Fougere and Masters spar over mayoral campaign promises

·3 min read

Two mayoral candidates had choice words for each other as the Regina municipal election grows closer.

Incumbent Michael Fougere held a media event on Thursday morning where he said he had concerns about a fellow candidate's policy. At the event, he specifically focused on one of Sandra Masters' campaign promises.

"We're in challenging times because of COVID-19 ... To meet this challenge, we need to focus on the city's growth, affordability and keeping us safe," Fougere said. "Which is why I'm concerned about some of the promises."

In Sandra Masters' platform it says: "As your Mayor I will: Conduct an operations efficiency review within the first six months, and am committed to finding 15 [per cent] in savings from increased operational efficiencies."

"Miss Masters is planning to find 15 per cent of city cuts to operations within six months, thinly veiled under an operational review," Fougere said. "That's over $70 million cut. And I've done this job for a while, looked at many budgets and I can tell you the $70 million hole in our operations will absolutely devastate our city."

Fougere said a 15 per cent cut of the city budget could mean shutting down regional parks, pool rinks and recreation facilities.

CBC/Alex Soloducha
CBC/Alex Soloducha

Masters said she wanted to thank Fougere for bringing attention to her platform but that he misinterpreted it.

"This is about being resourceful, as resourceful as possible in a critical time when the city needs to be prudent and strategic during a pandemic. It's definitely not about job cuts or service cuts," Masters said.

"We clearly have two different ideas or views of managing city operations on behalf of taxpayers," Masters said.

Masters said she disagreed when Fougere announced spending in his platform while at the same time promised a property tax freeze. She said she hopes the review will help people feel better about their tax dollars.

"I feel like a mystery has been solved, though. I've been out meeting with citizens, meeting with people, and they keep telling me that their property taxes are going up, but they're not feeling like they're getting value for those tax dollars," Masters said.

As a result, she said it showed the review is needed to find policies, procedures and wasted time that can be streamlined to be more efficient.

"A perfect example is if there's a policy or procedure that requires two or three levels and departments aren't talking to each other," she said. "So you're getting redundant approval processes. You remove one that should save somebody, any one person an hour during their day."

Matt Duguid/CBC
Matt Duguid/CBC

Another example she said is how the Co-operators Centre spent $100,000 to change all lights to more efficient LEDs. As a result, the centre is paying back the loan with the power money that is being saved.

Masters said she doesn't agree with Fougere's depiction of her cutting $70 million because she's focused on time and process efficiencies. Masters said she cannot commit to not cutting jobs but said she doesn't think there would be job cuts.

She instead said the mayor may be choosing to focus on her for a different reason.

"I think the mayor may be a little nervous," Masters said. "I think I cause him the most concern because I believe that I can be the next mayor of the city and I think he knows the same thing."

Fougere said all candidates are challenging but the main challenge with Masters' is her campaign promise.

"What she's proposing is a significant departure from what I think is a reasonable campaign promise," Fougere said. "Because of the the potential devastation of our economy and the services people enjoy each and every day."