Sunday, July 16, 2006

Letter to City Council regarding downtown Royal Canadian Legion Building for March 27, 2006, meeting

March 9, 2006

His Worship the Mayor
and Members of City Council
222 Third Avenue North
Saskatoon, SK S7K 0J5

Dear Mayor Atchison and Members of City Council:

Re: Royal Canadian Legion Building – 315 19th Street East

I wish to bring to City Council’s attention a March 4, 2006 letter I received from the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #63 (attached).

In the letter branch president John Davidson indicates that approximately two years ago the City of Saskatoon discussed with the Legion the possibility of establishing a Veterans museum in the upstairs hall. The Legion’s building review committee subsequently received approval to continue discussions with the City and on May 28, 2004 a letter was delivered to Mayor Don Atchison’s office. According to Mr. Davidson the letter stated that “a museum could be established but the Branch would not be responsible for renovations, upgrades, or it’s day to day operations.” The Legion would also need to be compensated for loss of revenue for the hall.

Apparently, the City did not respond to the letter and no further discussions between the two parties took place.

This information appears to completely contradict what the City has told the public regarding its efforts to establish a Veterans museum within the Legion Building; an idea Council – at its April 5, 2004 meeting – agreed was worth looking into.

In the December 21, 2005 StarPhoenix Councillor Elaine Hnatyshyn was quoted as saying, “(Legion officials) were going to think about it and get back to us, which they never did.” Hnatyshyn was also reported to have said, “So if the Legion just turns around and sells that property without any consideration to a veterans' museum, I will be very disappointed. It's a small enough building that it could well house that type of memorabilia.”

It appears that the Legion did indeed give consideration to the idea and responded directly to the Mayor’s office. Why did Hnatyshyn unfairly portray the Legion as being the stumbling block towards the establishment of a Veterans museum within their building when it seems that was not the case at all? Why did she make comments that appear to have not been true?

I feel Mr. Davidson’s letter also raises serious questions with respect to the Mayor’s office.

Why did the Mayor not respond to the Legion’s letter that was delivered to his office on May 28, 2004? Did the Mayor share the Legion’s letter with anyone else on City Council? If so, with whom?

On February 13, 2006 the Mayor’s Office responded to a query I made on February 4, 2006 (attached) requesting details of his 2004 meeting with Legion representatives. The Mayor’s office declined to provide specifics. The reply simply said, “the City and the Legion were unable to come to a mutually suitable arrangement for the suggested veterans museum located in their facility.”

Given that the City did not respond to the Legion’s May 2004 letter and that according to Mr. Davidson no follow-up discussions took place how can the Mayor’s office say no mutually suitable arrangement could be found? It appears the City had absolutely no intention of pursuing the idea further.

On April 5, 2004 City Council unanimously supported a motion that the Mayor approach the Legion about establishing a Veterans museum, yet it appears that the City shut the process down early and has since withheld details of the matter from the public. Why?

If Saskatoon is to lose the historic Legion Building to demolition – as new owner Remai Ventures Inc. has promised – it will be because the Mayor and the City allowed it to happen.

On February 1, 2006 the StarPhoenix reported that Remai Ventures Inc. had bought the Legion Building. The price was reported to be $1 million. For Council’s information please find attached copies of the Land Title for the Legion property, which comprises 0.25 acres. The last property tax assessment valued the building at $250,400. It appears Remai paid nearly four-times that for the land. It is interesting that Remai would pay so much for such a small piece of property yet was willing to pay only $1.6-million of the $2.9-million value of the main 2.43 acre hotel site.

“I can only say I'm disappointed,” said Councillor Hnatyshyn. “It could have been such a positive for Saskatoon, and it could have been a positive for that Legion,” she said of the museum concept.

It seems the City had no real desire to establish a Veterans museum in the first place or to spend the necessary money to make it happen. The issue never again came before City Council. It seems the Mayor made sure of that.


Joe Kuchta
Saskatoon, SK



Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee
Victoria Neufeldt, President, Saskatoon Heritage Society
Al Rosseker, Executive Director, Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society
Natalie Bull, Executive Director, Heritage Canada Foundation


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