Friday, March 30, 2007

"We support their action." -- Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper on the illegal U.S. - British invasion of Iraq, March 20, 2003

Why George Bush is Insane

special to The Assassinated Press

"Earlier this year I had a major operation for cancer. The operation and its after-effects were something of a nightmare. I felt I was a man unable to swim bobbing about under water in a deep dark endless ocean. But I did not drown and I am very glad to be alive. However, I found that to emerge from a personal nightmare was to enter an infinitely more pervasive public nightmare - the nightmare of American hysteria, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and belligerence; the most powerful nation the world has ever known effectively waging war against the rest of the world. "If you are not with us you are against us" President Bush has said. He has also said "We will not allow the world's worst weapons to remain in the hands of the world's worst leaders". Quite right. Look in the mirror chum. That's you.

The US is at this moment developing advanced systems of "weapons of mass destruction" and it prepared to use them where it sees fit. It has more of them than the rest of the world put together. It has walked away from international agreements on biological and chemical weapons, refusing to allow inspection of its own factories. The hypocrisy behind its public declarations and its own actions is almost a joke.

The United States believes that the three thousand deaths in New York are the only deaths that count, the only deaths that matter. They are American deaths. Other deaths are unreal, abstract, of no consequence.

The three thousand deaths in Afghanistan are never referred to.

The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead through US and British sanctions which have deprived them of essential medicines are never referred to.

The effect of depleted uranium, used by America in the Gulf War, is never referred to. Radiation levels in Iraq are appallingly high. Babies are born with no brain, no eyes, no genitals. Where they do have ears, mouths or rectums, all that issues from these orifices is blood.

The two hundred thousand deaths in East Timor in 1975 brought about by the Indonesian government but inspired and supported by the United States are never referred to.

The half a million deaths in Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina and Haiti, in actions supported and subsidised by the United States are never referred to.

The millions of deaths in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are no longer referred to.

The desperate plight of the Palestinian people, the central factor in world unrest, is hardly referred to.

But what a misjudgement of the present and what a misreading of history this is.

People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers. They not only don't forget. They strike back.

The atrocity in New York was predictable and inevitable. It was an act of retaliation against constant and systematic manifestations of state terrorism on the part of the United States over many years, in all parts of the world.

In Britain the public is now being warned to be "vigilant" in preparation for potential terrorist acts. The language is in itself preposterous.

How will - or can - public vigilance be embodied? Wearing a scarf over your mouth to keep out poison gas? However, terrorist attacks are quite likely, the inevitable result of our Prime Minister's contemptible and shameful subservience to the United States. Apparently a terrorist poison gas attack on the London Underground system was recently prevented. But such an act may indeed take place. Thousands of school children travel on the London Underground every day. If there is a poison gas attack from which they die, the responsibility will rest entirely on the shoulders of our Prime Minister. Needless to say, the Prime Minister does not travel on the underground himself.

The planned war against Iraq is in fact a plan for premeditated murder of thousands of civilians in order, apparently, to rescue them from their dictator.

The United States and Britain are pursuing a course which can lead only to an escalation of violence throughout the world and finally to catastrophe.

It is obvious, however, that the United States is bursting at the seams to attack Iraq. I believe that it will do this - not just to take control of Iraqi oil - but because the US administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal. Bombs are its only vocabulary. Many Americans, we know, are horrified by the posture of their government but seem to be helpless.

Unless Europe finds the solidarity, intelligence, courage and will to challenge and resist US power Europe itself will deserve Alexander Herzen's definition (as quoted in the Guardian newspaper in London recently) "We are not the doctors. We are the disease".

Harold Pinter

The Assassinated Press


TILMA slammed by Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association; report cites numerous concerns

At its quarterly meeting held on March 23 & 24 in Regina the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) Board of Directors considered a draft report prepared by SUMA policy analyst Sean McEachern (dated March 22, 2007) called: Report on the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement and the Potential Impact on Saskatchewan’s Urban Municipalities.

The seven-page report outlines numerous implications for urban municipalities in Saskatchewan should the province adopt the trade agreement. The SUMA board subsequently passed a motion opposing Saskatchewan's involvement in the agreement.

It appears that neither the Saskatoon StarPhoenix or Regina Leader-Post has reported this.

It should be noted that the conservative opposition Saskatchewan Party, which is lead by Brad Wall, has stated that it supports the agreement and would seek a similar deal if elected. This was confirmed in an August 4, 2006, news release by the party.

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper also supports TILMA. Chapter 5 of the recent Budget 2007 states that the federal government "is committed" to working with "interested provinces and territories to examine how the TILMA provisions could be applied more broadly...across the country."

The following is an excerpt from the draft report outlining the implications and recommendation presented by the SUMA policy analyst.
Implications for Urban Municipalities

As the debate builds around the implementation of TILMA, several organizations including the Fraser Institute, the Conference Board of Canada, the Canada West Foundation, The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives are providing their take on the merits and pitfalls of TILMA. Most of these observations fall within the scope of the provincial government, although a few have addressed the implications for municipal governments.

As the full implementation of TILMA will not occur until 2009, it is unclear at this time what impact this agreement will have on the urban municipalities of Alberta and British Columbia. Any suggestion of a specific outcome is solely based on speculation and interpretation of the agreement. However, these observations are extremely helpful in determining the positive and negative implications for Saskatchewan’s urban municipalities.

Supporters of TILMA believe that this agreement will increase economic productivity and efficiency, create new investment and provide businesses the opportunity to bid on projects across the border with free access to compete and succeed in that market. In addition, TILMA will create a harmonized regime of business regulation that will make it easier for companies to operate and invest in both provinces, freer movement of skilled workers, and greater competition in government procurement leading to lower costs for taxpayers in both provinces.

Opponents to the agreement are concerned that TILMA would threaten a government’s ability to offer support to struggling regions, that it provides too great authority to the arbitration panel to impose fines on government bodies and that provinces would be required to harmonize regulations leading to potentially weaker legislation. Even greater concern is the possibility that environmental protection policy would be at risk to challenges from business.

Within the context of municipalities, TILMA could have some far reaching implications, despite the currently stated protections and limitations. Some possible scenarios that could occur include challenges to:

• land use restrictions
• controls on pesticide use
• rules applying to signage
• business subsidies/grants to encourage development in certain locations within municipal boundaries
• housing standards and purchasing programs that favour local or regional suppliers and contractors.

In addition, TILMA could hinder a municipality’s ability to introduce any new bylaws or regulations that may infringe upon the principles of this agreement.

