Cary Tarasoff

*1. Food: Food is one of our most fundamental basic needs, but not everyone in Saskatoon has access to fresh, affordable food. The Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership’s 12 Bold Ideas to Eliminate Poverty states that making food more affordable includes a combination of reducing food costs, ensuring people have more income to buy food, and ensuring everyone has access to healthy food choices. Building food assets (e.g., emergency food assistance, meal programs, gardening and farming, grocery markets/stores, community supports and education programs) in every Saskatoon neighbourhood would improve access to healthy food, reduce social isolation, drive local economic development, and address food insecurity. What initiatives and policy options will you champion or support to ensure every neighbourhood in Saskatoon has access to healthy and affordable food?

Cary Tarasoff – I believe in people having proper access to try to grow some of their own food.  Gardening is a peaceful pursuit and we could facilitate much more urban agriculture with some of the vast park spaces we pay to take care of that rarely see any actual use.  More agriculture aligned with primary school education.  More work to help bring in surplus food from local farms for distribution to the poorer members of our community.  More accessibility of food markets within walking distance for most people.

* 2. Arts and Culture: A new central library is an investment that will benefit all members of the Saskatoon community for years to come. The new central library build will generate jobs and economic growth.  This will be especially important as we recover from the financial fallout of COVID-19. The total project budget has not changed since it was approved and is $134 million.   Since 2009 there have been scheduled incremental increases to the library levy to build the capital reserves for the project. Future increases are scheduled to be $645,000 in the years 2021-2024; and $200,000 in 2025 and 2026. The average homeowner will see increases of less than $5 per year in 2021-2024, and less than $1.60 per year in 2025 and 2026. This schedule fully funds the new central library project, including debt repayment and increases to operating costs once the library is open, which means there are no additional increases related to the new central library project beyond 2026. Do you support the building of a library for downtown Saskatoon, as committed to the current City Council?

Cary Tarasoff – No.  I am asking for the Library Board to hit pause on the New Central Library, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to consider the current situation that Saskatoon is in.

Immediately, I would halt any borrowing for the library and I would work to stop the library from taking another 5 million dollars next year out of city coffers to put into their reserves. City Council approval is required for Saskatoon Public Library’s budget and there is no guarantee that this will further increase or even hold at its present state if it comes to that.

Lots of talk is made each year about how the library will be allowed to ‘take’ a little more money in taxes. An incremental amount is mentioned, but it fails to indicate the entire amount already extracted that is not needed for operations. For the 2020 budget, the library proposed $27,192,800 in expenditures including $4,967,500 of money simply taken from taxpayers and transferred into a reserve fund that is not needed for operations. That is added to the $4,327,500 taken in 2019 and the further $5,607,500 already proposed for 2021.

What does this mean to the average taxpayer? For a residential building in 2020, 5.97% of the total property tax bill is library tax. For my home, the library tax is $215. Broken down by the library’s budgeted expenditures, it would equate to $176 paid for the salaries and operating costs of the library and a further $39 transferred to funds/reserves.  For a $1,000,000 commercial property, that would be $876 paid in library taxes for 2020 which includes $159 for the library reserve.  In what world do you feel that, after years of slowly increasing tax revenues, the Library Board is likely to want to reduce this taxation once a new library is finally built?  Most likely they will want to expand to spend every dollar taken instead of reducing their budgets.

The city is operating in an emergency situation that this pandemic has created and it seems that some city administration and definitely the Library Board are oblivious to the actual reality on the ground. The Library Board already has enough money to continue with their planning for a structure and it takes years to complete drawings of this nature and to get building permits to start full construction. My asking for one year of reprieve so that we can look at the hardships that are hitting our society and our citizens should not be a big ask from the Library Board.

The library will never be a money-making proposition. The repeated claims that the library will create economic activity is a false statement. The library takes taxpayer funds that were economically generated in our city to provide a service.

* 3. Arts and Culture: Our built and natural environments provide a framework for our urban living. Our buildings and spaces contribute to a unique sense of place and help tell the story of Saskatoon. Our heritage buildings and structures remind us of our history and provide much richness to our surroundings. They are appreciated by residents and play an important role in attracting visitors to our city. If elected, will you champion support for our built heritage?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes.  I have decades of working on historic structures in Saskatoon and beyond.  Well-built historic structures always have a place in our society.  They tell a stately story of a different time while still functioning in the modern age.  Go the middle of the CPR Station at 305 Idylwyld and look at the bronze plaque to honour Canadian Pacific rail workers who went off to war for our country. It is one of 23 memorial tablets commissioned as a tribute.  History gets overlooked but it adds vibrancy and creates unique settings.

