REGINA – A petition presented to the City of Regina about the funding model for the new sewage treatment plant has been invalidated by city hall staff, meaning there will not be a referendum on the new sewage treatment plant.
“The City Clerk, working with the assistance of a professor of statistics from the University of Regina, has in accordance with the requirements of provincial legislation determined the petition to be insufficient,” announced Jim Nicol, the city’s executive director of governance and strategy.
He left quickly after that statement, refusing to take questions from reporters. That sparked even more outrage from the crowd.
“This isn’t about a waste water treatment plant anymore,” said petitioner, Bill Clary. “This is about democracy.”
“It’s probably the largest example of voter suppression in Canadian History,” said Jim Holmes with the Regina Water Watch Activist Group.
The petition needed just 19,310 signatures to force a vote on the public private partnership plan to build a new waste water treatment plant, which the group said would be a bad move for the taxpaying citizens of Regina.
Using a mathematical sampling method, the Clerk found only 18,145 of those signatures were valid. The biggest reason for disqualifications was the date. The Clerk found 3416 of them didn’t include the year.
Holmes said that’s a ridiculous rule: the petition has only existed in the year 2013.
“No honest person could think those signatures were gathered on any other date,” he said.
That obstacle was just the latest one the city threw at them. A week before the petition’s deadline the city asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs to make them use a percentage of the population based on health card information rather than census numbers. The request would have forced them to add another 1500 signatures to the petition, but it was turned down.
“Why is it so important that people not get a vote on this?” asks Holmes. “Why is it important citizens not get an answer to this question?”
Mayor Michael Fougere says he isn’t ruling out putting the issue to a referendum anyways, considering the controversy, but he says he wants to make sure he’s fair to all citizens.
“I understand that one of the options is to have a referendum, but the fact remains that the independent review by the Clerk’s office says the petition is insufficient,” he told reporters. “I want to think about it first. I need to consult with residents, and colleagues over the weekend and hear what they’re saying. I’ll make a decision from there.”
Regina Water Watch said the only honorable thing to do would be to conduct the referendum anyhow, and make sure the P3 is something everyone wants.
There will be a special council meeting on Monday to publically discuss this issue. Anyone interested in speaking can submit their delegations until noon on Monday.
Meanwhile, Regina Water Watch said they’re not ready to let this go: they’re going to fight this decision in court.
This would have been the city of Regina’s first referendum since 1991.
View the complete report from the City of Regina below