Rhino's Ramblings: Garbage, Theatrics and Mr. Tolmie in Regina


Robert Thomas

This coming week is a big one for local politics watchers, as many big issues are set to take centre stage. 

First, there are likely to be major waves made in Council, as the issue of curbside collection is once again set to be discussed.

Despite 85 percent of respondents being against the city-wide expansion of curbside and 51 per cent of those recently transitioned over to curbside opposed, even after being told the savings would amount to $150,000, it appears that City Council is about to forge ahead. 

The issue is likely to prove divisive, yet again, as at least two councillors – Don Mitchell and Chris Warren - have told residents they are prepared to ask for a re-vote and debate the issue in Council. 

Numerous residents have also told me they are intending to come out and speak at Council, on the issue, so it could be a long night if they show up. Personally I’m expecting a good one and up to two hours of debate on the issue. 

It could be a long one for people watching on Shaw Cable 10 or for those of you who watch via the City’s internet site. But if the debate turns out to live up to its potential, this is one of those nights it looks like the only way to catch the true action is to show up in person. Council meets this Monday night at 5:30 at City Hall.

Depending on which way the expected 4-3 vote falls, this one could very well determine if the group just starting to coalesce on the issue finds the leadership to head toward a referendum. The dreaded R word which Citizens Advocating Sustainable Taxation (CAST) has no official position on but two leading members – Terry Gabel and Don Mitchell – spoke against. Others though are still eager to forge ahead. Instead, there was talk about making it an issue in the next civic election.

It is a very risky gambit for curbside opponents; hoping that in two years plus, residents are not going to be accustomed to curbside, or worse yet, so turned off of civic politics that fewer decide to come out and vote.

Civic elections, with their already anemic voter turnout, are not the prime grounds to force change if you are looking to do things over the long run. Voters are a very fickle bunch and most people quickly forget things. Staying angry for two long years is highly unlikely and seasoned politicians know this. 

In all likelihood, if curbside gets a final green light from Council, you may well see a massive wave of voter apathy. Many are saying that if the City does go ahead after “their opinion poll” showed what residents want, then voting and Council simply isn’t worth the time and effort any longer. A total waste of $10,000 in more than a few people’s minds.

It might mean that council members voting for curbside would have a better chance of re-election if people just quit participating. But it also may mean less resident cooperation with the civic administration on other issues. It’s a double-edged sword nightmare.

Also this Tuesday, we will see the first budget from Premier Scott Moe. By all appearances it looks like austerity will continue. Now what that means for Moose Jaw is yet to be seen. 

After last year’s cuts in grants in lieu from SaskEnergy, TransGas and SaskPower, plus less of a piece of the pie of revenue sharing cut deep into City finances. Moose Jaw lost out on per capita revenue sharing from the PST simply because we are not growing as fast, population wise, as other centres.

Repeatedly throughout the city’s budget, Mayor Frasier Tolmie and others on council spoke out against the provincial cuts to Moose Jaw. It all seems to be part of a strategy and concerted effort by the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) to oppose the cuts and fight for more funding for cities. 

The fight is a simple one. Council is signalling pressure needs to be applied to the provincial government to get finances restored. That is assuming there are not anymore unannounced cuts to the City. If there is another shock like last year’s provincial budget was then be prepared for a lot of pain. So far there are no indicators of major cuts coming but then again there wasn’t last year either.

Mayor Tolmie is headed to Regina and the Legislature where he will hopefully be giving interviews stating Moose Jaw’s position on the cuts. It won’t be easy though, as Budget Day is a ticket only affair, with lots of people and groups striving for media acknowledgement.

It is a bit of a Jimmy Stewart moment.  

Another big local political event happening presently in the shadows is the on-going drama or is it a soap opera, just across the street from City Hall, at the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre. 

Their recent AGM caught the eye of this scribe, as the on-going feud between the Cultural Centre’s board and Rhubarb Productions continues a year after it first surfaced in local media.

At the Cultural Centre’s recent AGM, the third party Moose Jaw Cultural Centre Inc. board had a special guest, their lawyer, in attendance, in what was described by one attendee as “the weirdest AGM ever.” 

The AGM heard the previous summarily dismissed general manager had no permission to negotiate a lease with the theatre company and there are re-negotiations on-going. Sources familiar with the negotiations describe them as a “**it show” and “going south in a hurry.” 

Sources are telling me that both sides have approached their favourite council member to champion their cause. I am only guessing but with little said publicly all the real theatrics might be going on in a closed-to-the-public strategic planning session. 

There was a small public indication of the Italian Opera taking place, as last year Council received letters from parents of children involved with Rhubarb Productions, thanking Council for letting the theatre company move into the Cultural Centre.

I was promised an interview and explanation of it all later this week. It’s one curtain call I’m hoping they won’t miss.

And finally, for the second straight year, the Mayor of Swift Current has challenged our mayor in a battle of civic pride. 

The losing mayor in the Warriors versus the Broncos series must wear the other city’s team jersey for an entire council meeting, as well as fly the other’s city’s flag over city hall for a single day. 

When the Warriors win, I’m wondering if Mayor Denis might throw in a couple of free big orders of the Broncos famous chili cheese fries. I’ll bring a couple of bottles of Coke to the mayor’s office for the celebration.


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