Ap­ply com­mon sense to Was­cana Park plans

Regina Leader-Post - - OPINION - MUR­RAY MANDRYK Mandryk is the po­lit­i­cal colum­nist for the Regina Leader-post. mmandryk@post­media.com

Pol­i­tics is best prac­tised by sim­ply us­ing one’s com­mon sense to feel one’s way through com­pli­cated sit­u­a­tions.

One might think Ken Chevel­day­off — the Saskatchewan Party gov­ern­ment’s min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for the Pro­vin­cial Cap­i­tal Com­mis­sion now over­see­ing the com­plex­ity of what (if any) com­mer­cial de­vel­op­ments are right for Regina’s Was­cana Park — would be well-suited to ex­e­cute this.

Cel­e­brat­ing his 15th year in elected of­fice this week af­ter the Nov. 5, 2003, elec­tion, when he and Jus­tice Min­is­ter Don Mor­gan be­came the Sask. Party’s first big-city MLAS ever elected, Chevel­day­off ob­vi­ously has for­mi­da­ble ex­pe­ri­ence and po­lit­i­cal skills.

As such, one might think his new-found no­tion that fu­ture com­mer­cial devel­op­ment in Was­cana Park should be ap­proved by his gov­ern­ment on a case-by-case ba­sis would carry some weight.

Af­ter all, do­ing any­thing by the book in Was­cana Park runs head­long into the re­al­ity that devel­op­ment hasn’t al­ways fully fol­lowed the cur­rent “mas­ter plan” call­ing for any busi­ness-re­lated devel­op­ment to have an ed­u­ca­tional, en­vi­ron­men­tal, cul­tural, recre­ational or gov­ern­men­tal com­po­nent.

For ex­am­ple, it can be ar­gued that the most re­cent de­vel­op­ments in the park — up to and in­clud­ing the CBC build­ing of the late 1980s or the Regina Sound Stage in the early 2000s in the re­fur­bished Saskatchewan Nor­mal School — fit one or all of the cri­te­ria. But few com­mer­cial en­ti­ties in the park check all the boxes. Some barely check any.

So one sup­poses it’s fair for Chevel­day­off to point to the CBC, Sound Stage or the Wil­lows at Was­cana restau­rant, which have emerged as com­mer­cial en­ti­ties. Chevel­day­off can ar­gue the cur­rent out­dated 60-year-old Cana­dian Na­tional In­sti­tute for the Blind (CNIB) head­quar­ters and old Univer­sity of Regina Col­lege Cam­pus and Darke Hall have also ex­isted on the edge of the pris­tine park.

This fur­ther af­fords Chevel­day­off the op­por­tu­nity to cred­i­bly ar­gue that the de­sign of the new Conexus Credit Union head­quar­ters fits the ed­u­ca­tional and en­vi­ron­men­tal com­po­nents of pre-ex­ist­ing guide­lines. And in the game of pol­i­tics, it’s also fair for Chevel­day­off to clev­erly note the NDP has been a long-stand­ing sup­porter of credit unions, or that it was the CNIB that ap­proached Brandt In­dus­tries about the busi­ness re­la­tion­ship that will see it take up 4,000 square feet in Brandt’s pro­posed 70,000-square-foot, three­storey com­mer­cial en­ter­prise that will re­place the CNIB’S out­dated build­ing.

It may even be fair for Chevel­day­off to point out that Regina city coun­cil was sup­port­ive of both the Brandt and 80,000-square­foot Conexus en­ter­prise — at least, un­til the tide of pub­lic opin­ion shifted, caus­ing coun­cil to seek to cur­tail fu­ture devel­op­ment.

But sooner or later, logic, rea­son and com­mon sense do hap­pen upon a de­bate. It’s here where Chevel­day­off ’s Was­cana Park ar­gu­ments un­ravel.

For ex­am­ple, if Chevel­day­off ’s ar­gu­ment is that past com­mer­cial devel­op­ment in Was­cana Park has been al­lowed through com­mu­nity con­sen­sus, his Sask. Party gov­ern­ment would have to sup­port the no­tion of open con­sen­sus in the park’s gov­er­nance model. Right now, that isn’t the case.

When his gov­ern­ment took over the ma­jor­ity of seats on the body over­see­ing the park, it gave it­self sole au­thor­ity over devel­op­ment de­ci­sions that now in­clude both the Conexus and Brandt de­vel­op­ments. There has been no con­sen­sus here ... nor has there been much com­mon sense.

Chevel­day­off and his gov­ern­ment can­not hide be­hind the no­tion that there’s sup­port for Conexus’s com­mer­cial en­ter­prise sim­ply be­cause there is sup­port for Conexus’s phil­an­thropic ges­ture of fix­ing up Darke Hall and the old Univer­sity of Regina cam­pus. Com­mon sense tells you th­ese are two sep­a­rate things.

Sim­i­larly, the no­tion that Brandt should be af­forded 70,000 square feet of prime com­mer­cial real es­tate in the park sim­ply be­cause it’s pro­vid­ing a small por­tion of its highly prof­itable ven­ture to the CNIB doesn’t pass the test. As the NDP op­po­si­tion has noted, this is hardly a fair trade-off, nor is it fair to own­ers of empty down­town Regina com­mer­cial real es­tate space who will have to com­pete.

Com­mon sense should be telling the Sask. Party gov­ern­ment that the Brandt devel­op­ment doesn’t fit Was­cana Park.

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