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August 18-31
VOL.14 ISSUE. 26
HOME / STORY

Issues, Issues

Nathan Raine
Published Monday December 22, 04:32 pm
A pack of public figures pontificate on the year in local news

Wow — there sure was a lot of local news in 2014, wasn’t there? (As opposed to every other year, of course...) So much news, in fact, that we at Planet S were simply overwhelmed while trying to pick the top local news stories of the year. So we brought in some help: a collection of local public figures and experts who were kind enough to offer up their fantastic thoughts on what news really mattered in Saskatoon this year! (Spoiler alert: the nine-year-old bus hijacker didn’t make the cut. Sorry, little buddy.) 

 

 

Charles Hamilton, 

Reporter, The StarPhoenix

 

The firing of U of S president Busch-Vishniac was definitely the number one news story of the year. While the inner workings of university administrative politics can often come off as dull, the scandal surrounding TransformUS caught the imagination of everyone in this city.

Not only did the excellent coverage of the story offer a rare glimpse into the sometimes cut-throat politics of higher education, it also proved that people in this city actually care about their largest university and the kind of education young people are getting.

 

Pat Lorje

City Councillor (Ward 2)

 

City council recently changed their bylaw for their operating procedures — we moved from having meetings every two weeks in the evenings to having one meeting a month in the afternoon. In my opinion, that’s a step backwards: we’re becoming a more secretive, and less open, less transparent and less accessible city council. When I was [elected], we had weekly meetings at 7pm. Now we meet once a month at one in the afternoon. So it's harder for the average working person, who works a 9-5 job, to be able to access their city council.

I know people will counter by saying it's all live-streamed on the web, [but] not everyone is plugged into the web — and there’s a difference between watching what’s going on [on a screen] and actually sitting in the council chambers and being able to participate. And you thought I was going to give you a mouthful of teeth about a beautiful building or something?

 

Ryan Walker

Professor of Geography and Urban Planning, U of S

 

It's basically an ongoing story over the course of the year: instead of implementing the City of Saskatoon's Strategic Plan, which is now three years old, the city is running in the opposite direction. There are symptoms of it that pop up in the news. One of the strategic goals, amongst some of the examples that are highly related to planning, is “moving around” — and in the midst of all the discussion about how we improve moving around in Saskatoon, you get the bus service shut down by city hall, and the ridership continues to decline due to a poor level of service.

The second example is that they weren't able to implement the bike lane demonstration this summer. Two plus years into the Strategic Plan, you'd think that it would be low hanging fruit to be able to implement a demonstration project. And the counterpoint to all of that is that it's full steam ahead on new vehicle bridges in the north of Saskatoon and the downtown traffic bridge — which will do very little to help Saskatoon shift to other means of moving around. So Council clearly demonstrates its ability to do things, it's just not doing the things that are listed as priorities in the Strategic Plan.    

 

Don Atchison

Mayor 

 

It all depends on what you consider to be most important to you, because that's what affects your life the most. I think one of the items is the roads in Saskatoon, the improvements that we've made.  Getting 200 lane kilometres — basically the length of Saskatoon to Kindersley — done this year, 188,000 pot holes, back alleys in better shape, the sidewalks, street sweeping and snow removal.

The rest of the country, a lot of their infrastructure is failing, and we wanted to make sure that we not only stop ours from deteriorating, but to make sure that we brought it up to a much higher level. Another thing is the new bridges in Saskatoon: the North Commuter Bridge and the Traffic Bridge are going up for their design work, to be reported back in the summer [of 2015]. Then in the fall they’ll submit their pricing, and then one of the three will be off to the races and building those bridges for us. 

It's important for traffic flow, but on top of that is connecting the city together. I really believe that the river is our greatest asset, but it can also be our greatest liability. What we want to do is to be able to have people, pardon the pun, be able to “bridge” together. The more bridges we put into place and the less the divide is between the communities, and the closer they become the tighter the city becomes. 

