Using the still-serviceable Brandt Centre as his backdrop Thursday afternoon, Regina mayoral candidate Tony Fiacco pitched himself to voters as the one best suited to financial restraint and government accountability.
Both qualities, he said, are sorely lacking among his competitors for mayor and in the city’s leadership on council.
“I don't look at big shiny objects. I look at responsible spending,” Fiacco said, taking jabs at fellow candidates Sandra Masters and Jerry Flegel. Masters has pitched an $85-million aquatic centre for the city, while Flegel thinks its best to build a new, uncosted arena downtown.
Fiacco figures that’s not what Regina voters want, especially during a pandemic and with what he called high property taxes.
Instead, he committed to a pay-cut if elected mayor and to working with a cash-strapped Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL) to help it recover money.
The non-profit entity, which operates Evraz Place, including the Brand Centre and Mosaic Stadium, has seen contributions from the City of Regina dwindle down to $100,000 per year, Fiacco said.
REAL does in fact get $100,000 in operation money from the city. But the amount has been reduced from $400,000 in 2018 because REAL’s goal is to be financially self-sustaining.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled football, hockey, exhibition and Agribition events at the 100-acre site, REAL has seen its “razor-thin profit” turn into a projected $7-million loss for 2020, Fiacco said.
That projected loss was issued as a worst-case scenario in the early days of the pandemic. REAL has since re-adjusted it to approximately $5.5 million, if Saskatchewan’s current restrictions for the pandemic are maintained for the rest of the year; stricter lockdowns would likely worsen the losses.
If elected, Fiacco promises to work with REAL CEO Tim Reid on bringing more money to the non-profit facility operator.
He said that would mean getting “five, seven or 10 years” more out of the 43-year-old Brandt Centre, and working with businesses downtown and “along the Dewdney strip” to ensure all sides are included in the discussions.
Reid thanked Fiacco for meeting him to discuss the non-profit’s future, acknowledging he “understands the valuable role” it plays in Regina.
Reid said getting those few more years out of the Brandt Centre “is realistic,” that it still “performs among the best mid-size facilities in Canada.”
REAL plans, in early 2021, to recommend to city council what it wants to do with the hockey arena — keep it as is, modernize at the current site or build a new one.
Fiacco says he’d also take a pay-cut were he to occupy the mayor’s chair; he’d reverse the two-per-cent raise for mayor Michael Fougere and 8.7-per-cent, per-year raise for councillors approved in August.
“There’s no ifs,” Fiacco said. “We’re not in a position to take a pay raise, people. We have citizens losing their jobs, we have businesses shutting their doors.”
Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post