Q & A: Get to know Regina's 9 mayoral candidates and their takes on 4 hot topics

·22 min read

Regina voters have a lot of choices for who they want to represent their city as mayor.

There are nine candidates running for the position in the municipal election on Nov. 9.

Advance Polls will be open Monday, Nov. 2 to Wednesday, Nov. 4.

Darren Bradley, Jim Elliot, Tony Fiacco, Jerry Flegel, Michael Fougere, Mitchell Howse, Sandra Masters, Bob Pearce and George Wooldridge have all announced bids for mayor.

Before people head to the polls, CBC's Samanda Brace spoke to each to get a sense of what they hope to do for the city if elected.

Their answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What is the biggest issue facing Regina and what will you do to fix that?

Bradley: Our infrastructure is our our main problem that isn't really getting addressed and we need to fix that. There's a lot of other things right now pandemic-wise, closing businesses, but it has to start somewhere. So, yeah, probably the infrastructure.

Beautify our city, and then start filling the holes in business-wise and helping businesses that are already here. Make sure our taxes are going into the right spot, stop deferring projects that we have money allocated for and then we misspend somewhere else, and then those projects get delayed, like our railroad tracks, stuff like that.

If you're going to do something, do it.

Elliot: I think it's taking some action at the community level and implementing [the city's goal] to be 100 per cent renewable by 2050, but also there's a number of issues that are are draining resources and time.

There's the question around homelessness. I think we can get down to functional zero with some effort, but we need to take that initiative rather than just either talk about it or depend upon other other jurisdictions to to fund it.

[We should also] in a much more aggressive way deal with some of the racism and some of the discrimination in the in the city that people are having to deal with every day, and especially within our Indigenous community.

Fiacco: There are several big issues. The biggest two are our infrastructure and property taxes followed, closely as well by crime.

So if we can address, starting with infrastructure of course, having a responsible and reasonable plan to address our failing and crumbling streets and sidewalks and doing it in a timely and affordable fashion, that's very important. Both streets and sidewalks, as well as recreation facilities, done in a strategic manner prioritizing the need within the city.

Flegel: One of the biggest issues is policing, taxes, roads, et cetera, et cetera. Those are always common things that we've got to fix.

In the 2021 budget, we're going to be dealing with a lot of those things, like the policing issue. We have to do some reallocation of funding.

I was one proponent of bringing more boots on the street because, you know, we have issues about talking about defunding, but I'm kind of the other way, because when you talk to people, they want public safety, they want police on the street. They want to be safe. They don't want to have to worry about people breaking into their homes.

Fougere: Well, in the most immediate sense, it is COVID-19. I think people are looking for and want to see stability and leadership moving through the first pandemic we've had over a hundred years and just helping us to guide us through that.

But they're also looking for a vision of where our city goes in the future. My 10-year economic plan, I think, really sets out in a very strong way to build on our strengths as a community. It's called Advantage Regina and it really takes a good look at why we are so good at what we do and how we take steps to move forward in that regard.

I have a vision for, not just for the economy, but just moving us forward culturally, you know, of course, economically, but also with our inclusive society, where we have greater participation by Indigenous people, the Black community, people of colour.

Howse: There's many issues, from the stadium to small business that are suffering still from the lockdowns. The first thing I would do is probably concentrate on small business regulation on the municipal level, making it easier for businesses to get into and stay in business.

Masters: It's probably the economic downturn, even pre-COVID, but there's the economy, it's people and jobs, I think, which is complicated by COVID-19.

I think there's an aspect to the situation that we're in which allows us to be kind of creative and innovative coming out of it, which gives us a reset that maybe just an economic downturn didn't. I think there's going to be infrastructure dollars spent by the federal and provincial governments as a stimulus to the economy, which our city desperately needs, and had we had proper planning, we would have projects in place already that were shovel ready.

But I think there's going to be the ability to address some of our infrastructure needs as well as put people to work and then to come out of COVID-19, actually positioned to be one of the safest place in Canada early.

Pearce: The biggest issue facing Regina right now is all the implications with COVID-19.

I made a promise that there would be no second wave of COVID-19 when I get in. I can't really discuss that, but in the same sense, once COVID-19 is removed, we can get back to normal. I think that's really important that we do whatever needs to be done to make that happen, to make our people safe in this city. I think that's what's really important because it's affecting every industry.

Wooldridge: I think the biggest issue that we're facing is, of course, the pandemic and its economic and social repercussions.

I think we have to focus our resources into frontline services. That means everything from fixing infrastructure to providing people with homes and economic security. That includes our homeless people tackling the issues of drug addiction, which unfortunately has increased since the pandemic started.

