with regard to land transactions surrounding the entire Regina Bypass, but in particular Tower Road, which is within his area of Ward 4.


                            FRONT                                                                     BACK



BACK - Zoomed In (Easier to read in person)

Friday, 26 August 2016

Big News Coming Soon!

Hello Regina!!
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UPDATE: OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT SCHEDULED FOR
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2016
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It's coming to the end of yet another absolutely amazing summer in Regina, and what better way to end it than a celebration of all that is City Hall. What's that? You aren't as enthused about City Hall as I am? Oh, that's okay! I'll make up for your lack of enthusiasm this fall, I assure you.

Well, I've finally made it official - I am running for City Council in the 2016 Regina Election. I have chosen Council over Mayor for many reasons, including the fact that this gives you the opportunity to see what kind of a Councillor I can be, and what kind of Mayor I will be in the future. I plan to make an official media announcement in early September as to which Ward I am running in, and what my platform will be.

For now, I'll leave you with this little snippet that you can share far and wide.



Further to this, I want to extend my sincerest gratitude to the Star Newspaper out of White City for publishing my latest Letter to the Editor regarding the very questionable land transactions along Tower Road. This is further to the one they posted previously, which I will include below as well. I'll leave this for you to decide what should be done about it. I guarantee you, though, one way or another, this will be talked about publicly this fall in the election.




Tuesday, 26 July 2016

JULY 2016 CITY COUNCIL RECAP

Good evening Regina!!!
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Once again, it's officially on record, ladies and gentlemen, the entire current Regina City Council is in favour of major commercial developments in suburban residential sprawl neighbourhoods, even if they contradict the very concept plans that were designed and in place for over a decade. Yes, even Councillor Shawn Fraser supported this plan, who allegedly is against urban sprawl. It should be noted the developer is none other than Harvard Developments and Forster Projects, who are also behind the new commercial development just up the road along Victoria Avenue and Tower Road.

To me, this continues to demonstrate a genuine disregard for public consultation of residents of Regina, and an utter disdain for anyone who dare try to oppose a development by the all-mighty Harvard/Forster team, who many rightfully suspect "own" City Hall. The blanket approval of this without so much as a peep to the neighbouring residents in the Greens on Gardiner is a perfect example.

So, remember...

This fall, you are going to have choice. 

The current Council is obviously okay with allowing commercial development at any cost, with little to no public consultation. There will be alternatives this fall, who will provide you the ability to make a real change at City Hall. This change has been needed for years now, and 2016 is the perfect time to do it.

Remind City Hall that they work for you, and not the development industry.

This fall, remember:
It's Your Money. Demand Better.
#VoteJOE

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If you weren't already aware, there was a Regina City Council Meeting this Monday, July 25, 2016. I had submitted four delegations, which I have included below for your review, and while three of them didn't go as I'd hoped, all four went as I had expected.

There was the new Business Plan and an ask for $85,500 by the Regina Plains Museum, otherwise known as the Civic Museum of Regina, and they still haven't provided any answers as to how the money was spent last year. They were provided "up to" $60,000 to reopen their doors, but never did succeed in actually reopening their doors. They have made excuses about staffing and the like, but it doesn't explain why they spent even one dime last year or this year, without having the doors open. That, I had thought, was a condition of receiving those funds.

There was further property tax exemptions for the Tartan and Highland Curling Clubs, in an effort to "level the playing field" with the Callie. Even though the Callie doesn't actually get a property tax exemption, it is an offsetting contract for rent that the City would pay to the Callie for using their facility as a clubhouse for the City-owned Golf Course. Even though their research suggested otherwise, they asked for, and administration gleefully recommended, further tax exemptions, and of course, glad-handing City Council (remembering there is an election this fall and the curling community is quite large) approved their request.

Finally, the controversial development at 13th and Elphinstone. To me, this is a situation where there simply was no desire by the developer to compromise their proposal, and seemed to assume that it would be a slam dunk. This is further supported by the fact that they spent around $300,000 to acquire the house next door, which they claim is old and dilapidated. They even tried to use this as justification for City Council to approve their development, almost in a guilt trip kind of fashion that your teenager would use to borrow your car. The Cathedral Community rallied together, and it was evident by the over 20 delegations last night, only 5 of which were in favour (the developer, his wife, the Regina Chamber, a 40 year family friend/realtor, and a lady that seemed to be more irate that the Protect Cathedral group were "spreading lies"), that the development had strong opposition by the community. I attended their open house to find out what their concerns were, and really, they weren't asking for much. Simply removing one floor of the development, which means fewer parking spots were required, and the house didn't need to be destroyed. The developer claimed this wasn't financially feasible, but couldn't provide any hard numbers to back that claim up. When asked if they had a plan B if this was denied (which was the recommendation in fact), they said simply, no. At the end of the day, the two parties are not that far apart, and if the developer would simply accept the concerns of the community, and work together with them, rather than the arrogant attitude of "it's my money, I can do what I want with it", then I think everyone would be a winner. I see this still a possibility. Stay tuned!

