Sunday, January 24, 2016

Pop Music and Privilege.

"Taylor Swift can play a mean guitar but that's just one of the perks of growing up the child of a hedge fund vampire! Thanks." - Facebook
A few weeks ago, I engaged in a Facebook debate with a bunch of friends regarding Taylor Swift. The conversation was focused on the video of her playing a stripped down version of "Wildest Dreams". The thread started with a large majority of people discussing how Taylor's parents' (hedge fund managers) wealth was the main reason for her success, and basically ended with "Capitalism sucks and rich people are the worst".

I picked an opposing viewpoint. Yes, her family is filthy rich. Yes, her money helped to propel her to stardom. Yes, she had the luxury of being able to focus on art instead of putting food on the table. At the end of the day, she is very talented. I believe that she is good enough that she would have been able to "make it" without the money, and that we shouldn't vilify people just for the sake of having money. Is there really anythin stopping most low-income teenage skids with a few spare hours and a $50 Kijiji Squier guitar to hone their musical and songwriting chops? Anyone can do it.

My sentiments were in the minority in that debate.  I've been revisiting many of those arguments over the past few weeks and I've put serious thought into how my privilege has affected my life and musical career.
"Surely Noel Gallagher is no better than Nick Drake just because he went to a Burnage comp rather than Marl­borough?"

I did a minimal amount of digging and read a few different articles around the relationship between socioeconomic status and artistic success.

The first article I stumbled upon cited a study that found the major reason artists and musicians are from the middle class is a result of education. Decades ago, a study like this would've been enough to appease me that success in artistic careers is completely attainable! You just need to choose the right career path and go to school. However, tuition continues to skyrocket and post-secondary education is rapidly becoming an experience reserved for upper-middle class families. 

The second article explored the changing demographic of English musicians. Mumford and Sons, James Blunt, and Lily Allen were among the acts dissected as being from upper-middle class acts dominating the pop music landscape. 

There is no doubt that the pop music landscape is primarily dominated by the wealthy. As a musician slowly drifting more towards writing pop music, these articles did nothing to quell my ever-increasing feeling of guilt that I continued to feel for pursuing my musical dream. 

Songs from the Suburbs
My father was a farmer, and my mother worked at local credit unions for most of her career. I lived in the suburbs all of my life, and grew up going to guitar, violin, and vocal lessons. My musical dream was sparked at summer camp. There was something about poorly sung Alkaline Trio and Blink 182 covers around a campfire that struck a chord with me.

Following high school, I began to immerse myself in the vibrant Saskatchewan music scene. With semi-subsidized (via my parents education savings) university education, rent free accommodations in my parents basement, and flexible part-time/summer jobs the world was my oyster to explore. My music was the shuck to pry that oyster open (I AM THE WORST AT WRITING WORDS EVER). I spent partial summers roving across Canada, playing shows. I looked at it as a chance to go on vacation, and explore our country. Many people will never even get the opportunity to leave their home province, let alone driving from coast to coast playing unprofitable shows.

Fast forward to today. I have a University degree in Marketing. I am currently working for an amazing crown corporation. My girlfriend and I recently put a down payment our first home. We have a Provincial government that is dedicated to supporting and nurturing their artists through financial and professional support. I possess the ability to write grants that help fund my music projects as a result of my education and professional experience. Getting to where I am musically (which isn't that far, to be honest) is a result of my privilege. I believe I would still be as good of a songwriter and musician as I am today, but there is no doubt that my financial situation has helped our band achieve more success.

Thankfulness Vs Entitlement

My entire life is the definition of privilege. I am aware of this. It has been increasingly weighing on me. Do my musical peers view my music with an asterix as a result? I respect them, and I want their respect and approval. Should I have refused the financial support to go to university from my parents? Maybe I should've moved out of my rent-free basement earlier? Am I a greedy person for taking advantage of what was provided to me?

I've witnessed quite a few attitudes of "you are the worst if you are wealthy" and I still resent that. Yes, there are many predatory, self centered, greedy capitalists. Yes, there are major flaws with capitalism. But I know lots of good, morally and ethically strong people who are wealthy or well off. I have grown to believe that a major root cause of the greed lies in how society views privilege, and what these lucky and fortunate ones do to help others attain privilege.

Our society has a pervasive culture of entitlement. My child DESERVES good grades. I DESERVE to get the starring role in the drama production. I am ENTITLED to success and wealth. Personally, I have decided to make a conscious effort to change the way that I think and act. I will strive to be thankful for the luxuries that have been afforded to me, and I will try to be better at helping others reach the same level of privilege that I have realized.

So what?
I know that I need to do a better job of being thankful, and do more to help the less fortunate attain the same luxuries that I have enjoyed over the years. I need to engage people on in real life and on social media, and challenge their sense of entitlement and apathy towards the less fortunate.

While I figure out a game plan of how I can be of more value to the less fortunate, I have decided that I will donate all of the digital sales of our new EP to Carmichael Outreach. People don't really like to buy music, so it probably won't be worth that much, but it's low hanging fruit for now. I don't plan to use this fact as a marketing tool outside of this blog post, a quick blurb on my Bandcamp, and maybe an Instagram post to show the public that I'm actually donating the money. I need to be better and do what I can. I hope other people feel the same way too.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

URSU Election: Why Slates Suck

Anyone who has spoken to me regarding University of Regina student politics is likely aware of my distaste of slates in URSU Elections. Recently, I published my thoughts regarding slates on Twitter where some felt the need to defend them.

This blog post is my attempt to convince UofR students that there is little-to-no practical value of having these "political parties" involved in our students' unions elections, other than getting people elected for the sake of getting elected. I will be using tweets that were directed at me to either prove my point, or make a counter point on why slates are bad.

First, we'll start with the "Pro-Slate" Side. There are certain arguments that keep recurring in this debate. here are some of them:

Slates make it easier to get things accomplished on the board. Without them, board members would just fight/banter and not get anything done.

So to summarize this commonly shared argument, some believe that "it is good to have everyone thinking the same thing and on the same side (slate), so that URSU can get more things done with less people raising concerns".

First off, the structure of most boards/unions are not "slate based". City Hall is an example of an organization that is able to function without the presence of slates, living proof that democracy can function and thrive without political parties. I don't buy the argument that intellectual and knowledgeable University Students elected to represent the best interest of their faculty, fellow students, and university require a slate in order to work together and do the job they were elected to do. Counter to the above argument, URSU most certainly would be able to function without them.

While it's true that Provincial and Federal Governments are elected based on a poltical partisan system, a single party is elected with a majority (with the exception of a minority or coalition government) and is responsible for making decisions. If a slate gets the majority of their members elected in URSU, they don't "win" the election. Union representatives are still required to work with members of every slate and standing, the structure and rules of the students' union are completely different. They are two completely different electoral/governing structures, and any parallels made between the two are irrelevant in this particular case.

