Rhino's Ramblings - A Slap Heard Across Nine Time Zones

By Robert Thomas Opinion/Commentary

It was a bit of a slap you could hear nine time zones away as Council chose their voting member on the new Downtown Business Association.

Council’s representative or point person on the Association's board would not only be sitting in on meetings but voting as well.

It was a bit of a sticky point at Council as it was asked exactly what role the City's representative would have. Although it may have looked like it was simply a clarification as to the role Council's representative would have I personally do not buy much of it not for a minute.

This is political posturing at its finest.

Without saying it what has happened here is a subtle reminder to the electorate this is much more than a representative role but an active one for Council in one way or another.

How active and how influential it will be in such things as in-camera portions of Executive Committee or closed door Strategic Planning Sessions is yet to be seen.

But there is, whether any of the seven on Council want to admit it, an outside group now at the table via Council's representative.

For Councillor Crystal Froese it could very well be seen as a major blow as she has been heavily involved with the Downtown Business Association well before it’s formal inception.

During the last civic election access to the Downtown business group for prospective candidates was limited.

At best councillor candidates were told the group was staying out of the election and had no time to meet candidates - right up to they were not interested in speaking to any other candidates except for a select few.

With that I will give a disclaimer here and state I ran in the last civic election as a mayoral candidate but never personally approached the Downtown group.

My campaign was simple and as a few people have cornered me on it, it was really a well hidden one issue candidate. I was only out to bury one thing and that is the Local Improvement Program (LIP) as it applied to Cast Iron Water Main Replacement.

The other objective was to get people talking and caring enough about Moose Jaw to come out have their voices heard and vote.

The Downtown group was really immaterial to my campaign objectives.

With that said I targeted businesses ran by Newcomers as at that time I could see they were about to burst out in the city. If I could listen to them and tell them in my opinion, as someone running for mayor, we needed and wanted them in the long run Moose Jaw would be a better place.

But enough about me.

For Councillor Froese the Downtown business group was and is important to her election and most likely re-election strategy.

She can deny it but she has already in many ways served as the unofficial point person for the Downtown business group as well as others who have connections to it.

Tangibly there is already a closed Facebook group Councillor Froese administers where the Downtown businesses talk behind a virtual closed door – something a well known but let us say anonymous Freedom of Information guru who helps me out tells me is likely verboten under the rules.

Additionally during all of the invitation only meetings Downtown businesses held as the group formed, discussed strategy and proposals Councillor Froese was in attendance.

For other Moose Jaw political players Councillor Froese was also their unofficial point person in the RuBarb Productions versus the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre represented by Councillor Dawn Luhning.

Losing the Council vote as who would be their representative – I am guessing it was a 4 – 3 vote – on the Downtown business group has to be in my opinion a major blow to Councillor Froese and some in the group.

People may say how can this be?

Well you have to think back to the entire RuBarb affair and how I made mention in an e-mail about another councillor interceding on RuBarb's behalf and the response from Councillor Luhning asking in an e-mail which councillor was getting involved in the issue because it was her committee.

When Councillor Froese asked about third party agreements sitting in the Council chambers the mood was one where let us just say it was seen as poking the hornet's nest.

So with Councillor Luhning now elected to be Council's representative for the Downtown business group it does in many ways push Councillor Froese in my opinion out of these territorial waters.

With that said in the past Councillor Luhning was also Council's representative to the now defunct Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) and in my opinion made enemies of a few people while she sat on it and went so far as to criticize some of the BID's efforts as not doing what a BID should do.

I can remember vividly Councillor Luhning stating she would attend BID meetings and all they would talk about was “Sidewalk Days, Sidewalk Days. Sidewalk Days” and the BID was not doing its mandate.

In the end there were those on the BID's board who took it hard and saw it as a betrayl by Councillor Luhning.

But let's speak about today and the territorial waters that make up the Downtown politically on Council and it really is divided between Councillors Froese and Luhning.

Councillor Froese has been active with the Heritage Committee, Langdon Crescent Market Garden and until recently the Downtown business group. She is seen as friendly by some NGO groups marking a claim in the Downtown.

Her not being the Downtown business group's representative to Council, despite what they will claim, is a major blow to their backdoor political posturing.

Councillor Luhning had been active with the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre and now has the Downtown business group which I am thinking will or was to soon take over Sidewalk Days.

You also have two councillors who are politically diametrically opposed to each other.

Councillor Froese is more left leaning and during the last civic election there was someone calling NDP supporters to vote for her.

People can deny it but I do hear things now and again especially since I have a family member – albeit a third cousin by blood who was an NDP cabinet minister in multiple portfolios – what some in the NDP are up to locally.

Then there is Councillor Luhning who leans to the right side of the political spectrum – having her significant other formerly on a SaskParty constituency association. I hear things over there as well at times as I have a family member who was a Reform Party MP – his aunt has the same last name as mine. So “maybe” we are related or I have been crashing too many family reunions.

So you can get a drift of what is underlying here. There is in my opinion also a hidden political collision going on behind the scenes.

It may sound silly but in that little bit of campaigning we heard at Council last Monday night you had in my opinion a bit of a coming showdown in which way the Downtown may end up headed. Will the two councillors bury their differences, not just at Council, but behind the scenes as well is yet to be seen?

Here is hoping whatever happens its for the good of us all……

Robert Thomas wrote this column from Kyiv, Ukraine

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