What Just Happened?

Situations, circumstances and events from a broiled planet

On July 25 the RCMP wrapped up a long-running investigation into a land deal involving Saskatchewan’s Global Transportation Hub with the announcement that no charges will be laid. The investigation was launched after CBC uncovered a series of transactions that resulted in the province purchasing land for substantially more than it had been appraised at. CBC reported that Justice Minister Don Morgan said it was time to move on, though he did concede the Saskatchewan Party government made a mistake by not buying the land quickly enough, which allowed “speculators” to buy it first. At press time, the province continued to refuse calls for further investigation into this whole deal.

Reefer Madness

Mere months before legalization, Regina, Saskatchewan struggles to pass basic laws to regulate the emerging cannabis industry. City councillor Bob Hawkins continues to vote against a zoning bylaw to determine where legal pot can be bought. The bylaw needs to be unanimously approved, giving Hawkins an unusual veto power. At press time, Hawkins continued to use Reagan-era arguments against legalization, specifically the nonsense idea that marijuana is a “gateway” drug. While annoying, it’s kind of funny, too. More so in Saskatoon than Regina probably.

Power From The People

Interesting conversations in the Centre Of The Universe over Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s reckless and chaos-creating last-minute decree to cut 25 city council seats just months before an Oct. 22 municipal election. Toronto mayoral candidate Jennifer Keesmaat immediately suggested on Twitter that Toronto secede and, while that’s not likely to happen, it’s perhaps not completely ridiculous given the city’s population of nearly three million would make it a bigger province than, say, Saskatchewan, by far.

In fact, given the neglect of cities across Canada by higher levels of government over the years on issues like infrastructure, homelessness and poverty, Keesmaat’s tweet could add fuel to municipal resentment that’s been festering for decades.

Cities are the economic engines of this country. They have the most people, but the fewest resources to meet those people’s needs. They also tend — tend — to be more progressive politically, and more likely to embrace diversity.

They tend, in short, to oppose a lot of the bad ideas of populist conservatives preferred by suburban and rural voters.

It’s no huge surprise that a failed mayoral candidate like Premier Doug “like Rob without the charisma” Ford would try to silence Toronto’s progressive political voice by chopping city council nearly in half. Conservative Mike Harris did something similar when he merged Toronto with six other sprawl-y municipalities in 1998. It is a surprise that the pushback is this bold and seems to have traction.

At press time, Keesmaat — a city planner with a sterling track record (including well-received consulting gigs in both Regina and Saskatoon) — has a genuine shot at becoming Toronto mayor this fall, and if she wins it will be in part because she’s seen as someone who stands up to the provincial governments that have pushed cities around for too long.

This will therefore be a campaign worth watching, wherever in this country one happens to live.

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