St. Albert Taxpayers Association has been talking about issues for years
By: Jared Milne
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 30, 2013 06:00 am
The election is over, and we have our new council. What can we take away from this?
For one thing, itís clear that talking about cutting taxes and spending by itself is not enough to get elected. Wes Brodhead, a strong supporter of arts and heritage, was elected, while Norm Harley, who advocated cutting two city departments, came in last place in the vote count. A number of citizens clearly still find value in what we spend money on.
On the other hand, there are still many angry citizens out there. Shelley Biernanski got about 3,000 more votes than she did in 2010, running for mayor on a fiscally conservative platform. Fiscal conservatives Cam MacKay and Sheena Hughes were elected to council, coming in second and third on the vote counts. Fiscal conservatives Malcolm Parker and Bob Russell also made strong showings and could easily have won.
New councillors Tim Osborne and Gilles Prefontaine also spoke about fiscal issues. At the St. Albert Inn election forum, Osborne talked about older citizens who planned to leave because they couldnít afford to live here. At the Enjoy Centre forum, Gilles Prefontaine talked about how he was unhappy that the Downtown Area Redevelopment Plan had turned into a ďwish listĒ for city administration. They touched on issues that the St. Albert Taxpayers Association has been talking about for years.
The more general tone of the election also showed that there are serious divisions in St. Albert about what our priorities should be, and what kind of community we should be. Supporters of different sides accused one another of bullying and lying.
We would all benefit from having a serious discussion about what kind of community we want to be. How much space do we want to set aside for green spaces? How much industry do we want in St. Albert? What should we focus our spending on? How do we ensure that people of all income levels can live here?
The problem is the debate seems to be all-or-nothing in the sense that you can only pick one side. Fiscally conservative candidates were accused of wanting to slash spending the way Ralph Klein did back in the 1990s. What most of them actually supported were putting limits on property tax hikes, reviewing the cityís spending, having an auditor find ways to manage public money better, etc.
Nor do the supporters of arts and heritage rubber-stamp every project proposed to them. Our last council rejected the idea of spending $4.575 million to expand the St. Albert art gallery. As Cathy Heron pointed out to me at one of the St. Albert Taxpayers Assocationís meetings, the last council didnít give it much thought.
I think that we donít need any public art, and that weíre better off maintaining what we already have. Other people will disagree. However, thatís exactly the kind of discussion we need to have if St. Albert is to remain prosperous. More than that, we need it without the insults being flung around.
St. Albert deserves no less.
Jared Milne is a St. Albert resident with a passion for Canadian history and politics.