*4. Food: Food sovereignty is defined as “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” Indigenous food sovereignty refers to a specific policy approach to addressing the underlying issues impacting Indigenous peoples and their ability to respond to their own needs for healthy, culturally adapted Indigenous foods. How can the City of Saskatoon contribute to Indigenous food sovereignty?

Cary Tarasoff – Three years ago, I attended an evening Food Security Forum at Station 20.  Groups fired off rapid concepts needing help across the spectrum.  One group proposed taking the former Lawn Bowling club on Ave P South by the Riversdale pool to use the clubhouse as a community center for many enterprises and use the fenced-in lawn area for local urban gardens.  The City responded to this group telling them that they would have to raise $30,000 to pay to replace the collapsing sewer line and the lead waterline before they could get access to the building and site.  Of course, they could not afford this.  The next morning, I called a large contractor I knew.  When he heard who this effort was for, he said to just tell them it will be done for no cost!  He added that any City Manager that did not believe this offer could phone him directly, since he actually did sewer and waterline replacement for the City.  Well, three years later, nothing has been done on this site.  I was told that the City is still studying this.  We need less discussion and more motivated action from our City.  I will drive this. 

* 5. Urban Planning: One of the goals of Saskatoon’s Strategic Plan (2013-2023) is “Sustainable Growth.” This includes planning for a healthy balance of greenfield and infill development – to grow the city inward and upward as well as outward. Responsible and strategic neighborhood infill would include consulting with the vulnerable populations affected, protecting existing affordable housing and heritage sites, and taking steps to limit sprawl and disparity in living conditions in new neighborhood developments. Do you support providing affordable housing to people living in core neighborhoods to minimize the social and economic displacement that could result from significant increases in infill development?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes.  But I prefer that the community themselves be vested in the creation of the housing.  My personal experience with Indigenous housing is that programs where people are included at the planning and construction levels are best positioned to succeed.  Pride of ownership and a personal say is something many have never had.  These simple things are powerful when done right.

Our city is way overgrown at the edges while abandoning the interior.  Quick expansion costs us all later as costs compound.  Inward development better capitalizes on existing services and it builds density and activity.  Our City has significantly failed to meet their New Attainable Housing targets, both for Community Support as well as Planning and Development sections from the 2019 City of Saskatoon Annual Report.  The City also greatly missed their 5 year averages for infill development over the past 5 years and beyond.  I believe in the City of Winnipeg Bylaw that can take ownership of a derelict property to then either teardown or rebuild.  If it is torn down, then the city can immediately donate or resell this property to viable groups, which facilitates much faster infill generation.

* 6. Urban Planning: Mandatory parking requirements have been shown to increase construction costs and decrease affordability of housing. Some cities — including Edmonton — have done away with parking minimums, to allow the market to decide how much parking to build. Do you support Saskatoon allowing the market to decide how much parking to include with new developments?

Cary Tarasoff – No.  There are problems with sites not properly prepared for occupant parking.  Too often this displaces vehicles onto others in your community.  You sacrifice one group for another, which is not proper.  However, I do see that there should always be the ability to give special approvals for exactly that very thing.  A care home with physically challenged people is a good example.  These homes need access for some staff and things like mobility transit and visitors, but this is usually much less parking density than a normal development with an equivalent number of suites.  The City should not try to envision every situation ahead of time to document them upfront, but should put in controls so special approvals are only given to worthy situations and that these approvals only last as long as the specific use is ongoing at those levels on site.

* 7. Urban Planning: The Meewasin Trail is one of Saskatoon’s outdoor recreation treasures, used daily by city residents and visitors for strolling, running, and cycling. Winding under bridges and linking parks and natural areas along both sides of the river, it runs more than 90 kms in length. If elected, will you support the Meewasin trail development plans currently in progress and look for ways to continue to sustain the trail network in Saskatoon?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes.  I believe in the Meewasin Trail and how it draws troves of people through the beauty of Saskatoon on a daily basis.

* 8. Urban Planning: Many Saskatoon neighbourhoods now have speed bumps on residential streets to slow drivers and reduce vehicle noise. Do you support the further expansion of speed bumps as a way to manage the negative effects of car traffic in Saskatoon?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes.  Well, kind of.  There are situations where this is the only option for sure.  But I don’t want this to be a rampant thing just done from a desk without knowing particulars of a site and its situation.  Some communities plaster these around everywhere and any situation that seems to meet the same siting consideration is just installed with them.  That is not the right approach in my view.

