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Hello from Regina. A few words about the big move

John Cairns’ News Watch - A few words about what to expect from the new Regina-based reporter for
regina city sign winter
Regina sign in front of City Hall, in downtown Regina.

REGINA — Well, I finally need to clear the air about what’s going on at the Battlefords Regional News-Optimist and my role at the paper.

Here’s what happened: I moved to Regina a little over three weeks ago. 

Thud! (That sound you hear is of jaws dropping throughout the Battlefords.)

Yes, I packed up and moved out of North Battleford on Kentucky Derby weekend, which is interesting because it was also on a Kentucky Derby weekend that I moved to the Battlefords from Manitoba.

I am now into week four as the Regina-based reporter for Glacier Media and for, our provincial website.

I’m not the only one who moved. Our newsroom mascot Claudette the Frog has come along with me, along with her son Claude the Frog. I guess with both myself and the editor working remotely these two stuffed amphibians were fed up sitting in an empty newsroom in the Battlefords. With these two jokers around, I don’t feel lonely in the least.

What, you don’t believe me now?

“This is fake news! You’re not in Regina! You are still covering city and town council stories in the Battlefords. Those are still in the paper! You’re also still on Access TV! What’s going on!?”

It’s the magic of modern technology, is what it is. Thanks to Zoom and Microsoft Teams, I am able to cover North Battleford and Battleford council meetings remotely from Regina until a new Battlefords reporter is hired. 

But there is nothing new about this because I’ve been covering meetings virtually from home for the last two years. 

As for Talk of the Town on Access Now TV, I finished the very last tapings literally the day before I moved. Those tapings will air into June.

So, you probably are forgiven if you think I am still in the Battlefords. I guess I still am, in spirit. 

In a lot of ways, not much has changed. I am working for the same company and the same bosses, and I am doing a lot of the same type of stories that I did before. I am also still doing Cairns on Cinema columns and News Watch columns.

The difference is I am no longer reporting in what Battleford residents call the “former Territorial Capital," or in whatever it is North Battleford is supposed to be "Capital" of. Instead, I’m in the real “Capital.”

As I am reminded literally every day when I drive by the buildings here, like the legislature. Or Government House. Or my own personal favourite: the SGI building. (Thank you very much, SGI, for the $100 rebate.)

The other thing is my role is transformed. Think of it as like the caterpillar who goes into a cocoon and then emerges as a moth. (I could say butterfly, but “moth” is more fitting.)

Instead of reporting to a Battlefords audience, the intention is for my stories to go province-wide. The plan is to be the main reporter covering the Saskatchewan legislature, and any political happenings around here. 

So, when the provincial government is hosting any news conferences this summer, I will be doing that. When the western premiers meet, as they did last week, I am on that. When the NDP holds its provincial leadership race in June, I will be covering that. If Pierre Poilievre is in Regina holding another of his rallies for the federal Conservative race — in fact, if any of the candidates show up here — I hope to cover that. If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gets off the plane in Regina to announce something, hopefully I am there for that, too.

When I am not doing that, I expect to be covering Regina stuff that has province-wide interest, such as events like the Ex, or Grey Cup Week. I expect to cover municipal politics and major court cases as well. Any stuff involving the lieutenant governor is also on my beat.

What freaks me out the most is the prospect of having to do “severe weather coverage,” as Regina is smack in the middle of Canada’s tornado alley and also the hail alley. Last August, a massive hailstorm came through Regina and absolutely mashed the city. That’s the last thing my car needs.

For legislature coverage, there is going to be much more of it. 

I used to do the “Leg Watch” columns once a week, but now it’s the Daily Leg Update when the Leg is in session. That will serve as your daily play-by-play of what went on in the assembly. 

The main difference is that I won’t be doing Leg coverage while sitting in front of a TV anymore. Instead, I am watching the proceedings live, which means you’ll also be getting reports from the scrums and the news conferences taking place.

What has been a pleasant surprise is how welcoming people have been and how many familiar faces I have encountered at the Leg building. On the first day there I ran into Battlefords MLA Jeremy Cockrill, and he was good enough to show me around such as where the stairs were to get to the press gallery. 

Hopefully, you will be interested in reading when the Leg is back in session this fall. I’m not holding out much hope, though. I can just hear it now:

“Who cares about Regina! Who cares about the legislature! I want more local crime coverage!”

Well, you’re still going to get your favourite crime coverage from Lisa Joy, but let me offer you examples of why you ought to care about the Regina stories.

People in the Battlefords know the community has been beset by issues with mental health, addictions, and suicides — issues that have impacted the area in a direct way.

During my brief time covering the end of the Leg session, this issue has been brought up and discussed and debated. Cumberland MLA Doyle Vermette raised the issue every day during Question Period, and during the final days there were some really emotional discussions about whether the government was doing enough. 

Here’s another one: this new Saskatchewan United Party happens to have people from the Northwest area involved. Such as your former MP Gerry Ritz.

My point is the big picture is important. What happens at the Leg on mental health and addictions is going to have an impact in the Battlefords, and elsewhere in the province. Conversely, what happens up in the Battlefords and surrounding region, such as when local area people decide to get together and form new political parties, can also end up being relevant to what’s going on down here.

Those are all reasons why you should tune in, as I will be looking to do the stories that are relevant to people who live outside of Regina, not just those who live in Regina. 

Also, maybe now is the time to point out that Regina is where the Saskatchewan Roughriders play football.

Oh, now you’re interested? I guess people are only interested in Regina when it’s the ‘Riders.

So that’s what’s going on with me in Regina. Hopefully you’ll stick around for what’s next at I guarantee you, the coverage will be better than you think. 

Seriously, it’s like the WWE here. These MLAs heckle each other and get thrown out occasionally. When was the last time that happened at city council meetings? 

I told you it would be interesting.

Editor's Note: The Battlefords News-Optimist has been well-served by John Cairns for the last 14 years and we are proud to see him now working in Regina. Who better to cover the Legislature, as local readers and those who have met John know he is a political encyclopedia (he's also a sports encyclopedia) with real insight into Saskatchewan and federal politics. We'll miss him on the ground here in the Battlefords, but as his editor here and for his new position in Regina, I am fortunate to be able to continue the great working relationship we have built up over the years. Congratulations to John on his new position. It couldn't happen to a nicer or more deserving fellow. — Jayne Foster / Editor, Battlefords News-Optimist / Curator,