Fall is definitely upon us with wind, rain and yes even some snow forecast for tomorrow. Some moisture will be very welcome in most parts of Saskatchewan. We have been two months without any significant amount of rainfall and you never like to go into winter with very dry soil. The snow can stay away for at least another month if not two.
There was a news item at the beginning of this week which I wish to comment on. It seems that the City of Regina and CPR Ltd. have agreed on the purchase of part of the CPR’s downtown rail yards in Regina. As most of you will remember, this is where the proposed new stadium would have been located. When the negotiations with the CPR broke down over issues that were never revealed to the public, the City of Regina took it upon themselves to switch the location to the exhibition grounds and of course we have all seen the large announcement around the new proposed stadium.
I am not a taxpayer in the City of Regina and therefore should not comment on how Regina’s tax dollars are spent. I am, however, a provincial taxpayer and there are large sums of provincial tax dollars and provincial loan guarantees going into this proposed stadium project. I am also an ardent Roughrider fan and am always taken aback when politicians, city officials and other Rider fans accuse people of being disloyal to the cause because you don’t see eye-to-eye with whatever plan the inner group have come up with.
What has become very evident across North America where new stadium development has taken place is that if the economics and the benefit of new construction are to be fully realized, it only occurs when there is a downtown location selected. This has to occur alongside significant retail, commercial and downtown residential development which also takes place in conjunction with the stadium construction. I believe that by going to the city-owned Evraz Place site that very few of the proposed benefits will occur and in fact, this site may be a detriment to some of the existing events which draws huge crowds to Regina each year. I am talking about Agribition, the Farm Progress Show and other events which require large amounts of parking and as everyone knows who has attended these events that parking can be a real challenge along with exiting the venue. If the new facility is not really gaining on capacity but simply offering more creature comforts and the parking will get worse instead of better and people will be further removed from downtown and its various amenities, are the criteria for development being met?
The CPR, one of Canada’s oldest and most spoiled corporate entities, seems to be once again the fly in the ointment. The removal of downtown rail yards has been proceeding across Canada for decades. In almost every place that this has occurred – Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg – the urban jurisdiction and the surrounding service area have benefitted. CP Rail was given vast amounts of land, mineral rights, water rights and tax holidays across this country. Most of this wealth has either been squandered or sold off and today you see turmoil in CP Rail’s corporate boardroom.
In this whole process, I have never heard once of our Premier or the Mayor of Regina or the Rider organization demanding a sit down with CP Rail about obtaining their entire downtown block for stadium development and urban renewal. That urban renewal would seem to me to be a project where I as a provincial taxpayer, where Regina residents as urban taxpayers and where the government of Canada could find a place to play a role. Transportation, its rules and its importance is a national responsibility. Good corporate citizens I believe would welcome the opportunity to participate in such an endeavour. Unfortunately, CP Rail has once again shown to be the spoiled brat of Canadian business. If they were not, they would have been leading the parade on this endeavour because it would make so much sense to all stakeholders.
I don’t believe that our Premier, Regina city council or the Riders have brought the necessary pressure to make this happen and I only ask the question…..why not?
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These issues must be debated for “The Right Reasons”.