The governments of Alberta and British Columbia have assured their respective municipal associations that these scenarios would not occur under TILMA. However, should an individual or business choose to challenge these measures, the provinces have the right to jointly declare their interpretation of the agreement to make their intent clear.1


It is vitally important that Saskatchewan’s urban municipalities educate themselves on the details of this agreement. More importantly, should the Province of Saskatchewan choose to begin negotiations with Alberta and British Columbia to join this agreement, Saskatchewan’s urban municipalities should be fully engaged at the negotiation table beside the Province of Saskatchewan. It is the position of the Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association that our cities, towns and villages are governed by Mayors and Councilors who are duly elected by the citizens of their communities and, therefore should be treated as an autonomous order of government. If urban municipalities are to be affected by this agreement, then as an order of government we should be included in the negotiations, not simply consulted after the fact, as is happening in Alberta and British Columbia. Saskatchewan has made a similar consultation pledge – if it decides “to keep open the option of accession to TILMA.”2

If the Province of Saskatchewan does not support municipalities being a part of the negotiations, then the cities, towns and villages in Saskatchewan should strongly demand a complete exemption from this agreement.

1 Letter to UBCM, AUMA and AAMDC from the Governments of British Columbia and Alberta, available at
2 Letter to Town of Meadow Lake from Minister Harry Van Mulligen: March 20, 2007.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association opposes TILMA

The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association (SUMA) Board of Directors held its quarterly meeting on March 23-24 in Regina. On the agenda was the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA). Among the meeting highlights posted on the SUMA website was a stunning motion to oppose Saskatchewan's involvement in the agreement:

"SUMA Policy and Communication Services presented a draft report on the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement. Based on the information, the board of directors has several concerns about the potential impact for urban municipalities. A motion was passed that SUMA oppose Saskatchewan’s involvement in this agreement. However, should the province choose to begin negotiations to sign the agreement, then SUMA strongly believes that urban municipalities need to be at the negotiation table as an order of government. If this request is not supported by the province, then urban municipalities will demand a full exemption from the agreement."
The Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association is a federation of urban governments, which, through strength in unity, advocates, negotiates and initiates improvements in local, provincial and federal legislation, programs and services to enhance urban life in Saskatchewan.

Membership in SUMA is voluntary and is open to cities, towns, villages, resort villages, northern villages and northern hamlets. SUMA’s membership represents approximately 75% of the Saskatchewan population.

The conservative opposition Saskatchewan Party supports TILMA. In an August 4, 2006, news release Economic Development Critic Lyle Stewart said a Saskatchewan Party government would seek a similar agreement with other western provinces.

One can only hope that this never comes to pass.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

When did the City of Saskatoon know that Remai Ventures would not proceed with its River Landing Hotel & Spa development?

A recent viewpoint letter to The StarPhoenix by local business owner and former Broadway Business Improvement District board member, Greg McKee, raised some excellent questions surrounding Remai Ventures aborted plans to build a hotel spa at River Landing in Saskatoon.

In his March 23 letter McKee wrote “it had been rumoured for months that the hotel/spa proposal wouldn't proceed. Why did it take so long to become public? Was it to get past the municipal election, or was it for construction costs to go even higher?”

If the “rumour” is accurate I have another question to add to the list. When did Mayor Don Atchison and City Manager Phil Richards first become aware that the hotel spa was in trouble and likely wouldn’t proceed?

Remai Ventures submitted its River Landing Hotel & Spa proposal on May 24, 2005, in response to a Request for Proposal process that City Council approved on March 7, 2005. City Council received the proposal as information at its May 30, 2005, meeting. From there it went to an administrative review committee for evaluation.

On June 27, 2005, City Council gave the go-ahead for its administration to begin negotiations with Remai for a hotel spa.

In Spa deal salvageable, councillors indicate (SP June 30, 2005) it is reported that the city administrative committee negotiating with Remai “will ask council for its final approval as early as July 18.”

Remai’s proposal contained a ‘Project Time Line’ on page ten with July 18, 2005, listed as “Agreements to Council for Approval.” So far things appeared to be going as planned.

The months, however, began to slip by with no definitive reason why things were taking so long.

At its November 28, 2005, meeting City Council received a report by tourism consultant David Russell of Vancouver, who the City commissioned to study the feasibility of the River Landing Destination Complex.

In the November 17, 2005, report Destination Centre Assessment Russell wrote:

“The River Landing plan is, in our opinion, sound and will achieve its intended objectives for making the waterfront a place for people, attracting investment, and transforming the image of the City.”

“The hotel/spa is a critical component of a vibrant and thriving waterfront. The sooner that this project is approved and commences construction, the greater the confidence in the overall River Landing project.”

Where is Russell today?

November 2005 was important for one other reason. In its proposal Remai listed a number of “Development Considerations for Financial Viability” with one being “The City will have all adjacent roadwork completed and all street services to the property line installed by end of 2005.”

When the City’s Sale Agreement and Incentive Agreement with Remai finally reached City Council for approval on December 12, 2005, there were no timelines for construction included for either party other than a December 31, 2008, deadline for Remai to have the foundation and underground parking completed.

It’s nearly April 2007 and the extension of Second Avenue South onto the former Gathercole site has yet to be built. The adjoining roundabout and Spadina Crescent extension appear to have finally been completed over the winter.

In River Landing spa gets council OK (SP Dec. 13, 2005) one crucial point is mentioned: “The ultimate design and appearance of the hotel must still be approved by the city and the Meewasin Valley Authority.”

The process never reached that point.

In Remai selects local firm for hotel-spa project (SP Dec. 14, 2005) it was reported that Remai “dropped the Calgary architectural firm that came up with the first hotel-spa design, and is now counting on Kindrachuk Agrey Architecture to give the project a “more visually appealing” look, says company president Ellen Remai.”

Despite the change in firms Remai Ventures construction manager Curtis Zwack said “We plan on starting construction in the spring of 2007. We would like to really have it open by the fall of 2008.”

The months began to slip by again with no word on the progress of the hotel spa until the following spring.

On March 13, 2006, the city manager's office presented City Council with the City of Saskatoon Corporate Business Plan 2006-2008. With respect to River Landing Phase I the report states the City will "facilitate design and approval process for the River Landing hotel/spa" and "complete street and streetscape on the Spadina extension to the roundabout at Second Avenue."

The corporate business plan is important for at least two reasons. First, it does not mention when work will begin on the extension of Second Avenue South. Second, it seems to suggest the City would continue to work with Remai to "facilitate" progress of the hotel spa.

In River Landing will take shape this summer (SP Apr. 3, 2006) Zwack confirmed that construction on the $35-to $40-million hotel wouldn’t begin until the spring of 2007.

For the next six or seven months there was little or no mention of the hotel spa or its progress. According to the timeline in Remai’s proposal tasks to be completed included developer consultations with the City & MVA; structural, mechanical and electrical design work for the architect; preliminary structural and mechanical designs; working drawings; building permits and site excavation. It appears these needed to be done before the foundation could be poured let alone for construction on the “super structure” to begin.

To date it appears that no site excavation was done which would have sent a clear signal that things were proceeding as planned.

In Mayor bullish on future (SP Jan. 2, 2007) Mayor Don Atchison outlined his hopes for 2007 with River Landing at the top of his list saying “Hopefully (developer Ellen), Remai will be underway there with her hotel, and the Persephone Theatre is underway now.”

Hopefully? At the time this comment didn’t seem to draw any attention.

