January 22nd, 2021

City Notebook: Navigating the Donald

By Medicine Hat News Opinion on January 9, 2021.


Was it only four years ago that this column stated that sooner or later people would have to figure out a way to deal with Donald Trump?

That was aimed at the Democrats, who’d been shocked they could lose to such a man in late 2016, and to protesters, who were generally well behaved, though they wailed, during his inauguration.

They’d have to figure out a way to beat him, was the obvious answer. The same was true for the Canadian government as new trade talks began.

Now, commentators closer to the scene in Washington and better acquainted with U.S. politics are better left to comment on the frantic goings on in Washington, D.C. this week.

Not to mention the detailing new actions to remove Trump from office ahead of his scheduled exit.

For those who happily waived goodbye to 2020, we’re only nine days into 2021.

For those on both sides of the political spectrum, it’s apparently a long way to January 20, inauguration day.

So, what to do?… what to do?… is still the question.

What he’ll do is also open to guesses.

But, this column stands by its 2016 thesis that governments across the Western world will have to figure out how to address the grievances of his large fanbase.

Some of them – like those on display in Washington this week – are better dealt with in prison, it appears. And some loudmouths just aren’t worth listening to. Of the crowd that believes aliens are behind all this, hopefully a bunch snap out of it themselves.

Not that many of the 75 million American voters who supported Trump two months ago can be so easily dismissed.

Where do they go from here? Again, it’s up to them to figure it out.

Similarly, Mr. Biden still has the riddle to solve of how to govern a country so divided.

City budget

It would be a crime to allow the late year changes to the city budget fade into the background without a fuller examination.

The late December document was discussed by council members as if, like them, the entire city population had been in closed budget meetings for the entire autumn.

The bare fact is that the city needs to steam towards a balanced budget in two years rather than the planned six.

This is a decade after the price collapse of natural gas, which once balanced the budget (reserve cash has done the job since).

And until recently there’s been lots of talk – with more than a little vanity – about how Medicine Hat would do in the “biggest bank account” contest among Canadian cities.

That’s replaced without much commentary or official position by a budget plan that is short on details, but long on promises of vastly reduced city spending.

There’s a chop of $16 million next year, and promises of another $8 million in 2022. The stated goal is to keep taxes at 2019 levels until then.

Fitting the budget together with a new dividend policy though, it’s clear that the city is in worse financial shape, or at least facing a substantially worse financial outlook, than most have been happy to advertise.

Combining the “commodity” business units essentially means that power plant profits that once bridged the budget gap are now needed to operate the gas division.

Put flatly, that division will shut down later this decade when the unavoidable costs of closing wells are squared away.

There has been some straight talk about all this, of course, from council members and administers, especially since the late 2019 announcement of 2,000 well closures.

But, ever-present calls to control spending, and for “smaller government,” have only increased over the years.

That’s what many hope the headlines will read.

100 years ago

A local “machine gun school” would be staged by militia officials for any civilian men interested in learning the technical aspects and operations of the equipment, the News reported on Jan. 6, 1921.

A local unit of eight officers and 25 non-commissioned men was to be formed, but to date, only 15 men had made their interest known.

The newly opened Vauxhall irrigation district boasted it would see 12,000 acres under cultivation in 1921. The townsite, on the Suffield to Blackie rail line, was central to a 55,000-acre settlement promoted by the Canada Land and Immigration Co.

The New Year’s Eve show of the “Chimes of Normandy” was “another pinnacle of success for the Medicine Hat Operatic Society,” raved a review.

Collin Gallant covers city politics and a variety of topics for the News. Reach him at 403-528-5664 or via email at cgallant@medicinehatnews.com

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