I guess the one thing that nobody's really talking about and it has become an issue is the water quality in Regina, because it seems to be an affliction of many urban Canadian cities. The water quality is deteriorating and we need to address that. I'd rather address those issues than some of the pie in the sky rail-line relocation or building more stadiums.


Q: What is your take on development in Wascana Park?

Bradley: No comment.

Elliot: I don't believe that we should be putting any more buildings or facilities in the park. I think it should be as natural and as green as it currently is. I don't see any real need to to encroach upon what we currently have.

The Brandt building, I think it's appropriate that the CNIB have a new building, but I don't think we need to go to the four-story commercial building that is being proposed at the moment.

Fiacco: You know, that's a touchy, touchy subject. We have we have had feedback from both sides of that.

Again, there is there is a policy in place whereby there is not to be any new development within the Wascana Park. There is a project currently on hold. And again, it's a very touchy subject.

That's something that the Capital Commission has approved. I think that's where it needs to stay, is with the Capital Commission. I don't think that council should be involved with that side of things because it's not council's responsibility.

Flegel: I don't have a problem with it. I've said this point blank many times.

If we're talking the Brant Building, I'm totally for it, because it's just replacing a structure that was there and Conexus has done well with it. I think the Brant building, actually the CNIB buidling, they will house a lot of non-profits, they will add a restaurant and washrooms and everything for public access as well.

If you look at any major city in Western Canada, most of the development is around water. Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg has got the Forks, Vancouver, Victoria, they all have development around the water and all it does is entice people to come and utilize the facilities and look at the beautiful park we have. I don't think it's going to deter from it because there's a building already there.

Fougere: We do have to be careful because this is the the jewel of our city and we have to follow the rules and regulations that are set out in the in the Wascana Authority Act and what allows for development in the park and does not allow for development.

So the commission, which is set up by the province and they have the majority of seats on the commission, will determine what, if any, development takes place in the park.

Howse: I believe that is up to the government of Saskatchewan and I would have to look into that more.

Masters: I think, not unlike almost every person that lives in the city, as well as almost every visitor that has a chance to experience our park, it's the absolute crown jewel of our city.

I think what happened with the development that did occur is a lack of public engagement. I think it's safe to say it enraged some people. I think whatever happens in Wascana Park ... it is it is a collaborative effort between the province and the city. But I think whatever happens, there has to be public engagement.

I will tell you the truth that I hear from one side which says that along the peripheral, perhaps along Broad, for example, it would be nice if there was some element of commercial, small and unobtrusive. And then I hear from other people that absolutely nothing should happen in the park.

Pearce: I walk with my friend Cheryl Johnson in the morning. She's an 85 year old that acts like a 20 year old, which is really amazing to watch. We walk around there, there's quite a odour, like there is a fair bit of sewage going in the lake.

We'd like to stop that, so we can get our lake cleaned up, so we can maybe actually use it as a swimming place like it used to be for my great-grandparents way back when.

Wooldridge: I think we should revert it back to full local control.

I don't think we should be developing in the park because I think it's sort of self-defeating, because why do you have an urban park if you're just going to developing it? It's a contradiction.

So I would say that we shouldn't do any further development in Wascana Park. We've got plenty of space in downtown to develop our city. We don't need to be robbing green space.

Submitted by The Provincial Capital Commission
Submitted by The Provincial Capital Commission

Q: What do you hope to do to make Regina a more fun city?

Bradley: Increase our recreation. Our kids need more spots, pools, better gyms, fix up our rinks. To me, our youth is important to us right now. They're the ones that need to love our city so that they can stay here.

Elliot: Part of it is being more active in the community. I'm talking 12 months of the year, not simply to put more activities during the summertime. I'm talking about really embracing the idea that we're a winter city and that we can do a lot more in the winter time, whether that's winter sports and that type of thing or whether it's having a castle-building contest, made out of snow or ice. That would get us into a little bit of friendly competition.

It would also get us out and more active in our in our parks and in our neighbourhoods and could go to the extreme as some families have done where they put a luge track in their backyard. We could be doing that in some of our larger parks and really get into some real, you know, fun activities, even working with our skateboarding community and that type of thing and utilizing some of their space in the wintertime.

Fiacco: We need to revitalize our downtown. First and foremost, we need to find how we can attract tourism into the city, how we can attract residents to be within the downtown area. Currently, the residential vacancy is high, as well as the business side.