Here are the links to my delegations, and the corresponding video.

Greens on Gardiner Commercial Development (PDF)


Civic Museum of Regina (PDF)


Curling Regina Tax Exemptions (PDF)


13th and Elphinstone Development (PDF)





Friday, 8 July 2016

PROPER PLANNING NEEDED FOR REGINA COMMUNITIES

Good evening everyone,

As you may or may not be aware, there is a MAJOR Shopping Centre being proposed for the Greens on Gardiner. "Acre 21 Developments Inc.", a new corporation created May 30, 2016, includes Harvard Developments, Forster Projects and Deveraux Developments. It goes to City Council for final approval on July 25, 2016.

This new Shopping Centre is on 21 Acres, and is set to include, at minimum:
- A 38,000 sq ft Grocery Store (about the size of your local Sobey's)
- At least eight approx 5,000 sq ft Restaurants (Average Size Montana's)
- Two 17,000 sq ft Mixed Use Retail/Residential (Possibly Hotels)
- 17,000 sq ft Retail Store
- 15,000 sq ft Retail Store
- Two 12,000 sq ft Retail Stores
- 11,000 sq ft Retail Store
- Two 6,000 sq ft Retail Stores
- 4,000 sq ft Bank
- 3,000 sq ft Retail Store
- A future 3 Acre Gas Bar

To give you a visual, imagine the developments currently occurring on the two Superstore lots in Regina, and that's basically what they want to develop here in quiet, residential, suburban Greens on Gardiner. To be clear, I am absolutely fine with having a strip mall or two, as have always been in the original plans, and are supposed to still be happening (Google Gateway Regina). I am not fine, however, with a major shopping centre on Chuka Boulevard, only two blocks away from our new school, and creating a traffic nightmare in our quiet area. There is a reason why no other residential area along Arcola Avenue has a development like this. If I wanted to live in Harbour Landing, I would have built there.

Further to this, Harvard Developments and Forster Projects (they are one and the same for all intents and purposes) are developing the Aurora Retail Complex at Victoria Avenue and Tower Road, and is also looking to do the same kind of development listed above, in the new Towns subdivision, just north of the Greens on Gardiner. So there will be no shortage of accessible commercial development within a two minute drive, or a five minute walk of our area.

I'm sure you're asking yourself - Why is this an issue? Why should you care? 

Well, because this opens the door to future developments of a similar nature being hammered in at the last second City wide. If you think this doesn't affect you because you live elsewhere in the City, you couldn't be more wrong. From the date of inception, all the way until May 2016, the 21 Acres that this development was set to be residential, or at most "mixed use". One of the many reasons I chose to locate in the Greens was because of the lack of commercial development, like the mess that is currently Harbour Landing. (Also a Harvard Development)

I want to make it perfectly clear, contrary to what these developers would lead you to believe, there has been little to no public consultation actually conducted on this development. The only way I ever became aware of it was through my weekly review of Agendas for City Meetings this past week. Very few people are as anal as I am when it comes to that regard, and even fewer subscribe to or even read the hard copy Leader Post, which is the only other place it was publicly advertised. In today's day and age, there are many other ways to involve the public, and at the very least, the Ward Councillor ought to have a responsibility to his constituents to inform them of a major change in developments, such as this. 

So, what can you do? Attend City Council on Monday, July 25, 2016 5:30PM. Your mere presence speaks volumes. If you wish to speak to this issue, you must email clerks@regina.ca before 1:00PM on Thursday, July 21, 2016 with your exact speech. (They won't let you veer from this speech and you are limited to five minutes)

I ask you to please share this far and wide. We must take our City back from these greedy developers. We can't just wait for the election this fall, we must take action now.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Chad A. Novak, CPA, CMA
Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group 


Sunday, 26 June 2016

June Updates

Hello everyone!!

No, I haven't forgotten about you, I've been quite busy this month. However, I have been posting a lot more on my Facebook page than on here, obviously, so if you want to keep up with the latest, be sure to check out my page.

Here are just a few of the topics I've posted this month:

Saskatchewan Budget Highlights and Lowlights - Is it wise to cut funding to urban parks? Why is Brad Wall so eager to make cuts to programs that are relatively cost effective, and make extremely minimal impact to the overall budget?

