In a decisive and contentious move, Regina’s city council voted 6-5 to remove the board of directors of the Regina Exhibition Association Limited (REAL), a municipal corporation embroiled in financial turmoil and operational scrutiny.
The decision, announced following a nearly hour-long private session for legal advice, was instigated by Ward 3 Coun. Andrew Stevens. “It is the 11 of us who are accountable to the public,” Stevens remarked, highlighting the council’s responsibility in the wake of a troubling financial review.
The motion, supported by councillors Stevens, Bresciani, LeBlanc, Nelson, Stadnichuk, and Zachidniak, faced opposition from councillors Hawkins, Findura, Mancinelli, Mohl, and Mayor Sandra Masters. The split vote reflects deep divisions over the management and future of REAL, an organization reported to be over $17 million in debt.
The crux of the issue centers around a financial review conducted by accounting firm MNP, which revealed that REAL’s business model is currently unsustainable without significant city subsidies. “That showed us, and the public, what is going on,” stated Ward 7 Coun. Terina Nelson, underscoring the need for deeper investigation into REAL’s finances.
This report comes in the wake of REAL’s failed rebranding efforts and concerns over potential conflicts of interest involving CEO Tim Reid’s private consulting firm. Despite these issues, CEO Tim Reid remains in his position, now reporting directly to the council.
Coun. Bob Hawkins, representing the council on the REAL board for the past year, expressed confidence in the board’s capabilities, stating, “I have seen nothing to suggest we should have nothing but confidence in [the board].” However, the majority felt a change was necessary, with Ward 4 Coun. Lori Bresciani articulating the difficulty in approving further funding without significant restructuring.
The financial straits of REAL are stark, with the MNP report stating that the organization would need to host an equivalent of four to seven Grey Cups annually just to break even post-2028. The organization’s losses have been mounting, totaling millions over the past three years.
In response to the vote, all voting members of REAL’s board resigned, as confirmed by the City of Regina. The city administration will now nominate interim board appointees, pending council approval. This shift marks a significant change in governance, with the potential for REAL to be dissolved and its assets managed directly by the city.
Councillor Jason Mancinelli cautioned against hasty decisions, highlighting the potential negative impact on tourism and the organization. “Please slow down,” he urged his colleagues, expressing concern over rushed decision-making.
City Manager Niki Anderson assured the council of the administration’s capability to oversee operations, countering concerns about bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of creativity.
The council’s decision, while addressing immediate financial and operational concerns, opens a new chapter in the management of REAL, with significant implications for the organization’s future and the city’s role in its operations. A report on the future of REAL, including the possibility of its dissolution, is expected by the second quarter of next year.