City Council Highlights
Below are some of the highlights from the March and April Council and Committee meetings. The full reports can be found at saskatoon.ca/meeting.
Ending Mandatory Masking in Civic Facilities & Extension of Masking on Public Transit
City Council made the decision to lift the requirement for masking in civic facilities – like leisure centres, rinks, and City Hall – as of April 4th. Masking will continue to be required on Saskatoon Transit for the time being because our transit system has people getting into small spaces together without the best ventilation. Also, many in our community don’t have an alternative for getting to school, work, daycares, and the places they need to go. We still have higher transmissions and hospitalizations in our community that we would hope for. Masking on transit will be reviewed in April and we will continue to monitor and adapt as needed to the evolving COVID situation in our community.
Rezoning for a renewed Great West Brewery
With aging infrastructure, the Great Western Brewing Company needed to be rezoned to expand and continue operating at their current location as a Brewery. After spending the last few years reviewing options on their future, I’m very pleased that they’ve decided to stay in Saskatoon and be the last mass-producing brewery in Saskatchewan. It’s fantastic to see a renewed investment in the city centre that will create employment, new amenities with commercial spaces, as well as preserving an historic landmark in Saskatoon. The new brewing site will feature great sustainability practices – halving the water they use and greatly reducing their energy consumption. Thank you to Great West and our Administration for working together to find solutions, as well as working with the community on engagement to identify issues and solutions that keep this landmark in our community.
Downtown Event and Entertainment District Advisory Group Named
Thank you to everyone who stepped up and applied to be on the advisory committee. It was a remarkable group of people that applied with great and varied experience. Congratulations to the representatives from partner agencies and the six members appointed as public representatives! This is an important, once in a generation, opportunity to be part of guiding a process for creating an entertainment district that will enjoyed by the whole province and visitors from around the world.
View the full list of those named to the Advisory Group here.
Supporting our Sister City of Chernivtsi, Ukraine
Seeing a Sister City in crisis has been tragic. We have an extensive relationship with Chernivtsi built over many decades and they have sent us urgent requests for help. It was difficult to figure out what we could do as we don’t have the supplies requested or channels established to ship goods directly to Chernivtsi. However, through the relationships built over time, there has been discussion between our two Fire Departments about what could be done. As a result, Council has approved $10,000 for the provision of humanitarian supplies as asked for by Chernivsti. Thank you to Councillors Kirton and Hill for their work in finding an avenue to work with IAFF Local 80 Saskatoon Firefighter Union to procure supplies directly for Chernivsti. Thank you to everyone in our community who has contributed in providing support to the people of Ukraine.
School Zone & Playground Speed Limits
City Council confirmed changes to School Zones and the implementation of Playground Zones. These changes will focus on reducing speeds where they’re needed the most – where our youngest residents go to school and play all year round. School Zones will be removed from high schools to allow better flow of traffic on collector or arterial streets. Times will apply year-round from 7 am until 7 pm. These changes are expected to be implemented for September 1, 2022.
- In-person Council and Committee Meetings will resume April 11th, beginning with the Environment, Utilities, and Corporate Services and Transportation Committee.
- An extension of Temporary Asphalt Parking Patio Program was granted allowing businesses the ability to participate as administration works with businesses and the BIDs in finalizing a formal policy.
- Council received an update from the Saskatoon Fire Department on their future planning for facilities and resources to address call volumes and response times as the city continues growing to keep our residents safe.
Extension of the Temporary Emergency Wellness Centre
In response to the worsening homelessness crisis in 2021, the Saskatoon Tribal Council opened up a Temporary Emergency Wellness Center in December. Their goal was to help avoid people freezing outside by providing a safe, supported environment, and then to stabilize and connect them to longer term housing and supports.
Many lessons are being learned as a result of the opening of the Wellness Centre about what is needed to better support the women and men in our community who are experiencing homelessness. The Saskatoon Tribal Council refers to all people they work with as Relatives, which I find is an important way of remembering the humanity of people on the streets. It also acknowledges the importance of building approaches that first seek to understand people’s stories and why their paths have taken them where they have. The term Relatives is for everyone regardless of whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous.
Given that the crisis continues to grow, the Saskatoon Tribal Council is working on developing a more permanent facility to provide these services. Until this facility is developed, they have asked for an extension to keep the Wellness Centre operating at the current location on 1st Avenue for up to a year.
During the Council discussion of this item, we heard from many partners and service providers about how serious the situation is for families and individuals, about where the failures in the system are, and the work being done throughout the community to try to better connect services and meet the needs. We also heard about the important role that the Wellness Centre is playing to support people to stabilize, and how if their lease was not extended it could lead to cascading effects impacting the safety and well being of relatives on the streets, and also to more people seeking unsafe housing options throughout the community.
Because of how the temporary shelter bylaw is written, at the April meeting City Council had the option to extend the shelter until June, and then to ask Administration to bring back options for how to extend the shelter for longer, which was the request by the Tribal Council. City Council did ask for the administration to provide that report so the extension will be discussed at a future Council meeting.
City Council also discussed the ongoing challenges we are seeing as with warmer weather, rising addictions issues, and limited options for people who are struggling with deep addictions and mental health. There have been instances of property damage and open drug use. This caused City Council to ask Administration to report on how partners such as Police, Fire, the Saskatoon Tribal Council and downtown businesses could work together on a comprehensive plan to ensure the safety of everyone in the area including Relatives, employees, downtown customers, and residents. One gap that was identified was the lack of options for residents of the Wellness Centre or other shelters to simply gather and visit. Often the only spaces are the sidewalks outside the building.
This is a situation that requires a whole community working together. We also need Provincial and Federal leadership. We need to address the gaps in the system and ensure that the right supports are in place to help people build a better life. I am committed to playing my part in building these solutions that will help save lives and strengthen our community for everyone.
Additional Funding for the SPCA
The SPCA has been given additional funding to operate Pound Services for the City of Saskatoon. Following internal financial reviews from the SPCA that revealed shortfalls in their budgets, the SPCA came to the City seeking funds to assist them in continuing to operate this service for the City. The SPCA is a valued partner for the City and Council decided to increase funding by 50% for the 2022 year. City Administration will continue to work with the SPCA on sustainable operating options for Pound Services into the future, including the possibility of renewing their contract earlier than the current 2023 expiry date.
Curbside Organics Program: Cart Size
As we prepare to roll out the curbside organics program in 2023, there has been a change in cart sizes for some properties. Originally, all properties were to get the 360 litre cart. Council has approved a set of criteria that will see some properties, like townhouses, receive a smaller 240 litre cart to begin the program. Potential options for variable size carts for all households will be reviewed at a later date.
Sweeping of Pedestrian Walkways on Bridges – completed by end of May
Council has made the decision to expand the sweeping of some pedestrian walkways on four of the most impacted bridges from winter de-icing materials and debris. The walkways that will see this service are: Warman Road over Circle Drive, McKercher Drive over College Drive, Spadina Crescent Bridge, Stew Uzelman Pedestrian Bridge (Circle Drive North). This work will be completed by the end of May starting in 2022. This will advance the work of our street sweeping efforts and make it easier for pedestrians, bikers, and others to get around on these pathways.
- Council has extended mandatory masking on Saskatoon Transit through May as there are still high hospitalizations and transmission in our community from COVID-19.
- There will be an investigation of service disruptions on Saskatoon Transit from this past winter performed by the Internal Auditor to ensure better and more reliable service going forward for our users.
- The City will move forward with an Electric Vehicle Charging Pilot. A dual-port charger will be installed at Lawson Civc Centre and Lakewood Civic Centre. The chargers will be free for users for the two year length of the pilot.