A Living Wage - A good idea? What could it mean to you and me, as taxpayers?

Regina Bypass - Even more short term thinking and boondoggles plague the growing scandal around the Regina Bypass.

Regina Police "Homeless" Entrapment (?) Scheme - What are the positives and negatives of this approach? More importantly, is it ethical?

Regina Blue Dot Movement - The hypocrisy that is City Council and the threat of an additional right for Canadians that might cost...oh no....pipelines!

City Wide Improvements - Has the Regina Downtown BID lost its way? Why are people slowing down (excessively) on the Ring Road? How can underpasses/overpasses be improved? Why is the Victoria Avenue/Ring Road overpass being replaced?

Another Huge Payout - Former Deputy City Manager, Brent Sjoberg, was paid out $420,000 in severance pay. This only came about thanks to a Freedom of Information request by the Leader Post. Is this excessive? What are we doing to get a handle on these things?

This and so much more!!! See what you miss out on when you don't follow my Facebook page?

Check it out now!!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

CITY COUNCIL TO ANSWER TO TAX HIKES

Good evening Regina!!!
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UPDATE MAY 31, 2016: Well, it's officially on record, ladies and gentlemen, the entire current Regina City Council is in favour of continual property tax hikes and water rate increases, even though they continue to realize multimillion dollar surpluses.

To me, this is completely unacceptable, as it shows a genuine disregard for the well being of all residents of Regina, and completely misses the mark when considering the ability to bear these continued increases. Surely, for the Councillors and Mayor, these increases may not seem like a big deal, but to those barely scraping by, struggling to put food on the table, or trying to scrounge enough money towards a down payment for their first home, every single penny makes a difference.

This fall, you are going to have choice. 

The Status Quo is obviously okay with needless tax and water rate increases. The Alternatives will provide you the ability to make a real change at City Hall. This change has been needed for years now, and 2016 is the perfect time to do it.

Remind City Hall that they work for you, not the other way around.

This fall, remember:
It's Your Money. Demand Better.
#VoteJOE

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If you weren't already aware, there is a Regina City Council Meeting this Monday, May 30, 2016 starting at 5:30PM, and anyone is allowed to attend - so if you have a spare couple hours or five, come on down and see the excitement first hand! But, if you aren't so daring, and you subscribe to Access Communications, you can watch in on Access7, or if you don't have that, you can always watch the online stream - even though it's not always the greatest quality, and sometimes has "technical issues".

Anyways, onto the fun stuff. I have submitted three delegations, which I have included below for your review, and I'm hoping it brings some of these issues to the public, and if we are lucky, we might even get some real answers out of City Council and/or Administration. But...I'm not going to hold my breath.

One of the more controversial subjects year in, year out has been the continued "need" for property tax hikes, and endless water rate hikes. As you'll see by my delegation, average water bills have actually doubled in the past decade. What's worse? There was never a need for any of these increases, as we currently have nearly $80 Million in the Utility Reserve, with no plan in sight to deplete that.

Speaking of reserves, did you know, any year that the City of Regina realizes a surplus (actual net income is higher than budgeted), it is considered a "one time" item, and is automatically sent into our ever-growing reserve accounts. Apparently, for at least the past decade, we have had a surplus every single year! That has helped grow the Reserves over 500% in the past decade. Meanwhile, they keep coming back to you and I, saying they need more money to operate. There is absolutely no reason this needs to have happened, and I'm hoping that we actually get some answers out of City Council on Monday on this one. Do you think it will happen?

Here are the links, ladies and gentlemen! Have a great weekend and hope to see you Monday!!

2015 Annual Report Delegation (PDF)


Financial Report Delegation (PDF)


Westerra Development Application Delegation (PDF)

Thursday, 19 May 2016

City of Regina Continues to Cater to (Certain) Developers

Good afternoon Regina!!

Last Wednesday, I attended the Regina Planning Commission meeting, where on the Agenda was the Westerra Subdivision, and an application to rezone a parcel of land from Major Arterial Commercial to Designated Shopping Centre. I won't get into details on what the differences between the two zonings are here, because honestly, it's irrelevant to this discussion.

What is important here are the following two things:

1) The need for remaining consistent with our Official Community Plan

2) Who the developers are behind Westerra (and Aurora on the opposite side of town), and why they are being allowed to develop lands that, not even five years ago, the former owners were told the lands were "undevelopable" and "frozen" for the forseeable future (25 years+).