My second point is that having everyone with similar or shared views may contribute to "groupthink", and could actually hurt URSU. Debate is a healthy component of democracy, and it shouldn't be limited, provided it is reasonable and constructive in order to accomplish things more efficiently (a concept our Federal Government doesn't seem to grasp). If too many candidates are elected with the same viewpoints, URSU runs the risk of lacking a healthy variety of perspectives and opinions to make informed decisions. Students' concerns may be neglected in the aftermath of their representatives pursuing a goal or viewpoint that their slate believes in. Not saying that this happens all the time, but it is a very real consequence of having a board made up of members holding very similar viewpoints.

Members elected from slates have done a good job of governing URSU in the past.

While it is true that the slate mentioned above had a successful year in running URSU, it is difficult to attribute the success solely to the presence of a slate. It is likely a credit to the quality and popularity (voting #'s, engagement) of the candidates that were elected that year. It is the quality of the people elected that should be voted on, as it is the individual that URSU will benefit from, not the slate. It just so happened that the slate members elected were perceived as being/were quality candidates, which isn't always the case.

My point here is that many not-as-competent/inferior candidates are often elected over students who are more qualified/better candidates simply because they are not on a slate.

Take the following scenario: Candidates on slates encourage all of their friends to vote for them and their other slate members. These people are likely to mindlessly vote for everyone on their friend's slate instead of taking a small portion of time (literally 10 minutes) to learn about other candidates and be an informed student voter. Many of the students that are doing this may have good intentions. They simply are trying to ensure the success of their friend's "team". However, these voting patterns put other slate-less candidates that are often more qualified and capable at a disadvantage. Usually, this situation results in two possible outcomes for the slate-less candidate: A) the potentially more-qualified candidate loses the election solely based on the fact that they didn't receive the slate votes from the friends of the other slate members or B) the slate-less candidate creates another useless slate for the sake of improving their chances. This situation has played out multiple times over the years, and unless the candidate is foolish or stubborn (as I was in last years election), students usually choose option B resulting in more silly political slates designing goofy/lame shirts and playing more loud music in the Riddell Centre. My point here is that candidates seem to be creating slates for the sole purpose of helping them get elected, and really good candidates that may deserve to be on the council could get left behind.

My last point is that in some cases, petty political grudges between slate rivals during previous elections and terms may encourage elected board members to sabotage progress made by past "slate governments". Using Mr. Willox's example in the tweet, much of the progress and success that was realized by URSU that year was wiped out by the following year's slate. For example, the Owl was completely neglected and lost a healthy amount of money after posting strong profits the year before. It's fair to assume that this may have had something to do with the good relationship that the previous council (whose president belonged to a slate the ran against the would be President of the other slate) with the organization. In my opinion and observation, it seemed like the neglect was rooted in spite towards the previous slate. Petty political differences and resentment stemming from slate disagreements such as this happen all of the time, and they impede URSU's progress. Without slates, the risk of these types of petty political grudges is mitigated, which in turn would lead to more stable and steady progress for the students' union.

Slates provide URSU with an agenda to follow throughout the year.

Most times, student issues and agendas are (or should be pretty much be) common long term goals such as lobbying the University and Government for lower tuition, increased funding, parking, day care, transit, etc. The problem is that slates always feel pressured to make a long list of promises to student voters around elections, as parties do in Federal/Provincial elections. Normally this is all fine and dandy, except for when the elected slate members start feeling pressure to deliver on all of their promises when they run out of time.

One year is not a lot of time, and what often winds up happening is that an URSU comprised of slate members spread themselves too thin to properly deliver and address issues they promised to student voters. Instead of doing one or two things really really well, they over extend themselves and wind up doing a poor job on five or six things. Often times, more pressing/time sensitive issues arise in the course of the year, and these are given a backseat to slate campaign promises. Slates encourage our representatives to "promise the moon" at election time, instead of being real, swiftly reacting to change, and creating manageable/attainable goals.

Slates encourage people to run in elections. Without them, people wouldn't run.

This is a foolish argument. If this is really the case and we can't find people to run, then maybe we need to progressively change the way that URSU is elected instead of using slates as a band-aid solution to attracting students to run and vote in the elections.

In Conclusion...

This is not a debate over whether or not URSU can function with slates playing a key role in elections. The union will get elected this year, as it has in other years, and it will function fine with or without the presence of slates. The debate here is if removing slates would increase the quality of our elections and council.

Here are some questions I ask you to consider: Is allowing slates providing our students with the best electoral format, and encouraging them to take an active interest in their candidates? Are some of URSU's strongest leaders being overlooked or pressured into making new slates solely for the purpose of increasing their chances at being elected? Do slates really provide us with enough value to keep them around?

Personally, I don't think that there is enough value in keeping slates in URSU's electoral system. I believe that URSU would function perfectly fine without them, and that members would still work together to improve every student's experience at our university. I believe that students would be encouraged to take a more active role in learning about individual candidates, instead of mindlessly voting for every candidate on a friend's slate. I believe that the frequency of disturbances caused by petty political grudges would diminish, and that URSU would function better with less turbulent regime changes. I believe that councils would create better/real/more attainable goals, and address more pressing issues as they arise.

I believe that for these many reasons, that the time has come to put an end to slate based student politics at the University of Regina.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nick Faye's Guide to the Best Music of 2012

So, twenty-first century thoughts has been going for close to two years now, and I realized that I have posted very little musical content. This seems ridiculous, as I am very much a musician that listens to a lot of music. I usually make this list in my head every December. I figure I may as well share it with the internet as it's been a while since I've posted anything on the blog. My list may be a bit obscurely designed near the end of the article, but I had a really tough time deciding.

NOTE: There's a good mix of local artists from Saskatchewan, which honestly has nothing to do with me trying to achieve a "ratio" or propping up friends that play music. The albums/artists are on this list because they are really really, REALLY good. I think it speaks to the level of talent in this Province. We should all be very proud!

Without further ado.. I present:

Nick Faye's Guide to the Best Music of 2012

10) Grizzly Bear - "Shields"
This album completely snuck up on me, which is pretty bizarre seeing as I jammed Vecktimest religiously over the last few years. I remember patrolling Facebook during a homework procrastination session earlier this autumn when I stumbled across the video posted below. Shields is a very good album, as Vecktimest was before it.

Highlights on the album include "Speak in Rounds", "A Simple Answer". "Yet Again" adds to the band's already impressive catalogue of great singles.

9) Japandroids - "Celebration Rock"
I took a trip to Montreal this past May. I spent most of my time riding bikes, eating bagels, drinking beer, and exploring the city. It was fitting that an adventure of this magnitude required a soundtrack to mirror the nature of my shenanigans. Celebration Rock provided the anthem for many a bike ride or drunken Metro ride back to Saint Henri.

The band released my favourite song off of the album, "Younger Us" as a single over a year and a half ago. Celebration Rock fed off of the same pulsing energy in the song, dripping with a careless youthful attitude that made it difficult not to emulate. The album is concluded perfectly by one of my favourite songs, "Continuous Thunder". In my opinion, it's one of the most appropriate final songs I've heard for an album in a while.

Fun Fact: My speed would increase by an average of 10 KM/H while listening to this album in my car!

