The big debate between Jim Holmes of Regina Water Watch, and Mayor Fougere of the City of Regina, took place Wednesday evening at an over-full Education Auditorium. Debate seekers filled the seats, stairs, and hallway outside, as the capacity crowd heard an hour and a half of debate and answers to written audience questions about the Waste Water Treatment Plant referendum question.
A No vote would see the City proceed with their P3 plan to take “up to” $58.5M from the Conservative federal government and lease the completed plant to a private corporation for 30 years, while a Yes vote would compel the City to use the traditional means of contracting the plant’s construction out while maintaining City staffing of the plant once it is complete.
(Yes, I meant $58.5, not $56.5.)
I asked some people, including Holmes after the debate what they thought of the evening. Check out the YouTube video of the debate, and these short interviews.
[AWESOME VIDEO PENDING, BUT WILL SHOW UP HERE SOON]
I liked what Erin had to say about debates being more complex than any single “gotcha” moment. Their real value is the bigger picture they can present, and the facts shared and compared. Media tends to grab a witty moment or two when covering them, as it’s more concise to focus on a sound bite, than to explain in detail the bulk of what was debated.
Straight up, I’ll tell you I’m voting Yes. I have multiple reasons for doing so, which you can read on my many blog articles. One of the big reasons came up several times during the debate, and that’s how the City is misspending our tax money on a partisan campaign to convince voters to vote No. It’s completely unethical for the City to be doing this, and if the referendum had been at the provincial level, it’s clearly illegal. Alas, the majority of people seem to have accepted that it’s not illegal by interpretation of the Cities Act and whatever else is governing the referendum, and have settled on punishing the Council with a chorus of Yes votes instead of through lawyers and the courts. Heaven knows our tax money is taking a beating from this misuse, to misguide voters.
What is so shocking about this mail-out is described in an interview at the start of the first video. The City isn’t planning on mailing out another location-to-vote card with poll address, but without the grossly partisan Vote No branding. This means City Council thinks it is appropriate to operate, and campaign in, the same referendum. This doesn’t even pass a face value test, let alone a smell test. There is no “firewall” as the Mayor tried to claim, between those electioneering, and those who are supposed to remain non-partisan to operate a fair electoral process. He even went so far as to blame this mail-out on a volunteer working with City Council. Well, it has a regina.ca logo on it, it was bought with our tax money, so it’s an official City mail-out.