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Catalyst report comes to Exec. Committee: desire for more input

Aquatic Centre funding application to be decided at next week’s Regina city council meeting; other priorities to be pushed back to March 22.
Catalyst Committee co-chair Tim a Reid speaks before Executive Committee on Wednesday on his committee’s report to council.

REGINA - City Hall's Executive Committee spent several hours digesting the full report of the Catalyst Committee at their meeting Wednesday in Regina.

The main takeaway was that even more time was needed for the general public to also go through the report recommendations on the various catalyst projects and give their input. 

The Catalyst Committee was struck to come up with recommendations and outline priorities on several transformative projects to shape Regina. 

Of those, the vote on three projects listed as main priorities outlined in the Catalyst report— a connecting trail, a central library in the downtown, and an events centre/arena also in the downtown — have being pushed back to the March 22 meeting. 

That came about from an amendment put forward by Councillor Andrew Stevens and passed Wednesday. That amendment carried  with only Mayor Sandra Masters, meeting chair John Findura and Councillor Bob Hawkins voting against.

However, one project is on a faster track: a new Aquatic Centre to replace the existing Lawson Aquatic Centre to be located on the Taylor Field site.

A decision to go ahead with an Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program funding application for a new Aquatic Centre is to be voted on at the next council meeting March 8. The faster timeline is to allow the City to meet the deadline to apply for the ICIP funding. 

Should that be approved, the application would be for $128 million — $108 million for the new Aquatic Centre, and $20 million to fund geothermal heating.

Concerns from public about not enough time

A major point that came out of Wednesday’s Executive Committee meeting was concern that the public had not enough time to consider the Catalyst Committee report and its recommendations.

Several delegations who presented Wednesday made the point that there was a time crunch. One, Andrew Reist, noted the report was released on a Friday and delegations had to submit to speak on it at City Hall by Monday. 

Reist also was one of those who took issue with a recommendation in the report that the arena project should be downtown, and pointed to language in the report about how the public needed to be “re-educated” about the location. He said it “seems like the Catalyst Committee wants to scold the public who’s against that, like they’re children.”

Another presenter, Jim Elliott, said the timeline to assess the report was “significantly on the poor end of the spectrum.” Elliott said that for him to have time read, comprehend and make recommendations on the report, he would have to read 30 pages an hour from when the report was presented. 

“That probably isn’t in the ballpark of 99 per cent of the city,” he said. “Expecting public comment I think is a pie in the sky.”

Concerns that there had been not enough time for input weighed heavily on members of council in the discussion that followed. Councillor Hawkins tried to allay those fears by moving an amendment which passed unanimously, which pledged that with respect to each project appropriate public engagement opportunities would be provided prior to commencement of construction.

But other councillors felt more action was needed. Councillor Stevens made the motion to move discussion of the catalyst report to a special meeting on March 30, before ultimately settling on the March 22 date.

Councillor Hawkins, who had been one of the co-chairs of the Catalyst Committee, was vocal against the motion to move it back. He expressed his belief this was “delay for the sake of delay,” pointing out the public could come to council next week to express their opinions. Hawkins called the motion a “travesty.”

Despite those concerns, the motion drew wide support. Councillor Lori Bresciani was among those supporting more time for public input.

“I don’t know what we’re so afraid of,” she said. “What are you afraid of if the public has more time to digest this very important work that the catalyst committee has done? That is our job.”

Also passing was a motion from Councillor Terina Nelson, which called for a public survey to be conducted on the multi-purpose event centre project. 

In remarks at the meeting, Nelson had also noted her inbox had been flooded with emails from residents saying they hadn’t had enough time or didn’t have a voice. In the end, her amendment motion passed as well.