Cuts or savings? Regina mayoral candidates square off on details of campaign promise

Vying for a third term as mayor of Regina, candidate Michael Fougere invited media to a “significant announcement” at the Delta Hotel Thursday morning.

It was an announcement not about his own campaign promises, but the proposed plans of candidate Sandra Masters.

In her platform, Masters promises to “conduct an operations efficiency review within the first six months,” and is “committed to finding 15 per cent in savings from increased operational efficiencies.”

“Masters is planning to find 15 per cent of city cuts to operations within six months, thinly veiled under an operational review,” Fougere said, adding that 15 per cent of the current operating budget amounts to $70 million.

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“I’ve done this job for a while, looked at many budgets, and I can tell you that a $70-million hole in our operations will absolutely devastate and halt any hope we might have for economic recovery.”

Fougere continued that, in his view, a 15 per cent cut could impact Regina parks, pools and recreation facilities — which currently account for 12 per cent of the budget — or slashes to roads and snow removal.

“Now, more than ever, we need generous and compassionate leadership. Not devastating cuts,” he said, reiterating that if re-elected, he will make any cuts to the operating budget.

“I cause him the most concern because I believe I can be the next mayor of this city, and I think he knows the same thing.”

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Masters responded to Fougere’s targeted announcement Thursday afternoon, thanking the incumbent for allowing her to reaffirm her plan for finding efficiencies in City of Regina operations.

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“We clearly have two different ideas or views of managing city operations,” Masters said.

“The 15 per cent is about operational efficiencies, not about cuts. This is about being resourceful, as resourceful, as possible in a critical time.

The candidate said she didn’t know where Fougere’s figure of $70 million came from, noting the operations efficiency review would look at policies, procedures, procurement and people.

“(It’s) finding ways to do more with what you have,” she said.

“A perfect example of this is if there’s a policy that requires two or three levels, and departments aren’t talking to each other, so you’re getting redundant approval processes, you remove one.”

Masters, the former chair of the Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL) board of directors, gave an example of functional efficiencies as the switch to LED lights at the Co-Operators Centre.

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“It’s a $100,000 capital investment the organization is required to pay back over three years, but the payback is coming in the reduction to utility bills,” she said.

“That’s one site in the city. So over and over again, those are the types of things you’re going to be looking for.”

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When asked if there is a possibility of cuts to services and jobs, Masters said, “I don’t think so, but I don’t know.”

Mayoral race heating up

As of Thursday, there are a total of nine candidates in the mayoral race, including Jerry Flegel, Tony Fiacco, George Wooldridge, Bob Pearce, Darren Bradley, Mitchell Howse and Jim Elliott.

As for why Fougere singled out Masters, the incumbent said the challenge of what she’s proposing is a “significant departure” from what he thinks is a reasonable campaign promise.

“It stands differently because of the potential devastation of our economy, and the services people enjoy each and every day,” he said.

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Fougere added that voters should be considering and evaluating each candidate’s platform and promises.

In response, Masters said she thinks Fougere is going after her campaign because she’s “positioned closest to him in the race.”

“I cause him the most concern because I believe I can be the next mayor of this city, and I think he knows the same thing,” she said.

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The 2020 municipal election is Nov. 9.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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