Some Regina city councillors who originally supported a motion that would prevent fossil fuel companies from advertising or buying naming rights for city property have announced they're backing down.
The motion — introduced by Ward 6 councillor Dan LeBlanc at an executive committee meeting last week — would have meant companies like Federated Co-operatives Limited could not have their logos displayed on city property.
"Sponsorships are associative in nature and therefore alignment with predetermined city values is necessary," LeBlanc told the executive committee. "I think that's the very reason why we don't want sex, drugs, and rock and roll advertised on our buildings."
LeBlanc is now withdrawing support from his own motion. The move came after several councillors who originally voted for the motion — including Ward 8 councillor Shanon Zachidniak, Ward 9 councillor Jason Mancinelli and Ward 10 councillor Landon Mohl — publicly announced they were withdrawing their support.
Mayor Sandra Masters and councillors Lori Bresciani, Terina Shaw and John Findura voted against the motion originally. Councillors Bob Hawkins, Andrew Stevens and Cheryl Stadnichuk voted for the motion, along with LeBlanc, Zachidniak, Mancinelli and Mohl.
"I acknowledge that the tone set by the amendment was counterproductive," Zachidniak said in a Facebook post late last week. "When this was introduced at the meeting, I should have realized that this was not the appropriate approach and I apologize."
Numerous reasons for withdrawal: LeBlanc
LeBlanc said Monday that he withdrew his support not only because of the issue fracturing unity on council, but also because he heard from many residents.
"I heard from a lot of people who said 'I'm all about sustainability, but this is too much too soon,'" LeBlanc said. "I think I heard ... they are nervous about any one big step. I think what that means is many concrete steps going forward."
Another reason LeBlanc cited was he and some of his fellow councillors who supported the motion receiving messages threatening physical harm.
"Frankly my view is it ought to take a lot for councillors to be risking physical violence to their families to continue with sustainability motions," he said. "I'm not interested in folks getting hurt because of that."
Motion created ripples in other levels of government
The motion drew the ire of Premier Scott Moe, who called it "absurd" in a news release last week. He said 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.
Asked for comment about the councillors' change of mind, a spokesperson for Moe said Monday that he would have no further comment until the motion is formally addressed by city council during its regular meeting on Wednesday. It's expected an amendment will be added to the motion to remove the ban on sponsorship from fossil fuel producers.
LeBlanc, meanwhile, said he is hopeful this issue widens the discussion on sustainability.
"It's been very good to see people's democratic voice come out when they're opposed to something," he said. "I hope we'll hear from them equally if we're doing things on sustainability that they're in favour of."