June 18th, 2024

City Notebook: Triple P governance – Politics, procedure, populism

By COLLIN GALLANT on April 6, 2024.


Everyone seems to have an opinion about the showdown between Mayor Linnsie Clark and the other eight members of city council.

Unfortunately, it appears, the majority are simply fed up with politics.

That’s in the general public, mind you, and among the main actors only Clark is letting her opinion be known.

She says she’ll continue the fight for proper process in a court review of council’s decision to sanction her, and the sanctions themselves.

Sidelining a mayor is not a minor thing, of course, but seven councillors to this point have only answered that they are following proper process, not only by doing it, but also by barely explaining it.

There are precious few revolutions in the history books waged over proper process, but add a good ole usurping of power and then you’ve really got something.

Who’s got more power, a mayor or a council, is a tricky question – in both precedent and practice, and especially in Alberta where Moses gave us the Municipal Government Act.

The other “P” in this discussion, the people, probably don’t care much about the minutiae of government – how amendments are dealt with, deep readings of legislative authority, or how the consent agenda is received.

Questions like these gripped local council meetings for two years while the public’s general consensus was that not a lot was getting done. Recall that before the utility issue came to a head last summer, staffers waited 18 months for five council members to agree on what a rate review should involve.

Now, opinion over whose to blame is morphing.

Clark has core supporters, of course, but a few folks who actively worked to run her out of office six months ago showed up at her press conference last week.

Taking on “unelected” bureaucrats is a current craze among conservative-minded voters, but many in the Hat were grumbling not long ago that Clark was clearly NDP-adjacent.

The calculation among the recall and convoy crowds could be that having eight elected officials drawn and quartered is a better bargain than one mayor.

Interestingly, many also believe strongly that Strong Towns (an issue owned almost exclusively by Clark) is clearly bureaucratic bunko meant to outlaw the suburbs and institute globalism.

On the flip side, council hasn’t really explained itself, perhaps out of small-town politeness, perhaps by regulation. But folks clearly expect more, and arguing that you’re handcuffed is hardly a strong look.

The only vocal pro-council voice seems to be the mysterious “Sun City Sentinel.” That web publication rarely reveals the names of any source in its reporting, not to mention who’s writing, editing or bankrolling it.

Around the council table, both sides claim readiness to get down to business tackling the work Hatters elected them to do (I’m paraphrasing).

Hey, that’s politics, and perhaps that’s the proper venue where controversies like this are settled.

Politics (other)

NDP leadership hopeful Kathleen Ganley was in the city Thursday for meetings, and scuttlebutt has it that main contender Naheed Nenshi is doing some deep south outreach. That could occur closer to a leadership debate set for Lethbridge late in the month.

Further out, Premier Danielle Smith will be the guest of a Chamber of Commerce luncheon in the Hat on May 2, it was announced Thursday.

A look ahead

Council convenes Monday for its first regular meeting since Mayor Clark was sanctioned. Hearings to judge the Saamis Solar park application the city’s northwest begin Tuesday. The Alberta legislature resumes sitting after a week off.

100 years ago

“The City of Calgary has had ample opportunity to regret its short sightedness” in setting up a municipal gas company to exploit the Foremost fields, the News stated in an April 1924 editorial.

Now customers and the enterprise were at broadsides over contract pricing both attractive and enough to pay for the system’s financing.

“The troubles are many and various,” it concluded.

The Canadian Wheat Board showed a $500,000 surplus in its first year in existence, leading to questions about dividend.

The Hat’s first Alberta Government liquor store would be located in the Hartley Block on N. Railway Street (note: today’s Mainliner Pub).

The merits of moving to a system Proportional Representation, rather than the first-past-the-post system, were debated in the Commons.

The Alberta Provincial Police revealed that $200,000 in bonds had been recovered during an investigation of bank-job Gand led by “Smiling Johnny Reid: with U.S. authorities. Notes from the Union Bank at Foremost have been found in Havre as well at Staley Park in Vancouver.

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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