Further on Point #1, it seems that "Discretionary Use" applications come before City Hall more often than would sound reasonable to the average person, given the whole concept behind "discretionary use". If the point of this kind of rezoning was intended to be more of the rule than the exception, then why even have an Official Community Plan (OCP) in the first place? The whole point of an OCP is to lay out a framework for the next (insert number here) number of years. This allows developers, residents, industries, and most importantly, the City Planning Department, to have an idea on where our City will be in 25 years and how it is most likely to get there. Given that you are planning a quarter century ahead, you are always going to have one-off situations. Hence the need for "discretionary use" applications. If you review the past five years, however, you're going to see more of these on the books than almost any other type of development application. I'll leave this as is, because honestly, I don't know enough of the intricate details involved in this kind of situation, and I will put the trust in my elected officials to become learned enough to translate it into layman's terms for you and I. After all, that is what they get paid to do. I just do this out of the goodness of my heart.

Onto Point #2, and quite likely one of the most contentious - and least publicly talked about - situations facing Regina over the past few decades. And, that being the appearance of favouritism towards certain developers. Many presume, rightly or wrongly, that Harvard Developments Inc. basically runs City Hall. If you follow the trail of people leaving the City, from the Planning Department in particular, chances are you'll see them going to either DREAM Developments (formerly Dundee) or Harvard Developments. I'm sure City Hall would chalk that up to coincidence, but anyone with half a brain could connect the dots.

Speaking specific to the current development projects in the works, Westerra Regina and Aurora Retail Corp., these are two very interesting situations that most certainly deserve further investigation. Since the process to get a full investigation to happen legislatively is extremely prohibitive, hopefully enough candidates can come forward this fall to make an investigation happen that is worthy of taxpayers questions.

Both of these parcels of land were actually formerly owned by separate companies, theoretically "outsiders" when it comes to developing within the City of Regina. (For those that aren't aware - outsiders are very frowned upon at City Hall, but I'll get into that another day) Both of these former companies were told that, in essence, their lands were "frozen for development" and "undevelopable" (See Exhibit A) for the forseeable future, presumed to be 25 years or more. Both of these companies then sold, probably unbenounced to each other, to Harvard Developments and Forster Projects Inc. Both of these parcels of land, suddenly, were then deemed "developable" and the City of Regina even went so far as to annex the East lands for the Aurora Retail Corp. (Keeping in mind the lands don't need to be annexed to be serviced, but it certainly does help the private developer by increasing the value of the lands they can then re-sell or lease out to commercial entities)

Also very important to this discussion is the timeframe of land sales to development applications. But I'm leaving that with my legal counsel to discuss to determine the best method to pursue these concerns.

I plan to speak further on these issues at the May 30, 2016 City Council Meeting, but suffice it to say for now, there are neighbour concerns that had been brought up in previous meetings that still have not been addressed adequately, and are still very much a concern. I present to you my video delegation and RPC's responses/follow up in Exhibits B and C.

Exhibit A
 
Exhibit B

Exhibit C

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

City Goes on Defensive After Glaring Inaccuracies Noted

Hello Regina!!

Well, this week has been an interesting week at City Hall. Today, there was another application to change the always-evolving Westerra Developments - A joint venture brought to you by the great folks at Harvard Developments and Forster Projects. (Sarcasm intended) We all assume (know) that Harvard basically runs our great City, and I, for one, don't intend to let that continue to happen without at least a little pushback from the taxpayers. It's high time we had a City Council and Administration that didn't simply bend over backwards for one or two developers, and the rest be damned! Westerra is a very interesting project and I do plan to talk more about this in a future blog post.

Trust me. The wait will be worth it.

Yesterday, at the Finance and Administration Committee Meeting, there were a number of items on the Agenda, most notably for me was the 2015 Annual Report, Public Accounts and Financial Results. This is always a fun time for me, being a Chartered Professional Accountant, I love numbers. I love analyzing them. I love picking them apart. I don't, however, love arrogant fellow CPA members who feel they are impenetrable and not vulnerable to human error. Such was the case when I found a number of glaring errors within the 2015 Annual Report. The reason why this is so important is that if there are glaring inaccuracies in any part of the Report, how can you and I, the people who pay for that Report, put any trust into the reliability of the entire Report?

Simple answer - you can't.

Below is one of the most glaring inaccuracies, and no matter how much I pressed, City Administration (notably departing CFO Ed Archer who spent a whopping two years here - who replaced the now fired Brent Sjoberg - I'm sensing a trend here), and Finance and Administration Committee simply would not address it directly. Perhaps they will at City Council on May 30, but I'm not holding my breath.


