City Council Highlights
Below are some of the highlights from December’s City Council and committee meetings.
Ridesharing in Saskatoon
The provincial government first released the regulations to allow ridesharing in Saskatchewan which came into effect on Dec. 14. With the legislation in force, municipalities obtained the ability to pass bylaws to allow ridesharing. Because of this change at the provincial level, City Council passed a bylaw so that ridesharing services like Tappcar, Uber and Lyft can operate in our community, effective immediately.
The City has worked carefully to come up with a set of rules so that we could be ready for a fast turnaround when the province released the regulations. Throughout this process the City has worked with the province to provide our input, and we have engaged with the Taxi Industry and the community to come up with an approach that accommodates ridesharing while trying not to create an advantage for one industry over another.
The additions that the Saskatoon bylaw makes to existing provincial regulations include:
- setting a minimum fare for ridesharing
- requiring the vulnerable sector portion of a criminal record check for all drivers (an annual criminal record check is already required by the province)
The City continues to work with our taxi industry to provide more capacity and flexibility to compete in this changing market.
Sustainability at the City of Saskatoon
Last month when City Council adopted our Low Emissions Community Plan, I spoke about how sustainability can be viewed as a lens. Sustainability is a way of looking at existing programs and services that the City already offers—such as neighbourhood planning, transit, or park management—as opposed to an entirely new set of work. We’ve already seen this sustainability lens driving innovation and improving services, and there is so much more potential for our community as we embark on this work.
At the December Council meeting, City Council adopted a Triple Bottom Line reporting structure that takes a comprehensive approach to sustainability, incorporating financial, environmental, and social sustainability pillars. It is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising our ability to do the same in the future.
The City of Calgary adopted a similar approach back in 2005, and it has helped them develop and revise different sorts of policies and actions. In the context of Saskatoon, it will help us assess the impacts of City decision making on these three pillars of sustainability. It will be a way of addressing problems that we are facing now and setting us up for success in the future, and I think that this is one of the most important elements of leadership.
For more information on a Triple Bottom Line reporting model in Saskatoon, you can read the City administration’s report on it.
Flood Control Strategy
City Council moved forward with a plan to address areas in our city that are prone to flooding during storms and intense rainfall.
This plan creates 10 different projects to address over 300 properties in some of the most flood-prone areas of our city over the course of 9 years. These projects are projected to cost $54M, and we have put in an application with the federal government to fund 40% of this after a successful expression of interest for funding. If we are not successful we will have to reconsider the timelines and funding of this plan, but if we are successful then the remaining 60% will come from revenues from Saskatoon Water.
There are no easy or inexpensive solutions, but the problems that floods create are so real. Not only do they impact homes, businesses, and traffic, but they impact people’s lives and can put serious strains on individuals and families. For years we would have presentations in Council Chambers from people affected by floods—and often from those repeatedly affected by floods—asking for some sort of reprieve from the stress they cause. This flood control strategy is a step in the right direction to provide some relief, and as this plan is further developed it will also provide some certainty for folks who face flooding.
It is not possible to engineer and implement a solution that completely eliminates the risk of flooding throughout the entire city, but we can reduce the threat of flooding with this plan and the creation of dry ponds, underground detention containers, pipes to the river, and other possible options. The first area addressed by this plan is around 1st Street East/Dufferin Avenue, and the City’s administration will be working with the community to design a solution that will address the problem and suit their needs.
For more information on protecting your home from flooding, check out the City’s webpage on home flood protection.
Revisiting Funding for Garbage Pickup
City Council voted to reverse its previous decision to treat garbage pick-up as a utility, meaning that these costs will remain on property taxes for the foreseeable future. This reversal means that the City’s administration has begun working on what the next steps on the file will be, and these will be brought forward and discussed in the new year.
This has certainly been a difficult and contentious file, and it demonstrates that there is not often a simple solution to the issues that we are facing. For me, this reversal of Council’s previous decision still means that we will have to make some changes to waste management in Saskatoon to fix the failures of our current practices and decrease the amount we are sending to the landfill. We cannot continue to ignore these problems and burden future generations and future taxpayers with a broken system.
Although I’m disappointed about this reversal, I am confident that our City will be able to chart a path forward to address some of the failures of our current system. The pay-as-you-throw model—along with the organics collection program—was a way to create funding stability and to increase our waste diversion rates so we would not have to build a new landfill. This reversal still means that we still have to fix these problems, and this is what our City’s administration has been tasked with doing.
Although there is some uncertainty about the future of waste management right now, I am dedicated to working towards solutions and moving forward on this file.
Complete Streets Policy
At the December City Council meeting, the City formally adopted a Complete Streets Policy, helping to guide the design and retrofitting of streets in Saskatoon.
This approach looks at adjacent land use, convenience for different modes of transportation, and the routes taken when transporting dangerous goods. These principles help to build a transportation network for all modes that is safe, reliable, intuitive, and consistent for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.
A Complete Street is designed to address the context of the street while providing safe access for all intended users. The design of each Complete Street will be different because it has to take into consideration the purpose of the street and the area surrounding the street (for example, Victoria Avenue and Circle Drive are both Complete Streets, but they are also both very different).
You can find the policy online, as well as the Complete Streets Design Guide.