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Court action against Regina city manager over budget

Regina City Hall Update - Two councillors are behind a court application against the City Manager for excluding homeless funding from 2023 budget.
Councillor Dan LeBlanc, who authored Regina’s resolution addressing homelessness, is now going to fight the City in court.

REGINA - Two sitting councillors and a prominent Regina homeless advocate are taking the city of Regina to court for not including funding for homeless measures in the 2023-24 budget.

The court application was filed Tuesday by Dan LeBlanc, Ward 6 councillor and a practising lawyer, on behalf of Councillor Andrew Stevens and local resident Florence Stratton against Regina City Manager Niki Anderson.

On Facebook LeBlanc explained why he was doing it.

“On June 15, 2022, City Council unanimously told our City Manager to include full operational funding to solve homelessness in its proposed 2023 budget. 

“Yesterday the City Manager's office indicated they would NOT do that. 

“Today I filed the pictured Court application on behalf of Councillor Andrew Stevens and local hero Florence Stratton. 

“Next Tuesday, November 29 we're in court. If we win, the City Manager will be ordered to follow Council's direction.”

The application was in response to the draft multi-year budget presented by Regina city administration. The budget called for property tax increases of 4.67 and 4.66 per cent in the next two years respectively.

Conspicuously absent from the budget document was full operational funding to solve homelessness using a Housing First model. Council had previously voted in favor of this direction to administration back in June.

One of the court applicants, Stratton, spoke against administration’s exclusion of the funding in a Facebook post.

“On June 15, City Council voted unanimously for funding to end homelessness to be included in the city’s 2023 budget. But when the draft budget, prepared by the city administration, was released yesterday, no such funding was included… 

“Who makes decisions in our city? Our democratically elected council members or the (unelected) city administration? 

“In what might be seen as a cruel irony, the draft budget was released on November 22, which happens to be National Housing Day—a day marked annually to recognize the importance of people being housed.“

In their technical briefing with reporters this week, city officials pointed to steep costs if this line item was included in the budget. 

Regina Executive Director of Financial Strategy and Sustainability Barry Lacey told reporters Tuesday that the mill rate increases required would be 21.73 per cent in 2023 and 4.24 per cent in 2024 to cover the cost. Administration provided estimates that this model would require $98 million in capital investment and $25 million in annual operating costs. 

The issue had also been raised during pre-budget discussions in September at council, when city administration had also not included funding in their pre-budget presentation. At the time, LeBlanc raised a point of order and made it known he wanted to see the item clearly in the draft budget.

News of the court filing drew a heated reaction from the Mayor.

In speaking to reporters Wednesday at City Hall about the court action, Mayor Sandra Masters said “if you're asking me personally, I think it’s disgusting.”

"I think that for the first female City Manager there's tones of sexism in it," Masters said. "I question myself, I look at it and go how (are) two parties who are party to a council motion then represented legally. It's a curiosity to me, but that's for lawyers to figure out, not for me."