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Ratepayers suffer due to council dysfunction

Airdrie letters_text

Dear Editor,

On Jan. 20, as I sat in the back row of the Court of Queen’s Bench hearing on the Rocky View County (RVC) Application to Strike against the three “minority” councillors’ (as the RVC lawyer referred to them) request to be allowed to resume their full ability to represent their constituents, I had one overriding question – why has there been no attempt on the part of CAO Al Hoggan, to attempt to remediate an untenable situation over the past year, instead of waiting until at least October 2020 when the sanctions will possibly be reviewed? In fact, by denying the councillors equal access to council’s sole “employee” (Hoggan) without the reeve and/or deputy reeve present, and denying them access to staff for clarification and/or background documentation necessary for public hearings and resident inquiries, isn’t Hoggan shortchanging and cheating a very significant portion of the electorate and ratepayers?

It is absurd and deeply insulting to separate duly elected members of the current council into the “majority” and “minority” under the assumption that one group only votes pro-development and the latter “minority” group is assumed to be “opposed to everything,” as this is not what the record shows. This nomenclature is simply not reflective of the councillors’ votes and their democratic right to represent their constituents.

More than 40 per cent (the constituents of Divisions 3, 8 and 9) of 39,000 RVC ratepayers are being treated as second-class citizens, with no attempt on the part of the CAO to remedy the situation. When Judge Eamon questioned RVC’s lawyer in her request to strike or invalidate the affidavits of the sanctioned councillors, the judge asked whether, in her opinion, they had any recourse whatsoever to these allegedly overbearing sanctions. Her reply, on behalf of RVC, was that they did not – other than to fire the CAO. On behalf of the ratepayers of Divisions 3, 8 and 9, as well as the County as a whole who may have alternative opinions, this seems patently undemocratic and unsatisfactory with respect to governance.

I would also like to address the demonization of two of the sanctioned councillors (both female) – first, Coun. Crystal Kissel, and now Coun. Samanntha Wright – through the employment of threats of disqualification and implied SLAPP lawsuits. A SLAPP is defined as a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” directed against individuals or organizations to deter their public criticisms and advocacy for change. A SLAPP is employed in an effort to silence and intimidate critics, usually by a corporation though in this case by the “majority” of council (supported by substantial taxpayers’ funds) against individuals of significantly lesser financial means. These councillors who have thus been attacked can not avail themselves of municipal financial support, as the risk is entirely on their personal and family account. Again, how does this approach work toward resolving issues?

The revised Municipal Government Act and Code of Conduct were never meant to be “weaponized” by a group within council against those who raised questions about a hiring practice of council’s sole employee, the CAO. There was no attempt to reverse this hiring by the sanctioned councillors, but rather, merely a proposal that the hiring of any CAO be governed by a well-defined process.

The outstanding question to CAO Hoggan, as the chief County administrator, as well as the “majority” on council remains: Why has there been no attempt to work toward good governance within this council through mediation of an untenable and long-term handicapping of the rights of representation of 40 per cent of County ratepayers. The harm caused to the reputation of all of council and the County will not be not without long-term effects.

Liz Breakey
Former Councillor, Division 1

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