author: jacob nelson | staff writer
Via C d solliers international brochure
Saskatchewan is starting to see a much-needed step forward in business development. With companies like AGT Foods and Brandt making their mark globally, Saskatchewan is being put at the forefront of operational advancement. This opens up the eyes of many global organizations, and essentially highlights to them that Saskatchewan is a place for business success.
More companies mean more business, and with that comes higher employment within the province. Whether that higher employment translates to the citizens of Saskatchewan itself is still up for debate, as much of our labour force comes from across the borders. But, regardless of who is employed, new business allows us further advancement as a society.
So how could it possibly be bad that companies are looking to call Saskatchewan home? We have a lot of space outside the large urban areas of Regina and Saskatchewan, and plenty of larger rural towns and cities such as Yorkton or Weyburn that could benefit from the employment. So why not invite these companies in?
Well, it’s just not that simple for a province with as much conservatism as ours. Saskatchewan was built on the backs of the hard-working generations before us, who choose to continue those roots. With a larger-than-life oil and mining industry and a world–leading agriculture industry, it’s hard to imagine that anyone here would not be proud of where they live. But, sometimes, industrial change can get in the way of what we’re so proud to be a part of.
It seems like Brandt is not on the winning side of that change right now.
Probably the best–known company in Saskatchewan, it’s getting a slight change of scenery soon. A four-story commercial office tower is being built by Brandt Developments. A gorgeous project, but it’s not winning over the hearts of Regina. That’s because Brandt is dropping their new tower right in the heart of Wascana Park. And this is where the fun begins.
Have you ever been walking really close to somebody in a hallway or down the street, and accidently stepped on the back of their shoe causing them to stumble a bit? Most of us have, or have at least been the victim of these heel breakers. Well, the dirty look you either receive or give in that situation is a very accurate representation of how the citizens of Regina felt when Brandt announced these plans.
This announcement added another layer of molten lava to the faces of long-term Regina residents in the everlasting fight to keep Wascana Park commercial–free. It was just last year, on the same issue, when we saw residents slamming Conexus for their new facility being built in the park.
It seems like the push for commercialization is inevitable, and that regardless of the strength our citizens have, they simply can’t fight change. But, people like city councillor Bob Hawkins aren’t throwing in the towel so quickly.
As reported by Arthur White Crummey of the Leader Post, Last year,, Hawkins supported a motion opposing future large-scale commercial development in Wascana Park. Hawkins is upset with the way that Brandt has presented the new building; it is also part of Brandt’s plans to provide subsidies for not-for-profit companies such as The Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) to operate in the commercial space. This is one of the reasons that Brandt will only be paying $1/year to the province for the lease of the land. It’s because of Brandt’s effort to give back that they have been afforded the privilege of building in Wascana Park.
However, Hawkins isn’t buying it, as evidenced by what he told the LP.
“The value of that space in private hands, in Brandt Industry hands… is enormous,” he said. “So, this isn’t about philanthropy at all. This is about privatizing the park. I’m very angry about it.”
Brandt is allowed to build in Wascana because their purpose is considered philanthropic and not commercial, but I’m not sure that makes it right.
In contrast, though, Hawkins is not at all against non-profits like the CNIB being allotted space in the beautiful spaces Regina has to offer. It’s how the CNIB are being used to attain this land that’s the problem,as he told the CBC recently.
“I don’t know of anybody that’s objecting to CNIB having a building for themselves in the park.”
“What people are objecting to is CNIB being used as cover to give Brandt this huge windfall.”
Now, I love conspiracies as much as the next person, but this hits me a little bit differently. I can see the benefit this would have for the city of Regina, mostly aesthetic value. But the negative impact can’t be ignored; the building would take away from the natural beauty of the park, and would occupy high value land for almost next to nothing.
CTV News reports that an official confirmed that in July 2016, the province signed a new 99-year lease with CNIB for one dollar a year. In that lease, the province agreed to allow CNIB and, therefore, Brandt, to lease to a wider range of potential tenants than is permitted under the current legislation. This translates to businesses with no philanthropic purposes being able to occupy land that is still considered unavailable for commercial purposes. It’s a nasty loophole that many believe Brandt is using to their advantage.
Regardless of the intentions Brandt have, I prefer to look at the positive side of this deal. With corporations such as Brandt and Conexus (very Saskatchewan-loyal brands) building in Wascana, we may see better upkeep of North America’s urban parks. Large companies like these, I’m sure, will come together in order to further the efforts the city has taken to help restore the park to its natural beauty. From the dirty water to the rundown structures, Wascana has seen better days. And I think the right commercial push could lead to the restoration of what should arguably be the best part of our city.