Fossil fuel companies yet to contribute to Regina's sponsorship program after controversy surrounding policy

·3 min read
Regina's executive committee received an update on the city's sponsorship, naming rights and advertising program on Wednesday. (Alexander Quon/CBC News - image credit)
Regina's executive committee received an update on the city's sponsorship, naming rights and advertising program on Wednesday. (Alexander Quon/CBC News - image credit)

Fossil fuel companies have not yet contributed to the City of Regina's sponsorship, naming rights and advertising program, despite strong opposition last year to a proposed — but failed — motion to ban oil and gas companies from sponsoring or naming city owned property.

City councillors were given an update on the program — which launched in March — during Wednesday's executive committee meeting.

The only contribution listed from last year was a $1.2-million donation for an accessible playground and spray pad from Canadian Tire Jumpstart.

The launch of the sponsorship program hit a snag when Coun. Dan LeBlanc proposed a motion last January that would have banned fossil fuel companies from sponsoring or naming city owned property like parks or buildings.

It passed 7-4 during an executive committee meeting but was later defeated at a city council meeting after a wave of opposition from residents, national industry groups and some politicians.

Coun. Andrew Stevens asked city administration during Wednesday's meeting if oil and gas — or other natural resource companies — have shown any interest in investing in new facilities, park spaces or events held by the city.

Louise Folk, the city's executive director of people and transformation, said there was limited time to engage with companies last year due to a gap between when the program was launched and when consultations with potential sponsors began.

However, she said outreach efforts are ongoing.

"We are feeling very confident based on initial conversations that have been had with the business community," she said.

"This really is about connecting value and focusing on brand."

The program's target for new revenue this year is $200,000, according to the update.

Councillors faced threats, abuse

Matters escalated quickly after Coun. LeBlanc's motion passed in executive committee last January.

A report by the independent think-tank Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released in December said city councillors were "subject to an advocacy campaign and lobbying effort on behalf of the oil and gas industry and its allies that is rarely seen at the municipal level."

Premier Scott Moe called the motion "absurd" in a news release, saying his government would "seriously consider the future of sponsorships to the City of Regina from provincial energy companies like SaskEnergy and SaskPower," and threatened to claw back millions of dollars the city normally gets from people's power and energy bills.

Some councillors were even threatened and harassed by people who opposed the motion.

Several councillors who originally voted in favour of the motion — including Coun. LeBlanc — ended up withdrawing their support, leading to the motion being defeated.

During Wednesday's meeting, Coun. Terina Shaw asked city administration if they were aware of any damage the controversy has had on the city's reputation.

Folk said conversations that the city has been having with the community and fossil fuel companies have been "very positive."

"I do believe we are in a good position to move into 2022," she said.

Pre-pandemic projections said the city would generate more than $3.65 million in net revenue over the first five years of the program, according to the update.

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