8) Action Bronson - "Blue Chips"
I had a conversation regarding Action Bronson with a good friend of mine earlier this summer. This was his response after I asked him how he felt about Blue Chips: "He's filthy, and it's really good." I couldn't agree more. The mixtape was released FOR FREE earlier this year. Go download it. It's worth your computer's resources.

I really dig the Laissez Faire vibe of the mixtape. Many of the tracks include Action making "mistakes" or "screwing up". Instead of retaking the track, many of the cuts were left in the final mix. Whether or not this was intended or not, it managed to create a unique flow and make for some really cool listening. Action Bronson is one of my favourite artists in hip hop today, and Blue Chips is great.

7) Andy Shauf - "The Bearer of Bad News" 8)
Not many artists are able to put out an awesome EP and an even better album over the course of 8 short months. Andy Shauf completed such a task when he released The Bearer of Bad News in November. I remember hearing the EP for the first time earlier in the year. I texted Andy to ask if I was crazy, or if I was hearing clarinets in his new songs. The answer was yes. There are LOTS of clarinets. He plays them in this album as well. It sounds awesome. CLARINET HEAVY.

I'm proud to call Andy Shauf a friend. The sky is the limit for this guy. It's been a pleasure to watch him and his songwriting evolve to where it is today. The man writes evocative and bone rattling songs that transport listeners to his world of heartbreak and darkness. I don't think I've ever shown his music to someone that didn't wind up purchasing one of his albums or attending one of his shows.

Highlights include "I'm Not Falling Asleep", "Wendell Walker" and "Jerry Was A Clerk". This man tells elaborate and interesting stories that are sure to grab your attention.

6) Zachary Lucky - "Saskatchewan" 
It's no secret to readers of this blog that I love Saskatchewan. I spent a good chunk of my summer driving this province's highways as a consequence of splitting my time between Regina, my father's farm and Camp Monahan on Katepwa Lake. Saskatchewan was the soundtrack of the many long drives I was required to make.

I have listened to this album quite frequently since it's release this past March. Serene and reflective, Lucky has managed to create a perfect soundtrack to passing through ghost towns and family farms. The guitar work is superb, Carly Maicher's vocals perfectly complement the mix, and the pedal steel provided by Lucas Goetz (of The Deep Dark Woods fame) adds the necessary Western ambiance that the album needed.

As with Andy, I have been friends with Zach for a long time. Since our very first "mini-tour" some 4 years ago, he's continued to improve and this album is his best effort yet. Few musicians work as hard or tour as frequently as this man. His hard work is evident and on display in Saskatchewan.

5) Frank Ocean - "Channel Orange"
This was the undisputed "city-cruise album" of the year. I really don't have that much to say about this album other than that I think it's awesomeness speaks for itself. Frank Ocean absolutely destroys on this album.

There are a solid 5-7 songs that I would consider to be REALLY GOOD. My personal highlight is Earl Sweatshirt's perfect contribution to "Super Rich Kids".

So.. Here's where things get weird. I have a really tough time ranking things, especially when the "things" that I am required to rank are all music that I love. Thus, I have determined that I have a four way tie for best album of the year. Is this a cop-out? Yes. Do I really care? No. Drumroll please!


TIE 1) Ladyhawk - "No Can Do" 
Anyone that knows me can attest to my love for this band. I started listening to Ladyhawk during my first year of University in Saskatoon, six long years ago. They were the perfect band for a 17 year old angsty student to sink his teeth into. Writing songs about young/naive love and blurry scenes from seedy bars (which my fake ID and I could identify with), the band was my best friend at that point of my life. I missed them play a show at Amigo's with Black Mountain that year, and I regretted it for the next five years.

The band stayed quiet in the years that followed. When they did play, it was always at inconvenient times. I took one of my favourite bands to be dead, as more time passed without any activity.

I took the bus to school this September. I stumbled upon a link to their first single, "You Read my Mind", off of their new album that was released in October as I was browsing my tweets waiting for the bus to leave. All I remember is listening to the song on repeat for the entire 55 minute commute (efficient Regina Transit is efficient...) with a goofy smile plastered on my face. Ladyhawk was back, and they sounded better than ever.

No Can Do is a good album. Focused and precise, the album hits everything that needed to be hit after their hiatus. "You Read my Mind", "Bed Bugs" and "Window Pane" are songs that are as sweet to my ears as honey is to flies. Perfection.

I finally got to see them live in October in Calgary. It was a special evening. I knew most words to every song except for one. Thank you Ladyhawk. Thank you for coming back into my life.

TIE 1) Bry Webb - "Provider" (released late 2011, but who cares)
Provider was released in November of last year. I don't really care that it wasn't released in 2012. It's my list, and it's close enough to the end of the year that I choose to include it.

To be honest, I had never heard of Mr. Bryan Webb (I was familiar with his previous band, The Constantines) until I saw him and his band live this past May. I went to watch Zach Lucky at The Artful Dodger. Despite being very sleepy I decided to stick around for the rest of the show. They were very good live, and I purchased the album on vinyl. Little did I know the musical impact Bry Webb would have on my year.

Provider is a rite of passage for a man deciding to make a drastic change in his lifestyle. Webb, the former front-man of the always popular Constantine's decided to trade his tour van for a baby stroller. He started a family with his wife and they had a child. This album is a documentation of this transition. Provider paints a portrait of a man coming to terms with the new responsibilities that come with fatherhood, and it does so beautifully. It speaks to me personally as a musician, as this is a reality that I may be faced with in the future.

Double steel guitars (pedal and lap), ambient tones and stellar reverbed vocals provide the soundtrack to this journey. Bryan is a masterful musician. The album shows that he can still write powerful and evocative songs. Personal favourites off of the album include "Asa", "Zebra", and "Lowlife". If there ever was a peaceful album to play as you fall asleep, this is it.

PS - It won't let me embed it to this page, but this is the video I wanted to post to the blog. Watch it.

TIE 1) Cloud Nothings - "Attack on Memory"
I have to tip my hat to Mr. Justin Schumacher for advising me to check out Cloud Nothings earlier in the year. I was in Montreal, looking for new music to listen to when I gave Cloud Nothings my first listen. Attack on Memory is a high octane musical journey that I am glad to have in my library.

The first two songs of the album are quite different from the rest of the album. "No Future/No Past" begins at a dark drone and continues to increase in intensity throughout the song. The drone builds nicely into "Wasted Days", which consists of pure intensity for almost nine minutes. I was pleasantly surprised that these two songs, although very good, were leading off the album. These two songs are drastically different from the rest of the album. It's different, but it works.

The remainder of the album is a mix of catchy/melodic garage rock that still manages to retain a healthy level of grit and polish. The album effectively explores themes of lost memories, vanishing youth and romance. Similar to Japandroids, Attack on Memory is a garage rock symphony that I've had the pleasure of enjoying over the last year.

