Monday, 28 October 2013

BREAKING: Transit Strike Looming

We were the FIRST IN REGINA to bring you this BREAKING NEWS!! 

Regina Transit workers voted 94% in favor of STRIKE ACTION! Full Details to be posted later, but sources confirm the City has proposed ZERO PERCENT increases to transit workers, along with severe cuts to benefits. Will Mayor Fougere see the same kind of job action experienced in 2006 by former Mayor "Major Fiasco" Pat Fiacco?

Only time will tell!! 

UPDATE OCTOBER 30, 2013: Now that I have a computer again (no computer or internet during our move), I can update you all on the story that we broke right here on this very blog.

While the mainstream media are telling the public one side of this story, there is only one outlet that is willing to bring you the full, unbiased truth on the Transit Strike situation. And that is right here, courtesy of the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group. The City of Regina would lead the public to believe, through it's parrot-style mainstream media reports (no investigative journalism whatsoever, simply rehashing what the City tells them verbatim), that the Amaglamated Transit Union are the bad guys in this situation, and the City of Regina Senior Administration are Gods among men, and they can do no wrong. This could not be further from the truth.

Sources confirm that the City of Regina has offered ATU Employees an ultimatum. Either they accept a 0% wage increase over three years, or they give up benefits including Sick Time and Severance Pay and then the City will negotiate an actual wage increase. In other words, the EMPLOYEES WOULD PAY FOR THEIR OWN POTENTIAL RAISES, by giving up benefits that they have rightfully earned in their employment with the City of Regina.

The City of Regina would lead you to believe that it is the workers and the Union that are choosing to selectively strike during the Grey Cup festivities, but in reality, it is the City of Regina forcing the Union to take this extreme measure to demonstrate that they mean business. Unfortunately, in 2005, the ATU chose not to strike during the Summer Games, out of good faith. The City screwed them on that, in that after the Games were over, the City could care less if the ATU went on strike, as they got their good PR by keeping Transit moving. The same thing is happening now, but what's worse is that we have seen a dramatic decrease in the maintenance of the Regina Transit Fleet, and rather than maintaining a reasonable budget for Transit to properly maintain their fleet, safety measures are being skipped, resulting in transit buses hitting the street in disrepair, tragically resulting in traffic accidents, and (allegedly) leading to at least one fatality this year alone. To me, no amount of positive PR is worth a human life. The City of Regina Senior Administration seem to be more focussed on maintaining a good image for our "transit-friendly" mayor (by forcing buses on the road that clearly should not be - to keep transit users satisfied), than the health and safety of its own workers and residents.

In the end, keep in mind, there are always two sides to every story, and if you want the City's side, you have the mainstream media to read the parrot media releases. If you want the full, unbiased truth, come here for all the juicy details.


Chad A. Novak, CMA
Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Stadium Financing and Ethical Behaviour

Good evening Regina!!

I'm trying to keep these blog posts to a regular weekly schedule now, but today is a special situation in that the Regina City Council (in the form of the Executive Committee) once again was to vote on the subject of the Regina Revitalization Initiative. Or, as most people know it, the new Stadium. No matter what bullshit you hear from Council, the fact of the matter is - the issue at hand today was, indeed, the Stadium, and not the "rest" of the RRI (you know, the shiny new neighbourhoods and blue sky visions that we've seen in many versions of fly-over computer-generated - assumably pretty expensive - videos). Why they continue to try to put rose coloured glasses on this project is not only insulting, but to me, borderline unethical and should be illegal.

Anyways, as you know, I am not one to let things go without a fight. And, well, today I got just that. I wasn't going in there trying to be combative - today, I actually tried to address Council with respect and a reasonable tone, keeping personal jabs to an absolute minimum. The only one that I did bring up related directly to the motion at hand, and unfortunately the Mayor tried to call me out of order - even though he was not the chair of the Executive Committee meeting today. Out of respect, I obliged; with gritted teeth mind you. What did I say that was so out of order? Well, it's in my second last paragraph in the speech below. Commenting on how I do not trust Mr. Brent Sjoberg, CMA to be put into such a position of authority and responsibility - solely - to negotiate and authorize the spending of $100 MILLION of our tax dollars. Seems like a reasonable request if you ask me, but who am I to judge? Thankfully, the final authority for the issuance of said debt will be given to City Council through the form of a Bylaw, but anyone that's paid attention to City Hall as of late, knows full well that is only a matter of licking that good ol' rubber stamp and whamo, it's put through.

Don't worry, Regina. I've got many more tricks up my sleeve in order to ensure that your voice IS heard by this City Council. 