As you can see above, when you look at the numbers from "Budget 2015", the four boxes add together to equal the total at the bottom. However, when you look under "Actual 2015" it is actually the top box that mirrors the total on the bottom, which is the other three boxes added together. Long story short, it's just wrong. Whether this was a typographical error, or someone messed up on putting the totals where they should be, in the end, this tells me the report did not get the scrutiny it deserves, and therefore I have a hard time believing the accuracy of anything else within the report.

One number that Administration better damned well have accurate is the SURPLUS. Unfortunately, there are at least three different figures found within the 2015 Annual Report. One says $9.9 Million (See Exhibit A), which is contained in the letter signed off by Mr. Chris Holden, our new City Manager. One says $5.1 Million (See Exhibit B), which is what Mr. Ed Archer insists is the actual surplus. And finally one shows a whopping $169.8 Million (See Exhibit C)!!! Which is it?? We'll never know, because apparently daring to ask that is akin to calling the entire City Administration liars and they simply take offense to the mere implication that they may not have the best report in the world. City Councillor Bob Hawkins took a good shot at me personally by making some pretty ignorant accusations against me that, if I were someone like Bill Boyd (google "GTH land scandal"), then I might have the audacity to take him to court for defamation.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:


But I digress.

Finally, this evening, here are my delegations for your viewing pleasure.


Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Mental Health Focus Needs to Change

Hello Regina!! 

It's been too long since I posted last, and for that I apologize. With the Regina Municipal Election around the corner, I will try to make an effort to post at least once a week so that you are as informed as possible for the election coming up on October 26, 2016. And, no, I haven't made any official announcements as to what I intend to do for the fall election quite yet.

Since this is officially recognized as Mental Health Week by the Canadian Mental Health Association and the City of Regina, I decided to put together a brief Media Advisory on my thoughts about Mental Illness and the need to change the focus from the negative impacts of a Mental Illness to the positive influences that those who are affected by a Mental Illness have contributed to our society.



MUNICIPAL CANDIDATE FEELS MENTAL ILLNESS FOCUS NEEDS CHANGE


Regina, Saskatchewan – Former Mayoral Candidate for Regina, and anticipated Council Candidate for the 2016 Municipal Elections for the City of Regina, Saskatchewan, Chad Novak is proud of the accomplishments that the Canadian Mental Health Association has achieved in increasing awareness to the topic of Mental Health. He feels, though, the focus needs to change to emphasize the benefits that a Mental Illness can offer to society. All too often in our current society, the storyline is centered around the unfortunate negative impacts that a Mental Illness can have on a person, and rarely about the good things that have come from very notable people that happened to be affected by a Mental Illness. In fact, Novak feels that if it weren’t for certain Mental Illnesses, we wouldn’t have been blessed with some of the most innovative people that appear in our history books.

“As this week is Mental Health Week, I am very proud to stand up and openly declare that I am affected by Bipolar Disorder,” said Novak. “You will notice that I chose to use the term ‘affected by’ rather than ‘suffer with’ because you only suffer from this disease if you let it. If you recognize your limitations, but more importantly, the potential creative benefits of Bipolar, you can actually live a very positive and productive life.”

Did you know that many of our greatest politicians, celebrities and inventors have/had Bipolar Disorder? Novak is a strong believer in the idea that having a mental illness can actually be a great benefit to a person if they know how to manage it properly. “The downs are, at times, horrendous. But, the ups (or "highs") are absolutely mind blowing and this is where you realize your highest potential and creativity.”

It is because of these "high" times, that those who are affected by Bipolar Disorder can be some of the most influential and inspirational people in our lifetime. Just a few people of note are Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vincent Van Gogh, Francis Ford Coppola, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Ted Turner, Buzz Aldrin, Jimi Hendrix, Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and Saskatchewan’s first Premier Mr. Walter Scott.


Sunday, 27 March 2016

PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS - ARE THEY GOING TO THOSE WHO REALLY NEED THEM?

Happy Easter Regina!!

This Tuesday, March 29, 2016, Regina City Council is set to vote on a number of Property Tax Exemptions, as happens every year around this time. Upon review of the proposed exemptions, there are many questions that come up every year, and this year is no different. The theme that I am looking at this year, being an election year, is the concept of providing fair and equitable treatment to all taxpayers of Regina. Are these Property Tax Exemptions going to those parties that truly need them? Are there parties out there that could really use them but aren't being offered them because they simply don't know they are eligible? Is there a better way to handle this going forward? 

This and more to be addressed starting at 5:30PM Tuesday at City Hall! Be there or...tune into my blog for more!

