More than 400 people signed a petition opposing the town council’s decision to relocate to the provincial building. The town council rejected the petitioners’ call for a referendum declaring the petition was not legal. Matter closed, as some might think.
Now, the council has flip-flopped and decided to hold a non-binding referendum based on the illegal petition they themselves rejected. Non-binding means the outcome of the proposed vote will not matter (count). Complicating the situation, the referendum (vote) will be scheduled approximately 100 days before a mandated municipal election. Provincial law prevents having a byelection within six months of a municipal election. The law also suggests all public votes planned within one-year of a mandated election can be delayed until that year’s fall election. The law was drafted to prevent unnecessary elections, however this council will ignore the suggestion and hold a vote that doesn’t count.
The mayor and council intend to manipulate the question to make the non-binding referendum about a library expansion and not just a planned relocation of the town’s offices. There are several suitable options available for a library expansion in town but those locations are a separate issue and will not be up for consideration in the proposed non-binding referendum. Ironically, regardless of the vote, the library does not have the necessary funds to expand anywhere.
Rimbey’s citizens are being asked to go to the polls approximately 100 days before a mandated election, to vote in a referendum that doesn’t matter, to decide a question that was never asked — only to satisfy an illegal petition? If the referendum passes, the town offices will relocate so the library can sit in a half-empty building for quite some time because there are no approved plans or funds available to finance an expansion. It’s tough to make this stuff up, and if it was published in a book, I wouldn’t burn it.
We could always cancel the referendum and the proposed relocation, and give the money that would have been paid in annual rent ($18,000) to help fund a new location for the library. But that would take time, which raises a new question. Does anyone know why this must be decided now?
MLA Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
Editor’s note: The annual rent for the Provincial Building including janitorial and utilities costs will average $30,000 annually.