They may think they can ram this and many other ridiculously expensive construction projects through, as a favour to those that funded their campaigns, but I assure you, they will not do that without a legal battle. Here is my speech that I presented today. I hope to again present this, or a modified version thereof, to City Council on Monday, November 4, 2013.

I hope to see you all there!

Good afternoon Members of Executive Committee,

My name is Chad Novak, and I am here today representing the Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group, a truly grassroots group of individuals from Saskatchewan that are pushing for Accountability and Transparency from their municipal governments. I am here to address the recommendation before you today, to authorize your Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Brent Sjoberg, to negotiate external financing to a maximum of $100 Million for the RRI Stadium Project.

I would first like to say that, once again, I feel very strongly that this project should be immediately stopped, pending an independent, unbiased vote of the taxpaying population. I feel that this is necessary in order to properly gauge the proportion of citizens of Regina – and Saskatchewan for that matter – that indeed have an interest in seeing the Stadium Project proceed, as proposed. I would refer you to the recent WWTP Referendum results, where 43% of Regina Citizens did not support a unanimous City Council decision. Considering this, I would suggest to you that the citizens of Regina do not necessarily wholeheartedly support every major financial decision you make. At the very least, they deserve to have a fair, unbiased, neutral referendum hosted by the City of Regina.

NOTE: Mayor Fougere's response to this idea:
We continue to hear from City Council and Senior City Administration about their major concerns for our major infrastructure deficit. When we talk major, we are talking in excess of TWO BILLION DOLLARS. This isn’t chump change, and something that I think we should all begin taking far more seriously. I reviewed some of the campaign platforms for many on our current City Council, and it seemed a common theme was the need to tackle this deficit head on. I am not so blind to acknowledge that many also campaigned on the idea of going ahead with the RRI, but I am a firm believer that, given the option between the two, the citizens of Regina would certainly put infrastructure as a priority over a football stadium. 

What I would like to see from this City Council is to put its money where its mouth is. Step up to the plate and demonstrate, not only to Regina citizens, but also to the Provincial and Federal Government, that you want to get this infrastructure deficit tackled. Any and all major capital projects should be delayed, until we can put a sizeable bite into that deficit. Keep in mind that we do have viable alternatives for the stadium to prolong its usable life – but we do not have that luxury with our roads and water mains. We can’t just put a bandaid on the water mains, but we certainly can on the stadium. Yes, I know there are complaints about parts of the stadium, but to me, complaints about our roads, sidewalks and transit should always take higher priority than any luxury project.

Let’s consider for a minute what Regina might look like if you were to take this $100 Million that you are wanting to issue in DEBT FINANCING, and reallocate it to our roads, sidewalks and transit, to name but a few important issues. Sure we might not be the envy of Canada for having the latest, greatest football stadium, but we most certainly would be the envy of Canada for being one of the first to tackle their crumbling infrastructure head on and having the smoothest roads, and newest and safest underground infrastructure in Canada. Consider now, if we were to take the entire cost of this project and reallocate that to addressing the parking and traffic nightmare that exists in the downtown core and around our hospitals. Consider if we were able to tackle these issues so much that, within four years, we were able to not only put a freeze on property taxes, but also offer a REBATE to the taxpayers! I know this might sound utopian and idealistic, but I strongly believe that if you give the taxpayers a chance to have their voice heard, and offer them an alternative between the Stadium and Core Infrastructure, these kinds of utopian ideas can become a reality.

One common complaint I hear from our Elected Municipal Officials and Senior City Administration is that “we have limited sources of income”. Well, here is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that you are able to maximize the benefit realized from those limited sources of income. Also, why not consider alternative revenue streams, such as a Land Bank, to supplement what you already have coming in? How about investing Pension Funds locally into a rental housing co-operative, for example, which could have a three-fold benefit? Reasonable pension returns on investment, increasing affordable housing and increasing the sense of community that a housing co-operative offers to its residents. Another viable source of revenue is the $6M per year that is transferred from our utility bills to the general reserve, apparently as an offset for property taxes in-lieu. Or how about the significant advertising revenue that the City loses out on, because they allow private media corporations to not only manage the advertising on the Regina Transit buses, but also to profit at the expense of taxpayers. 

Speaking directly to the issue of authorizing Mr. Brent Sjoberg for negotiating these financing contracts, I have some serious concerns with this, considering that Mr. Sjoberg is currently under investigation by the CMA Office for being in violation of the Code of Ethics on more than one occasion, in situations directly related to his duties as Chief Financial Officer of the City of Regina. I feel that if you must provide some responsibility to him directly; please have at least two individuals assigned for authorization.