TIE 1) Rah Rah - The Poet's Dead
I remember the first time I watched Rah Rah play live. They played at the Exchange in Regina with either Go Jeff!, Sylvie, or National Frost in 2007 - it's funny how time flies and people forget these details. They had only been around for a short time and the buzz surrounding their music was spreading across the city. I had yet to hear their music at that point, and I attended the show that evening with a pessimistic/negative attitude towards the band. I was preparing to hate their music solely based on the hype behind their music and that everyone else liked the band (I was an angsty/irritable teenager at the time). That first show was so much fun, and it was evident that the band had the songwriting chops and musicianship to succeed. That was the night I became a Rah Rah fan.

The Poet's Dead is the strongest statement the band has made in their 5 year career. Going Steady and Breaking Hearts were good, but they were simply appetizers for what was to come with The Poet's Dead. Top notch production, intricately placed/interesting instrumentals, and three distinctly different and talented vocalists make for a unique listening experience. Marshall Burns has always been great at telling stories, and Erin Passmore's voice is as soulful as it's ever been.

"Prairie Girl" is a great song, "Fake our Love" provides artistic insight into life as a musician touring on the road, and "First Kiss" was the perfect song for a dude (AKA - this guy!) trying to convince a girl to like him/dealing with unrequited love over the summer. These are awesome songs that you should be listening to.

I was privileged to have received an advance copy of the album in May from a friend. I listened to it in the summer. I listened to it in the fall. I'm listening to it now. I'll probably listen to it in the future. The band is comprised of some of the nicest and most legitimate human beings that have ever been involved with our local music scene. Regina is better for having them in our community, and we should all be proud of their success. This band is, and will continue to be great.


What do you guys think? Agree? Disagree with my choices? Feel free to provide your picks in the comments section!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Stadium Blog to End All Stadium Blogs

Here we go folks..

Over the past few years, the residents of Regina have been eagerly anticipating a final decision on the proposed new football stadium. It's been a few years, but we finally are close to getting some sort of concrete plan on what direction the city is headed in.

I wrote a blog about this same topic last February, when the debate was to dome or not-to-dome the original stadium plan that would eventually fall through. I'm going to do my best to write an all-encompassing blog on this polarizing issue.

My goal for this absurdly long blog is simple: I hope to fill you in on the history of Taylor Field, the landscape of stadiums in CFL cities across Canada, and the timeline of the proposed new stadium so far. This information is important to consider when forming opinions on the matter.

Following that, I will look at the most realistic possibilities and different options that the city has to choose from in the planning and construction of the new stadium. I will also attempt to identify the different factors that I believe are affecting public opinion on the matter.

Finally, I will give my personal opinion on the matter. My objective is not to sway you one way or another. It is simply to try and paint a full picture of what has happened so far, to point out some other issues to consider, and to share my opinions with the few people that are actually taking time out of their schedule to read this blog. My sleeves are rolled up. Let's get to it.

***DISCLOSURE: I've tried my best to be as factual and accurate as possible. If I've missed anything or made any mistakes, please let me know and I will investigate/correct/edit the document***

History of Taylor Field:

The full history of Taylor Field can be found here (it seems relatively accurate). Many people make a point of mentioning that Taylor Field is almost 100 years old, which is not correct. True, sporting events were held at the facility beginning in 1927, but the grandstands and seating areas that were used are definitely not the facilities that are in use today.
Home of the World Famous Taylor Field Burger!

It is safe to assume that the 4,500 person grandstand on the West side of the park that was constructed in 1948 is likely still in use in some way in the modern day Taylor Field. A large renovation was undertaken in the mid-70's that added a second level to the West side, in addition to the offices, stores and other facilities that are currently in use today.

Regina is slated to hold the Grey Cup in 2013. To prepare for the event, the City of Regina, Saskatchewan Roughriders, and the Provincial Government announced a $14 million renovation plan this past February. Taylor Field received 7000 new temporary seats alongside the North and South end zones, as well as two new jumbo-trons, LED ribbons, and other facilities. The face lift was well warranted, and the stadium is much improved with the additions. The Provincial Government provided a $6.2 million loan to the Roughriders (thanks to @Guyzer for rudely pointing the previous error out) and the temporary grandstands will be dismantled and given to amateur sporting facilities across the Province when Taylor Field is demolished.

Using the above information, it is reasonable to say that the stadium is approximately 65-ish years old, rather than the larger values that have been thrown around.

State of Stadiums across CFL Cities:

For the sake of focusing on what the stadium will be primarily be used for (football), we are going to take a look at other CFL facilities in Canada. Below are the ages of each stadium in the CFL, along with a link to their Wikipedia page. I only use the most official/highest quality sources..

BC Lions - BC Place (60,000 - 1983, major renovations in 2010)
Edmonton Eskimos - Commonwealth Stadium (60,000 - 1978, major renovations in 2010)
Calgary Stampeders - McMahon Stadium (35,650 - 1960)
Saskatchewan Roughriders - Taylor Field (32,848 - 1948 for the sake of comparison)
Winnipeg Blue Bombers - Investors Group Field (33,422 - 2013)
Hamilton Tiger Cats - Some sort of new Stadium, in time for 2015 Pan Am Games (??? - 2015)
Toronto Argonauts - Rogers Centre (AKA - Skydome) (~50,000 - 1989)
Montreal Alouettes - Percival Molson Memorial Stadium (25,012, 1919, major renovations in 2010)
Ottawa Renegades (or whatever?) - New Landsdowne Stadium (24,000? - 2015)

As noted above, Winnipeg and presumably Hamilton and Ottawa are getting new stadiums. Ivor Wynne is being demolished after this year, and the new stadium is being built to accommodate the 2015 Pan Am Games co-hosted by Hamilton. Every CFL city outside of Calgary, Regina and Montreal has a stadium 30 years old or younger. For Montreal, I am assuming that they are in the same situation as Regina, where the foundation of the stadium has been upgraded over the years, and that the grandstands that were up in 1919 are not the same foundation that is used today. Thus, the "age" of Molson Stadium is likely far younger.

The Story So Far:

City Council led by current Mayor Pat Fiacco, began to consider the possibility of building a new stadium (or, a "Multipurpose Recreation Facility") near downtown Regina in 2010. Feasibility studies were completed, and Fiacco continued to hint that the city was seriously considering a domed stadium in the months that followed. Originally, the plan that surfaced was to build a retractable roof facility in the warehouse district off of Dewdney avenue on the soon-to-be relocated CP rail yard. The original plan called for hotels, retail space and residential units to be built on the parcel of land.

Conceptual drawing of the original domed stadium
A media release from last year (found here) goes into more detail about the proposal. The article that I just linked to also states that the Private Sector would provide 75% of the overall development costs, which would finance the project alongside with contributions from the Federal and Provincial governments. Last March, the Federal Government announced that it would not provide any funding for a stadium in Regina. The initial plans for the domed stadium were shelved as City Council began to look at other options.

Fast forward to July 14, 2012. Before the kickoff of a CFL game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the BC Lions, Mayor Fiacco and Premier Brad Wall delivered the news that there would be a new 33,000 seat stadium built in Regina before the 2017 CFL season. The location of the proposed plan had been moved from the CP rail yards, to Evraz Place on the Exhibition Grounds. City Council declared that they were now considering a "roof ready" stadium (a partially covered stadium with an option to convert to a fully enclosed facility) for the design.