We need to brand Regina. Currently, nobody knows what Regina has. So in co-operation with Tourism Regina, the business development and the downtown businesses, get them involved and get the business leaders within the city to work together.

Bring in new residents that will stay in the downtown, will live in the downtown, attract new business and fix infrastructure in the downtown. Infrastructure needs major improvement. And let's make downtown safer as well.

Flegel: You have to provide entertainment. If you go back to the old sport, culture and recreation, that's a total fit for everything. We have Mosaic stadium, We have folk festivals, we have many different entertainment things. We've got cultural things.

My son's 33. He said, 'You know, Dad, sports is great. But we need some other stuff, too.' If we can bring major concerts to the city, if we can create a better environment for the Canadian Western Exhibition and the farm show, what that does is once you engage the young people, the 50-plus are all over it. They love it because you know who most of those young people are? They're kids. And we need to get back to that. Under this leader, we've missed that boat completely. When you start seeing people leaving the city, it's because the leader hasn't created a proper energy.

There's lots of jobs here, but if they find a similar job, with a better city, chances are they'll leave. We'vee got to stop that. Ask people today, have you ever been to a Red Sox game? They'll say, where's that?

If you create an environment down on Dewdney Avenue, you've increased the traffic flow from the Warehouse district, you've given them an opportunity to go there. We connect that area of Dewdney to the downtown by a speedway and the farmers market would be 365 days.

Fougere: I think it's already fun, but I think we can always do more. We can have more attractions.

Once we get though COVID-19, we can do what we do best, which is putting on events and attractions, but we also need to invest in things that are important to our community in terms of its culture, recreation and a destination for tourism. We've already invested a significant amount of capital due to that.

I think we need to focus on why people love our city, what's great about it. We have so much to offer as a city and focusing on what we do best is really important. No one does any better than we do for things like the Grey Cup and for concerts. We do better than anybody else. We have great facilities for that, from the stadium to other facilities around our city.

Howse: I would say yes to anything because we need to get tourists here. I was trying to find creative ways to get an Indigenous statue up. I reached out to Ryan Reynolds, the actor for Deadpool, and I said, "Hey, Ryan, we want to get a Deadpool statue up. We want you to fund it. We also want you to fund an Indigenous statue." Things like that, you know, fun, lighthearted things that are popular.

I would say yes to any and every event I want to take place, but basically what I want to do is make it easier by deregulating many things, from food trucks to entertainment events.

Masters: I think we're already a incredibly fun city. We have aspirations to be a host city, but I think we already are. I think we are well positioned. With a couple of smart investments and smart build outs we could be a centre for Amateur Sport Excellence in Western Canada for sure.

We already have some significant assets which we could utilize and continue to leverage like a pool, [renovating the Lawson Aquatic Centre].

The Globe Theatre is going to come on stream after their major renovation. And I think we need to tie in a little bit more to our arts and culture, too. Between the Mackenzie and what's going on downtown, I think there's an opportunity to really grow that element of it. Whether that's artistic festivals and music festivals, there's something there to be had. Amazing facilities with an amazing park and that needs to be leveraged as well. I don't really feel like that's gotten the kind of the support of from the city that maybe those community organizations, those arts and cultural organizations need.

Pearce: I think just having more involvement, like in the park, having potlucks and things like that, just gathering together as a community, just like the way it used to be.

Potlucks used to be so common. I think it's just nice to gather together as a community and get back to normal, because with the social isolation and everything we've gone through over the last little while, just to get people out.

For example, my friend Sylvia was in a wheelchair, just out of rehab, last year. I would walk to her or at least eight times around the park. I walked around with the Queen City Marathon with her. She's sort of been socially isolated in Wascana Rehab. I'd really like to get back out walking with her.

So it would be really nice to get back and get things back to normal. That'd be great.

Wooldridge: I think the first thing to make Regina more fun is to make it absolutely more accessible. That's where the civic government needs to be a voice for improved airline service, improved passenger train service and restoring some form of national public transportation network.

We do have a lot of attractions in our city. We just have to market them better and we have to be much more innovative and support holistic efforts to make this more attractive and make it a more fun place to be.

The biggest issue we have is is getting people here. That's the biggest issue. And also keeping people who want to spend their money in the city. That's where you foster the growth of local industry and business. In that sense, you you take care of the attractiveness, because if you have a thriving local economy, people get innovative.

Kirk Fraser/CBC
Kirk Fraser/CBC

Q: Why should people cast their ballot for you on Nov. 9?

Bradley: I'm just a blue collar guy and I'm asking for the same thing that probably 80 per cent of the city's residents are asking for, just a nice, happy Regina.

