Random thoughts after a mean campaign

The winds of political change swept through Rimbey Oct. 18, but unlike the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the community is still in pretty good shap

By George A. Brown, editor

The winds of political change swept through Rimbey Oct. 18, but unlike the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the community is still in pretty good shape.

Rimbey’s new mayor, Sheldon Ibbotson, and councillors Gayle Rondeel, Paul Payson, Jack Webb and Joe Anglin were to take the oath of office at the Oct. 26 council meeting. In politics, it’s not likely to be the only time they will be sworn at.

Clearly, from the results, Rimbey residents wanted change. A collection of councillors and a mayor with one term of office as a councillor 15 years ago won’t agree right away on what form that change should take. Expect though that it could mean a difference (hopefully an improvement) in the way council and administration deals with its electorate. They campaigned to open the channels of communication and to restore the trust between government and the governed.

One way to do that right off the bat is to have council members voluntarily disclose their election campaign contributions. Now that they’ve turned the keys to the till over to this group, residents should know how well these candidates managed their own finances, and to whom they are financially and politically beholden.

Another issue we are anxious to watch play out is seeing who actually runs the town — the councillors or king makers? How much free string will the puppet masters at the Rimbey Ratepayers Association give their new town council? Their glee at sweeping Dale Barr and council out of office was just a little too self-indulgent. Ratepayers in Rimbey should be concerned about the potential for back room (or in this case Beatty House basement) manoeuvring to control the community agenda. Let’s be certain it’s the people whose names were on the ballot and who are legally responsible for managing municipal operations.

There wasn’t a lot of public discussion during the election campaign about the community’s future — the concern seemed to centre on alleged misdeeds of the past.

Residents of Rimbey, the business community, institutions such as schools and hospitals, and service clubs need to be involved in forging a new, common vision for the town. There needs to be a frank discussion about Rimbey’s future. While council can’t wave a magic wand and suddenly create commercial wealth in the community, its plans, policies and attitude will have a bearing on whether Rimbey should court a biofuels plant or international widget companies looking to get a toehold in central Alberta.

“Small town atmosphere” means security and safety, peace and quiet, friendliness and community spirit. There needs to be a reasonable and sustainable balance of commercial and industrial assessment versus residential assessment. Council must face the challenge to increase the business community’s self-sufficiency in creating local jobs — the more opportunities residents have to work here, the more opportunities they will have to spend here.

This common vision should be to ensure a positive business climate that supports expansion and diversification of Rimbey’s economy; and one that contributes to an improved quality of life for all residents while maintaining the community’s agricultural roots and protecting the natural environment.

School board elections

Taking a look around the province and especially here in Wolf Creek country, there is no reason not to believe the provincial government, will sooner, rather than later, eliminate community governance of school divisions.

Just as they did with hospital districts, school divisions were amalgamated back in Ralph Klein’s day as a way to save money and centralize power under the Dome. The next step is to create a couple dozen regional school divisions or perhaps in one fell swoop, appoint an unelected education superboard: Alberta Education Services.

Virtually no one is interested in being a school trustee; only in the Rimbey ward was there an election. All others were acclaimed. There would be no resistance from the community to creating a provincial superboard simply because there is no local autonomy, no local decision making now.

Without a fight we gave our franchise back to the provincial government long ago.