REGINA - Growing the city of Regina and planning for the future were major themes of Mayor Sandra Masters’ State of the City address on Thursday.
It was the 55th State of the City address put on by the Kiwanis Club of Regina-Wascana. During her address to the noon-hour gathering of business, political and community movers and shakers at the Delta Regina hotel downtown, Mayor Masters outlined her vision for the city with a focus on attracting and keeping people as well as preparing for challenges such as growing the downtown core and aging facilities and infrastructure. The mayor also pointed to the people of the city as being its greatest strength.
She made the point Regina needed to do more than simply maintain the status quo.
“It’s easy to slip into ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And if it’s only broke, well, just duct tape it back together’,” Masters said in her presentation. “Many of the challenges that our city is facing today is because we haven’t built something, haven’t replaced or renewed something, haven’t planned for something, haven’t been inspired to look beyond good enough…. When good enough becomes the standard, then not having nice things, waiting ‘til crisis becomes the norm.”
A particular item on the mind of those in the room was the Catalyst Committee report that was presented that week at City Hall. The report had outlined priorities for a walking trail, a new Aquatic Centre, a new downtown Central Library and downtown Events Centre, among others.
The mayor pointed to the opportunities those projects could create. “Sport tourism is a $7 billion industry that I would like to get lined up to seize opportunity,” Masters said.
The mayor has also made the point that existing facilities including Lawson Aquatic Centre, Brandt Centre and the Central Library are aging, having been built in the 60s and 70s. She stressed the importance of being ready to move forward with funding opportunities for new buildings.
“These things don’t fall from the sky… we either plan to have them or get ready for funding. We don’t know when it’s coming. Our old buildings are going to fail and we will be spending millions of dollars on duct tape.”
Business and community leaders who attended the Mayor’s address made it known they were interested in what the catalyst projects could mean for the city, especially for the downtown area where a new Events Centre and Central Library could go.
“These projects are going to be a godsend to our downtown,” said Tony Playter, CEO of the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce. “They're going to create a viable, vibrant community and it's going to increase businesses, it's going to increase entertainment options downtown. And that will attract people to live downtown. So these projects are very vital to not only our future today, but to our kids future and our grandchildren's future.”
Leasa Gibbons, Executive Director of the Regina Warehouse Business Improvement District, was also interested in the catalyst projects but expressed disappointment this week that none of the proposals were slated to go to the Yards.
“It's a little bit disheartening to see that but I think something good can come out of that eventually,“ said Gibbons. “But we really need to be intentional with those plans. We need people to be at the table and we need council to see that as a priority that city building and building density in our city centre is important.”
In speaking to reporters, Mayor Masters cited the importance of growing the city.
“I joke around that. I had a young man ask me once ‘Mayor, is it true that if I if I'm working in Regina and I fall in love and Regina and start having kids that I will probably stay in Regina?’ I said 100 per cent statistically correct.
“And so, along that same line, we want people to come here and fall in love with us, and it feels like home. And the reality is, is that when we focus on tourism for outside in and create all of the information a visitor would need, how to access everything in our city and what's hot and happening this weekend, where to eat, where to shop, it actually just benefits every resident. Every time I hear there's nothing to do in Regina, I get so frustrated because I'm like I literally had 20 things this week that you could also be at.”
She also spoke about the importance of attracting and retaining people to the city.
“Listen, if if we don't grow, our tax base will erode because that young workforce we have right now, we can see the statistics to understand that it will be over the age of 55 or 60 in 10 to 12 years time. We already know we have 4000 open job postings on SaskJobs here in our city. And so, in order to expand or even meet the needs of current business, we need to employ people. We know that when people have good decent jobs, they can afford to live a healthy lifestyle, and one which is enriched with all of the things they get to do.”