Good evening Regina!!
I was sent this email by a reader of my blog, and felt that it was a great question, and one that I should post on my blog for others to read. I am all about being accountable and transparent, so I think this is probably a question that others may be asking themselves. I wanted to shed some light on this question, in case anyone else out there is wondering as well. Just for your information, you can always email me your questions or concerns about anything relating to Municipal Politics, and I will do my best to answer you. I will also publish some on my blog for inquiring minds, just like the one below. Enjoy!
I have read your blogs and the concerns you and Water Watch Group have with the city promoting the "No" side and giving information about P3's to the public.
Now lets just put aside the information that has been put out there by both sides as each side has accused each of putting lies and false numbers out there.
You have City Council who approved 100% the P3 option and the Water Watch group who is for the traditional method.
The "yes" side was funded by CUPE and the Waste Water Watch group with signs and ads saying vote "yes" along with information on their website.
My question to you is how does the "no" side, city council get the information out there for P3's and to vote "no"? If the city spent no money on showing and promoting their side then all anyone would have seen was a one sided campaign for vote "yes"
Not all union members agree with their union so I would like to know did CUPE get approval to spend all that money on the national anti P3 campaign?
For you and the Water Watch Group to request the city not to promote their side while you go around promoting your side is hypocritical.
Thank you so very much for your question, and I appreciate your sincerity and candor in your comments.
What I would first like to say is that I am in no way, shape or form associated with Regina Water Watch, other than being an active supporter of their efforts. I signed the petition to request a referendum, keeping mind that a signature does not necessarily mean an "anti-P3" stance, it simply means that the electorate would like more information and to have an informed discussion and vote on the situation at hand.
With that said, I have continued to maintain a view that I work to inform taxpayers of both sides of the equation. Of course, it's probably no secret that I was going to Vote Yes for a while now. However, I have tried to remain as neutral as possible, even with co-workers who simply wanted to know "how" I was voting just so they can vote the same. I have pushed hard to ensure people voted informed. For me, that is what your elected officials at the City of Regina should have done. Yes, it was obvious that they supported, whole heartedly, the P3 stance.
However, that does not negate the fact that they are still human, and humans make mistakes every now and again. I strongly encourage everyone to always challenge governing powers, no matter if it's Mayor Fiacco, Mayor Fougere, Premier Wall, Prime Minister Harper, or if I was ever so fortunate, myself in whatever role I may attain.
The City Council, without question, had a position to ensure that they informed the public on exactly why it was that they chose to support the P3 process. Unfortunately, the only arguments I have ever seen from them is in regards to a "potential opportunity of funding" of the $58.5M that - at the time of the original vote in February 2013 - was only speculative at best. Keep in mind that it was only the week prior to the petition deadline that Mr. Tom Likuiski, MP, joined Mayor Fougere in a sealed City Hall Forum where he announced the promise of funding of "up to $58.5M" in Federal Funding. We could argue all day as to where that figure comes from, or what it means in terms of the total cost of the project. In the end, to me, this was very obviously done for only one reason, and during the Referendum Campaign, we saw exactly why that was done. If Mr. Likuiski didn't have that Press Conference, the City Council would have had virtually nothing to campaign on. Notice how the only advertising you ever saw from the "Vote No" position was tied to that $58.5M. I told Regina Water Watch that this was KEY in the City's efforts, and if they were able to debunk that with facts about other Federal and Provincial Funding, they would have been able to take one of the only arguments the City had, out of their hands. Unfortunately, Regina Water Watch chose their own direction, and that was their perogative.
What I have a serious issue with in regards to the Referendum Vote No campaign is not so much City Council, but City Administration. The deliberately found a loophole in the provincial legislation, where there was no explicit instruction that prevented the City of Regina from using taxpayer money to fund a Vote No campaign. What's worse, is that they were able to use City of Regina paid staff to also promote that side. For me, the City of Regina Corporation should have remained NEUTRAL on the situation, and spent their time and money to inform the electorate of exactly what information that City Council used to make their informed decision. What's even more unfortunate is that Municipal Referendums follow the Local Government Elections Act, which governs Municipal Elections. When you factor that in, where the City of Regina took it upon themselves to support a side of the Referendum, the bigger question becomes: Would they be allowed to also fund and support a particular candidate in a Municipal Election. And, after speaking with the Municipal Relations Ministry, and staff that are paid to interpret and write that legislation, that is exactly the case. While extremely unethical, there is nothing in the Provincial Legislation that explicitly prevents the City of Regina from financially supporting a particular candidate in a Municipal Election, both for advertising and staff support.
This, to me, is what is the most concerning part of this Referendum. And, it is my hope that the rest of the City of Regina taxpayers see this as well. I will continue to make a very concerted effort to bring this to the forefront as it needs to be dealt with. Either the City of Regina admits this is a serious problem with the way they govern things, or they face these issues in a Court of Law. To me, it would seem that dealing with these issues outside of a Court would be in everyone's best interests, but I think we've all been witness to exactly how the City Council and Senior Administration feel about that.
If you have any other questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
Chad A. Novak, CMA
Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group