In Downtown legion branch prepares for last dance (SP Jan. 15, 2007) the SP reported Remai president, Ellen Remai, saying that a date for demolition of the Legion building had not yet been set. “Concept drawings for the hotel spa are being drawn up and construction should begin by summer with an opening date near the end of 2008,” said The SP.

It was mid-January 2007 and Remai was apparently still at the concept drawing stage for its hotel spa. A spring 2007 construction start date had now become summer 2007.

In Farmers’ Market construction still behind schedule (SP Jan. 16, 2007) Chris Dekker, manager of special projects for the city discussed the progress of several River Landing projects. It was reported that “Plans for a hotel-spa to be built by Remai Ventures Inc. are still in the design process.”

In King George Hotel makes endangered buildings list (SP Feb. 17, 2007) the SP reported that “construction of the hotel is slated to begin this summer.”

In Legion auction precedes move (SP Feb. 23, 2007) the SP again reported that “construction of the hotel is slated to begin this summer.”

In Legion sale huge draw (SP Feb. 26, 2007) the SP – for a fourth time – reported that “construction of the hotel is slated to begin this summer.”

The following day the City received Remai’s letter (dated Feb. 26) stating that its plans for a River Landing Hotel & Spa would not proceed.

No site excavation, no timely roadway completions, in regular contact with Remai whose project was apparently still in the design stage as of mid-January 2007 and the public is expected to believe that the City of Saskatoon had no inkling ahead of time that the River Landing Hotel & Spa was in trouble?

McKee is right. This is “disturbing” and needs to get “properly talked out”. There are many questions that need to be answered. But will it happen?

Local entrepreneurs best for downtown

Greg McKee
The StarPhoenix

Friday, March 23, 2007

Following is the opinion of the writer, a Saskatoon resident and business owner.

I was in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago and felt what I thought was a minor earthquake. It's probably only coincidence that I felt it at the moment Ellen Remai's heralded spa/hotel imploded into Saskatoon's very own ground zero.

How disappointing. The city's deal with Remai had been heralded like a royal wedding. I was never against a spa/hotel, but what was most needed was good planning. Even those of us who appreciated the business-minded vigour displayed by our last council have to admit this deal with Remai produced a bankruptcy.

There was no shortage of excuses -- times changed, market conditions are different. In reality the times and market conditions are better than when the deal was struck. Saskatoon is attracting attention as one of the few rising real estate markets in North America.

Complaints about rising construction costs are red herrings. The reason a hotel isn't viable here hasn't changed in the three years since council made this deal -- there is a lack of demand for rooms. It's basic Economics 101 that appropriate demand, versus supply, assures profit. It is because demand is high in places such as London or Tokyo that construction continues despite significantly higher costs.

Without sufficient demand, Remai is clever to run. Even if she suspected the project wouldn't be viable when she struck the deal, she was still smart to go ahead because the taxpayers took most of the risk. This came about because the mayor and council had trashed so many other proposals for being too small, too communist, or unable to hit a home run.

On an equally disturbing note, it had been rumoured for months that the hotel/spa proposal wouldn't proceed. Why did it take so long to become public? Was it to get past the municipal election, or was it for construction costs to go even higher?

I hope this gets properly talked out, and that we learn from it. In the past whenever anyone publicly questioned this project, our scribes and broadcasters called the rightfully skeptical public old thinkers and pessimists. People were chastised for having a "Saskatchewan mentality."

There was much ink and blather about how great things would be if only the Depression-era citizens got off the road.

Many other jurisdictions, when planning keystone developments over which the community has such a sense of ownership, ask the community beforehand what it wants. I, and many other commentators made the point early on that imposed solutions rarely fly.

I believe in the power of locally owned business. I don't think we have to beg and subsidize big businesses and chains to come here and save us from local entrepreneurs. It would have been far better to let small and medium-sized local entrepreneurs fill up a renovated Gathercole building.

Had we taken that route, Saskatoon would now have a bustling collection of locally owned, small but interesting businesses spicing up the River Landing.

The city has spent millions on millions to level and prepare this field of broken dreams. Now our mayor says he'll fix it all up. He insists he has some ideas. Does this mean I'm supposed to let Mayor Don Atchison sally forth to impress another bride with my money in his pocket?

The city has to stop and plan. It must admit the process is broken, and re-engage citizens by gathering input. A non-political panel of business and community leaders should be appointed to produce a mixed plan that both relies on and boosts local business.

Don't look for a super buyer, look for a number of our developers who have proven themselves locally.

Atchison once told us it was wise to, "Take care of the big things, and the little things will take care of themselves." I think it's the opposite. Think of the site filled with idea-rich local entrepreneurs, with risk and reward spread amongst them.

Feeling a little gun-shy? True-blue local entrepreneurs won't leave us standing at the altar.

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

Remai Ventures prepares historic Legion Building in Saskatoon for destruction; callous developer apparently has no immediate plans for the site

On Friday, March 23, 2007, the exterior of the historic Royal Canadian Legion, Branch #63 building in downtown Saskatoon was being readied for demolition. Workers removed the Legion coat of arms plaque, the 1929 cornerstone and the two small maple leaf emblems situated on either end of the building.

The owner of property, Remai Ventures Inc., said earlier this month that it planned to demolish the building even though its plans for a luxury spa hotel were cancelled and there were no immediate plans for the legion site. In December 2005, Mayor Don Atchison ridiculously described Remai as "good corporate citizens".

The legion building was built in 1929 by local veterans of the First World War. The architect was David Webster a prominent Saskatoon citizen. Atchison says "the legion property has nothing to do with the city of Saskatoon."

The Saskatoon Heritage Society has advocated to save the building. The Saskatchewan Architectural Heritage Society (SAHS) sees the demise of the Legion building as another prime example of big development showing little or no consideration for built heritage.

In February 2007, the Legion building was placed on the Heritage Canada Foundation's Top Ten list of endangered places in Canada.

(Photos by Joe Kuchta)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Conservative Harper government promotes dangerous TILMA in Budget 2007; touts deeper integration with U.S.

“The overwhelming majority of government measures that are subject to TILMA have little if anything to do with inter-provincial trade, investment or labour mobility, per se. Rather, these measures, which run the gamut from environmental controls to health care insurance plans, were established to serve broad public or societal purposes and apply equally to persons or companies whatever their respective province of origin. While such measures may impact investment, trade and labour mobility, these effects are indirect or tangential to their essential purpose. Nevertheless, because of these indirect effects, they may be challenged for offending TILMA prohibitions.”

“Taken together, the likely impacts of TILMA represent a profound assault on the capacity of present and future governments in BC and Alberta to serve the public interest.

Furthermore, there is no plausible rationale for TILMA, for as we know, Canada is a free society in which people are free to live, work and invest anywhere they choose. There are no customs stations along provincial borders and no tariffs of any kind on inter-provincial trade. Moreover, inter-provincial trade is a federal responsibility and provincial measures that interfere even indirectly with such trade have been consistently struck down by the courts.