Here are my delegations for that evening. I have also provided a PDF of each for you to download if you are so inclined.

Boundary Alteration – 2016 Property Tax Exemptions
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. The first item I would like to address this evening is the 2016 Property Tax Exemptions for properties that were included in the approved November 2013 Boundary Alterations.

A common theme you’re going to hear from me this evening is the concept of providing fair and equitable treatment of all taxpayers of Regina. To that extent, I feel strongly that the overall concept of tax exemptions for properties brought into City boundaries is fair to an extent, as it can be quite a jump in property taxes going from an RM to a City the size of Regina. With that said, the question becomes just how much is fair, for how long, and should it make a difference if the property owner did not want to be annexed versus those that had explicitly requested to be annexed.

Based on my research, the general consensus is the exemption amount and the time contained within this framework is more than fair, where the amount and length of exemption is dependent upon the anticipated timeline of when the affected lands may be used for City purposes rather than RM purposes. However, there is serious concern amongst taxpayers regarding property owners that specifically requested to be annexed versus those that were annexed against their wishes, as well as differentiating between commercial and residential property owners. Also, and we can’t stress this enough, the ability to pay should be a major factor, and like is policy for other city services, it is felt that any affected property owners should have to demonstrate that the additional property taxes will cause “unreasonable financial hardship” as a result of the annexation. And, in fact, this clause was included within this very policy as you will see in Appendix A. We would be remiss to not mention the fact that, according to real estate experts, the mere act of annexation immediately increases the affected property’s value because of the fact they are now within City jurisdiction and have access to City services. Keeping this in mind, it is a fact that a major property owner East of Tower Road very quickly flipped some of their affected lands to the Province for the Regina Bypass and to the City for the Pacers Ball Park relocation for upwards of 10x the value immediately prior to annexation. This was with absolutely no improvement by that property owner.

Further on the concept of “unreasonable financial hardship”, it seems only reasonable that a homeowner who has lived in the RM for decades should be considered moreso for relief from the additional property tax versus, say, a giant multimillion dollar corporation who explicitly requested to be annexed into the City for undisclosed reasons, who ought to have anticipated and budgeted for the additional property taxes. A reasonable person would argue that they most certainly have the ability to afford the higher taxes, even before taking into account the financial benefits that is realized because of that annexation. As you can see in Appendix B, one of these companies, publicly traded AGT Foods on East Primrose Drive, which is amongst a group of companies associated with Alliance Pulse Processors, Long Lake Investment Inc. and Nutrasun Foods Ltd., is set to receive over $80,000 in property tax exemption this year alone. When factored over the anticipated 15 year life span of this exemption, barring any further extensions, that translates to over $1.2M in lost property taxes to the City of Regina and in turn, its residents. For a company with annual revenues nearing two billion dollars, as outlined in Appendix C, I would hardly consider them to have realized any “unreasonable financial hardship” due to annexation.

It is also important to note that the aforementioned properties were never previously included in any long-term (25 year) Official Community Plans prior to 2013. The question that a reasonable person would have to ask is – why then were these lands annexed and why did we not stick to the 25 year plans as previously designed up to 2011?

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

2016 Annual Property Tax Exemptions
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. I am here to address the 2016 Annual Property Tax Exemptions.
 
As I said before, a common theme you’re going to hear from me this evening is the concept of providing fair and equitable treatment of all taxpayers in Regina. To that extent, I feel strongly that the entire listing of annual property tax exemptions, and more specifically the policy behind it, needs to have a thorough review and a complete overhaul. A quick review of the list of properties subject to exemption will show you what I mean. There are some sporting organizations receiving tax exemptions, where others are not. There are some cultural organizations on the list, where others are not. There are some non-profit organizations on the list, where others are not. To me, this suggests one of two things – either the treatment of all applicable groups is not being applied fairly, or more likely, not all organizations that may be eligible for a tax exemption are aware that they could apply and be granted an exemption.

Tonight, we’ve seen a prime example of this with the Saskatchewan Multicultural Centre Association. Their worthwhile cultural organization has paid property taxes for decades, and now, only when they are in financial dire straits, they have applied for an exemption. At first Administration recommended denial, but thankfully the Finance and Administration Committee not only saw this as a fair request, but also recommended approval of the exemption request for at least three years. With regards to their specific situation, I would personally like to see the City of Regina provide a rebate to their organization for the property taxes they’ve paid over the past 25 years, as a goodwill gesture. I am confident that this would be a welcome financial boost to their group, and by the taxpayers of Regina, since they unfortunately lost a significant portion of their annual funding because of a short-sighted action by our Provincial Government.

