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Regina mayor ponders infrastructure renewal

Replacements for the Brandt Centre and downtown library, a new aquatic centre, and a new baseball stadium are on the planning table.

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Mayor Sandra Masters was born in the 1970s as was much of Regina’s recreational infrastructure.

The new mayor told the Western Standard, renewal is on the planning table, with a new swimming pool being the top priority.

“The Aquatic Center has been number one for the last ten years,” Masters said in an interview.

The city approved pre-engineering design and work to determine the location for what she called “a national, potentially international competitive facility with a recreational facility attached.”

“We would need partners in on that, so that’s getting ready, trying to get it to the point where we could pitch it to the federal government and to the province in terms of infrastructure dollars for that because that will not be something that we can be able to do on our own,” Masters said.

The Brandt Centre, formerly known as the Agridome, seats 6,484 for the WHL’s Pats and anchors annual events such as the Regina Ex, Agribition, and Farm Progress Show. The facility was built in 1977, got more seats in 2007, had a new $3 million scoreboard installed in 2015 and had $1 million in upgrades in preparation for the 2018 Memorial Cup.

“It’s got five to eight years left in its life. And there’s an arena strategy planning committee that’s been working for over a year, in terms of what size, what kind of construction would be they’re looking at, and now what they’re looking at is different locations that could be available. But again, we can’t do that without partners, or an alternative form of financing for it, which doesn’t leave it completely…on the taxpayers,” Masters said.

The mayor likes what Winnipeg has done by having the home of the Goldeyes baseball club downtown in the 7,461-seat Shaw Park on Portage Avenue East. She hopes Regina can have a smaller version for the Red Sox.

“Their field is tired and in fact where they’re located isn’t really part of the community. We are interested in that kind of sports tourism type of idea to have folks attracted and the capability to attend something like this would be spectacular…You’ll be able to walk out and go downtown. You will see the skyline in the distance. It’s a pretty cool idea,” Masters said.

“We are not a natural tourism destination, and so…facilities like this that would allow us to compete and bring people into the city is pretty important…Timing is one thing, costs are another, but that can all be worked out.”

Masters hopes cricket can also be played at the ballpark and she is “a big fan” of including an indoor infield training centre.

“We’re a winter city and so 12 months a year is pretty important to us… In terms of sports development, youth programming, I’m a big believer in keeping youth busy and giving them somewhere to go, and just that teamwork perspective, that sense of belonging is pretty important.”

The Regina Public Library board wants more space for its 75,000 square-foot downtown building, but that won’t come cheaply either. Its boiler is near the end of its useful life, and the option to fix and expand is comparable to the cost of a new building.

“That building is going to need multi-million dollars in terms of investment just to bring it up to code…sometime in the next 10 years,” Masters said.

“Ironically, they’re all built at the same time, all built in the ‘70s…We built on bonds back in the ‘70s as every other municipality did. Other municipalities in their growth phases have replaced some of their facilities. We just happened to have them all coming due at the same time, which is unfortunate, but also an incredible opportunity in terms of what we can build in the next 15 years.”

Lee Harding is a Western Standard correspondent living in Regina.

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Canada-Europe take action over COVID variant Omicron

“Emergence of Omicron, a new variant of concern reinforces the need for caution,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

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With the discovery of a new COVID-19 variant of concern (VOC) named Omicron in South Africa, the Canadian government is taking steps to limit the risk to Canadians.

Travellers arriving from countries of concern within the last 14 days will be required to quarantine pending negative COVID-19 tests. Countries of concern include South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho and Eswatini.

On Friday, Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the federal government will impose five measures in an effort to limit its spread in Canada.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam took to Twitter on Saturday to share her concerns over the VOC.

“Emergence of Omicron, a new variant of concern reinforces the need for caution,” wrote Tam.

The WHO has labelled Omicron as a variant of concern due to its high number of mutations and reports that early evidence suggests it could be more infectious than other variants.

Meanwhile, during a news conference on Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK will take “targeted and precautionary measures” after two people tested positive for the Omicron variant.

One case was identified in Brentwood, a town in southeastern England while the other case was located in the central city of Nottingham. Both individuals are linked and had travelled from southern Africa. The two individuals are self-isolating along with their households and authorities are working on contact tracing.

Johnson confirmed travellers arriving in England will be required to take a PCR test and self-isolate until a negative test result is provided. Those that test positive for the new variant will have to self-isolate, along with any of their close contacts, for 10 days regardless of vaccine status.

He also said masks will be required in shops and other public spaces and indicated they will “boost the booster campaign.”

“Right now this is the responsible course of action to slow down the seeding and the spread of this new variant and to maximize our defences,” said Johnson.

