There is a civic election approaching this October and the Queen City needs a shake-up. Being a frequent visitor and former resident of Regina, I can clearly and confidently say that it's time for a change. The Fiacco league of councillors and cohorts need to go and there is no better way to send them packing than with the democratic process.
Last June, I wrote about Regina's failures under bad leadership and the construction of a new sports stadium that the city and its taxpayers don't need. Both backlash and support were swift and I received hate mail and requests for interviews from reporters. I don't do interviews, especially if I know I'm going to be backhanded by the media, and I respond to hate mail honestly. The issue of having a stadium built on the backs of taxpayers while infrastructure crumbles seems to be a polarizing one. Replies to my piece entitled “Regina Cracks Under Pressure And Bad Leadership” expressed just as much support as they did condemnation.
This year, I'm sticking to my guns and doubling down, because I know I'm right. Regina taxpayers are fed up with city hall. They're fed up with the same career councillors telling them what they need and how they're going to pay for it. Last June, Regina had a water crisis due to an overgrowth of algae and 35% of its roads and overpasses were a mess. This year, there is less algae but the roads are still crumbling, downtown is still riddled with vacant storefronts and property taxes are set to increase. The taxes are set to increase because Regina's city council and mayor, Michael Fougere, approved a multi-million dollar stadium on the backs of taxpayers without a referendum or any meaningful input from citizens.
This October needs to be the time when Regina taxpayers and voters put an end to some careers. Michael Fougere was Pat Fiacco's right-hand man on council. He won handily in the city's civic election after Fiacco retired, but his prospects for re-election need to be scuttled this year. Despite a surge in economic growth, Regina's infrastructure hasn't kept up with demand and the city's services are declining in quality at an alarming rate. You needn't look any further than the roads in your neighbourhood and the quality of your tap water for evidence. But how about that fancy new stadium you're still paying for?
None of this would be so bad if Regina council and Fougere didn't have such an aversion to economic growth and business development. Last year, the council struck down an application for a strip club, voted to increase taxes for everyone, and implemented a new levy for developers. In December, Fougere called the new levy and service fee for developers a “landmark decision”. By 2018, developers will be paying almost half a million dollars per hectare to build new neighbourhoods and businesses. Nothing discourages growth and development like a new levy and some service fees. Leave it to Michael Fougere and his council of clapping seals to think otherwise. At a time when building permits are down 43%, discouraging investment is counterproductive.
Fougere has wasted no time in declaring his intention to run again. Fougere said, “I really want to continue the job at hand.” In his case, the job at hand means brushing any criticism and concern about the multi-million dollar stadium under the rug and continuing to make taxpayers pay for pet projects they don't need. It means striking down more business applications and creating more levies for developers. There is nothing else “the job at hand” could mean in Fougere's case.
If Fougere and most of city council are re-elected in October, property taxes will continue to rise, taxpayers will continue being patronized, and Regina's downtown will remain undesirable. Taxpayers will continue receiving low quality for their high taxes. The only problem now is whether anyone will step up and take the initiative to run against Fougere.
It's still early, but Fougere is beatable. There probably hasn't been a candidate for mayor as beatable as Michael Fougere in decades. Something as simple as a popular name and a good vision would do the trick. Regina's taxpayers want their tax dollars to count and they want their city to become a hub for economic growth and business. They don't want to keep being humiliated by Saskatoon. They want less crime, less taxes, fewer novelty projects and more businesses that generate revenue and culture. Regina's taxpayers want a change and they want someone to step up and take the lead. If no one does, they won't get the change they deserve.
There are names all across the Queen City that could rise up and take the job. I could list them all here, or let the contest begin without a single mention. There are newscasters, sportscasters, athletes, business leaders and academics that could become the next mayor if they so choose. Fougere's record makes him the most vulnerable mayor since Harry Walker. It's possible that even a small name with a big vision could defeat Fougere in October. The only thing that would prevent Fougere's defeat is the willingness, or lack thereof, from potential candidates. When viable and serious contenders refuse to step up, democracy always fails the people.