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Triumphs and trials: Regina mayor reflects on the decade, looks ahead to the next

Click to play video: 'Decade in review with Regina Mayor Michael Fougere' Decade in review with Regina Mayor Michael Fougere
WATCH: Regina's Mayor Michael Fougere takes a look back at the past year and a look forward into what's to come in 2020 – Dec 23, 2019

Michael Fougere has been Regina’s mayor since 2012 when he was first elected. He was re-elected in 2016.

As the decade comes to an end, Fougere not only looks back at the past 10 years in the Queen City, but ahead to the next 10.

READ MORE: City council commits to replacing Regina’s lead pipes within 5 years

Fougere gracefully answered some questions posed to him by Global News on how he viewed the last decade and what he is looking forward to in the 2020s.

The following are his answers in a Q&A format.

What were you doing in 2010?

President of the Saskatchewan Construction Association; Ward 4 Councillor; running more than drumming.

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How were you hoping things might shape up in Regina over the decade?

We were in the midst of unprecedented growth, and my hope was that it would continue!

Were you right, or wrong? If you were wrong, how so?

We have since become Canada’s second-fastest-growing city, with the nation’s highest rate of international immigration. The Regina Revitalization Initiative, passed by the Council of the day, has progressed with significant success. We have Canada’s best stadium and we have secured the first round of tri-partite funding for the redevelopment of the railyard lands north of downtown, with work set to start in 2020.

What is the single biggest change that has happened in the city over the past 10 years that has been a game-changer?

Two major infrastructure projects came about almost-simultaneously: the new Mosaic Stadium and the Waste Water Treatment Plant. While both had wide-spread community support, there was also concern and contention about how they were to be funded. Our success in delivering these projects on-time and on-budget is one of the strongest examples of the City’s impeccable financial stewardship and our vision for Regina.

READ MORE: City reveals new stadium construction details

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What has been your biggest win?

Increasing the amount of investment into our city’s infrastructure every year has been huge. Regina has faced a real challenge in funding the growth our city has seen over the last 15 years while also working our way through the infrastructure deficit with which all cities struggle. In 2012 the City of Regina put less than $65 million towards our Capital Budget to maintain and rehabilitate our infrastructure; in 2019 that figure has increased to $110 million. We heard from our residents that safe infrastructure is a major priority and we have delivered.

What has been your biggest disappointment or miss? What did you learn from it?

The 2019 construction season was an ambitious one in terms of many major projects being scheduled. However, residents had real issues with the simultaneous scheduling and extended timelines for much of that work. I have apologized for the City missing the mark in how that work rolled out, but I am proud that we are putting a strong focus on infrastructure improvements where Reginans need them most.

READ MORE: Construction season officially paves the way in Regina

What was the biggest story of the last decade for Regina?

The referendum on the Waste Water Treatment Plant project in 2013 was significant. It was the first referendum the City had seen in almost 20 years, the result of a petition that was ultimately deemed insufficient but which Council decided to proceed with anyway. We were always confident the public would see the benefit to having a P3 design and up to 25% of the cost paid for by the federal government, and the majority of voters agreed. This vital project came in on-time and on-budget as well.

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How has the make-up of the city changed over the last decade? How does this drive your decisions?

Our rate of international immigration has increased our diversity to a staggering degree. Some areas of Regina reported a 1,500% increase in the visible minority population in the last census! This demographic shift has required us to improve how we consult throughout the community and take a closer look at the services we provide, such as increasing the space available for cricket pitches and providing community space for mass Muslim prayer services.

READ MORE: Population of metropolitan area of Regina outpaced national growth rate: census

What’s your biggest hope for the city for 2020-2030?

Our Council has an eye towards continuing to see growth and prosperity for our residents. We are a great place to visit, and we attract tourism, investment, and jobs to our city. Our economy is very diversified and we have seen success in many sectors recently, particularly entrepreneurship and tech, and I hope that we are able to reach our full economic potential. I am also hopeful that we will make significant process towards becoming a sustainable community.

What is the biggest challenge facing Regina over the next decade?

I think we are already seeing the beginnings of the next decade’s major challenge. We have been discussing the financial challenges facing municipalities for some time, but the on-going need to invest in infrastructure of all kinds highlights that our property tax system is inadequate to our needs. It is outdated and does not grow with the economy, like sales or income taxes. Our Council has been calling on the province for some time now to expand our powers of taxation so that we can pursue a more realistic scale of revenue generation that isn’t completely on the backs of property taxpayers.

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