DEC 2019

City Council Highlights

Here are some highlights from Council and committees in December. More information can be found at saskatoon.ca/meeting.

Climate Adaptation Strategy

The City administration has been doing work to figure out what sort of impacts a changing climate will have on the City of Saskatoon—and what sort of precautions we can take to minimize these risks.

For me, anticipating and preparing for these risks is an important responsibility we have to ready ourselves for the future. We have already seen the impact of changing weather patterns, costing millions of dollars in investment in storm water upgrades in neighbourhoods throughout the city because the systems designed last century can’t handle the rainfalls of this century.

The Climate Adaptation Strategy will help us build resiliency into upcoming projects and put a climate lens onto existing work and practices. This isn’t an abstract or theoretical conversation, but it’s about long-term thinking and responsible governance. We have to work to mitigate high-risk and high -impact scenarios. We’re already doing this with such things as our flood protection plan and our green strategy, but we need to think more broadly about civic operations.

Broadly speaking, ‘adaptation’ means preparing for and recovering from the impacts of climate change—such as warmer, wetter, and wilder weather. Even though this is a global phenomenon, climate change is felt right here at the local level and there are steps that we can take to minimize these impacts. This involves areas as diverse as land-use planning, construction requirements, storm water management, park conservation, and having the best possible data for decision making.

Landfill Expansion and Recovery Park

For many years, we have been working towards an expansion of the landfill and the addition of Recovery Park—a one-stop shop for residents and businesses to recycle, compost, and get rid of hazardous waste and construction waste.

These sorts of changes and programs are in line with best practices from other cities and will help to divert more waste from the landfill. However, over the years the cost estimates for the expansion of the landfill have risen due to regulatory requirements, so City Council had to make decisions for the future scope of these projects.

To deal with these increased costs of the changing needs of the landfill, the project has been scaled back. However, one thing that I am not wanting to back away from are all of the long-term environmental and financial benefits of Recovery Park. We need to have this project be successful and to meet the City’s needs now and in the future.

More information can be found in the City’s report.

Short-Term Accommodations

At the committee level, we received a report on potential ways to manage short-term accommodations—such as through Airbnb or VRBO—in Saskatoon. There are many different ways to regulate these in different cities across Canada.

The way that the City is currently looking at this is to separate between ‘homestays’ (accommodations in the principle residence of the host) and ‘short-term rental properties’ (accommodations that occur in rental properties). I agree with this approach—I think it’s important to differentiate someone renting out a spare room or a basement suite with someone operating possibly dozens of short-term rentals and creating what is essentially a hotel, but without any of the regulations. There is not yet a preferred avenue for how to move forward, but the administration’s initial report can be found online, as can the results of the City’s engagement.

There are many different competing factors in managing these sorts of regulations, such as housing affordability, tourism opportunities, managing unsafe activity, impacts on surrounding properties, and an unequal taxation and regulatory environment for hotels/hostels and short-term accommodations. This is why at this stage in the decision making I requested more information for how each of the options serves the various goals in this area.

Fraud Update

The City administration released a report on the fraud scheme that hit the City over the summer. Since that time, all of the money that was illegally taken has been ordered to be returned to the City.

The City’s report can be found online, as can all of the news releases that that City issued about this that gives a timeline of events. Since the fraud incident, the City has worked with its internal auditor to ensure that strong procedures and controls have been put into place. Employees have also verified all similar transactions in 2019 to ensure that they were all appropriate. There was also an investigation into the specific cause to determine if there was any culpability or malicious intent by any employees (no malicious intent was found).

The courts have awarded the City $25K which will be used to offset the City’s legal fees (of approximately $100K). The City has a court order to recover all stolen funds.

No City or organization wants to face a situation like this and it has been a humbling one for both City Council and City staff. I’ve been very impressed by the integrity of the staff who have been working on this file. I take this incident very seriously, and it is thanks to the quick and deliberate action of many staff members that we were able to recover the funds.

Recycling Update

Council received an update from the City’s administration on the final details of the City’s new recycling contract.

The City had a competitive process to figure out the best way to move our recycling program into the future. Although some non-marketable materials have been removed from the recycling stream (black plastics and polycoats such as disposable coffee cups), 98% of what originally went in the recycling program remains accepted in the blue bin. More information on these changes can be found in the City’s fact sheet.

To help make recycling easier in Saskatoon, the City has resources to help you out:

  • Waste Wizard: Check to see how to best dispose of different items.
  • Online collection calendar: Search your address’s collection schedule, and even sign up for email, text, telephone, and calendar reminders.
  • Apps available on Google Play and the App Store: Get push notifications to your smart phone to remind you about your collection.
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