Mayor Masters reflects on 2023

Mayor Sandra Masters. (Photo: Tanner Wallace-Scribner/620 CKRM)

As the sun sets in 2023, Mayor Sandra Masters reflected on the triumphs and challenges the Queen City saw.

For the Mayor, 2023 marked the announcement or completion of various significant projects. None bigger than Wascana Pool.

“I think the City of Regina, from a design perspective, accessibility perspective, the reuse of materials, the inclusion of Indigenous art, we really hit it out of the park.”

Another highlight was the opening of the Horse Dance Lodge, the city’s first rapid housing initiative.

“You’ve got 29 units where folks are being case-managed and have those wraparound supports right on site for more independence from a transitional perspective.”

Other highlights for Masters included the North Central Family Centre rapid housing initiative and the city’s numerous successful events.

On a personal note, she said the further building of relationships with the federal and provincial governments was another highlight.

“I had made a commitment to building better relations with both the federal and provincial governments. I think we’re in a reasonable place in both aspects. Being able to meet with Ministers and get some influence, whether its influence on programming or included on funding.”

The year had its share of challenges for the city. There was drama between councillors, the fallout of a lawsuit, the botched rebrand of Experience Regina, confusing budget deliberations, and struggles to deal with inflation.

However, the city’s long-term planning tops Masters’s biggest challenge.

“I think long-term planning is an area that absolutely needs to be addressed and frankly is under the purview of council,” she said. “We keep hearing about how we’re underfunding facilities, replacement, underfunding roadways, we’re underfunding everything it would appear, but I haven’t seen a plan or a presentation to tell us how we can actually achieve that in a reasonable way.”

“We need to come to terms with the fact that if it’s a billion-dollar infrastructure deficit, then how are we going to address it while we continue to maintain and renew? How do we plan for that, and what does that look like over the long term?” she added.

Homelessness continues to be a challenge for the city, with it cultivating in a homeless encampment being set up in front of City Hall during the summer.

While there is still plenty of work to do, Masters feels the city took strides forward in helping address homelessness.

“We’ve got more shelter space than we had last year, more supportive housing for that next phase after a shelter space, we’ve got both levels of government tuned in and frankly actions coming from the provincial government which are going to help these individuals in a significant way, and we’ve got a good relationship with the community-based organizations.”

“I’m sure for the folks who are serving the vulnerable on the streets and for those individuals that are experiencing homelessness or frankly at risk of homelessness, it probably might not feel like it,” she added.

While homelessness remained a big issue in 2023, REAL took the spotlight as it was at the centre of the Experience Regina rebrand. It faced financial problems and had its board of directors resign late in the year.

With some feeling the organization’s future is up in the air, Masters feels that REAL is here to stay.

“I think the exhibition site has been there since 1884; I think it will be there for the next 50 years,” Masters said. “In terms of our ability to host events, have that compilation of assets, I think that stays, and in fact, I think it continues to grow.”

While she feels REAL is here to stay, the governance structure isn’t a lock. Masters said she would like to see REAL remain as an independent organization.

“I like the independent nature of our municipal operations to keep it away from the politics of it because you hire folks who actually have governance board experience and professionalism and a different skillset that they bring to the table.”

Masters said when looking back at the year that was, she feels the city is in a better place than last year. While she acknowledges that 2023 was far from perfect for the city, council was able to make progress on a variety of issues.

She pointed to the Eastern Pressure Solution Project as just one example.

“You were going to be unable to build anything further. Had we not approved that project within three to four years, nobody would have had a water supply,” she said. “The Eastern Pressure Solution was ten years in the making, and we managed to get it across the line.”

Masters added that she hopes residents keep engaged with what’s happening in the city and that 2024 has much to offer.

“When you’re passionate about living here, you love this city, you love what it offers; I believe that the public understands that behaviour can be embarrassing or mistakes can be embarrassing. Overall, the City of Regina has a tone to be optimistic about; it has so much to be hopeful for.”

More from 620 CKRM