Mayor draws ire over forum refusal
Anonymous St. Albert Think Tank group blasts incumbent mayor as "unprofessional"
| Posted: Friday, Oct 04, 2013 04:30 pm
The anonymous nature of the St. Albert Think Thank is keeping the incumbent mayor and some other candidates away from the group’s forum, scheduled for Oct. 16.
Nolan Crouse, St. Albert’s incumbent mayor, notified his fellow candidates by email he would not be attending the forum. The Think Tank had declined to make clear who they are or who the moderators of the forum would be. He shared the email he sent to his fellow candidates with the Gazette after he was approached for comment on the Think Tank’s response.
“Two of the fundamental values required of Municipal Elected Officials are openness and transparency and as such, I do not plan to answer this email below; let alone attend this forum. I thought I would share with all of you my personal reasons and this is to do just that; simply because of the anonymity of some boulevard signage, websites, newspaper advertising and now this invitation and forum. Now, this is not advocacy for anyone else to do the same; those are individual choices of course,” Crouse’s email says.
The Think Tank indicated it was aware of the message he sent to all the candidates and blasted Crouse for his stance in an email sent to all the council and mayoral candidates.
“It would appear that your sole concern is determining the name behind the questions, as a distraction to real issues that you are unwilling to address. The full membership list of the Think Tank is of no consequence,” it says, going on to suggest that if he won’t attend, it sends two clear statements: that he can’t defend his position on the issues and is unwilling to be open or transparent with the public about his intentions for the next council term.
“Some candidates have asked for the names of the moderators. To protect the moderators’ privacy and to prevent them being harassed by some people who are on a witch hunt to distract the public from the true issues, the names of the moderators will be protected at this time,” it reads. “Mr. Crouse, if you choose to hide away from the public instead of defend your decisions, that is your choice. However, your attempt to influence other candidates to follow suit to hide your personal cowardice is unprofessional.”
Crouse, when interviewed, said he wouldn’t be making any further response to the Think Tank. He said he’s not willing to compromise his policies of openness and transparency.
“I think it’s a fundamental principle of democracy, or certainly it’s a fundamental principle of an elected official where I have to be open. So how can I be open only one way, how can I be transparent only one way? I have to be transparent both ways, I have to know who I am talking with and people have to know the mayor’s talking with them,” he said.
Crouse said he was not advocating for any of the other candidates to boycott, noting that’s a personal choice.
“As an incumbent mayor I thought I owed it to the people to know where I was,” he said of why he told the other candidates he was not attending. Crouse did say he would attend the forums planned by both the St. Albert Taxpayers’ Association and the Chamber of Commerce.
The St. Albert Think Tank was asked to provide a spokesperson to respond to this issue, and instead opted to send an anonymous statement.
The written statement from the Think Tank states that the members of the group “do not want to cloud the issues with personalities. We want to respect the fact that average residents should never be the focus – we want the public to look only at the candidates that are running for council … We have received threats and the demands for a complete membership list, when no other private group has ever had to produce such a list on demand, is unusual and unsettling,” it reads. The statement suggests those looking for names instead look to the issues and facts instead.
“Mr. Crouse did not have the courtesy of e-mailing his RSVP to the Think Tank team, but instead chose to e-mail the other candidates of his decision to decline his invitation,” the statement says.
“The St. Albert Think Tank does not believe that personal attacks have any place in an election campaign and the debate should remain focused on the real issues,” it says.
Candidates were contacted via email on Friday morning about their attendance at the forum. Those who were able to respond before press deadline showed a mixed plan for attendance –Wes Brodhead, Tim Osborne and Gilles Prefontaine all said they would not be attending, citing concerns over the anonymity. Cathy Heron and Roger Bradley had not made up their minds and both expressed similar concerns about the anonymous nature of the group and event, and Gareth Jones hadn’t yet decided though did not indicate why.
Mayoral challenger Shelley Biermanski and council candidates John Goldsmith, Mark Cassidy, Norm Harley, Bob Russell, Cam MacKay, Sheena Hughes and David Climenhaga all said they were planning on attending, though Climenhaga noted concerns about the anonymity. Malcolm Parker indicated he would probably attend.
Candidates Hughena Burke and Ted Durham did not respond to the email before deadline.