We desperately need a complete overhaul of our policies for property tax exemptions, so there isn’t any further confusion by community groups as to their qualification for such exemptions. Most importantly, we need to implement a clear policy on charitable and non-profit organizations, since one does not currently exist (See Appendix A). Further to this, we also need to implement an “ability to pay” clause into these exemptions, because as we’ve seen in recent years, there are organizations receiving continued property tax exemptions simply because “that’s what they’ve received in the past” – even though their financial circumstances had changed significantly from when they first applied for the exemption. One glaring recent example of this was the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who in the 1990’s most certainly needed a hand up from anywhere they could get it. However, in recent years, their financial situation had significantly improved which called this exemption into question, and rightfully, it was finally removed. The same can be said for other organizations like the Cornwall Centre for their parkade, or the Regina Airport Authority (RAA). What I find interesting about the RAA is, based on the current formula (See Appendix B), when it comes time to determine their property tax exemption, it would appear that the more financially successful they are, the higher their property tax exemption actually is. This seems almost counter intuitive, at least on the ability to pay premise.

On the concept of fair and equitable treatment of all community groups, I can’t help but question the exemption for the Regina Trades and Skills Centre (RTSC). Granted, they provide assistance for certain trades, similar to how Sask Polytechnic might, but I don’t think they are an accredited educational facility. Not to take anything away from their ability to help the construction industry, but they are nothing more than a glorified training room at a construction company as shown by their “Who We Are” section of their website, as shown in Appendix C. Their organization is quite similar, in fact, to the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technology Career Centre, which operates just down the street from the RTSC. As far as I’ve found through my research, they do not receive any sort of tax exemption. My question for you is, why is this, and what can we do to level the playing field for all groups?

Finally this evening, in a situation that appears to have attempted to level the playing field for a particular group, let’s take a look at the Caledonian Curling Club’s tax exemption. I note that the original reason they were granted a property tax exemption, as shown in Appendix D, was actually to pay for a 99 year lease that the City of Regina entered with them in exchange for the use of their facility as a clubhouse for the Craig Golf Course - a golf course which is no longer in operation, and the future of which is subject to review by your organization. That said, I can’t help but wonder, why then are we still giving them a tax exemption? What’s even more bizarre is that, to be “fair”, other curling clubs in the City applied for, and continue to receive, a similar property tax exemption. I think the taxpayers of Regina deserve to know why these clubs receive tax exemptions when there are other groups that can barely make ends meet year over year and could desperately use these kinds of exemptions and financial assistance. 

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

Regina Property Tax Exemption Review
Good evening ladies and gentlemen, my name is Chad Novak, and I am here representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, which is a grassroots organization proudly standing up for the rights of individual taxpayers. I am here to address the Regina Property Tax Exemption Review.

Once again, I am working hard to ensure our City provides fair and equitable treatment of all taxpayers in Regina. To that extent, I must say that I am very pleased to see this report not only being initiated by City Council, but also being reviewed in detail by your Administration and brought back for a full public review. With that said, I think we need to take it to the next step and develop a consistent policy to ensure that there are minimal questions and confusion behind what groups can qualify and how they can become aware of their ability to apply.

If I am reading this correctly, according to this report, there are a total of approximately $6.5 Million in property tax exemptions from 2015, with $3.7M of that being the City’s share. Is this accurate? The question that taxpayers want answered is, is this a reasonable amount? To answer that, there are many variables that would need to be looked at, but to me, the more important question to ask is, how much of this is truly necessary, as every dollar that we exempt, we must make up elsewhere, which is often in the form of additional property taxes to residents who are already taxed to death.

When I look at this report, the one item that really jumps out at me is the $2.8M for the Housing Incentive Policy in 2015, spread across 569 accounts. While I applaud you for taking steps to encourage rental housing development, this number is just outrageous and unfortunately, many of these properties are not tied to truly “affordable” housing. I know it is your hope that increasing the supply will cause the market to adjust accordingly, but handing out millions of dollars in tax incentives to an industry that is hardly “just scraping by”, to me is just a slap in the face to the individual property owners in our great City that desperately need truly affordable housing in our community. There are so many people that can barely scrape enough together to put food on their table, let alone pay their property taxes or rents. I’m sure the residents of Regina would love to have that $2.8M put towards even a fraction of their annual property taxes being exempted, which to me would have a far more reaching impact on our cost of living and housing supply than anything.
It is also very important to note that the original intent of the Housing Incentive Policy (See Appendix A) is very commendable, which talks about encouraging development within existing communities. What it appears has happened, though, by the reviewing the list of affected properties, is that this is now expanded to any development anywhere in the City (See Appendix B). This goes against the original intent of the policy altogether, as it doesn’t do anything to encourage infill development or reduce urban sprawl.

