Regina's new mayor leaving her mark on city council, optimistic for 2021

·4 min read

Regina's first elected female mayor has only been in office for about a month, but she's already leaving her mark and looking ahead to 2021.

Sandra Masters was elected mayor on Nov. 9. She was sworn into office on Nov. 23.

While she has only presided over two council meetings so far, there have already been some changes.

One of the first was changing the way she is addressed. Gone is the traditional "your worship."

During her first meeting, Masters requested people to simply call her the mayor.

"Every time someone said, 'your worship,' I would cringe," she said. "I know that is the address in lots of places, but I thought internally in terms of the team, they're councillors and I'm mayor and Mayor Masters would be sufficient."

Matt Duguid/CBC
Matt Duguid/CBC

Secondly, council meetings are much shorter, compared to ones held by the previous council.

During 2016-to-2020 term, council meetings could go long into the night. Some items would not come before council at those meeting, requiring a second special meeting to be scheduled.

Between agenda items during the Dec. 16 council meeting, Masters said "We have 15 items and an hour and five minutes left," before powering through and ending the meeting close to its allotted time.

There are items on the agenda and our job is to get through them. - Sandra Masters

Masters said time management is not usually her strong suit in her personal life. When it comes to council meetings, she takes it seriously, she said.

"I'm sure anybody can sit around and end up going down rabbit holes which aren't relevant to the matters at hand," she said. "There are items on the agenda and our job is to get through them."

Matt Duguid/CBC
Matt Duguid/CBC

There was a tense moment during the Dec. 16 meeting, when Coun. Andrew Stevens (Ward 3) proposed a new amendment to pressure the federal and provincial governments to create an affordable universal child care program.

Masters said she was "not a fan of walk-on amendments" and voted against it. The new mayor was the only member of council to vote no.

"If a matter has been discussed fully and is the unanimous decision coming out of executive, to tag an amendment on to it during council, during decision making, it's just bad governance to me," she said.

"At executive [committee], you can actually debate it, you're not limited to speaking once or to five minutes. You can actually have dialogue with your council. And I think we owe each other that respect."

2020: A year of change for the new mayor

Masters said 2020 is the year most likely everyone is happy to see go. Masters said the people of Regina and Saskatchewan seem to be weathering the pandemic quite well and pushing to get through it, even if they haven't done so perfectly.

"You keep hearing it's the longest year on record but at the same time, it's been a transformational change ... locally as well as sort of globally," she said.

The mayor said it's also been a year of change for her as well.

Looking back, Masters said she wasn't planning to run for mayor and was enjoying time with her children and first grandchild.

"It's different. But it's also very exciting, very gratifying, actually," she said. "Humbling would be the word."

Heidi Atter/CBC
Heidi Atter/CBC

Looking ahead to 2021, Masters said she's feeling optimistic despite the challenges people have experienced throughout the past year. She said the vaccines rolling out give her hope.

"We're going to have the ability to participate in music and dance and theatre and sports … 2021 to me means an improvement to our quality of life," Masters said.

Masters said she plans to focus on the economic recovery, rethinking and restructuring the way city council is run and improving Regina's tourism industry.

"We miss people. We miss having visitors come to our city and we are going to host some events later in the summer, which will have people back," she said. "I hope all of Regina welcomes them and makes them feel part of our family here."

As well, she said there are social challenges to tackle.

Council's newly-formed Community Wellness Committee is set to begin meeting in January. It will spend its first three to six months developing policies.

"Those are a long game, and so putting in the proper framework, the proper policies and the vision is incredibly important because there is no quick fix," she said. "It is a lot of work and a lot of coordination and collaboration."

Germain Wilson/CBC
Germain Wilson/CBC

The Nēwo Yōtina Friendship Centre has applied to open a safe consumption site in Regina in January 2021. The application included a letter of support signed by Masters.

"It is worth a try. People's lives are important. It doesn't matter what they're experiencing, they're important."

"If they can reduce the number of overdose deaths that we're experiencing in our city, then we've got to try something," Masters said. "There's no guarantee but, gosh, it's certainly worth trying."