Johnson said the new rules will be reviewed in three weeks when scientists know more about the variant.

On Friday, the British government added Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to the country’s travel red list. By Saturday, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia were also added to the list.

Other countries are adding restrictions on travellers coming from various southern African countries including the US, Japan, Brazil, and Australia while cases have also been reported in Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong.

Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and the Czech Republic have also reported suspected cases related to travellers arriving from South Africa.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Road closures as British Columbians brace for more rain

Closures will impact Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 99 on Saturday.

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As BC braces for additional rain, the government has ‘proactively’ closed a number of highways for travel.

“We are actively responding, monitoring and assessing the many highway closures due to flooding and will continue to do so as we work with local and emergency service partners,” said the BC Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“Safety is our top priority while we deal with a rapidly changing and difficult situation.”

Closures will impact Highway 1, Highway 3 and Highway 99 on Saturday. The ministry said the time and duration of the closures will be weather-dependent.

“The highway infrastructure in these areas is extremely vulnerable following recent storms, and more heavy rain in the forecast poses an additional risk,” said the ministry in a press release.

“The closures of these three highways will be re-evaluated on Sunday morning, with the highways reopened when it is safe to do so.”

The release said Highway 1 will be closed between Popkum and Hope on Saturday afternoon as BC Hydro plans a reservoir release, “crucial to protect the Jones Lake Reservoir, which is also being affected by the heavy rains.”

The release explains the reservoir release will discharge water towards areas of Highway 1 that were affected during the November 14 storm.  

“This additional flow – combined with the increased precipitation and already high stream flows – poses a risk of impact to Highway 1 in the Laidlaw area.”

The ministry is bracing for further damage to Highway 1 in this area and said the reopening time cannot be determined at this stage but will be assessed by crews “when it is safe to do so.”

Highway 7 between Mission and Hope remains open with travel restrictions in place. Essential purposes for travel are defined in the travel restrictions order through the Emergency Program Act

Weather statements are in effect for Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, Squamish to Whistler and the Sunshine Coast into next week. Storms are expected to bring more rain which has resulted in high streamflow advisories for all regions of the coast by the River Forecast Centre.

Ongoing road and travel updates are available on the ministry’s website.

Melanie Risdon is a reporter with the Western Standard
mrisdon@westernstandardonline.com

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Bill to aid jurors traumatized by testimony up for vote … again

Bill C-206 would amend a 1972 secrecy law to permit jurors to disclose confidential details of deliberations for the purpose of “medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling.”

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For the third time in three years, legislators will attempt to pass an aid bill for jurors traumatized by graphic testimony in criminal courts.

“When we ask citizens to be a juror we don’t ask them to be a victim,” said Quebec Senator and bill sponsor Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu.

“There is no excuse not to adopt that bill.” 

Bill C-206 would amend a 1972 secrecy law to permit jurors to disclose confidential details of deliberations for the purpose of “medical or psychiatric treatment or any therapy or counselling,” said Blacklock’s Reporter.

Two identical bills, S-207 and C-417, lapsed in the last two Parliaments.

“That kind of bill should be a government bill, not a private bill,” said Boisvenu.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of private interest. It’s a matter of national interest.”

In 2017, the Commons justice committee recommended the Criminal Code amendment after hearing testimony from former jurors who said they quit jobs, suffered marriage breakdown and were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after being compelled to watch crime scene videos and hear testimony from coroners.

“Everyone’s mental health matters,” Ontario Senator Lucie Moncion said Thursday.

“Yet from a legal point of view, jurors are part of a special category of people who are denied complete health care. The secrecy rule prohibits a juror from disclosing information related to deliberations to anyone including a health care professional. This needs to change.”

Moncion was a juror in a 1989 murder trial and said the experience left her with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“They show you the whole autopsy,” said Moncion.

“It was very difficult. This is still very difficult for me.”

Alberta Conservative MP Michael Cooper, a member of the 2017 Commons justice committee that recommended reforms, said delays were inexcusable.

“It should have been a no-brainer for the government to have brought this bill forward,” said Cooper indicating the bill has been “studied thoroughly.”

“There have literally been no arguments tendered against this piece of legislation.”

Cooper, in 2019, sponsored a similar bill – C-417 – that lapsed. MPs at the time noted U.S. jurors were free to discuss their experience with friends, family, psychiatrists or media.

“In the United States once a trial is over jurors are generally free to discuss the events of the trial and jury deliberations unless a specific court order bars them from doing so,” said Ontario Liberal MP Arif Virani, then-parliamentary secretary for justice.

“What that means is that jurors in the United States can talk with nearly anyone about juror deliberations including a talk show host on national television or across the Internet. This approach, which offers limited protection for juror privacy, is significantly different from the Canadian model.”

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