Elliot: I'm wanting to get things moving. I think we've been somewhat stagnant and somewhat not really dealing with issues, and I want this community to start to deal with those issues. If they want some of those issues to be dealt with, I'm much more likely to be the candidate and mayor that will actually get out and do stuff in the community and get things moving.

Fiacco: You cast a ballot for me because I have a platform that allows the citizens of Regina to create their Regina.

My office will have a very open door policy. We will be accountable and transparent to the citizens. We will have quarterly meetings within each ward, as well as, we'll be doing live meetings and informing the citizens as to what has happened within the city council, within the city administration.

We are responsible. We will have a responsible council. I'm going to be a responsible mayor that will make sure that there's value for dollar being spent from property taxes.

We will make Regina safer. We have a plan to address policing. We have a plan addressing property taxes, which, again, this is something the citizens of Regina are wanting, to not be taxed as high, and we will address that.

Like I said, accountability and transparency. And we we will have a responsible plan when it comes to infrastructure.

Flegel: Because I'm going to provide entertainment and opportunities for you as a citizen.

The other reason is, on November 2018, the St. Louis Blues fired their coach and just the coach. They didn't hire a rookie coach. They went for a coach that had years of experience, years of knowledge of the game, years of administrative and coaching abilities, and blended with the administration and the head office and then in seven months raised the Stanley Cup at the legislative buildings in 2019 in Regina.

I've got the ability to do that. I've got the skill sets, I've got the personality. I've got the ability to to sell Regina to the residents, to the province of Canada. When we start talking about world trade and all this other kind of stuff that comes to region in terms of import export that is being done by regional business, I can also help and be there as the spokesperson for the city.

Fougere: I know I have a very strong record of what I've done over the past eight years. I've brought a lot of investment and infrastructure to renew our streets and roads. We have so many new things in our city, new infrastructure developments. We have at the stadium, the International Trade Centre, we have the Globe Theatre, which I'm proud to say will be refurbished and brought back to life shortly in a much more exciting way.

I've invested one per cent of people's property taxes for the past five years to make sure our local roads that otherwise never get done, will be done. We have the rail lines that are going to be developed soon. We have Reconciliation Regina, which we were one of the first city's in Canada to have this organization put together, where we have 70 community groups come together, about how we can deal with reconciliation and ensure we have our Indigenous peoples participate fully in our economic, political and social life.

We've dealt with Black Lives Matter and racism directly with Black Lives Matter and Black in Sask, and I think they're very supportive of things we have been doing.

So there's many things that we've done. Our city is in a much better place, I believe, than it was eight years ago.

Howse: I'm a fresh start and I think outside the box, I think that's my biggest new edge.

I really understand finance, economics, markets and incentive systems, and what's good for the people. I'm very good for the taxpayer because I consider myself a fiscal conservative, but at the same time, one of my platforms is more liberty. I want people to be more free to make up their own minds on how they want to live.

For example, for the mask mandates, I would not mandate masks, I would leave that up to the individual businesses to decide. I'd leave it up to the individual. I think the smart people of Regina can decide.

I'm not afraid to go against the grain. I can make tough decisions that are needed.

Masters: There is a general consensus that it feels like we're standing still, that we don't have enough to be proud of, thatwe want to get back to being proud of loving our city.

I think a fresh set of eyes is important. I have a proven history of building relationships and bringing people together, and I think that's going to be absolutely necessary going forward to build a solid, strong relationship with the province and with the federal government and among councillors to bring everybody together to set a vision or to execute on the vision that exists, but to to move forward with a fresh set of eyes and someone who is incredibly energetic.

Pearce: My positive energy, I think that's infectious, even like when I dance, I will continue to dance wherever I am. The biggest thing is the positive energy.

I'll be very approachable. I walk every morning from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. if anybody wants to come talk with me, and we can walk around the lake. I'll be at the Lawson and I love to swim. I love to go to the field house. I am around town.

I will be dancing at the ledge so if anybody wants to approach me with any concerns they have about different things, I'll always be open to whatever they'd like to talk about.

Wooldridge: I think first and foremost, I'm the only who's actually talking about making a personal sacrifice, which is reducing my mayoral pay by 30 per cent, either through a direct cut or by donation of that 30 per cent to local charities and food banks. I think if you're going to have a mayor who believes in the people, he or she has to be willing to make sacrifices.

You need a champion for the city. I think Mr. Fougere has been a reasonable diplomat for the city, but I think that at this point in our history of our city and our province, we need people who are willing to champion their constituents and their voters. That's why I would like people to cast their ballot for me.