Thursday, August 18, 2011

River Landing Parcel “Y” development delayed again; Victory Majors Investments Corporation seeking zoning changes

Karim Nasser of Victory Majors Investments Corporation says public opinion is strongly against the raised plaza in the long delayed Parcel “Y” development at River Landing. Why are we only hearing about it now? It’s been nearly four years since Lake Placid submitted its original proposal that called for this feature. All we’ve ever heard from Mayor Don Atchison and other councillors is about how great the project is.

Last November, when Victory Majors rescued the development by providing the city with last minute documentation saying it had the financial capacity to bring the project to grade level, the StarPhoenix reported that the developer was required to build the exact same project pitched by Lake Placid and approved by the city.

Nasser told reporters, “We’re doing it exactly the same.”

Now it’s learned that Nasser’s company has been working behind closed doors with the city and Meewasin Valley Authority on revising the plans. The developer wants to decrease the size of the parking structure underground and amend existing zoning for the area to increase the height and size of the development.

We’re told that public consultation to consider the changes will take place in September. Why bother? According to Nasser, city administrators have already decided that the new plans complement the area. Council approval is a given.

Victory Majors has the city over a barrel, as did Lake Placid and Remai Ventures before it when those companies were interested in developing Parcel “Y” as well. Council has never had a Plan B – at least not publicly.

Nasser claims it was public concern over the raised plaza that led his company to revise the plan. The reality is it sounds more like a weak excuse to push for higher density and less expensive underground parking.

The project was supposed to break ground in spring 2011. Now it’s 2012 at the earliest. What else is new?

Lake Placid’s proposal – a boring mix of condos, office space and hotel – was bad enough, a hulking monstrosity looming over the riverbank. Nasser’s plan only makes it worse.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Corporate media donations to Saskatchewan Party top $410,000

The corporate media in the province have long been biased in favour of the Saskatchewan Party. It would be denied of course but, the numbers don’t lie.

Saskatchewan Party financial statements filed with Elections Saskatchewan show that for the 13 year period from 1998 to 2010, private media companies donated $412,615.81 to the political party.

The high-water mark for donations occurred in election years. In 2007, the media stuffed $132,730.93 into Saskatchewan Party coffers, more than triple the $38,306.57 that the party received in 2003. In 1999, the figure was $50,500.00.

Rawlco Radio and the Rawlinson family, through numbered companies, are by far the Saskatchewan Party’s biggest media benefactors with corporate donations totaling $236,795.35.

In addition to that, Gordon Rawlinson, president of Rawlco Radio, made personal donations to the party of $2,261.31 in 2009 and $3,000.00 in 2007.

Rawlco, a private, family-owned company, has 15 stations (12 in Saskatchewan and 3 in Alberta), including NewsTalk 650 in Saskatoon, the home of right-wing talk show host John Gormley.

Gormley, a former one-term Tory MP in the despised Brian Mulroney government, frequently uses his live radio show (and weekly StarPhoenix column) as a soap box for vicious anti-progressive, anti-NDP, union-bashing tirades.

Gormley is a big fan of the province’s current premier, whom he’s known “since he was a kid in high school.” [Tasteless tape sparks tacky outrage (StarPhoenix, April 4, 2008)]

“I trust and like Saskatchewan Party Premier Brad Wall, who has done nothing yet to shake my faith,” Gormley said in a column earlier this year on silent majorities and public opinion polling. [How dare the silent majority (StarPhoenix, January 7, 2011)]

Most people don’t know this, but when the Saskatchewan Party was searching for a new leader to replace Elwin Hermanson following the party’s 2003 election loss, Gormley’s name popped up as a successor.

According to the StarPhoenix, Gormley apparently received calls from people wondering whether he might be cajoled into the race. Two years prior, he was mentioned as a possible Saskatchewan Party candidate. His preference, though, seemed to be broadcasting. [Sask. Party looks for leader (StarPhoenix, November 20, 2003)]

Another radio industry friend of the Saskatchewan Party is Manitoba broadcast pioneer Elmer Hildebrand, whose holding company 629112 Saskatchewan Ltd. has contributed $4,089.98 to the party.

Hildebrand’s company owns Saskatoon Media Group, a multi platform media company consisting of radio stations Country 600 CJWW, Magic 98.3 FM, The Bull 92.9 FM, as well as an internet information portal and Saskatchewan’s internet only radio station, The media group and CJWW/Hot 93/Magic 98.3 have donated a combined $2,017.68 to the Saskatchewan Party.

Vic Dubois, general manager of Saskatoon Media Group, contributed $1,480.00 in 2010 and $300.00 in 2008.

After Rawlco, the next biggest media contributor to the Saskatchewan Party is Access Communications Co-operative Ltd. with $48,037.99.

Established in 1974, Access Communications (formerly Regina Cablevision Co-operative) operates as a non-profit, community-owned service co-operative. It provides customers across the province with cable television, including digital and high definition services, and home security service, as well as high speed internet and home phone services.

Access operates under a broadcast license granted by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. Through Access7, a community channel, the company produces thousands of hours of local programming each year.

Access President and CEO Jim Deane is a long-time Saskatchewan Party supporter. Records show that since 2001 he has contributed $7,825.87 to the party.

On November 18, 2008, the Wall government announced that Deane had been appointed chair of the Co-operative Sector Team for Enterprise Saskatchewan — one of 18 sector teams that were established to enhance industry/government communication and collaboration in developing policies to build on competitive advantages and reduce barriers to growth.

The sector team process eventually proved cumbersome, costly and inefficient. As result, the Wall government consolidated of some sector teams in order to reduce the number of teams from the current 18 to eight. The Co-operatives sector team was re-constituted as a Strategic Issues Council.

