Talk about ‘leopards not changing their spots’ for no sooner had George Cuff, author of the report on the municipal inspection of The City of St. Albert, given his second of two presentations (first in camera with council followed immediately for public consumption in council chambers) did Mayor Nolan Crouse spring into action.
After uttering a rather disingenuous apology for whatever role he may have played in necessitating an investigation in the first place, he questioned the representative from Alberta Municipal Affairs concerning whether the identities of certain individuals could be accessed through FOIP legislation. Indeed, rightly or wrongly the report did not specifically identify who had done or said what including the mayor which in the latter case being the one and only member of council holding that position was a given. In fact, since much of the content of the 190-page report consisted of ‘boilerplate’ comments and recommendations, with a simple change of title it could have very well been addressing almost any city council anywhere.
Not surprisingly, in true fashion Nolan Crouse resorted to his customary modus operandi of throwing gasoline on the fire by expressing his desire to ‘out’ the councillors in question while never minding the fact that it was his behaviour that garnered the better part of the report’s attention although presented in a generally benign manner with proverbial ‘kid gloves’ and a ‘velvet hammer.’ For all intents and purposes the more grievous misdeeds of the mayor were relatively glossed over or explained away as a “genuine error of judgment” and not substantive enough to warrant some meaningful sanction. In his follow-up comments, Crouse trivializes his identified inappropriate actions as mere ‘distractions’ and literally dismisses them with; “Every time I have made those errors I made them with the right spirit.” How convenient it is to wipe the slate clean with such false contriteness and expect to get away with it. In the world where most of us live such contrived explanations neither hold water nor equate to acceptable excuses.
Although not named, the three councillors (Sheena Hughes, Cam MacKay and Bob Russell) have over time faced severe odds in providing valuable dissent regarding council business that more often than not ran counter to the majority ‘power group’ consisting of the mayor and the three remaining councillors (Wes Brodhead, Cathy Heron and Tim Osborne). For so doing, these individuals were effectively painted in the report as the detrimental factor responsible for much if not all of council’s disarray. Almost immediately, the next day to be precise, a FOIP request was submitted which in record time for some reason revealed the identities of the guilty parties who despite committing acts that were far more venal in nature were apparently deserving of a front page expose in the Saturday edition (Sept. 2, 2017) of the St. Albert Gazette. While the mayor’s surrogates both on and off council attempt to demonize them, each and every citizen should be thankful for their steadfast service in seeking to provide for the needs and welfare of the average citizen rather than continually catering to the wants of developers and other special interest groups.
One thing that the report makes perfectly clear is that a mayor must fulfill a leadership role that fosters a unified council who need not always agree with one another but whose members are free to present their positions for due consideration without undue pressure to conform. Unfortunately, Mayor Crouse has done little to meet this requirement but rather time and again uses whatever means necessary to squelch dissent from those who in his mind dare to defy him be they fellow councillors or ordinary citizens. This overtly oppressive style serves only to maintain the regime he has created within an aura of divisiveness, lack of trust and dysfunction.
As a postscript of sorts, if one were in attendance as I was at the Tuesday (Sept. 5, 2017) council meeting, they would have witnessed the ‘power group’ at their best or worst depending upon one’s perspective. Through what has become I must admit, rather skilful choreography and gerrymandering of the agenda and debating process Crouse, along with Brodhead, Heron and Osborne, were once again able to bypass proper protocol in passing off their version of what is purported to be due diligence. The result of this was to reduce the upcoming plebiscite on the fall ballot to a meaningless questionnaire thus once again subverting democracy in denying the public of what is their right to know.
Unfortunately, the live stream video system was unexplainably inoperable on that particular day however it is expected to be available in the video archives on the city’s website.
Murray Lambert, St. Albert