By Bromley Chamberlain
Mayor Dale Barr and his incumbent councillors had to answer at an election forum Oct. 6 for attending Progressive Conservative party functions with taxpayer’s dollars.
“I would like to know how you would have thought, for one second, that it was okay to take money out of my pocket and support the political party of your choice?” Levi Blackmore asked.
Barr explained the town has to spend money to make money. Attending these functions benefited the town; and Rimbey attended them because other municipalities were also attending the Premier’s Dinners and golf tournaments to become friendly with government members.
“Our auditors were very comfortable with the reimbursement of the money back to the council. We’ve also resolved that issue, because it is still grey according to the Contributions Act, and according to legal (counsel),” Barr said. “It is not anything that council had to do, and nothing council did wrong.”
Candidate Joe Anglin begged to differ. He said the rules are clear in the Elections and Finances and Contributions Act. “The law is the law is the law. You can’t get around that.”
Barr rolled his eyes at that statement because he believes the PC dinners fall under a gray area.
“In the last three years Rimbey has gotten approximately $15 million in additional funding that wasn’t coming our way. You figure it out from the dollars that were spent on theses functions, it works out to .05 per cent. That’s a fifth of one per cent was spent to get over $15 million worth,” added incumbent Wayne Clark.
“I’d like to take issue with the assertion that we’re receiving more grant money that everyone else,” said Sheldon Ibbotson, a mayoral candidate. “I’ve looked at about 10 local communities and I don’t see our building permits being in the stratosphere. They’re not sensational. We hear the claim that going to these functions is bringing us all this money. I’d like to see some documented proof of that.”
“I’ll give a simple answer to that,” said candidate Paul Payson. “I don’t think you need to go golfing to get grants. I think that you have to fill out the paperwork.”
Russell Wardrope, Rimbey’s former town manager, asked how council will be more open with the public?
Anglin has requested information several times under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and feels that the town needs to be proactive, not reactive to residents’ concerns.
“The Internet allows you to be proactive,” Anglin said. “If you want to get a copy of the minutes from the council meeting, they can be emailed right to you rather than having you ask every time to see something.”
“When we have a council meeting the minutes are not approved until the next meeting. It does take time,” incumbent Dave Huff rebutted.
Mayor Barr thinks the whole country struggles with communication and is open to ideas about being more open and transparent with the people of Rimbey.
“We would like to get all the information out. We want to be transparent, and it is all there for you, the challenge is always going to be: how do we get the information to the people in the right time frame, to make the right decision, in a proper time frame?” Barr said.
Several candidates believe the Rimbey Review should be more involved in communicating town council’s decisions to residents.
“The paper used to have a weekly column. I think that’s a great idea. Until (recently) we hadn’t seen a reporter at council for three years,” Wayne Clark said.
“Something that I think might work is to have the agenda in the paper the week before a meeting,” said Dianne Kushniryk. “This way people who were interested in what is being talked about could be present at the council meetings.”
A question for Ibbotson concerned his signage around town. He had said that he was not going to put up signs for ecological reasons.
“When I started to see that forest of signs out there, I felt the pressure, and I went out and got some. I’ve been a bad conservationist, and I apologize,” Ibbotson said.
Gayle Rondeel thinks a science fair would bring new, creative ideas to the table on how to be green and inexpensive.
“The best ideas come out of people’s homes and garages. I really don’t like it when it’s being told to us, that things are impossible, that they can’t be done. It just may take a little bit more thinking and more creativity,” Rondeel said.
Something for kids to do
Youth programs need upgrading in Rimbey, said mayoral candidate Rick Pankiw. There are not many places for teens to go, and he is proposing a fieldhouse.
“We need more for the high school kids,” Pankiw said. He wants to see more events for young adults as well.
“I think that one of the biggest problems with programs designed for teenagers and young adults is that adults design them,” Rondeel said. “I think what we need to do is involve them in the process and find out what they want, from their perspective and quit planning things for them and expect them to show up.”
The salaries on council have been under debate for some time.
“A person has to remember when you run for council it’s pretty much a volunteer position. You’re not there to make money,” candidate Brian Restall said.
Beautifying the town is something all residents have to take pride in.
“We’re talking about changing the signage,” incumbent Steve Schrader said. “We’ve got to decide on the change. It’s been this way long enough. Everybody’s got to do their part and clean up their yards. The town has to step forward and do a little extra.”
Candidate Jack Webb did not attend. He had a previous engagement.
The forum, which was hosted by the library, was tightly moderated. The candidates had to answer questions quickly for fear of being cut off due to time restrictions.
About 240 people attended.