The claim that we must remove the few, and largely warranted, barriers to inter-provincial trade, investment and labour mobility that do exist, is no more than a smokescreen for a corporate agenda that seeks to substantially reduce the role of government as regulator and service provider.”
Steven Shrybman, Jan. 29, 2007

Mr. Shrybman is a partner in the law firm of Sack, Goldblatt and Mitchell and practices international trade and public interest law in Ottawa. To read his full legal opinion setting out the implications of Ontario entering into a similar TILMA agreement click here.

With that in mind the Conservative Harper government is committed to unleashing this horrific trade deal right across Canada. For those that sign the agreement no community will be spared, nearly everything affected: departments, ministries, agencies, boards, councils, committees, commissions, Crown Corporations, government-owned commercial enterprises; regional, local, district or other forms of municipal government; school boards, publicly-funded academic, health and social service entities.

Remember NAFTA? This is far worse.

The Conservative Harper government is also intent on committing Canada to even deeper integration with the United States.

TILMA, and the Conservative government’s support of it, illustrates precisely why many Canadians find Stephen Harper scary.

The Budget 2007 delivered by Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty contains a number of seemingly benign references to TILMA but on closer inspection reveals a government determined to put private profits permanently ahead of the public interest.

Chapter 5 of Budget 2007 states:

"Budget 2007 takes action on creating an Entrepreneurial Advantage in Canada by...Committing to work with interested provinces/territories to examine how the Alberta-British Columbia Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement could be applied more broadly. This will help build our economic union and promote the free flow of people and goods within Canada."

"A more competitive domestic market will better prepare Canadian businesses for further success in the global economy. Artificial barriers to labour mobility can make it difficult for firms to find the skilled labour they need. Other impediments to internal trade can raise business costs and reduce competition. Reducing internal trade barriers will benefit us all through greater product and service choice, lower prices and higher economic growth.

All governments within Canada can contribute to a stronger domestic market. In April 2006, the Governments of Alberta and British Columbia signed the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA), a wide-ranging internal trade deal that will make it much easier for goods, investments and skilled workers to move between these two provinces. This agreement, the most comprehensive of its type in Canadian history, has created significant momentum. The federal government is committed to building on this momentum and will work with interested provinces and territories to examine how the TILMA provisions could be applied more broadly to reduce interprovincial barriers to trade and labour mobility across the country."

"...developing a more comprehensive trade and investment relationship with our closest trading partner, the United States, is key to the success of Canadian business. For more than 60 years, we have been able to rely on our trade relationship with the world's largest, most dynamic economy. We continue to benefit from this relationship, yet we must recognize that new players are challenging us in our traditional market. The Global Commerce Strategy will address this challenge by reinforcing our U.S. presence and implementing new initiatives such as the direct engagement of private sector experts in order to connect Canadian companies with new opportunities and attract investment."

"At the heart of the Government's strategy is the adoption of a new Cabinet Directive on Streamlining Regulation that will come into effect on April 1, 2007...To meet the Government's Advantage Canada commitment to a new modern approach to regulation and improved efficiency and effectiveness, Budget 2007 provides $9 million over two years to implement this initiative."
“TILMA represents a far reaching and corrosive constraint on the future capacity of the governments of British Columbia and Alberta to exercise the policy, legislative, and programmatic authority that is essential to their governance mandates. Given the enormous impacts this regime in likely to have on virtually every sphere of public policy and law, it would be unconscionable for Ontario or any government considering TILMA-like obligations to proceed without the fullest and informed public discussion and debate.” – Steven Shrybman
To date no informed public discussion and debate has occurred -- not even in the two provinces that have signed the agreement.

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison's comments on historic legion property "a sad reflection on the quality of leadership"

"The legion property has nothing to do with the City of Saskatoon."
– Mayor Don Atchison
(March 9, 2007 StarPhoenix "No legion reprieve: Wrecking ball will swing on historic building")

City lacks kind of leadership that brought good reputation

The StarPhoenix

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The ongoing saga of the Legion building has prompted me to offer some thoughts on this issue as a former Saskatoon resident who has followed with great interest the changes to my beloved city.

In the past, I could point to many factors that evidenced Saskatoon's greatness: The tyndalstone construction of the University of Saskatchewan evidenced planning, characterized by pride; the laudable land banking policy, which sustained reasonable residential land prices and the opportunity for home ownership for people of modest means; the number of bridge lanes per capita -- far greater than any comparable Canadian river city.

Such positive characteristics were all achieved through one significant characteristic: leadership.

However, a review of Saskatoon city council's actions over the past two decades or so show leadership has been in incredibly short supply.

The Capitol Theatre was destroyed, with developers summoning the McKee wrecking ball on an early Sunday morning to escape scrutiny and protest. The Saskatoon Arena was destroyed, with its replacement constructed on Sedco "no man's land." If council had stood up to the province and insisted the new arena be constructed downtown, perhaps the economics of downtown hotel development might be dramatically different.

Which brings us to the issue of the legion.

The city should buy the building and renovate it as a monument to the greatest generation Canada has seen.

Mayor Don Atchison says, "The legion property has nothing to do with the City of Saskatoon." What a sad reflection on the quality of leadership in what once was a city that instilled pride in its current and former residents.

Ronald G. Holland
Ferintosh, Alta.

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

SP editorial ignores history of site development plans

The StarPhoenix

Friday, March 16, 2007

"It's impossible to bear the irony: This land, which went undeveloped for so long because of poor economic times, now lies fallow because the economy is too strong," concludes the March 10 SP editorial, Choice piece of city's land seems cursed.

I suggest it's ironic that The SP conveniently ignores that council passed a development plan in 2002 that kept this whole site public, with strong support from community members in council chambers. The SP must not have been in attendance then to write such an editorial.

With the change in council, the private, for-profit ideologues held sway. They said they knew what was good for the people and would get us a spa. Well, we got it in the ear.

If the current council, when trying to resolve this sorry situation, does not include the public in its planning and keep this land as a public space as was done in 2002, we will get it in the other ear.

Rusty Chartier

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

Monday, March 19, 2007

A promise made, a promise broken -- twice; Conservative Harper government breaks promises to Saskatchewan

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper
and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty

The Conservative Harper government broke two promises to Saskatchewan in today's federal budget delivered by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

1) The Conservative Harper government said that it would "ensure" non-renewable natural resource revenue would be "removed from the equalization formula." Today's budget proposes two formulas: 50% or 100% exclusion -- but put a cap on equalization. Promise broken.

2) The Conservative Harper government said if Saskatchewan were allowed to keep %100 of its non-renewable natural resources it would mean an estimated $800-million yearly, perhaps even more. Today's federal budget proposes just $226-million this year and zero next year. That's $574-million short. Promise broken.

Saskatoon has four federal Conservative MPs in Ottawa: Carol Skelton, Brad Trost, Lynne Yelich and Maurice Vellacott.

Perhaps it's time Saskatoon had four less federal Conservative MPs in Ottawa.

TILMA "bad news for local governments"; Saskatchewan Party duping voters with attempt to soften stance

Slowly but surely the truth is getting out there that the BC-Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) is bad news for Saskatchewan and its municipalities.

