Station 20 West: Sask. Party health critic Don McMorris raised no concerns with development at March 2007 committee meeting
On Mar. 26, when he confirmed that the Saskatchewan Party government would not honour a previous funding commitment made by the former NDP government of $8 million for the Station 20 West mixed-use development in
He managed to cite only one, though, and it turned out to be completely wrong.
Gantefoer said fundraising from private donors was supposed to contribute between $12 million and $14 million toward the total cost, but he was told only about $75,000 had been collected – raising concerns about whether the province would end up on the hook for a shortfall. [Core project in limbo;
At a press conference on Mar. 27, Station 20 West project manager Paul Wilkinson said organizers needed to raise about $3.5 million on their own, and had already received commitments worth about $1 million. They knew they would be able to obtain a mortgage to cover a further $1 million, and felt confident a public fundraising campaign could net the remaining $1.5 million within the next few months, Wilkinson said.
“We have a large number of very significant partners in this project.”
Gantefoer’s office confirmed he’d been mistaken about the numbers. [
Gantefoer has not said what the other problems were.
In the same StarPhoenix article Premier Brad Wall gave a different explanation for his government’s despicable attack on
Wall said the concept of the project was “problematic” for the Saskatchewan Party, that it was essentially a “mall development.”
“We ought not to be in the mall business and it’s just, it’s a different approach. We don’t think that the government of Saskatchewan should be opening up basically a mall development, where we’d be competing with grocery stores, competing with others who are already renting (facility space) now to community clinics in the area.”
Wall failed to mention, however, that there hasn’t been a full line grocery store in the area for over ten years and that there are no developers planning to build one any time soon. Many low income residents are forced to travel a considerable distance to get food and other necessities.
In the editorial Government’s actions signal trouble ahead (StarPhoenix, Mar. 29, 2008) the StarPhoenix lambasted Wall saying his “clear lack of understanding about the dire needs of core neighbourhoods and the history of Saskatoon demonstrates just how out of touch he remains with urban Saskatchewan. Considering the role the province’s largest city is playing in the economic revival of
“The proponents of Station 20 want a grocery store not because they want to compete with private industry but because many people in core neighbourhoods don’t have the wherewithal to keep hiring cabs to go shopping.”
Meanwhile, Health Minister Don McMorris had by far the lousiest excuse for his government’s decision.
“You know, the chillers at RUH, they need to be replaced, the fire alarm doesn’t work at
“For example, a fire alarm -- I mean, they’ve hired more people (and) it’s a human fire alarm now – that’s just not acceptable in today’s standards, so we have decided to move the money from Station 20 to make sure that our facilities are properly equipped. So that was a decision that was made by our government.”
McMorris’ concern with finding money to replace a fire alarm and remove mold is difficult to accept given the province’s current fiscal situation.
For the past few years
On budget day, Mar. 19, the government projected a C$250 million ($248 million) budget surplus for 2008-09 and also detailed plans for C$1 billion of capital investments.
The financial plan assumes annual revenue of C$9.4 billion, up 19 percent from last year’s budget document, but 0.3 percent under the most recent forecast for the 2007-08 budget year.
The budget assumes a benchmark
Withdrawing financial support for Station 20 West was not a political decision, McMorris insists.
“I can tell you that we didn’t look at where it was being built, we looked at it as, what is the need of our infrastructure as far as health care is concerned. We have a lot of long-term care homes that the roofs are leaking and there’s mold growing in the rooms and they’re having to move patients out. Those are priorities.”
McMorris’ assertion that his government wasn’t looking at where Station 20 West was being built does not appear to be entirely accurate.
On Mar. 19, 2007, the Standing Committee on Human Services considered the Department of Health funding request for Station 20 West contained in the 2006-07 Supplementary Estimates — March (Vote 32, Subvote HE03).
The Hansard record shows that NDP Health Minister Len Taylor provided committee members with a comprehensive overview of the project: “The $8 million investment will help to improve access to primary health care and community-based services by supporting projects such as Station 20 West, a partnership for the development of community programs that promote health and well-being. Station 20 is fundamentally an urban renewal project involving a number of community organizations with a vision of developing a centre that would provide multiple services to the community.