The City of Regina released the following numbers at the announcement on how they planned to finance the facility (taken from the following article by the CBC):
  • $80 million grant from the province of Saskatchewan
  • $73 million from the city of Regina
  • $25 million from the Saskatchewan Roughriders (naming rights, etc)
  • $100 million loan, from the province. Paid over 30 years through a $12 per ticket facility fee
Conceptual drawing of the current proposed stadium.

The plan was approved by the Regina City Council at a meeting on September 17. The conceptual designs were unveiled to the public on September 19th, and there was a debate on the Stadium with all of the mayoral candidates on September 20th.

That pretty much sums up the events leading up to where we currently stand.

Where do we go from here?:

So after all of the debate and commotion surrounding the controversial new stadium, I've identified three different options that the city could have selected when dealing with the matter

Do Nothing

There is a small contingent of people that are in favour of maintaining the status quo and not investing any additional money into Taylor Field. Proponents of this option argue that the $14 million that was invested into the facility for the Grey Cup this past year is adequate  and that the the existing stadium should continue to be used. These people would rather use the money to fix other problems and invest in other areas of Regina.

For the sake of this argument, it is difficult to imagine the current facility meeting CFL standards for much longer without some sort of capital investment for renovations. In the recent stadium debate held a few weeks back, Michael Fougere estimated that the facility requires major renovations in the neighbourhood of $150 million in order to remain remain up to CFL stadium standards. While the dollar valued quoted above is up for debate, it is fair to say that the city would have to invest some sort of capital into the stadium. Therefore, we're going to skip to the next option...


This is the option that most of the anti-stadium faction in Regina are in favour of. Many citizens believe that the city should focus on other pressing issues such as infrastructure, transit and affordable housing before constructing a new stadium. While the cost of required renovations has never been declared by City Council, mayoral candidate Micheal Fougere has estimated these costs to be close to $150 million, as mentioned above.

The advantages of this plan are the lower costs to taxpayers (a significant portion of the funding will come from tax increases to citizens), and the retention and improvement of a beloved historical facility (similar to Fenway Park in Boston). Many citizens are emotionally attached to the stadium and are worried about the affordability of events at a new facility due to additional fees that will be added to ticket prices. Congestion and parking concerns have also been raised regarding the current location. Many of the parking spaces that are used at the moment will be consumed by the stadium.

In addition, studies have been published by economists on the impact that the construction of new stadiums have on the economy. A notable Sports Economist by the name of Phil Miller has spoken out against a potential stadium project in the smaller market of Mankato, Minnesota. His analysis and opinions may be found here. There is a significant portion of the population that is opposed to the stadium, and they are the more vocal of the pro vs. anti-stadium debate.

New Stadium

Mayor Fiacco, City Council, and the Provincial Government have been very vocal about their desire for a new stadium for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Mayoral candidate Michael Fougere is also a driving force in the quest for a new facility. The new stadium would be viewed as a bold statement to the rest of Canada, a shiny new testament to the economic prosperity of Saskatchewan over the last decade.

Proponents of the new stadium state that the city of Regina will recognize an economic benefit from the football games, concerts and other events that will be held at the facility. A beautiful new facility will also be able to be used by residents for many years (40-50 years at least).


Other Factors to Consider: 

I'm going to look at some other factors that might be complicating public opinion on the matter.

Ongoing Civic Election - As I write this, the City of Regina is in the midst of a Municipal Election. The man behind much of this project, current Mayor Pat Fiacco, is not running for re-election. He has openly endorsed Michael Fougere, a former City Council member that is running for mayor. Fougere has been a big proponent of the stadium in it's current proposal, and is committed to pushing ahead with the existing plan. Other candidates such as Marian Donnelly and Meka Okochi have raised questions about the current plan and have pledged to take a closer look and considering more options for going forward with the construction of a new facility.

In July, Marian posted a blog on her website pleading voters not to make the impending election into a single issue election, as there are other major issues to focus on. In spite of Marian's plea, one thing is certain. The stadium will be a huge issue for voters. How will the candidates' stance on the voters affect the election? How will the election affect the status of the stadium? These are questions I often ponder.

Dome or No Dome - I am just going to leave this link to my previous blog I wrote last February here. The current design is partially covered, and will be designed to allow for a retractable roof to be installed at a later date.

Proponents of the dome state that Regina will be able to attract more concerts and use the facilities for events year round. Opponents of the dome state the expensive cost of the dome, increased heating and cooling costs and enjoy going to outdoor football games regardless of the weather as reasons for their opinion.

Infrastructure Issues and Project Mismanagement - Many people that are opposed to the new stadium draw attention to other large issues that are adversely affecting the City of Regina. Inadequate sewage treatment facilities as well as a rental housing vacancy rate of 0.6% are examples of problems that some citizens feel must be addressed before building a stadium.

Recently, the City has struggled to manage other large infrastructure projects. One example of this is the recently constructed City Plaza, which the city is being sued by an architectural firm over. In addition to poorly planned road construction projects, there is a portion of the public that does not have confidence in the City of Regina to do a good job on the project.

Pat Fiacco's flow: Keeping Regina's streets safe since 2000!

"The Fiacco Effect" - Many who are against the stadium are not fond of outgoing Mayor Pat Fiacco. Some citizens believe that he is an inadequate mayor that happened to inherit the city leadership when the community was in ruin, right before the Provincial economy happened to improve while he was in power. Many are also upset by his bold claims regarding the Regina Revitalization Initiative when he assured taxpayers that the private sector will fund most of the project.

In addition, this stadium is very much a legacy project (or "trophy") as some call it for Fiacco as he exits from Municipal Politics. Some citizens feel like this project is being rushed for the sake of getting the project approved before he is out of office. For the people that are against this project, do they dislike it more because of who is spearheading the project? Would people really hate this so much if the current mayor wasn't Fiacco and if he wasn't about to leave office?


My Thoughts and Opinions:

I'm going to phrase the following in a question based format and provide you with my thoughts on the ordeal.

Do I want a new stadium built in Regina?

Yes. I do not believe it's wise to continue to invest money into a 65 year old facility. If the cost to renovate Taylor Field is over $80-100 million (which is yet to be proven, but is likely safe to assume) to squeeze another 20 years out of the facility, my opinion is that it is likely a smart decision to build a modest and practical stadium that will last at least another 40-50 years.Things get old, eventually you need to replace them.

To suggest that we need to solve every other issue and complete every project that is facing the City before addressing a stadium is foolish. There were many other projects that likely could have used funding when Taylor Field was constructed in the past. Look at the utility that residents in Regina have realized from the facility over the years. We are currently in an economic boom, and this opportunity may not be here 20 or 30 years down the line.

A new stadium would be an important piece in our city's economic, recreational, and social fabric. Take a moment to think about all of the times that Taylor Field has hosted important events (professional football games, concerts, community events, amateur sporting events, etc) for the City of Regina over its lifetime. While the events held at the stadium may not appeal to every single person in Regina, the stadium has definitely been appreciated and utilized by a good percentage of citizens in the Queen City. It should be considered an investment in the community.