After spending the better part of a year berating and condemning Premier Lorne Calvert and the ruling NDP for not getting on board and signing the agreement leader Brad Wall and his conservative Saskatchewan Party are now trying to soften their image by pledging to hold consultations on TILMA if elected.

In the lead up to BC and Alberta signing TILMA absolutely no consultation with municipalities in either province took place. The deal was developed behind closed doors. Had Saskatchewan been at the table like Wall wanted the same would have likely happened here. The Saskatchewan Party neglects to mention that. They also don't mention that BC Premier Gordon Campbell said in December 2006 that Saskatchewan and Ontario were welcome to join TILMA provided they didn't "try to tinker with the deal." With friends like that...

Thanks for Wall and his party's shallow about-face likely goes to the City of Saskatoon whose solicitor last month detailed a litany of serious problems with TILMA in a report to City Council. In short, signing TILMA would strip Saskatoon and many other Saskatchewan municipalities of their "right to local choice" -- something the Saskatchewan Party helped recognize and strengthen in 2002 when the three provincial parties approved The Cities Act. TILMA will put private profits ahead of the public interest. The Saskatchewan Party is no different than the two conservative governments that have already signed this horrific deal.

Under TILMA an independent panel will have the power to fine governments up to $5-million for violating the agreement, and governments can be hit with repeated complaints against the same program or regulation. Gary Mar, the cabinet minister responsible for negotiating TILMA for Alberta says the process is "everything Canadian business asked for."

If the deal is that bad for Saskatoon -- often described as the province's economic engine -- then what about the City of Regina? What is mayor Pat Fiacco and his City Council telling residents there? Have they read the Saskatoon solicitor's report? If so, it likely didn't go over well and put the mayor in a tough spot.

The Saskatchewan Party appears to run in the Fiacco family. Brothers Tony and Frank are hoping to win seats for the party in Regina Rosemont and Regina Qu'Appelle respectively in the next provincial election.

The citizens of Saskatchewan haven't been able to count on the media to explain to them just how much of a negative impact TILMA will have if it were brought here. This comes as no surprise as the two major dailies, The StarPhoenix and The Leader-Post, are owned by the conservative leaning CanWest MediaWorks Limited. Thanks though to individuals like Tom Sheltad, below, of Swift Current [Brad Wall's constituency] word of TILMA and its negative impact may finally be reaching the general population nonetheless.

Proposed TILMA pact: 'expect the worst'

The Leader-Post
Saturday, March 17, 2007

It is not surprising that the Saskatchewan Party's Ken Krawetz (Letters, March 10) should paint the TILMA (Trade, Investment and Labor Mobility Agreement) in glowing colours. Parties of the conservative persuasion have long had the habit of taking the nature of ideas and turning them on their head.

According to his letter, TILMA will help maintain Crown corporations, environmental standards and the well-being of labour. Given the Saskatchewan Party's past behaviour in regard to these areas, one can expect TILMA to actually produce just the opposite.

To understand the true nature of TILMA (go to for more details), one should think of the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Both are basically cut from the same cloth.

Both have the same objective.

Both establish the principle that business investment is sovereign.

If any public initiative (provincial or local) "impairs or restricts investment" (TILMA Article 3), then businesses can sue for up to $5 million.

An example of what could happen would be if the Saskatchewan Party was elected and decided to do away with our government-based auto insurance. Once the big insurance companies moved in, we could not bring it back.

In Article 6, the onus is put on the public sector to prove that its legislative initiative -- be it taxes, labour laws or environmental regulations -- is not restrictive on trade and investment. According to the rules, TILMA will prevail except in special and rare cases.

The agreement provides for the creation of a dispute panel to hand out rulings where there is conflict.

Given the track record with similar rules and a similar dispute panel under NAFTA, we can probably expect the worst.

Because TILMA requires a degree of harmonization among the provinces (Article 5), what is to prevent companies from hammering away with lawsuits, producing a "lowest common denominator" effect?

Where will our health, safety and environmental regulations be then?

There is plenty of bad news for local governments, too. Things such as government grants, regional development and downtown revitalization all appear to be prohibited by the wording of Article 12. Such initiatives appear to be deemed as distorting the real estate market as well as various other investment opportunities.

Given that interprovincial trade is booming and that the 1985 Macdonald Commission found that interprovincial trade barriers add only a tiny cost to our GDP, TILMA appears to be not really necessary.

So I would say, considering everything, shackling the public good in this way in order to add icing to the god of profit is totally unacceptable.

Tom Shelstad
Swift Current

©The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

TILMA contains no threat to labour

The Leader-Post
Saturday, March 10, 2007

It appears Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Larry Hubich is ready to condemn the B.C.-Alberta trade, investment and labour mobility agreement (TILMA) without any consideration of the potential benefits that may accrue to Saskatchewan. ("Western trade deal worries unions", Leader-Post, Feb. 23).

In my view, failure to at least look at the agreement and what it may offer would be a serious error.

The Saskatchewan Party believes the provincial government needs to pursue a growth agenda. While that includes removing barriers to growth, such as the removal of inter-provincial trade barriers, it also means:

- Maintaining public ownership of Saskatchewan's major Crown corporations;

- Maintaining and strengthening environmental standards so that growth is achieved in an environmentally sustainable manner, and;

- Enhancing the well-being of workers in the province.

The Saskatchewan Party supports TILMA in principle because it is consistent with the growth agenda we have called for.

A future Saskatchewan Party government would not sign on to the agreement unless certain it was in the best interests of Saskatchewan people and removed barriers to growth without negatively impacting on the public ownership of the major Crowns, environmental standards in the province and well-being of workers.

Given the impact of TILMA across the province, we also believe the provincial government has an obligation to consult with stakeholders and the public prior to accepting or rejecting Saskatchewan's participation in TILMA.

TILMA is about eliminating interprovincial trade irritants, making it easier for business to do business and making it easier for workers to work across western Canada.

It's designed to streamline business registration and reporting requirements so that businesses registered in one province are automatically recognized in the other.

It enhances labour mobility by recognizing occupational certifications of workers in western provinces.

It provides open and nondiscriminatory access to government procurement, and it creates a clear, comprehensive and enforceable dispute-avoidance and resolution mechanism.

Those areas exempted from the agreement are also clearly outlined. They include provincial laws and regulations governing water, taxation, royalties, labour standards, occupational health and safety, procurement of health and social services, social policy and aboriginal policies and programs.

If this province were to become a party to the agreement, Saskatchewan businesses could become more able to compete in the booming economies to the west. They would need more workers -- and Mr. Hubich would have more members.

Ken Krawetz
Krawetz is the Saskatchewan Party's labour critic and deputy leader.

©The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

Western trade deal worries unions

Murray Mandryk
The Leader-Post
Friday, February 23, 2007

The problem with understanding the Saskatchewan labour movement's concerns over this province signing on to the Alberta-B.C. trade and labour mobility agreement is getting past the union's conspiracy theories.

