May 26th, 2024

City Notebook: Let’s call it the calm before the political storm

By Collin Gallant on April 27, 2024.

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There were no shortage of empty seats at city council’s budget deliberations on Tuesday.

Beyond a couple of dutiful mainstream media reporters and a couple of city finance officials, the gallery was empty.

It was quite a departure from the cries for more participatory democracy, an Athens on south Saskatchewan, if you will, that we’ve heard over the last month or so, or six months or more depending on your issue.

But that’s not gone away, and in fact will likely become more intense, after this week’s provincial announcement of a major shift in municipal relations.

They strongly signalled that provincial cabinet intends to flex its muscle on local issues where they see disagreement with provincial policy, ordering bylaw changes and even giving them latitude to remove council members, though not many details are defined.

This column noted a while back there wasn’t much to stop the Alberta government, which likes punching up at the federal government, to start punching down at cities.

In particular, large city councils that tend to be “progressive”and therefore an irritant to many conservatives.

Calgary and Edmonton will see municipal political parties in next year’s council elections. With the campaign starting in earnest next fall, it’s hard to believe any party that’s completely independent of provincial parties will be up and running by then. It’s more likely operatives in one will be operatives in another. Supporters, too.

How a municipality is operating and whether it maintains popular support are questions raging all across Alberta at the moment. Medicine Hat might be a great example at the moment, but it’s not unique.

There have been recall campaigns north to south. Calls for audits, inspections, etc. are bountiful.

In this climate, why not believe that, simply, something needs to be done. The what-how-why is still to be fleshed out, though.

It will all be pretty rich for any local councillor who’s complained the province has downloaded responsibilities to cities.

In their minds, cities have been left to deal with the ground-level effects of the opioid epidemic, the housing crisis and, if you’ll recall, COVID masking measures.

Those issues clearly fall under provincial jurisdiction, as the popular saying goes, whenever Ottawa tries a quick one.

The Constitution comprises most of the academic argument.

How it hits the pavement remains to be seen.

Train Spotting

The Empress 2816 steam train that was featured prominently in the News coming west last fall, headed back east through town on Friday afternoon.

After an event in Calgary earlier in the day, it passed through the Hat without much ado en route to a “Final Spike” tour event in Moose Jaw on Sunday.

Get moving this spring

-The Medicine Hat College Rattler Run sets off the unofficial spring series of events. It happens Saturday morning, just in case you overslept and realize you’re late for a 3, 5 or 10 kilometre hoof.

– In another mode, the annual Blessing of the Bikes will take place at the Gordon Memorial United Church on Sunday, May 5 at 11 a.m.

– As well, more news about those e-scooters about town is expected this week.

– What happened to walking? It was very popular about four years ago.

A look ahead

Premier Danielle Smith will be in the Hat on Thursday, May 2 for a Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Expect the annual tourism report to be discussed at Monday’s meeting of council’s public services committee.

100 years ago

Lethbridge Breweries announces prices ahead of the legal sale of beer in May, the News announced in late April 1924, noting that 25 cents of the $1 per gallon price would consist of taxes.

“Cheap beer is out of the question under the proposed taxation,” said Fritz Sick, the proprietor.

Ottawa would reportedly stay out insolvency action against the Canadian Land and Irrigation Co., which had substantial holdings near Vauxhall, according to former Hat MLA Charles Stewart.

The concern was that when Ottawa nationalized the bankrupt Canadian Northern Railway it became responsible for millions owed to British investors. Avoiding a similar situation with a British syndicate was wished to be avoided.

Doctors in New York warned against the growing fashion trend of smaller brimmed hats as increased exposure to summer would cause inflammation.

An editorial in the News remarked on the seeming correlation locations with poor housing conditions – a priority of the new Labour government – and areas known for “violent communist sentiment” such as Glasgow.

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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