March 1st, 2024

City Notebook: Why insist on over promising when you’re bound to under deliver?

By COLLIN GALLANT on December 16, 2023.

Anyone who shops for knick-knacks or bone china has seen the sign “if you break it, you’ve bought it.”

But, what inspires politicians to take ownership of issues that are already busted and so clearly difficult to fix?

Issues and problems typically become property of government of the day anyway over time, even inherited problems for newly elected governments or political leaders that swing onto the scene promising solutions.

Some might say that’s the better virtues of a person, or a willingness to serve.

But it’s also problematic in a larger sense for governments already suffering from the widespread belief they can’t do anything, or when they do, only make things worse.

The percentage of politicians sworn to tackle “affordability” is approaching 100 per cent, including the City of Medicine Hat, which insisted a utility credit this fall was actually aimed at general affordability.

Premiers Jason Kenney and Danielle Smith both decided to own the issue of gasoline prices by pausing and then extending the provincial tax on fuel.

Now that world oil prices have fallen, the tax will be reapplied in January, and anti-tax groups are putting the current Alberta leader through a rare round of criticism.

A cynic would wonder why a politician would want to mention pump prices at all, considering the reward is a grilling every time they rise despite having no real power to affect them?

A non-monetary case study is photo radar. The United Conservatives promised to fix it after the 2019 campaign. This month, another annual press release outlines minor changes to the practice that is cost-effective policing but also a lightning rod.

It’s a cash cow, doesn’t solve the problem and is intrusive, critics say.

Those same sets of horns are hung on seemingly everything government does these days. The carbon tax is a good example. Anything to do with the housing market, interest rates, etc. are others.

But photo radar is a particularly unsolvable riddle – fining speeders without adding salaries – and perhaps why the province has been studying it for five years without the promised monumental solution appearing.

Likewise, reforms on how oil and gas wells are assessed for local taxes were promised three years ago. It’s a critical issue for both Alberta’s counties and the oil patch – two of the government’s key constituencies – and likely one that can’t be resolved to the satisfaction of both sides.

Can a pause on new renewable projects come up with a suitable formula for placing wind and solar farms when everywhere is somebody’s backyard?

Part of the larger solution may be a general recognition that not everyone is going to like the answer on whichever issue.

Politicians can do their part by not overpromising when they know they’ll under deliver.


Not that long ago the growing popularity of pickleball left many surprised or skeptical. Especially so when Medicine Hat dedicated millions of COVID stimulus dollars to build a huge new pickleball complex in the north end.

Yet, this month, the Goodyear Blimp appeared above a Professional Pickleball Tour event at San Clemente, Calif., a press release from the tire manufacturer states, further noting the sport is “blimp-worthy.”

More on Goodyear

The company that has a major production facility in Medicine Hat announced late last month it was seeking a buyer for its chemicals division and might also sell off its Dunlop and off-road tire brands. The “Goodyear Forward” plan developed by the board seeks to save US$1 billion per year in operating costs and could include more substantial moves and rearrangements.

Local listings

A rumour rolling round the local mill has got it a bit wrong, the News has found. Scuttlebutt had it that due to the recent Rogers-Shaw merger local city council meetings – a staple of Monday nights for the non-football crowd – would no longer be broadcast.

Suspicions arose a couple weeks ago when the simulcast didn’t appear promptly at 6:30 p.m. and that night’s listings were out of date. The broadcast cut in abut five minutes late, and there is no plan to end the broadcast, unofficial sources tell the News.

A look ahead

Council meets for the final time in 2023 on Monday (tune in on Shaw Cable, see above).

The CPKC Holiday Train arrives at the N. Railway Street yard in Medicine Hat on Tuesday at 3 p.m. as the annual fundraiser for food banks across the continent winds to a close later that night in Gleichen with Hatter Mackenzie Porter on board.

100 years ago

We’ve run out of room this week, but will go long on history next time.

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

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