But after nearly an hour of ranting in an interview about secret backroom deals made by right-wing premiers, equally right-wing bureaucrats doing the bidding of the corporate elite and the Saskatchewan Party and even the NDP MLAs neatly falling in line with the corporate agenda, Saskatchewan Federation of Labour President Larry Hubich makes at least one pertinent point.

"What's stopping a Saskatchewan nurse from moving to Alberta right now? And what's stopping a nurse from Australia from coming to Saskatchewan?"

It's a pretty good question. Really, are Alberta and British Columbia so mired in their own bureaucratic red-tape that businesses or individuals have been hampered from relocating there? And even if so, why does that make the Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement (TILMA) a good thing for Saskatchewan to join? Aren't B.C. and Alberta each the home of 200,000 to 250,000 Saskatchewan-born people right now?

There again, eliminating interprovincial trade irritants and maybe even some business activity restrictions -- and perhaps even a few of Saskatchewan's more restrictive labour laws -- might actually be a good thing for this province.

What's weird about the argument from the largely pro-business supporters of TILMA is their insistence the agreement doesn't infringe in those areas. In fact, they tend to be the first to point out that labour standards, occupational health and safety, minimum wage and Crown corporation ownership are all exempt.

Admittedly, the document does read very much like it was written by bureaucrats for bureaucrats who were looking to justify their own existence. And one needs to be equally cognizant that the SFL executive's "TILMA Alert!" campaign launched last week may very well be the SFL justifying its own existence to is own membership.

But it's about here where you begin to see the basis of labour's paranoia.

Really, if this deal is so benign, why is it necessary? Haven't most professional and trade qualification issues already been covered in provincial laws? Weren't interprovincial trade barrier issues covered in the 1995 Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) between the provinces? And if it's not a big deal, why do respective business communities in B.C. and Alberta seem so delighted that their governments acted on their suggestions?

Well, according to Hubich, it's because of the things in TILMA we're not seeing.

The first article in TILMA suggests that under any circumstance in which there is a contradiction between AIT and TILMA, the provision that "is more conducive to liberalized trade, investment and labour mobility prevails", the SFL leader noted. That significantly weakens TILMA's supposed exemption provisions, because it would likely mean that the prevailing provision would be the lower standard. In other words, Saskatchewan labour would be far more likely to lose its automatic union certification based on the 50-per-cent-plus-one signing of cards in the work place. And B.C. would be far more likely to lose its anti-scab legislation.

What's more disconcerting is that TILMA even gives businesses new tools to enforce lower standards because business or other entities can take a government to a new TILMA dispute panel on "any matter regarding the interpretation of this agreement" and governments can be subject to maximum $5-million fines, Hubich noted, adding it would become a new tool for companies like Wal-Mart to change Saskatchewan's union certification laws.

Hubich argued it could also affect provincial professional bodies (accountants, teachers, nurses) who might be forced to succumb to lower standards in other provinces. (B.C. teachers require a five-year master's degree before certification.) And cities, towns and municipalities should be equally concerned because TILMA opposes preferential local hiring, Hubich said.

This takes us to labour's final and most relevant argument. Should such sweeping changes be thrust on to taxpayers via their government signing onto a trade agreement? Or shouldn't this be decided by voters, through picking their own government every four years?

Paranoid or not, it seems a fair thing for labour to ask.

- Mandryk is the political columnist for the Leader-Post.

©The Leader-Post (Regina) 2007

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Remai Ventures shows 'callous disregard' for heritage; Mayor Don Atchison 'stubbornly insists' on private hotel development at River Landing

Move to raze Legion Building shows disregard for heritage

The StarPhoenix

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sickening is the only way to describe the decision by Remai Ventures to proceed with demolishing the historic downtown Legion Building, even though Remai's hotel-spa development is shelved and it has no plans for the site.

Such callous disregard for Saskatoon's irreplaceable history is shocking and irresponsible. Mayor Don Atchison, who I think never has shown any interest in Saskatoon's heritage, says the legion property has nothing to do with the city.

As chair of council's executive committee, he presided over a June 2004 closed-door meeting when the city decided against establishing a veterans' museum in the Legion Building. There was no public debate and the city was never held accountable.

Atchison's comments only magnify how out of touch he is and how little vision he has for the south downtown.

The Saskatoon Hotels Association and chamber of commerce say the downtown can't support another hotel. Remai says it's not viable, and the VPMI Hotel Group pulled out of the request for proposal process at the last minute because lenders questioned the need for another hotel.

After all this, Atchison's tunnel vision remains as he stubbornly insists the land must be sold and a hotel built on River Landing.

The SP must share responsibility for this ugly mess. Through the end of 2003 and all of 2004, it acted like council's cheerleader as it applauded nearly every rushed decision, regardless of how ridiculous and destructive they were. We lost the historic Gathercole building and are about to lose the Legion building, with nothing to show for it.

River Landing is a disaster. It's time council stepped-up, revisited its concept plan and ask citizens what they would like to see happen.

Jim Wilson

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

Scuttled hotel-spa project best thing for River Landing

The StarPhoenix

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Remai’s withdrawal from the proposed hotel-spa development on River Landing is the best thing that could have happened.

A ghastly mistake has been stopped dead in its tracks and city council is free to sit back and give the matter some sober second thought.

Council now has the advantage of a splendid beginning. What has been done is exciting and has caught the imagination of the public. Alas! It seems there are some councillors intent on screwing it up.

The people to whom I talk don’t want to see that beautiful setting serve as a stopping place for transients. Neither do they want to see a soaring tower straining to do for Saskatoon what the Opera House has done for Sydney.

All of the River Landing should belong to all of us, and we should all be free to come and go as we please to make use of its various facilities. No one should be privileged to live there and the only workers should be those who are there to serve the public.

Is tax revenue the key to this development? How much in tax revenue does the city receive for those magnificent church buildings that dominate the riverbank between 19th and 25th streets?

Conrad A. Romuld

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

Mayor Don Atchison should not allow his title to be used at annual prayer breakfast

“If you don’t believe in God or if you don’t believe in a Supreme Being, I honestly don’t know how you can go anywhere in life.”
– Mayor Don Atchison
(Breakfast evangelism narrow-minded SP February 18, 2004)

“This is called the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, but it’s not just for the mayor. It should be called a leaders’ breakfast, because it is for all the leaders in the community and their wives or significant others.”
– Mayor Don Atchison
(Mayor’s prayer event ‘elitist’: critic SP February 17, 2004)
In another step closer to American style evangelical conservatism Saskatoon's Mayor's Prayer Breakfast has embraced the military and draped itself in patriotism. This year's event included a message to Canadian soldier's in Afghanistan from Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

As leader of the former Canadian Alliance Party Harper and his fellow conservatives, like current Saskatoon MP Carol Skelton, supported the illegal U.S.-led invasion and overthrow of Iraq. Their March/April 2003 votes in the House of Commons are on record as showing that.

Saskatchewan Party Leader Brad Wall (a conservative) reportedly received a bigger round of applause than Saskatchewan Premier Lorne Calvert (not a conservative). No surprise there.