NOTE: Mr. Glen Davies, City Manager, clarified that this complaint was apparently dismissed by the CMA Office. Two issues come up on this - 1) On what grounds was the serious complaint dismissed and 2) How is Mr. Davies privy to anything relating a private complaint that even I hadn't talked about publicly?

In closing, I would like to once again suggest that the Executive Committee seriously consider what their priorities are, as elected officials. Reviewing your platforms, I am confident that our Major Infrastructure Deficit is certainly a common priority. What you have to decide today, is whether the Stadium, a recreational facility for the enjoyment of a sporting event, is more important to your constituents than the roads we drive on every day, and the pipes that carry our drinking water to our homes. And, remember, Apathy should never be considered to be Acquiescence. Please allow this vote voluntarily, and do not force the citizens of Regina to take legal action to force an injunction on this project.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Your City - Your Voice - Your Solution!

Good afternoon Regina!!!

Well, we are only a little over a week away until Hallowe'en, and you know what that means. We are that much closer to the fluffy white stuff coming down! Some shudder at the thought of this, but I am looking forward to it. Obviously I'll miss my convertible top-down days, but I do enjoy the days where the snow comes down ever so softly and creates a warm feeling inside a house with the one(s) you love. I have been so blessed this year with so many great things that have happened for my wife and I, and we will be celebrating Christmas this year in our first ever brand new home!!!! For anyone out there looking to get into a beautiful new home, built by one of Regina's longest and most reputable home builders, feel free to shoot me an email, and I'll do what I can to help you out! (Disclaimer: I am not a salesperson for said home builder, but I do believe strongly in promoting the product that my amazing employer puts out there!)

A few things on my list today, aside from the packing and getting ready for the big move. I had the pleasure of meeting with a brilliant mind today, Mr. Victor Lau, Leader of the Green Party of Saskatchewan, and we had a great discussion about the political scene in Regina, Saskatchewan and Canada. I know there will be those out there asking themselves: "But, Chad...didn't you JUST announce you were going to seek nomination for the Federal Liberal Party?" And, to those people, I say this: Aaaaannnd? Does that mean I cannot associate with members of other parties or actually work with them in alliance, rather than always competing against them? Everyone knows I am not your "traditional" politician, and Mr. Lau particularly has been an amazing person since the day we first met during the Stadium Petition days. I highly respect him, and I am confident the feeling is mutual. He is a very politically active person, as is his wife, and our ideas are often very well aligned in terms of getting our governments to be more transparent and accountable. The obvious question that comes to mind, I am sure, is "Why, then, aren't you seeking nomination for the Green Party of Saskatchewan?" And, to that, I will only say - who's saying that's not something I have been strongly considering? What's that? A politician supporting two different parties on two different levels? Not quite. I want to make it very clear that I fully support the Saskatchewan Liberals, but I am not so closed minded to ignore other viable alternatives.

Moving onto one of the items of interest that I have been waiting literally months for, and that being the issue of the RECORD DEBT ISSUANCE of $100 MILLION extra by the Regina City Council. Now, while this may not be "news" necessarily, it certainly does open up a communication opportunity to revisit the Regina Revitalization Initiative, and I strongly encourage each and every one of you to do so. Remember - City Council's idea is that if you don't speak up, by default, that means you fully support them. In reality, we know that's not the case, but sadly, that is the mindset of many on our wonderful City Council and Senior City Administration. It is to be considered this Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at the Executive Committee at 11:45AM. If you can make it, great, but most likely you are like many out there, and have this strange thing called a j-o-b, and cannot just take time off of work to attend a middle-of-the-day meeting like this. Trust me, this has been one of my pet peeves for a long time now. The good news is it will also be discussed at the City Council Meeting on November 4, 2013 at City Hall. What's great about this is that it's only two days after the MARCH AGAINST CORRUPTION happening on Saturday, November 2, 2013. I plan to unveil a brief report that day, regarding the corruption that surrounds Regina City Hall, and in particular the most recent debacle, the Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrades. You thought that was over? Not by a long shot! As a bit of a teaser as to what's going to be included in this report, I will provide you the following links for your perusal. You can read into the sites at your discretion. (FYI: If the links "mysteriously" disappear, don't worry, I have all of the information saved on my removable hard drive.)