* 9. Public Transportation: Saskatoon has invested significant resources in the development of a Bus Rapid Transit system as part of the City’s Growth Plan (2016). Planning is well underway for a high-frequency, direct bus service along the city’s major corridors and construction is scheduled to begin in 2022. The full system is expected to be in operation by June of 2025. Are you committed to maintaining the timeline to meet the 2025 completion date for the Bus Rapid Transit system?

Cary Tarasoff – No.  This proposed system is not really a Bus RAPID Transit system.  It will be an enhanced bus service, at best.  Currently, our city should have 62 rides per capita per year when we were only at 35 last year.  In fact, we have never hit our existing targets.  The current bus system costs taxpayers $23 million beyond what it makes each year.  Spending another $127 million plus isn’t logical for improved service.  The BRT ridership numbers call on the fully developed plan being in place.  Take a look at the Confederation Demonstration Plan to see where the problem lies in this plan.  It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase, close down, and redevelop the site as they plan for it.  Then hundreds of millions more to rebuild that site.  Then they hope to meet their ridership targets as predicted?  But there is also a sister plan for the same thing for the entire Circle Park Mall area.  Again, at more hundreds of millions of dollars of cost.  Enough of the grand schemes.  Provide bus shelters to all bus stops.  Engage the University to develop a predictive modelling program to help ensure that riders always see a bus at their stop when they expect it in 40 below weather.  Small improvements on a modest budget which can greatly improve the experience and reliability for every user.  Start there, then monitor the outcome.  Down the road you can then look at the BRT option.  But by then, the rail lines might be out of the city and LRT might be a viable option for some or all mainlines.  That is a better long term option.

*10. Public Transportation: Other enhancements to Saskatoon Transit have been discussed that would make bus service more affordable, accessible, and reliable, while still minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. They include, for example, changes to the fare system, better connectivity, provisions for the poor and disabled, and improved communications. What are your priorities in further enhancing Saskatoon Transit to meet the needs of all people in Saskatoon?

Cary Tarasoff – Currently, our bus system makes approximately one third of what it costs to run it.  There is thought to do away with bus fares in a trial for that third since we are already paying the two thirds remainder now.  If people start to use the system more, and we improve the quality of this service, perhaps that will remain and our traffic situation will de-escalate because of this.

Thank you for completing the first half of our Liveable YXE survey. If you did not include your name (and Ward, for City Council candidates) with your response to Question 1, please add it to your response for this question. You can now proceed to Survey 2.

Liveable YXE Municipal Election 2020 Candidate Survey – Part 2

*1. Equity: Many youth in our city have limited access to safe, healthy activities after school and in the evening. Within Saskatoon’s marginalized populations, many parents or guardians are either working or not present. This can leave youth at risk of engaging in unhealthy behaviours such as drug use or gang activity. If elected, what will you do to ensure that these young people have access to safe, healthy activities/programs after school and in the evening?

Cary Tarasoff –  I am furious that the City and Prairieland Park are not doing more to make a good business case for Marquis Downs.  When at-risk youth can work with horses, it is a transformative thing.  More than 40% of the horse racing teams in Saskatchewan are Indigenous.  This is an opportunity to engage young people in a safe and healthy activity.  However, during a pandemic when Manitoba and Alberta held record racing seasons, our short sighted World Trade Center decision-makers decided to simply close down the Saskatoon season completely.  It is time to remove this track from Prairieland Park management for others to do the job required and give young people the chance to work with horses.  Know that Prairieland Park resides entirely on AG zoned land.  They pay no property tax to the City and they lease the entire site for $100 a year.  Yet they have a tavern that competes with other tax paying businesses. The overall AG zoning activity on this site revolves around horses and cattle – not the bar and World Trade Center convention spaces.

