Despite letter, Regina mayor still believes councillors' lawsuit to end homelessness had 'tones of sexism'

Mayor Sandra Masters says her views on a lawsuit filed by Coun. Andrew Stevens and Coun. Dan LeBlanc have not changed.  (Alexander Quon/CBC News - image credit)
Mayor Sandra Masters says her views on a lawsuit filed by Coun. Andrew Stevens and Coun. Dan LeBlanc have not changed. (Alexander Quon/CBC News - image credit)

Regina's mayor still believes a lawsuit filed against the city's first female manager had "tones of sexism," and is rejecting a letter published on Friday that condemned her use of the description late last year.

"My opinion of that hasn't changed," Mayor Sandra Masters said on Wednesday.

Masters initial comments came in response to a lawsuit by Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens and concerned resident Florence Stratton against city manager Niki Anderson as they attempted to compel her office to include a recommendation to end homelessness in the 2023 municipal budget.

Ward 6 Coun. Dan LeBlanc, who is also a lawyer, represented the pair.

While the lawsuit would ultimately fail, the letter published last week condemned what it described as Masters' attempts to discredit LeBlanc and Stevens through her claims of sexism.

The document was signed by more than 100 women and non-binary individuals, including members or representatives of many organizations dedicated to ending homelessness in Regina, including the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry and Carmichael Outreach.

"It is not sexist to expect that our elected officials remain accountable to their commitments," the letter reads. "Ending houselessness is feminist."

Masters said she respects the opinions of those who signed the letter but disagrees with them.

"The notion that the deep concerns around houselessness are mutually exclusive of the treatment of council's employee... I don't agree with that notion that somehow they're mutually exclusive," said Masters.

She has no plans to meet with the letter's signatories and said a number of them had appeared before council as delegations.

Masters expects to continue hearing from those voices until the city can "tip the scales" and address issues like substance use, domestic violence and food security.

LISTEN| Sandra Masters discusses council voting to remove Coun. Dan LeBlanc as its representative on a board

She added that the lawsuit and ensuing fallout has taken attention away from addressing social issues.

"The attention it's garnered has been quite detrimental and to say a massive distraction would be an understatement," Masters said.

The lawsuit has already had significant effects on council.

LeBlanc was removed from a board position on a community organization dedicated to addressing social issues.

Adam Bent/CBC
Adam Bent/CBC

The mayor has described Anderson as feeling "harassed" and bullied by the lawsuit as well as LeBlanc's decision to post exchanges he had with Anderson on social media. Masters said the actions of the two councillors violated the council's code of conduct.

On Wednesday Anderson said her decision to go public earlier this month in press conference was not driven by a desire to solicit complaints from the public, an idea floated by Stevens in an interview with CBC News.

Instead, it was because she was "tired of not having a voice and having everyone speak for [her]."

Anderson said she did not owe it to anyone to answer whether she had made a complaint against Stevens or LeBlanc under the city's harassment policy or to the city's integrity commissioner for a potential violation of council's code of ethics.

"What I would say is if I did make a complaint, that will come out in due time," Anderson said.