By Matt Duguid
Regina's new mayor, Michael Fougere, has been given an F for his policies regarding waste management, composting and recycling. The failing grade was given to him in a Regina Public Interest Research Group mayoral candidate report card released prior to the election.
The report asked candidates to outline their strategies to reduce waste, improve recycling, instate composting and outline any changes they would make to the current city landfill. Fougere responded to the survey saying the city had "set aside $55 million for a waste treatment plan" and that he supports the recently approved recycling program approved by the City of Regina. Fougere could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Environmental issues did not play a major role in the 2012 Regina civic election, being overshadowed by the stadium debate, the housing crisis and the municipal employee pension shortfall. But that does not mean environmental issues were not important to the residents of Regina.
Regina resident's environmentally-friendly side will be on display, in the form of blue roll-out recycling bins, when the city implements its mandatory curbside recycling program in July of 2013.
According to some losing candidates the mandatory recycling program is a step in the right direction but has its flaws.
“It's a start but it is way to late,” said sixth place candidate Chad Novak. Novak was also “not impressed” by how the city will be funding the mandatory program, adding a yearly fee of $91.25 to resident’s civic utility bill.
“We shouldn't be charging people extra money to recycle, we should be charging them for extraneous garbage,” said Novak.
The sentiment was echoed by second place finisher, Marian Donnelly, who received the highest grade in the RPIRG report with a B+.
“I'd like to see us revisit the (curbside recycling) program, it makes no sense to pay more to recycle than it does to have garbage taken out,” she said. Currently Regina residents do not pay a specific garbage collection fee, which is instead funded through municipal tax revenue. Donnelly also noted that the program was long overdue, with other Canadian cities having mandatory recycling programs in place for more than a decade already.
Fifth place candidate Jim Elliott would like to see a switching of the garbage collection and recycling costs, having a cost for garbage collection while providing recycling for free. This would be an incentive for people to produce less garbage which would help save on landfill costs said Elliott. Recycling paper and plastics is not the only way to reduce the amount of garbage in the landfill either said Elliot. Several cities, including Saskatoon and Edmonton, have created composting facilities to limit the amount of organic material going into their landfills.
Regina has been slow to take on a composting program though.
“Currently the city hasn't really been doing a lot about composting,” said Halena Seiferling, outreach and events coordinator for the Regina Public Interest Research Group.