Do I like the design? Location?

I cannot stand the conceptual design of the new stadium. I understand the goal of constructing a futuristic stadium and I am all for selecting a modern design (similar to Winnipeg's new stadium. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the design of it. Have I ever mentioned how much of a fan I am of Winnipeg's new stadium?) but I think the proposed design looks flat out goofy. Is it a UFO? Is it an eyeball? Will the stadium lift off before kickoff and transport the excited throng of green and white faithful to the moon to play our home games? Come on.. The design won't mesh with any of the surrounding architecture in Regina (more traditional and classic designs), and I personally believe it is a terrible concept.

An artist's depiction of a Riders home game in the proposed stadium.

I do NOT want a stupid dome on this stadium. Contrary to popular belief, any new domed stadium in Regina will not host enough concerts to justify the added expense of the dome. Many of the large touring artists will still bypass Regina in favour of Saskatoon. The Credit Union Centre is a large arena that is properly configured for the arena concert circuit. In addition, Saskatchewan is not a big enough market to hold the same concert in Regina and Saskatoon. It wouldn't make financial sense to hold the same concert in both markets. Large-scale concerts (Rolling Stones, ACDC, etc) can still be held in an open air stadium between the months of May and October. In addition, heating and cooling costs for the building would add to operating expenses. If the stadium is built with the sections covered (such as the second deck on the West side of Taylor Field), the fans will still be able to sit in comfort and be sheltered from the elements. This would be a much more cost effective method that would achieve a similar result. I strongly believe that the benefits of a dome DO NOT outweigh the financial cost of building and operating a domed facility.

As for location, I'm not sure that you can do much better than Evraz Place. The current location would probably be the best choice (abundance of parking in Evraz Place, relatively close to downtown/cathedral area/major bus routes, proximity to parking at the old Superstore, etc). However the space has already been earmarked for affordable housing (finally, thank god) and the Riders will need to play in Taylor Field until the new facility is completed.

The CP Rail lines would have been nice: close to downtown, across the street from the dirty Dewdney bar strip, and it's presence would provide a boost to that neighbourhood. However, the sale of the land hit a snag after Canadian Pacific wanted to retain a portion of the land for themselves. Congestion would be a huge issue on game day (no major roadways near the site), as well as parking. Outside of the old Superstore parking lot, there are no large areas of parking that are in close proximity to the location. The sale of  part of the rail yard is in the process of being completed as we speak, and the parcel of land will be featured in the Regina Revitalization Initiative.

That leaves Evraz place. It is close to a major roadway in Lewvan Drive, it is still relatively near the downtown core, and is accessible for residents in nearby neighbourhoods where people will be able to walk to events. Parking will be an issue, as the parking space at Evraz Place is shared between the Brandt Centre, Co-Operators Centre, and the Credit Union Eventplex. The city may have to look at building a parkade or two to accommodate the additional traffic. I would much rather have the stadium in a central location rather than in a suburb or outside of the city, and I believe that this is a pretty good place.

Am I OK with the funding model proposed? Do I have faith in our City Council to properly execute the project?

The only reason I am angry about the current funding model is that Pat Fiacco stood in front of the citizens of Regina last year and reassured us that the private sector would step up and fund 75% of the development costs for the Regina Revitalization Initiative. I remember hearing these statements and asking myself, "Wait, why would private companies invest that much money in a stadium? The stadium is going to lose money, and they will not make their investment back. This is not a good business move." Sure enough, the funding proposal that was put forward for the stadium itself was very low on private funding. Granted, it is primarily private sector money that is being put forward to redevelop the CP Rail lines. This is to be expected though, as the development companies will be the ones making money off of their investment, as is done in any new housing/real estate development.  A very low portion of the private money is actually going towards straight to the stadium. I find this misleading, and personally would have liked to see the RRI broken up into the different products, so we can look at the stadium as one entity instead of splicing funding data with projects that are unrelated to the stadium.

As far as financials for the current proposal goes, it seems about right. The $80 million from the Provincial government is much less than what they were originally asked for, and I think that it is a reasonable and modest contribution from Mr. Wall and the Saskatchewan Party government. The $73 million from the city of Regina is what will hurt taxpayers the most. I understand residents' frustration in regards to this, especially for those that will not use the stadium. The $100 million dollar loan will be payed for through a $12 ticket fee and a new hotel tax over 30 years. I am also OK with this, as I do believe that the people that will be using the facility should be the ones paying the most for this utility. The only funding category that I am concerned about is the $25 million that is to be contributed by the Roughriders. Seeing as the football team will be the primary tenant, I believe they should contribute more. Naming rights alone should be able to net them at least $15 million alone for 30 years (estimations are based on Mosaic paying approximately $4 million for 10 years of naming rights), and that revenue would be directly contributed by the stadium that taxpayers and the governments are funding. Therefore, they will only contribute about $10 million out of their own pocket for the construction of a stadium that they will presumably use for the next 40-50 years? That seems awfully low for a football club that cleared $3.8 million last year alone. I personally, would like to see the football club contribute more money to the stadium and reduce the burden on taxpayers, as they will be the ones using it the most.

I do not have a lot of faith in our current city council to execute this properly. I am one of the many that believes that City Council is rushing this process. Before a few weeks ago, we had yet to see any pictures of the proposed stadium (which was announced in July), and details surrounding the project were few and far between. How can you gauge public support on the proposal and get feedback on whether citizens actually like the design without making this information available earlier? I am also one of the citizens that believe that the reason that this is being pushed through is so that it will be remembered as "Fiacco's Grand Vision". I'll use the construction of City Plaza as an example of what happens when you rush large infrastructure projects. As featured in an article in the Prairie Dog, City Council identified that there was very little information available about telecom and water infrastructure under 12th Ave. Instead of taking the time to obtain the necessary information, they pushed forward with the project without said data and ran into significant troubles related to the infrastructure. As a result, they did not meet their deadline, they were over budget, and they are now being sued by an architectural firm. Imagine that type of mismanagement on a much larger scale? Yikes. I would rather have City Council slow down, get the necessary information and public feedback on the project, and make sure we do this the right way. It will still be known as "Fiacco's Trophy", but at least it will be done right.


So there you have it friends. My longest and most in-depth blog yet. I have spent close to 8 hours writing this blog, at the expense of my homework/studying time. If you have any comments or questions, feel free to post them below!

- nick.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer Recap: 2012

Hello to all! I hope everyone is well, and that life is getting back to normal now that autumn is settling in. I guess it's been a while since I've posted a blog on here, so I'll get to it. Last year I did a recap of my summer and I think I'll do the same right meow to try and shake off the "Bloggers Rust".

My summer was a hodgepodge of adventures. (I really hope hodgepodge is a real word) As detailed in previous blogs from earlier in the summer, I went out to my Father's farm whenever I had some spare time to help my dad seed/cut grass/shingle/etc. I also took off to Montreal and Toronto for a few weeks in May/June to ride bikes, eat tasty food, meet new friends (and catch up with old ones), go to museums/art galleries, take in a Blue Jays game, and check out some shows at NXNE. That was pretty darn rad.