 

Heather Morrison

Theatre Artist

 

I wanted to go with something positive, but it seems like the biggest stories are always the tragic ones. For me, the one that really affected me was Jamila Bibi's deportation back to Pakistan. It got me thinking about how if I [came from] a culture that believed in stoning women, if I was to be deported back there and nobody did anything for me, how terrible that would be.

A lot of people I know wrote letters to the Minister and tried to raise a voice in order to help her out, but it didn’t work and that was really disappointing. Sometimes I still think about her and wonder if she's okay. It's just so scary that this is something that happens in this world, and we need to acknowledge that this isn't okay. I was really glad to see all these people rally together to try to stop it. But it ended up being disappointing; I feel like we failed her and we failed women. 

 

Clive Weighill

Saskatoon Police Chief

 

Crime-wise, one of the biggest stories in the last year has been Douglas Hale's trial in relation to the death of Daleen Bosse. It's one of the longer trials in the city's history.  Certainly, with a lot of developing events that have happened with the controversy over “Mr. Big”-style investigations, that would be the biggest story. (Editor’s note: on Dec. 17th, Douglas Hales was found guilty of the murder of Daleen Bosse)

[As for the police service itself], moving into the new police headquarters was our big story. It's brought the service all together under one roof, and we have a new facility here that's much more open to the public. With our community room, it makes it easier for citizens of Saskatoon to work with us, and our work a lot more efficient.  

 

John Shelling

Art Director, BlackFlash Magazine

Content Manager, The StarPhoenix

 

For me, the biggest story locally and nationally continues to be violence against aboriginal women. With horrific cases like Prince Albert’s Marlene Bird and Winnipeg’s Rinelle Harper, this story is a rare combination that has multiple local faces on a major national story. The fact that the Conservative Government believes that the problem should be dealt with on provincial and local levels while local and provincial governments lobby for an inquiry by Harper’s conservatives creates a scenario that, sadly, won’t end any time soon.  

 

Peter Garden, 

Activist, Owner Of Turning The Tide Bookstore

 

I think the most important issue in the last year was the collapse of the TransformUS process at the university — there was widespread dissatisfaction with the process. I think it's really going to negatively impact the quality of education, the quality of the workplace, and a number of other factors at the university. 

To me it was quite an inspiring push-back by students and faculty. There were huge student demonstrations — upwards of 500 people who gathered in the bowl, a pile of open letters that were written. There were some pretty inspiring moments to see how people took these things, and that something like these neo-liberal policies which are [seen as] inevitabilities can actually be turned around with popular resistance. 

 

Rachel Loewen Walker

Executive Director, Avenue Community for Gender and Sexual Diversity

 

I think the biggest thing we accomplished this year was, working alongside a number of other community organizations, to lobby for the inclusion of gender identity within the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code. That was something we worked on all year and it [recently] passed at the Legislature — one of the fastest bills going through the Legislature in history.

The Human Rights Code previously protected [people] based on sex and gender, but it looked unclear whether that extended to trans people, so this makes that protection explicit. There’s a need in the community for that kind of clarity in our human rights code, and it's an educational thing too. And it's not just for the people who [are now] protected under the Code, but it’s also for all of those businesses or organizations who maybe were unclear how they were to treat people.  

 

Cam Broten

Provincial NDP Leader, MLA for Saskatoon Massey Place

 

The biggest news story of 2014 was family after family coming forward to share their experience in seniors’ care. It’s been hard to hear the tragic stories, but it’s been important. This year, Saskatchewan showed the government that by scrapping the minimum standards in seniors’ care, by replacing common sense with the $40 million Lean consultant and by replacing front-line staff with more consultants and managers, the government has created a seniors care crisis this province can’t afford to ignore. The government has, so far, refused to fix this problem — but I think a flood gate has been opened that needed to be opened in order to get this crisis addressed.

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