* 2. Equity: The largest population increase in Canada and Saskatchewan over the next 30 years will be in the over age 65 age group. In that time span it is estimated that this group will grow to comprise 25% of the country’s population.  In Saskatoon the over 65 population now stands at just over 13% of our population. By 2032, that figure is expected to grow to 20%. The city and province need to begin acting now to ensure we are prepared to support and include this new demographic of older adults who want to be active participants in community development and enriched community engagement and inclusion. An age-friendly community is a designation accepted world-wide for cities and communities that are working to make the following elements more age friendly: outdoor spaces and buildings; transportation; housing; respect and social inclusion; civic participation and employment; communication and information; social participation; and, community and health services. Would you support applying an age-friendly lens to all new policies and practices in Saskatoon to ensure the voices and needs of older adults are represented?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes, of course!  I don’t believe that short sighted outward development allows for enough mobility accessible ground level bungalow development.  We are starting to stack seniors in tight little apartments so they can glimpse out at the world from a small window or balcony.  Instead, we need to create sites with a range of activities which does include gardening, like the Luther Care Home on Pest Hill.  Ironically, the school that this facility is attached to used to be my Richmond Heights School I attended when I was a kid.  They have a range of activities on that site including a large community garden.  I am also aware of a ground breaking Alzheimer Facility planned for just outside of the city.  It is based on a world recognized program done in Europe and it holds the potential to be ground breaking for long term quality of life for these family members.  It is community based but that community is entirely built within themselves for safety and protection while giving so many freedom options to the residents. We need to ensure that the voices of seniors are better heard.

* 3. Environment: Urban forests across Canada and globally are recognized as a municipal asset and part of a city’s infrastructure because of the ecological benefits they confer. Many cities have bylaws in place to protect trees. However, Saskatoon still does not have such a bylaw. As a result, trees are often removed without consideration for the long-term impact and in the absence of scientific evidence on good urban tree management. Do you support creating a tree protection bylaw for our city?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes.  I am upset that recently City Council asked for the definition of a ‘nuisance tree’ and administration could not give it.  Yet they still went ahead and voted on the motion.  Our society is becoming so sterilized that some natural elements have no future in the highly controlled world many see as natural and orderly.  Nature happens best sometimes when people stay out of the way!

* 4. Environment: Urban forests across Canada and globally are recognized as a municipal asset and part of a city’s infrastructure because of the ecological benefits they confer. Many cities have bylaws in place to protect trees. However, Saskatoon still does not have such a bylaw. As a result, trees are often removed without consideration for the long-term impact and in the absence of scientific evidence on good urban tree management. Do you support the development of a long-term strategy for ensuring that protection of trees is part of sustainable planning?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes.  I have worked in jurisdictions where projects have to be planned around existing trees.  However, sometimes when trees have to be removed, they can weaken the remaining trees to the point where they become unstable.  Such programs have to be properly designed by people skilled in silviculture, if on a larger scale.

*5. Environment: There is less than 5% of natural grassland remaining in and around Saskatoon, and only 11-13% remaining in all of Saskatchewan. Every year Saskatchewan loses over 10,000 acres of wetlands and the many ecological benefits these areas provide. For these reasons, Saskatoon’s Northeast and Small Swales are especially valuable, providing habitat, flood protection, carbon sequestration, and recreation for a large area of the city. Their loss would have a negative impact on residents. Many major developments are planned for the northeast sector of Saskatoon, including a major provincial highway, industrial development, and new neighbourhoods surrounding the Swales. What measures would you support to ensure long term environmental protection for Saskatoon’s Northeast and Small Swales, and safety for animals and drivers, cyclists and pedestrians?

Cary Tarasoff – We should have never put the North Commuter Parkway through, including the Chief Mistawasis Bridge itself.  Already this is in the way of the new proposed freeway project.  I worked on the Northest Swale report back about 20 years ago now.  Planning around the environment is always put on the backburner by politician’s hell bent to make a name somewhere.  But having said this, I do believe that we need the perimeter freeway for our city.  I would prefer that this have serious provisions to protect the environment and the animals that reside there.  If I had my way, I would never of had the North Commuter Parkway through the Northeast Swale at all, and I would prefer that the province push out the new freeway path as far east as possible.  There is a problem with proximity to Wanuskewin Park if that moves too much, which is always the case with major corridors not properly planned for ahead of time.  Overlapping concerns compound the complexity of things greatly.  I have talked with provincial design engineers at a forum up at the airport over this.  I can tell you that they are focused on protecting the Swales while watching where they cross the river on the required bridge.

* 6. Active Transportation: Saskatoon has levied above-inflation residential property tax increases for the last several years. A City of Victoria study found that it costs a municipality $0.01 (one cent) in maintenance for every kilometer of a trip on foot compared to $1 (one dollar) in maintenance for every kilometer of a trip taken by car. Do you support increasing investment in active transportation as one strategy for reducing the amount the City of Saskatoon spends on road maintenance costs?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes.  I agree with building better ways for people to self propel themselves around the city.  Either walking, running, cycling, roller blading, cross country skiing, even long boarding.  But this needs to be segregated from vehicle traffic.  This won’t reduce road maintenance costs but it can reduce the long-term usage of roadways in our city most likely.  Reality is that our city is spread out too far to expect the same types of active transportation densities seen other places in the world.  Also when its 40 below here, most comparable cities aren’t dealing with those extremes in weather.