God bless you, Montreal
After Montreal, it was back to Saskatchewan and out to Camp Monahan on the beautiful Lake Katepwa. I spent two weeks training campers how to be Counselors, and the last four weeks running an Overnight program, where campers would leave main camp and hike a mile along lakefront cattle grazing land to get to a more rugged and natural campsite. I was responsible for preparing the necessary food (ie. pre-cooking pasta sauce, taco meat, getting enough marshmallows for smores, filling up water jugs, etc), transporting the campers' gear to the site via pontoon boat, making fires to the cook food on/chopping firewood, and ensuring the campsite was in order. Minus the copious amounts of campfire smoke inhaled, my clothes smelling like perma-campfire and waking up at 6:00 AM to start a fire everyday, it was pretty darn fun.

My office during the summer.
I played music at a couple of weddings and cabin parties around the Qu'Appelle Valley and decided that I would make an effort to explore some cool sites within driving distance of Regina. The excellent Sukanen Ship Museum near Moose Jaw (with their website in all of it's grade nine level HTML glory), Castle Butte in the rugged Big Muddy Badlands, Motherwell Homestead National Historic Site near Abernethy, and the very enjoyable Fort Qu'Appelle Museum were all explored and visited by yours truly over the last few weeks of summer. Mix in a wedding in Calgary over Labour Day, and performances on the big stage opening for Rah Rah and Arkells for the University of Regina Welcome Week/ at the SaskMusic showcase for the CCMA's in Saskatoon, and you're looking at a pretty good summer!

Anyways, I won't bore you with any more details of my summer. As always, I tend to learn a lot about myself during my summer adventures. Here are a few things that I noticed this year:

Read good books

This does not include Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight, just in case I needed to clarify. I truly believe that summer was genetically created to encourage people to read more. You actually need to put forth a serious effort to avoid the urge to read under a tree in the sunshine on a hot August afternoon. Here is the list of books that I crushed this summer:

- Factorum by Charles Bukowski
- This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Alborn
- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck.

You might notice that my list is empty of any "Efficiency" or "Business" literature (ex: 5 ways to increase your personal brand, TED talk-esque stuff, etc). I enjoy those interesting reads as much as the next person, but I would encourage you to stay away from these types of books during the summer. You have three other seasons to read material that will maximize your life/work efficiency.

Take a step back, open up a fiction novel and let the stories transport you to a new world. Not only will a good book detach yourself from the hustle and bustle of the corporate world, but reading a well crafted story will awaken a certain part of the brain that textbooks, newspapers and "Efficiency" literature does not. Save the Marketing blogs and Canadian Business magazines for after summer!

Go to outdoor places that you like

Canada is pretty damn awesome. Saskatchewan is also awesome. The best time to explore and to see the countryside is in the summer. It can be difficult to pull yourself away from work and other commitments in the city, but if you can it is most certainly worth it. Drive out to your family farm, go fishing, climb a mountain, take a golf trip, camp out, or just go for a drive down the highway.

You'll gain a new appreciation for our wonderful Province/Country, and you'll likely feel a lot more relaxed and focused when you get back to work, school or home. Get out there and explore before winter settles in!
You stay golden, Saskatchewan.
Do something that scares you 

I find that summer has a weird effect on a lot of people, including myself. Maybe it is the byproduct of sunshine and hot muggy evenings? Perhaps it is due to the high number of beers that have been consumed on patios? It's tough to say, but people get restless and act in ways that they don't usually act in the summertime. I believe that the best way to deal with what I like to call "Summer Fever" is to do something that truly scares you.

I did a couple of things that terrified me this summer. Most notably, I got a tattoo. I really hate needles and I've never really been sold on the permanent nature of a tattoo, yet here I am. Do something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Go skydiving, tell someone you fancy how you really feel about them, try a new food, go on a last minute trip,  apply for a job that you wouldn't normally! Channel the haze and restlessness of Summer Fever into a cool experience and do something that you wouldn't normally do!


Those are the big things that I noticed from this summer. I'm going to try getting back into the swing of things now that school is back on. I'll be getting into some political nonsens next blog. I'll finally get around to publishing my long overdue thoughts on the cancellation of the Saskastchewan Film Tax Credit and the proposed stadium in Regina.

Stay fit and have fun!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Montreal Protests Through the Eyes of a Western Canadian Business Student

Hey! Thanks to everyone that checked out the blog series I did about the week I spent working on my dad's farm. It took a while to post, and it is a lot to read, but I appreciate everyone who took some time to check it out.

In case you were wondering (you probably weren't wondering), I spent the last few weeks hanging out in the beautiful city of Montreal at my good friend's apartment, who is currently a student. The night before I flew East, I got a text message from her telling me that she had a pot and wooden spoon with my name on it, and to be ready to hit the streets to join in the protests when I arrived the next day. Never one to turn down an interesting life experience, I obliged. 

For those of you that are not aware of the history behind these particular protests, I will give you a condensed history. The protests began on February 13th over a decision by the Province to implement a $325 a year tuition increase over five years (a total increase of $1625). Over 150,000 students are estimated to be on strike in protest of the tuition hikes. However, the protests became more complex and widespread after the Quebec government passed a controversial and what many call undemocratic anti-protest law (AKA "Law 78") which further fueled the flames. The protests continued to grow and peaked when crowds estimated at over 200 000 (ie: the entire population of Regina) gathered on the 100th night of the strike. Not long after, the majority of Montreal neighbourhoods began to participate in nightly marches dubbed "casseroles", which was inspired by the original protests in Chile in the 1970's during the reign of Augusto Pinochet.

The next evening, hours after I stepped off of the plane, we went out into the street a few minutes before 8 PM, when the protests typically begin every night. It was cloudy, and I wasn't really sure what to expect. At 8 o clock the sound of a single pot echoing through the empty streets and cloudy skies. It was an eerie feeling, and I couldn't help but think of a scene in The Warriors. That single pot clanging in the distance was soon joined by our instruments, and we formed a crowd and headed to a local park. We spent the evening wandering around with hundreds of other people in the small neighbourhood of Saint-Henri hitting pots and pans, watching as young children, grandparents, students, shop owners and lawyers wearing little red squares of felt wandered around the in a festive parade. People would flick their porch lights on and off, and families would bring their pots/pans/bongos/snare drums to the balcony to cheer on our parade as we marched below in the street. The look of joy on some of the children's face as their parents encouraged them to make noise was priceless. As the rain started to fall, we headed back to the apartment at around 9:30. The sound of pans in the pouring rain continued well after 11 PM. The entire experience was truly remarkable.

Back in Western Canada it may be difficult for people to understand the protests. Many (including myself when I first heard of the protests) are quick to judge. Some have called the protests "embarrassing" and refer to the students as "ungrateful" as a result. I believe that it is difficult for people outside of Quebec to properly pass judgement on the issue based solely on what the media reports.