Further into this report, there is a specific property tax exemption that Economic Development Regina is now apparently in charge of, and that’s for Economic Development Incentives. I understand that the authority for this tax exemption has been delegated, but do you have a current copy of the criteria required to be met, to get this exemption? The reason I ask is that it seems rather subjective, and given there is only one account taking advantage of this incentive, I have to wonder why more aren’t being granted and what justifications are being used. I recall there being some sort of complex matrix the last time I reviewed this issue, but I’m wondering if that’s still being used.

Thank you for your time this evening, and I will gladly answer any questions you may have.

ACTUAL PHOTOS OF PROPERTIES RECEIVING TAX EXEMPTIONS:



Tuesday, 1 March 2016

CITY OF REGINA NEEDS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR BYPASS

Happy March everyone!!

For anyone that hasn't heard, the Regina Bypass is the province's biggest infrastructure project in history, with the P3 Contract Price being $1.88 Billion. Of that, approximately $680 Million is intended to compensate the P3 Consortium for financing and "potential" unforeseen extra costs that may come up, say if the price of asphalt skyrockets tomorrow. Although, with the price of oil plummeting lately, it's far more likely that the Consortium will get even more profits from this lucrative project than anything. Off of the backs of you and I, the Saskatchewan taxpayer. Don't worry though, at least the Saskatchewan Party isn't tacking it onto our already ballooning debt, because anything financed through a P3 doesn't get counted against the provincial debt. Sneaky, hey? (Remember this come April 4, 2016 Provincial Election Day)

Getting to the point of this post, the City of Regina continues to act as though they are a victim in this whole project, trying to point the arrow of blame away from them, and onto the Wall Government. Most recently, this past Monday, City Council allowed the Province of Saskatchewan to "bypass" six million dollars in Service Agreement Fees that any other developer would have to otherwise pay. While some may argue that it's all tax dollars, in this instance, it's important to differentiate between provincial and municipal tax dollars, and the City taxpayers are getting the short end of the stick on this deal. (NOTE: The City may also be heavily responsible for the controversial land transactions swirling around the Bypass and GTH, but that's to come in a future post)

The Mayor felt obligated to reiterate that it's not the City's doing to locate the Bypass where it is, along Tower Road, and thus not their fault that they had to uproot (again) and relocate (again) the Pacer's Ball Park, which was the reason for this six million dollar issue being brought up. However, it seems that the Mayor forgets, and continues to forget - assumably deliberately - that, while he was on Council, it was actually the City of Regina that went out of it's way, even commissioning an expensive study, to have the Bypass located at Tower Road. This was against the recommendations of the Provincial Government of the time, the surrounding RM's, the general public, and surrounding First Nations. All of those other parties said that Gravel Pit Road was where it should be located, approximately 3KM further East of where it is. But, no, the City of Regina was deadset against that, and they wanted it at Tower Road because it would service their needs better - even though that's not what a Bypass is supposed to be at all.

Just in case the Mayor needs a reminder, here are a couple snapshots for his memory. I plan to meet with him this Friday at his Open House. I encourage you to as well, between 9AM and 11:30AM at City Hall. Just ask at the Commissionaire's desk to see him - you can't walk on to the elevators without a security badge now, because that's just how accessible our City Hall likes to be!





Thursday, 7 January 2016

IT'S 2016 REGINA - CHANGE IS IN THE AIR.

Happy New Year Regina!!!

It's been quite a while since I've posted on this blog. I've been updating my Facebook page quite a bit, but have sadly neglected this page for too long. Well, now we're officially into 2016 and that means....

It's time Regina.

Time to take back your City!!! Time to demand a shift in the focus at City Hall from the developers back to the great citizens. Are you tired of paying more every single year and getting less in return from your elected officials?

Well, 2016 is officially the year of CHANGE.

CHANGE your mind on what to expect out of a City Council and Mayor.

CHANGE your understanding of everything you currently know about downtown parking.

CHANGE your thoughts on our outdated and poorly neglected Transit system.

CHANGE the concept that costs and taxes must go up simply for the sake of going up.

CHANGE the flawed vision from the Regina Police that more money somehow magically means more safety.

Finally, CHANGE the name on that ballot box on October 26, 2016. 

Vote with your heart, not what others tell you to. (Yes, even me.)

#‎Chad4Regina ‪                  #‎Vote4JOECitizen

More details to come...