“The proposal envisions a broad variety of services including everything within community-based services from child care, integrated primary health services, and including a grocery store. This concept includes a mix of cultural, social, educational, recreational, and health service delivery components. It provides a venue that will not only attract residents who want to participate in community life, but will also enhance access to needed resources. It becomes a centre for direct delivery of services.”
McMorris, the Sask. Party’s health critic, was at the meeting and asked several questions but raised no concern whatsoever with the grocery store or any other specific aspect of the development. He was, however, interested in knowing in whose constituency the development was going to be built:
Mr. McMorris: — Just so I can have a bit of an understanding, whereabouts is this Station 20 West located inMcMorris admitted he knew little about the two organizations the government would be partnering with: CHEP and Quint Development.
Hon. Mr. Taylor: — The actual location is expected to be in and around Avenue L and
20th Streetin . The reason I say expected to be is the land is still being discussed with the city of Saskatoon . I think tonight — maybe it was last — tonight the city of Saskatoon council, city council will be dealing with this piece of land and whether or not they will provide that piece of land to the partnership for a very fine sum of money. Saskatoon
Mr. McMorris: — So there is no facility there at all. This money isn’t going into an existing facility, existing programs. This is being virtually started from scratch.
Hon. Mr. Taylor: — That is correct. The land has been cleared. It is anticipated and expected that a community facility of some sort will be provided. It would be built on that particular piece of land, which is why it’s under consideration, for all intents and purposes, granting from the city of
This project, the business plan that’s been brought forward, is for a $12 million facility of which Sask Health is bringing forward this $8 million. This will facilitate Health’s interest in the facility, that interest being primarily the possible relocation of the
Saskatooncommunity health clinic and offices supported by and sponsored by the Collegeof Medicineand the to provide dental and other services to the community through that facility. Collegeof Nursing
Mr. McMorris: — Not knowing
real well but having an idea of the constituencies, what constituency would that be, would L and 20th be located in, do you know? Saskatoon
Hon. Mr. Taylor: — I’m looking at my
friends over here. I think it’s the riverside constituency. Saskatoon
Mr. Prebble: — L and 20th is in, sort of borders
Pleasant Hilland Riversdale and will be in . Pleasant Hill
Mr. McMorris: — Well I guess that would mean . . . But it would be in the Riversdale constituency.
Mr. Prebble: — It would be in Minister Forbes’s constituency, right on the edge of the Premier’s and Minister Forbes’s.
With respect to the province’s $8 million investment the only thing McMorris seemed interested in was who would own the facility.
“So $8 million and then four coming from the other organizations and it’s a building starting from scratch. At the end of the day, does the Saskatoon Health Authority own the facility?” asked McMorris.
“No, the Saskatoon Health Authority does not,”
“So do these two other organizations own the facility?” asked McMorris.
“The partnership would own the facility,” said
“The partnership of all three?” said McMorris.
“Yes plus others. AIDS Saskatoon is involved in the project as well the Westside clinic. Currently the Westside clinic in
In his final question McMorris asked what are the ongoing investments that the department will have? Will there be another line item next year, another $1 million going to Station 20 West?
For someone with big concerns about Station 20 West today, Minister McMorris certainly had none on Mar. 19, 2007 – except wanting to know in which constituency it was going to be built and who would own it. The
It should be noted that on Aug. 13, 2007,
In its report to council the community services department said it had “thoroughly reviewed the Business Plan for the Station 20 West Community Enterprise Centre” and found that “Overall, the numbers appear good, with several committed tenants who are able to pay market rates for space and enter into multi-year leases. The Station 20 West development is expected to be at capacity from the outset of operation.”
“Station 20 West expects to raise $2.5 million from private donations by the fall of 2008, and will carry a residual $2 million dollar mortgage for a five year period. Without accounting for available incentives through the Enterprise Zone, Station 20 expects to operate with a small surplus beginning in year three. A modest reserve of $50 thousand will be established to cover unforeseen expenses,” the report notes.
It took several years of hard work but Station 20 West organizers had finally gained the support of all levels of government.
The Saskatchewan Party government’s decision to pull funding for Station 20 West at this late stage was clearly driven by politics and its conservative ideology.
“New investment in