The City of Airdrie is investigating after residents received a postcard that looked like it came from the City, according to Sharon Pollyck, director of the chief administrative officer’s office. The postcard called upon Airdronians to not vote for three incumbents running in the civic election.
“We are definitely looking into it. It is not a piece that was distributed by the City. One of the things we’re looking at is there a contravention of the Local Authorities Election Act,” she said. “We’re actually at this point making sure we have our ducks in a row. I’m not at liberty to tell you just exactly what we’re doing or where we’re going (with the investigation).”
The postcard mailer was sent to homes across Airdrie and delivered to mailboxes by Canada Post. It is unclear how many of the postcards were printed and mailed out.
The front side has the City’s civic election branding, consisting of a bright green background with the words “Airdrie Votes,” an arrow and the date of the upcoming election in white. On the other side, the sender, or senders, include text outlining their interpretation of details surrounding the Square – a proposed redevelopment of Airdrie’s downtown – which was shelved in November 2016 after a small number of residents loudly and persistently questioned the process.
The postcard suggests voters should not cast their vote for Fred Burley, Candice Kolson or Kelly Hegg as this would be, according to the mailout, “a vote for continued secrecy and mismanagement of tax dollars.” Burley, Kolson and Hegg are singled out because they “continue to support the Square,” according to the postcard.
“The attempts to make it look like it was official correspondence from the City is dirty politics, it is misleading the public and it is trying to meddle and manipulate the election,” Kolson said. “It’s my hope that residents see it for what it is.”
Burley said he agreed.
“I’m disappointed and troubled by the lack of integrity of the individuals involved,” he said.
Kolson said the content of the postcard misrepresents what happened with the Square.
“It is not an accurate reflection of what happened with the Square and if people would like to know what happened, then I would encourage them to contact all members of council, because all members of council were involved for two years before (information about the Square) was released,” she said.
Burley and Hegg said they would encourage residents to check the minutes from the council meetings in question to get an accurate understanding of what happened regarding the Square rather than believing what is included on the mailout.
The Square was proposed by the Airdrie Main Street Square (AMSQ) board – AMSQ is a wholly-owned, for-profit subsidiary set up by the City in 2004 to manage its real estate holdings. At the time, the members of the board included all members of City council as well as the city manager and director of finance.
At its Oct. 3, 2016 meeting, council had unanimously approved a motion to move all discussion and decisions regarding the Square from the purview of AMSQ to that of council, effectively putting the brakes on the project.
Council approved a motion Nov. 7, 2016 to not move ahead with a budget approved by the AMSQ board, although that move was somewhat redundant, according to Mayor Peter Brown, who at the time said, “There is nothing in the capital budget as it relates to the Square for 2017, at least as it stands right now to come to council Dec. 3. Right now there is no monies dedicated to the Square in the 2017 budget.”
Subsequently, the board of AMSQ was dissolved and replaced by one that included three members of council and four public members. Council voted unanimously Nov. 21, 2016 to begin a public engagement process to collect feedback from residents regarding what they’d like to see in Airdrie’s downtown.
Brown said he was disappointed to see something like this happening in Airdrie.
“All I could think (when I saw it on Facebook) was pathetic, slimy, uninformed,” he said. “My concern is it looks official. It’s unfortunate that Airdrie has to see this garbage in a municipal election.”
According to Pollyck, an update regarding the City’s investigation will be available within the next couple of weeks.