* 7. Active Transportation: The City’s Active Transportation Plan (ATP) released in 2016 set out the following vision: In 2045, Saskatoon is a leading city for active transportation, where walking and cycling are convenient, comfortable, attractive, fun and normal ways of moving around the city year round for residents and visitors of all ages and abilities. The ATP target is to double walking and cycling trips to 24% of all daily trips and 15% of all commute trips by 2045. Ensuring cyclists and pedestrians feel safe will be one of the keys to achieving these goals. Do you support the City of Saskatoon investing in the necessary physical infrastructure to safely separate cycling traffic from both vehicular traffic and pedestrians?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes.  For sure, that is exactly what I think needs to happen.  But knowing what should happen and finding a way to integrate the connections needed through out existing built up areas is a mammoth task.  It may require cyclists to dismount, to walk for some blocks where they can rejoin a more protected area suitable for self transport.

* 8. Health: Access to public washrooms is a fundamental human right. The United Nations General Assembly declared that everyone, without discrimination is entitled to “have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and social and culturally acceptable, and that provides privacy and dignity.” Access to public washrooms affects everyone in the community and is especially critical for seniors, pregnant women, young children, those with certain medical conditions, and those who are homeless. COVID-19 has highlighted the need for more public washrooms in Saskatoon. Relying on private businesses or non-profit organizations to meet the basic needs of our community is inequitable and amplifies discrimination of some people. In 2017 Washington DC passed a bylaw mandating that city to install 10 public standalone washrooms that are open 24/7, and proposed a program to incentivize private businesses to open their washrooms to the public. Do you support Saskatoon passing a similar bylaw, which will ensure 24/7 access to public washrooms?

Cary Tarasoff – Yes if publicly provided but No if it is meant to force a business to provide this service to non paying clientele.  I don’t want things popped in without careful thought, though.  And when I say careful, I don’t mean a never-ending mediation session over the span of years.  I mean a small team of highly trained people in planning, policing, and public health to look at options in a short timeframe.  It may be a small demonstration project to start with and, with location specific feedback, we can look at better ways to deploy this.  Safe, clean washrooms are required along parks as well.  But remember we have a huge social issue around homelessness and drug use.  Some other provinces also have a massive tent city problem and there are many that live in such places that have no mental health or addiction issues, they just prefer to live this lifestyle and that is hard to turn around in places like Victoria.  Able bodied people make the rounds to get free meals and they live in a milder climate in any given park for free.  Our climate stops this generally for year-round situations but we could still open to the door to large seasonal issues not properly planned for.

* 9. Climate Change: Urban areas are responsible for around two thirds of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They are also greatly affected by climate change. Therefore, cities have a critical role to play in mitigating and adapting to global warming. The City of Saskatoon has national and global commitments to address climate change issues, as a member of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and as a signatory to the 2015 Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. The City of Saskatoon Climate Action Plan includes strategies for climate change mitigation (Low Emissions Community Plan, or LEC Plan) and proactively adapting infrastructure, services, and programs (Adaptation Strategy). Although the Low Emissions Community Plan has been approved by City Council and many actions are moving forward, many others have not been progressing as planned. Only 10 out of 25 actions that are to be started in the next 4 years (Phases 1 and 2) have been funded. According to the Saskatoon’s Corporate Risk 2018 Annual Report, the City may not be prepared for the effects of climate change, which represents a medium level risk to the overall corporation. One of the main stalemates for the Low Emissions Community Plan has been ensuring the long-term budgeting, as this plan is a 30-year long strategy. Do you support the city committing long-term funding to implement the Low Emissions Community Plan?

Cary Tarasoff – Not sure yet.  My understanding is there are issues with the way this plan was envisioned.  Immediately I would push to align City Administration processes to allow large solar arrays on commercial properties where feasible.  Many large commercial buildings have vast roof surfaces which are built in such a way that lends them well to solar panel distributions.  The hurdles come with city planning and the power utility.  But a secondary business could be afforded to these structures to sublet roof power generation to tenants wishing to further ‘green up’ their footprint.  This would not require civic funding, just a streamlining of processes to work for this goal instead of hindering it.

*10. Climate Change: The 40 actions set out in the LEC Plan will provide a host of benefits beyond environmental protection, such as improving public health, diversifying our local economy, improvement, and increasing equity and quality of life. What actions from the Low Emissions Community Plan would you prioritize to be implemented in your Ward or the City as a whole?