Of particular note in the above links:

Questions that came to my mind immediately, once I was provided with the above information, were:
  • Where is Larry Hiles moving on to? Given his past close association with the Government of Saskatchewan and the City of Regina, my bet is - not far. Watch for him to pop up in a senior role within the next few months of a City or Provincially funded organization.
  • Why the coincidental timing of the winding down of two organizations with very similar traits, that being the Communities of Tomorrow and Springboard West? What role did the former CEO of Regina Regional Opportunities Commission and Springboard West Board Chair, Mr. Larry Hiles, have in Communities of Tomorrow and their eventual dissolution "due to lack of government funding"?
  • How did Mr. John Lee receive his "appointment" as President/CEO of Regina Regional Opportunities Commission, coincidentally in the same year as his former role and organization are disolved? Was there a fair competition? Was there even a competitive process? What interest did Opportunities of Tomorrow have in the creation and promotion of P3's - most recently steadfastly promoted by the City of Regina during the Wastewater Treatment Plant referendum?
  • For those that are unaware, the City of Regina funded a "research project" at the University of Regina over the past decade. They recently wound that down in 2011-2012, and no longer support that "research project". I really paid little attention to it at the time, but this is something I will investigate further in terms of whether this project is one and the same as the Opportunities Tomorrow (vis a vis another organization I am sure). If so, what ties does that have now to the dissolution of this organization, and why is the City of Regina providing a cushy job for the individual who formerly headed that organization?

There are many, many other questions that spring to mind, but the above are just a few. I encourage you to ask questions. I strongly encourage you. Not just of these organizations, individuals and the provincial government, but of the City of Regina. What has been happening behind the scenes during the past month, year, decade that we have not been privy to, that seems to have played out according to schedule regarding the results of the P3 WWTP Referendum? Maybe nothing. But I am highly skeptical on that.

Oh....and....what about Future P3's?

Your City - Your Voice - Your Solution

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Red Light Cameras - Tax Grab or Accident Minimizer?

Good evening Regina!!!

There has been some amazing reporting done by a new(?) reporter, Jill Smith, over at News Talk CJME, and I must say I am very, very impressed with her coverage. I'm not sure if Rawlco has loosened up their belts on how they report things a la City Hall, but whatever the reason, I love the results. Truly unbiased, hard hitting reports that get to the heart of the story.

Recently, CJME News broke the story of how at least one of our Red Light Cameras in Regina are not actually in operation. In fact, it hasn't been in operation for at least the past three years! Why? The best explanation is that the sensors were removed when they repaved the Lewvan. To me, there has to be more to this story, but if that's honestly what the justification is, I find it completely ludicrous that Mayor Michael Fougere (then Councillor) is claiming this is the first he'd heard of it. Now, I know the Mayor's seat doesn't get to see everything in this City, but considering he sits on the Board of Police Commissioners, as did his right hand man, Mr. Fiasco, one would reasonably expect him to be cognisant of this issue prior to an outside media outlet reporting on it. 

Now, to me, the question becomes: Are the Red Light Cameras as good as the City leads us to believe? Are they purely a tax grab, or do they actually cause drivers to adjust their behaviour in such a way that reduces the accidents at said intersections? Well, based on the facts laid out in CJME's report, I'm leaning more towards the fact that they are nothing but a tax grab, and do nothing to actually reduce accidents. In fact, if anything, they cause more. There are schools of thought on the severity of accidents being minimized, but honestly, you must factor in environmental equations into the mix, and remove "chance" happenings from the statistics. This is one reason why statistics are a horrible way to measure "success" of a program that is not impervious to human error.

In the end, the City of Regina (or apparently some unknown party) has collected over $1 MILLION in fines from the Red Light Cameras over the past few years. ONE MILLION DOLLARS. That's WITHOUT one of them even working! And, accidents actually went up. To me, this is a no brainer, and is something that the Mayor of Regina and the Board of Police Commissioners should take a serious look at. Why have a system that penalizes drivers (actually the owners of said vehicles, not even the actual driver as it could be someone else driving your vehicle) after the fact, rather than having a system set up to - say - lengthen the time from a Yellow Light being triggered to a Green Light being triggered for the cross traffic? One very easy, albeit very simplistic, idea to look at.

Your City - Your Voice - Your Solution

Monday, 7 October 2013

How Can I Support CUPE Spending?

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.

Best Regards,
Chad A. Novak, CMA
Saskatchewan Taxpayers Advocacy Group 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Former Mayor "Threat"??

Good evening Regina!!!

I wasn't planning on another Blog Post for a couple of days, but tonight, I got the most interesting of Tweets, and I think it's worthwhile for my readers to see it. Personally, I would deem this to be very much a threat, and I hope that the Regina Police Service are continuing their investigation on this kind of activity on my open file on Mr. Pat Fiacco, amongst other individuals, for the constant online and offline harassment of myself.

Let's examine this statement "Pay the Piper" for a second:
Now, I'm not a violent person - never have, never will be. But, when you have a professional boxer making this statement, one would think there may be a physical element to it. I'm hoping not, but I sincerely hope that the Regina Police Service are watching this post and are going to start finally taking this file seriously.