After going to Montreal, talking with the people and having many debates with many different viewpoints on the issue, it is clear that these protests are not simply about tuition hikes anymore. These protests are a byproduct of  frustrations over the corruption that has plagued the Government of Quebec and City of Montreal for decades. How is it fair that students are forced to pay more for education to finance the kickbacks and inflated construction contracts given to mafia organizations?. These protests are the result of people speaking out against corrupt, greasy and often undemocratic practices of our Federal Government (Proroguing parliament TWICE to avoid dealing with controversial issues, abolishing the Wheat Board without holding a plebiscite for farmers, questionable spending habits during the G20 summit that have been condemned by the Auditor General, bills that would infringe on Canadians online privacyhiding the true costs of fighter jets from Canadians, pushing through giant omnibus bills that should be broken up, and putting strict limits on debate on important matters, etc, etc, etc.. I could go on...). As mentioned before, this isn't an issue that is isolated with the students. It is a community of frustrated people from all demographics, peacefully voicing their disapproval.

People out and about protesting.

True, Montreal is a city with a history of violent civilian incidents, such as when the Montreal Canadians (booo. Go leafs) won a playoff series a few years ago and took to the streets to riot. However, the protests have been mostly peaceful. There will always idiots that show up to disturb the peace, vandalize and fight with police but those are the same worthless bags of skin that steal BBQs and live to senselessly break stuff/cause chaos. It is unfortunate that TV crews spend so much time broadcasting these buffoons to the outside world.

The main point that I am trying to make, is that it is refreshing to see people care enough to do something and voice their frustration in an effective and peaceful manner. My tuition at the University of Regina just went up by 9% for the next school year, and I didn't even flinch. The film tax credit was recently cancelled in Saskatchewan and although the industry launched a spirited campaign and a large portion of people are against the decision, the cuts will proceed. We're not particularly good at effectively voicing our opinions in Western Canada anymore. 

Now I'm not saying we need to hit the streets to protest necessarily, but I believe there are times that we have to do a better job of organizing our thoughts and effectively communicate them to our Governments. Quebec is a very passionate province, and I really believe that we could use a fraction of that passion out West. Voicing our opinions and views once every 4 years by voting in elections is not substantial enough to say that we are doing our job as a democratic citizen. Get informed, be critical, develop your own opinions and be a part of the perpetual conversation.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Five Days as a Farmhand: Thoughts and Stories from a City-Kid on the Dusty Plain

Part 5 of 5 - "Early Morning Rain, Bad Coffee and the Drive Home"

A majestic Prairie sunrise before rain settles in.

I was advised the previous evening that I would need to get up early to help my dad load the seeder one last time before I left to go back to the city. 5 AM came swiftly after effortlessly falling asleep the night before, and I put on my clothes, shoes and hat and walked out into the cold morning air. We were fortunate to have good weather all week, but the forecast called for rain on Friday and Mother Nature did not disappoint. 

My Father and Grandfather asked my for my help to complete a few tasks before I left back for the city. I loaded up the truck with 15 bags of canola, drove them to the other side of the yard and helped to fill up the air seeder before my Father went out into the field to try and get some seeding done before the rain settled in. I loaded up the truck one final time and Grandpa drove into the yard shortly after. I helped him grease the equipment as more grey clouds rolled in. 

After everything was completed, I went back into the farm house and made my Dad some sandwiches for lunch. The rain started to fall, and remembering that the big trucks, sheds and quonset were still open I grabbed my coat and ran outside. I quickly pulled the tarp over the canola in the big blue truck, shut the heavy steel doors of the quonset and ensured that there were no tools or items that would be damaged by the rain in front of the shed. The transformation did not take long, all of 15 minutes, for the yard that was previously scattered with equipment to be packed away and ready to wait out the storm.

I ran back to the house in the rain and changed out of my wet and grungy farm clothes into my city uniform. I loaded up my Geo with the few possessions I had brought with me, the empty leftover containers to bring back to my Mother and all of my vintage finds from the night before. It was time to head back to civilization.

 "The Journey"

I set out from the farm on the same road that I arrived on at about 7:30 AM. It boggled my mind to think that I had already been working for two and a half hours, and cursed my lack of sleep as the rain repeatedly hit my windshield. I chose not to eat breakfast and opted to grab breakfast on the road at A&W. Food seemed like an afterthought compared to what I was really looking forward - COFFEE. I hadn't touched the stuff since my drive out, and I was sure that a steaming hot cup of black gold would keep me energized and occupied during the drive.

Turning off of the grid road on the the main highway, the rain intensified and I cranked my windshield wiper power as high as it would go. I was cruising along thinking about coffee when a duck flew directly into my passenger side window. As in I didn't hit it, it actually expelled energy to fly into my car. My shock quickly turned to sadness, as I felt pity for the poor animal which surely must have either perished or was severely injured from the impact (the dude hit my window pretty damn hard). That sadness was shortlived, as I logically concluded that the duck wouldn't have hit my window had it been more intelligent. Natural selection so-to-speak. The situation reminded me of Louis CK's deer comedy sketch where a deer runs into his car, which I spent the next 30 minutes of my drive reciting and chuckling about.

The rest of the drive to Fort Qu'Appelle was uneventful and I ordered a Bacon N' Egger, hashbrown and a medium coffee from the A&W drivethru. I demolished the food, and got back on the highway to Regina. I took my first sip, and felt my heart sink. This was not coffee. This was dishwater that was cleverly packaged, advertised and distributed under the same name. I kept sipping the disgusting coffee as I drove, thinking that maybe it would get better if I gave it another taste. It never did.


I approached the Prairie oasis of Regina from the East, and I began reflecting on the week, as I often do. This outing was different. I could sense the change that was to come, as one can feel the air change on a hot summer day before a violent thunderstorm settles in for the evening. I felt rejuvinated after the week of hard work and reflection, and recalled that I had arrived with a particularily troubled mind on Monday. The time in the country had been good for me. 

For my Father, his impending retirement is a reward for decades of hard work and sacrifice. He would miss many of my concerts, my sister' vocal recitals and my brother's soccer games because he would be busy in the field. Summer vacations were few and far between, as that was when work needed to be completed to ensure plentiful yields and healthy crops. We often talk about the future, and he looks forward to buying a fishing boat, taking golfing lessons and being able to go on summer outings with the family which he rightfully deserves. My father's retirement represents a drastic change in our family's lifestyle. The days of spending hours in the sweaty grain truck during harvest are almost gone, where the satisfaction of collecting the crop that is the byproduct of months of hard work is realized. My Grandfather will no longer spend his hours tinkering with machinery and repairing equipment in the yard. I will no longer have a summer employment opportunity if I find myself without a summer job (as was the case this year). The way our family will change, mostly for the better, but it will be still be different and take time to adjust to.

Our farm is one example of the many family farms that have been passed down for generations only to be swallowed up by bigger farms. This is the way of the West, the way of the World. There is no room for small family owned operations. What was once a way of life for the people of the Prairies is now viewed as a business or a commodity to large operations and foreign investors.

I finished my last moments of reflective thinking as i navigated the final few blocks of suburbs and pulled into our driveway in Northwest Regina at around 10:00 AM. I had a snack, took a shower and went to bed. It had been a long week of work, and it felt great to be back in my own bed.