Four members of the 2010 Access board of directors have contributed to the Saskatchewan Party. Three of those individuals currently work for the Wall government:

▪ Denise Batters, chief of staff to Don Morgan, the Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety and the Minister Justice and Attorney General, has donated $1,762.95 since 2007.

▪ Warren Sproule, chairperson of Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), contributed $347.90 in 2009 and $1,131.25 in 2008.

▪ Howard Louie, director of project services for eHealth Saskatchewan, a Crown corporation, donated $640.00 in 2010.

▪ Harry Cook donated $2,160.00 in 2010 and $424.84 in 2009.

Shaw Communications Inc., a diversified communications and media company headquartered in Calgary, is on the books as having contributed $10,787.36 to the Saskatchewan Party. Through Shaw Media, the company operates one of the largest conventional television networks in Canada, Global Television, and 19 specialty networks.

Shaw CEO Bradley Shaw of Calgary appears to have donated $500.00 to the Saskatchewan Party in 2007, likely during one of leader Brad Wall’s fundraising junkets to Alberta.

On September 14, 2006, Shaw announced that it was partnering with Rawlco Radio station 650 CKOM to simulcast Gormley’s nasty morning drive show on Shaw TV, Channel 10 in Saskatoon.

The Hill family of Regina is represented on the list of media donors through Harvard Broadcasting Inc., which currently owns and operates 8 radio stations throughout Saskatchewan and Alberta including 620 CKRM, Lite 92 FM, and 104.9 The Wolf in Regina and CFWD - Wired 96.3 in Saskatoon.

Harvard Broadcasting has contributed $6,002.93 to the Saskatchewan Party since 2005. This is by no means the extent of the Hill family’s involvement with the party. Other businesses belonging to the Hill Companies that have donated thousands of dollars more include: 584770 Saskatchewan Ltd. (Paul J. Hill), Famhill Investments Limited, Harvard Developments Inc., Western Surety Company and Harvard Energy.

On the print media side, Conrad Black’s Ravelston and Argus Corporations each donated $25,000.00 to the Saskatchewan Party in 1999. Ravelston, through Argus, owned 78.3 per cent of Toronto-based Hollinger Inc., a holding company itself with substantial interests in the newspaper publishing business, including the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and Regina Leader-Post.

Hollinger Inc. announced the sale of the StarPhoenix and Leader-Post to CanWest Global Communications on July 31, 2000, and the sale became official November 16, 2000. Each newspaper that year donated $10,000.00 to the Saskatchewan Party, the only time either publication has made such a contribution to the party. Since that time, the newspapers’ support for the conservative cause has been primarily through a steady stream of editorials and columns from people like Gormley, Randy Burton (the executive director of communications for Saskatchewan Finance since January 2009), Les MacPherson, Bronwyn Eyre, Dwight Percy, Gerry Klein, Murray Mandryk, and Bruce Johnstone.

In 2007, CanWest MediaWorks, a subsidiary of Winnipeg-based CanWest Global Communications, contributed $5,000.00 to the Saskatchewan Party, as did company president and CEO Leonard Asper.

The StarPhoenix and Leader-Post changed hands again July 13, 2010, when it was announced that Postmedia Network Inc., an organization led by Paul Godfrey and backed by U.S. private-equity player Golden Tree Asset Management among other investors, had completed a $1.1 billion transaction to purchase CanWest Global’s newspaper chain.

Any hope that the right-wing slant might change were dashed when nearly every Postmedia newspaper, including the StarPhoenix and Leader-Post, published editorials calling for a majority Harper Conservative government in the May 2, 2011, federal election. Only the Victoria Times Colonist and Windsor Star refrained from endorsing anyone.

In contrast, corporate media donations to the Saskatchewan NDP have paled in comparison. For example, the NDP from 2004 to 2006, its last three full years as the governing party, received $15,547.00 in contributions from various media sources. Meanwhile, the Saskatchewan Party took in $52,277.40.


Corporate Media Contributions to the Saskatchewan Party (1998-2010)

565509 Saskatchewan Ltd. (Doug Rawlinson) — $113,098.36
629112 Saskatchewan Ltd. (Elmer Hildebrand) — $4,089.98
Access Communications Co-operative Ltd. — $48,037.99
Argus Corporation Ltd. — $25,000.00
CanWest Global Communications Corp. — $516.00
CanWest Mediaworks Inc. — $5,000.00
Central Broadcasting Company Ltd. — $272.00
CJWW/Hot 93/Magic 98.3 — $515.28
CTV Television Inc. — $11,547.15
Dekkerco Holdings Limited (Northwestern Radio Partnership) — $5,000.00
Global TV Network — $297.20
Harvard Broadcasting — $6,002.93
HDL Investments Inc. (CKCK Regina) — $6,151.69
Jilltd Investments Ltd. (Lana Jill Rawlinson) — $25,000.00
News Talk 650 — $295.80
Ravelston Corporation Ltd. — $25,000.00
Rawlco Capital Ltd. — $19,254.00
Rawlco Communications (Sask.) Ltd. — $7,300.23
Rawlco Radio Ltd. — $71,846.96
Regina Cablevision Co-operative Ltd. (Access Communications) — $500.00
Regina Leader-Post — $10,312.82
Rogers Group of Companies — $3,410.02
Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association — $1,517.64
Saskatoon Media Group — $1,502.40
Saskatoon StarPhoenix — $10,000.00
Shaw Cablesystems G.P. — $329.14
Shaw Communicatons Inc. — $10,458.22
Western Producer Publications — $360.00
Total: $412,615.81