Mayor Don Atchison continues to allow the use of his title to advertise the event which may give the impression that the function is approved by the City of Saskatoon. If you don't happen to be a Christian or don't agree with it for some other reason -- too bad.

Leadership Ministries (now known as LeaderImpact group) sponsored the prayer breakfast in 2004 & 2005. It is a division of Campus Crusade for Christ, Canada. Its mission reads:

To create an organization focused on reaching Marketplace Leaders for Christ in Canada and internationally, and empowering them to use high leverage processes to create self-propagating ‘movements’ of evangelism and discipleship.”

Among the goals of LeaderImpact group are: “To facilitate reaching, in a meaningful way, 30,000 marketplace leaders in Canada by 2020,” and “To have a LeaderImpact group in all Canadian cities with a population of 100,000 or more by the year 2010.”

“We are committed to empowering Christian leaders so that they are able to effectively impact their circles of influence with the gospel message.”

“We believe that if you meaningfully impact a leader with the gospel they in turn will change their geographic or demographic community and this is how to eventually transform a nation,” the LeaderImpact group website says.

By "impact" they mean influence. By "transform" they mean convert.

The prayer breakfast is now sponsored by the "Saskatoon Christian community". One of its organizers is Don Funk, a friend of Atchison’s and a former director of the political lobby group LEAD Saskatoon Futures Inc.

Mayor Don Atchison should refrain from allowing his title to be used at any future prayer breakfast.

Prayer breakfast not path to unity

Ailsa M. Watkinson
Special to The StarPhoenix

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Following is the opinion of the writer, a citizen of Saskatoon.

I went to the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast and I'm exhausted. It was an overwhelmingly emotional event. I have been critical in the past of our civic government's support for showcasing Christianity, but I had not gone to experience the event for myself.

The mayor and organizers have described the event as being open to anyone, and make the point that it's multi-faith. My experience, though, made it very clear that it's not. It was a Christian revival meeting that unabashedly called on us all to join the team.

It was extraordinary. Front and centre was its focus on "coming to Christ," with the hope and a prayer that Jesus Christ would speak to all in attendance through those scheduled to speak. We were there to "celebrate God" and have the "son of God shine in Saskatoon."

We heard at least eight prayers. Those offering them prayed for our city of bridges that was being attacked by Satan. They prayed that we might protect our homes from the forces of evil and darkness. They prayed for our prime minister in the hope that he would be surrounded by God-fearing people, saying our nation deserves holy, God-fearing people.

We were told that Saskatoon was settled by the Temperance society on godly principles, implying that the history of this city began and should end there while ignoring the role of the original occupants of this land. The evangelical, frenetic message was supported by stirring solos (How Great Thou Art, You'll Never Walk Alone), draped in patriotism (a flag the size of a hockey rink, the RCMP in their red serge), fuelled by testosterone (hockey, the military, Don Cherry, a cast of white male presenters).

Then, like fingernails dragged across a chalkboard, the mood was abruptly changed with the reminder that so many of our young have died in service to our country. We were shown a video of Canadian soldiers in action, soldiers keeping watch, soldiers crying as they carried the caskets of dead comrades while a lovely emotive sound track told of the soldier's weariness with the criticism of our involvement in the war in Afghanistan.

In silence we watched the pictures and names of all the Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. It was an emotional rollercoaster.

It must be understood that Don Atchison is more than a figurehead in all of this. In his capacity as the mayor, he is applying the stamp of approval on behalf of all Saskatoon citizens to a very public event that promotes evangelical Christianity.

The historical and current purpose of this event -- its origins are in the evangelical movement arising in the United States -- is to recruit others to the Christian faith. That is a far cry from working in harmony with others of different beliefs.

In addition, Atchison, as mayor of Saskatoon, actively recruits people by speaking at church services and other religious meetings, urging people to attend the prayer breakfast. By doing so, he vigorously promotes one religion over all others.

This is not his role. As he said in his address at the breakfast, we want a community that comes together and works together. He is not doing that; rather, he is building his own Team of Favourites -- Christian white males. As the morning unfolded, it was clear that supporting, loving wives also were welcome.

I realize that the prayer breakfast is a hugely popular event for many of the 2,200 who attended this year. But that is not the means by which to evaluate the public good. Christian prayer breakfasts will carry on, but I implore city councillors to stop the mayor from allowing his name and ours to be associated with this event. It is the antithesis of good citizenship, by its nature; it is divisive, exclusive and unconstructive.

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

Tributes paid to soldiers, RCMP at Mayor's Prayer Breakfast
Attendees nearly double from last year

Jeremy Warren
The StarPhoenix

Monday, March 12, 2007

The largest Mayor's Prayer Breakfast ever held in Saskatoon mixed faith, sports and politics during a morning of tributes to the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP members.

All 2,300 tickets to the annual event, nearly double last year's total, were sold before Saturday morning's event at Praireland Park.

Prayers delivered by speakers and guests included a blessing for RCMP officers, those serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, "hockey culture," Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the home, church and state.

Saskatoon politicians were well represented at the breakfast. Alongside Mayor Don Atchison and city councillors, all four Saskatoon Conservative MPs were in attendance, with several Saskatoon MLAs representing the NDP and Saskatchewan Party. Federation of Saskatchewan First Nations Chief Lawrence Joseph was also in attendance.

"We're a city of bridges, but we're more than just structures, we're a community that works together (with) all religions and all faiths here today," Atchison told the crowd.

"Times are moving in Saskatoon and we can't leave anybody behind. Everyone needs to enjoy the benefits of our city."

Premier Lorne Calvert and Sask. Party Leader Brad Wall both spoke to commemorate the lives of Saskatchewan soldiers who died in Afghanistan.

Wall said he is praying for a successful mission in Afghanistan and for the soldiers to be protected by "the armour of god."

Keynote speaker Paul Henderson, best-known for scoring the winning goal for Team Canada in the 1972 Summit Series with the USSR, told the crowd about how he found God late in his hockey career.

As a hockey player, he was filled with an unknown anger and had lingering issues with his father, even while being successful and financially secure, he said.

"I thought spiritual people, especially Christians, were weak people. I didn't think I needed anything," he said.

Then, at the urging of a friend, he started attending church.

"When you become a Christian, you don't become perfect. It's not a wrinkle-free life," he said. "God changed me and he will change me until the day I die."

Organizers played a video tribute to Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. As the music in the video stopped and pictures of the fallen soldiers flashed on screen, members of the audience dabbed their eyes with tissues to wipe away tears.

Four Saskatchewan soldiers have been killed in combat: Cpl. Shane Keating who grew up in Dalmeny; Cpl. David Braun from the Raymore area; and Cpl. Bryce Keller and Master Cpl. Jeffery Walsh, both from Regina.

"Jeff felt he could make a difference. Please support our Canadian Forces and RCMP members," said Walsh's father, Ben.

On each table were several copies of a federal government backgrounder on Canada's mission in Afghanistan.

There were also tributes to RCMP constables Robin Cameron and Marc Bourdages, who died about a week after they were both shot on July 7, 2006, near Spiritwood.

