Apply common sense to Wascana Park plans
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 Cheveldayoff can argue the current outdated 60-year-old Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) headquarters and old University of Regina College Campus and Darke Hall have also existed on the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square feet in Brandt’s proposed 70,000-square-foot, threestorey commercial enterprise that will replace the CNIB’S outdated building.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.