MLA Anglin defends his right to announce funding for Rimbey lodge

The community of Rimbey, and in particular its senior citizens, would be better served by the Rimoka Housing Board

Dear Editor,

The community of Rimbey, and in particular its senior citizens, would be better served by the Rimoka Housing Board if the board focused more on doing their job, and less on engaging in partisan provincial politics.

As the MLA for Rimbey, it goes without saying; I have to suffer from time-to-time the criticisms from partisan provincial ministries. However, I see no value to the community when local politicians engage in the same unhelpful rhetoric to raise their public profiles. I’ve been criticized for many things in my life, but this is the first time I have been criticized for passing along good news.

Before the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ken Hughes, resigned from cabinet he drafted a letter to the Rimoka Board outlining the funding details for a new lodge in Rimbey. Rimbey’s Mayor Rick Pankiw and Ponoka County’s Reeve, Paul McLauchlin, are in receipt of this letter, and both claim the information is confidential and cannot be released to the public. Sometime soon after, on the evening of April 8th, the newly appointed interim Minister of Municipal Affairs, Greg Weadick, confirmed to me that Rimbey would be receiving roughly $13.3 million for a new lodge. I asked Weadick for permission to inform the local press, and he happily obliged me. I didn’t necessarily need his permission, but as a matter of common courtesy it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. After all Hughes had resigned only hours earlier, and Weadick hadn’t even had time to warm his seat. Presumably Mr. Weadick acted without consulting his bureaucrats, and now the ministerial bureaucrats, with the aid of ill-informed local politicians, are alleging I leaked information that should not have been released by the minister. I can only assume the bureaucratic tail did a very poor job of wagging the ministerial dog, and now they are looking for someone to blame.

I’m happy to take the blame for leaking information, but in order to be guilty of the offense, even the bureaucrats have to admit someone would have had to give me the information in the first place. By definition opposition MLAs don’t leak government information. We have a parliamentary right to ask the minister questions, and when we are provided answers, we get to release the information. Secondly, we have no obligation to the minister or ministry to withhold information from the public. It’s a responsibility we opposition MLAs exercise freely, in spite of the political partisanship so often demonstrated by this 40-year-old government concerning the allocation of taxpayer dollars. The practice of politicizing the allocation of taxpayer dollars is so deeply entrenched in Alberta’s political ethos that naive local politicians actually think they have a duty to assist the provincial government in this endeavor. This perverted sense of obligation is all the more disturbing when measured against the inaccurate statements made by Pankiw and McLauchlin.

Pankiw and McLauchlin fail to realize that it is the right of every taxpayer to examine how its government allocates tax dollars within government ministries. Once the ministry informed the Rimoka Board of the pending allocation of funds, both Pankiw and McLauchlin have no legal basis to withhold the information from the public. Nothing the minister or ministry can do, or say, can compel them to keep this allocation of funds confidential. They would do well to read the Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act [FOIPP], before they accuse others of leaking information.

More disturbing than withholding information from the public is the release of inaccurate information. Some Rimoka Board members under the ineffectual leadership of its current chairman are making public statements to the effect that there is more funding available for renovating older buildings than there is funding available to build new facilities. This statement is just not true! In the April 17, 2014 Hansard, the ministry confirmed there is $289 million for new capital investments and another $40 million for redevelopment. Why some Rimoka Board members are conveying inaccurate information is a mystery.

McLauchlin’s assertion that I haven’t discussed the project with the Rimoka Board in the last two years is false. On the night of the funding disclosure I communicated with Mayor Pankiw several times over the course of the evening. Mr. McLauchlin knows this to be true, because Pankiw informed him of my communications. After the minister gave me permission to inform the press, the first person I called was the Rimoka CAO, Denis Beesley. I told Mr. Beesley exactly what the former Minister of Seniors told me: “As soon as the Rimoka Board receives notice of the impending funding, have the board apply immediately for assisted living funding. There is another $5 million in additional funding available for assisted living, and all the Rimoka Board needs to do is apply.” As of the date of the writing of this letter the Rimoka Board has not applied for the assisted living funding.

The Rimoka Board has operated incompetently and unprofessionally for far too long now, and Pankiw and McLauchlin have some explaining to do. How did the application for a new lodge get reduced from 80 to 40 units without the Rimbey and Ponoka town councils knowing? How did it come to be that SJC signed a letter of intent to sell land to the county for a new lodge, before the county broke off negotiations with the Johnsons? This type of bad faith dealing is unbecoming of elected officials and the public deserves better.

In closing, Mayor Pankiw and Mr. McLauchlin need to quit bellyaching about who is going to get credit for announcing the new lodge and get busy doing their jobs.

Joe Anglin MLA

Rimbey – Rocky Mountain House – Rimbey