Personnel from CFB Dundurn and Canadian Tire presented 220 hockey sticks and 240 pucks to the Kinsmen Inner City Hockey League.

Sponsorship from individuals and corporate people provided free passes to all the Canadian Forces members and their families in attendance.

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

PM plans breakfast message

The StarPhoenix

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is taping a special tribute to Canada's Armed Forces that will be played at the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast on March 10.

Organizers of the prayer breakfast called a news conference on Tuesday to announce the addition of the prime minister's message. A tribute to Saskatchewan soldiers who have died in the Afghanistan mission had previously been announced as part of the program for this year's version of the annual breakfast.

Breakfast chair Don Funk says there will be a strong contingent at the breakfast from CFB Dundurn and HMCS Unicorn.

Funk says sales are going well, but organizers expect sales in the last week prior to March 10 to fill the Saskatoon Prairieland Hall E for the breakfast.

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Team Canada 1972 hero Paul Henderson is the keynote speaker at the breakfast. He will be joined by two other former NHL stalwarts, Ryan Walter and Laurie Boschman.

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

[Note: The following article was on Page E12 in the “Religion” section of the Feb. 10, 2007, StarPhoenix]

Hockey the hook, prayer the theme of breakfast

Darlene Polachic
The StarPhoenix

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The organizing committee of the Saskatoon Mayor's Prayer Breakfast is hoping to score with its choice of "Hockey Morning In Canada" as the theme for this year's breakfast.

Don Funk, co-chair of the event with Les Mandtler, says the hockey theme will play out with keynote speaker Paul Henderson, who is best known for the goal he scored in the 1972 Super Series against Russia.

"Henderson's goal was voted the most memorable sports moment in the last 100 years of sports history in Canada, and the Canadian team he played with was voted team of the century."

Henderson is now a motivational speaker and works with the Leadership Group of Campus for Christ.

Another hockey personality, Ryan Walter, will be the master of ceremonies for the breakfast. Walter played junior hockey with the Western Hockey League and went on to win a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens.

Also speaking is Laurie Boschman who played with the Brandon Wheat Kings during the years when Don Funk refereed in the WHL. Boschman was drafted to the Toronto Maple Leafs and later played in Winnipeg and Edmonton, and finished in Ottawa as captain of the Ottawa Senators. Boschman is involved in Hockey Ministries International.

Guest soloist for the occasion is Cst. Lyndon Slewidge, who sings the national anthem at Ottawa Senators home games. He is often seen on Hockey Night in Canada. Funk says Slewidge will sing O Canada while the 40 x 20-foot flag from Merlin Motors is hoisted to the ceiling by RCMP officers in red serge.

"Last year's prayer breakfast paid tribute to our protective services: city police, fire fighters, and ambulance EMOs," Funk says. "This year, we are honouring law enforcement -- the RCMP and the military, particularly those who have fallen in the line of duty.

"Because of his hockey connection and his passionate support of Canadian Armed Forces, we invited Don Cherry to attend our event in person, but he is bound by his contract to Hockey Night in Canada. Don and CBC have arranged for a special video presentation to the armed services that will be played at the breakfast."

Funk says with Canada playing a significant role in Afghanistan, "we as a community want to show our passion for what the Canadian forces are doing.

We want to show our encouragement, love, and support, and offer our prayers for them as a faith community at large and as the citizens of this community and province."

He says the focus will be on the four native sons of Saskatchewan who have been killed in combat: Cpl. Shane Keating who grew up in Dalmeny; Cpl. David Braun from the Raymore area; Cpl. Bryce Keller and Master Cpl. Jeffery Walsh, both from Regina.

"We have invited the spouses or partners, children and parents of these fallen service men, as well as families of other armed forces members to the breakfast. Many are coming. We have also invited members from Camp Dundurn, Camp Shilo in Manitoba, and Wainwright and Edmonton, Alberta." Funk says people from the Armed Forces want to show their appreciation by partnering with Canadian Tire to donate 150 hockey sticks to inner city kids.

Tribute will also be paid at the breakfast to RCMP officers Marc Bourdages and Robin Cameron who died recently at Spiritwood.

Last year, the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast was sold out ten days before the event, and hundreds of requests for tickets had to be turned down. This year, the event has been moved to a much larger venue, Prairieland Park Trade Centre.

Funk says the mayors from Saskatchewan's 10 largest cities have been invited, as have elected members from all three levels of government.

"This is an event for the whole family," said Funk. "There will be a time for autographs after the breakfast, and an opportunity for photos with the sports personalities against a backdrop mural painted by local artist Don Pogoda of Paul Henderson's historic goal." Each guest at the breakfast will receive either Paul Henderson's book, Shooting For Glory, or his DVD, The Goal.

"It is open to people of all faith groups," said Funk, adding he has invited Multi-Faith Saskatoon to be part of the breakfast. "This event is not organized by City Hall; it is organized by 15 people in the community from various Christian denominations. Sponsorship comes from individuals and corporate people so that we can provide free passes to all the Canadian Forces members and their families."

The Mayor's Prayer Breakfast on March 10 begins at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are available at all Ticketmaster locations. Contact or Credit Union Place at 938-7800 or 1-800-970-7328.

Polachic is a freelance writer.

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

Hockey greats on breakfast slate

Jeanette Stewart
The StarPhoenix

Saturday, February 03, 2007

This year's Mayor's Prayer Breakfast will be a hockey-themed thank you to the Canadian Armed Forces.

Organizers have a full roster of NHL names lined up for the annual event, including an appearance by Don Cherry via pre-taped message.

Cherry agreed to contribute to the event because of his support for the Canadian Forces, said event co-chair Don Funk at a press conference to announce the breakfast.

"We chose to recognize and pay tribute to the Canadian Forces and RCMP because of the circumstances that have developed," said Funk, referring to Canada's commitment in Afghanistan and the lives lost during the past year.

The breakfast will also pay tribute to the families of RCMP constables Robin Cameron and Marc Bourdages, who died about a week after they were both shot on July 7, 2006, about 15 kilometres east of Spiritwood.

The Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, which takes place on March 10, is an annual event organized and sponsored by the Saskatoon Christian community. The breakfast committee is not organized by the city but made up of a group volunteers who put the event together.

Speakers for the upcoming breakfast include former Team Canada player Paul Henderson and Laurie Boschman, a former Toronto Maple Leaf.

Last year the event sold out, so organizers moved it to Prairieland Park to accommodate the large crowd they anticipate. Approximately 1,200 people attended last year's event at TCU Place.

Mayor Don Atchison said he's looking forward to being part of the growing event, which has taken place for 28 years.

"People will stop me during the year and say, 'Please make sure you have the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast again. That's the best event I go to,' " he said.

Atchison said the event is a celebration of the community at large, and most cities have similar events.

Funk said the breakfast is non-denominational and about entertainment as well as the Canadian Forces tribute.

Tickets for the event are $25 per person, available through Ticketmaster. The event is not a fundraiser. Any proceeds go toward costs for next year's breakfast.

©The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007