With less than two weeks to go before the election the gloves have definitely come off. It’s getting personal with local candidates and their respective camps. Wars are being fought in print, on social media and with election signs.
In St. Albert voters are wrestling with a number of controversial issues including a proposed branch library, a proposed return to a Municipal Planning Commission, neighbourhood developments, efforts to alter tax and return utility rates to ‘user pay’ from the ‘pay in advance’ model introduced in 2014.
In Sturgeon County a proposed county campus and the new Land Use Bylaw have some county residents hopping mad. Other county residents are angry that new roads or road repairs have not come fast enough. Some county and town residents have also taken issue with cost-sharing for the proposed regional recreation centre.
St. Albert mayoral candidate Cathy Heron has come in the cross-hairs with an allegation of expense claim fraud announced at the final city council meeting by a citizen who said he did not look at any of the other city councillors’ expenses but hers. City staff say they have investigated the claims and could find no wrongdoing. The ante was upped last week when another citizen named Heron on signs directing voters to his website where he alleged she misused city funds. City staff removed the signs, citing they did not meet city bylaws. The signs have been altered, but the campaign persists on social media.
In Sturgeon County, SUREAL – which initially billed itself as an apolitical group – has now taken aim squarely at current Mayor Tom Flynn in a full page ad that blames him for county fiscal mismanagment. His only mayoral challenger, Alanna Hnatiw, is no longer a member of the SUREAL group she helped found (She left the group before she announced her candidacy for mayor.) Many of the SUREAL allegations of mismanagement by Flynn begin before and extend beyond his time in office. Some of the claims cited in the ad have been discounted by an economist.
In many municipalities people come out in favour of candidates, rather than targeting their opponents. This election has brought out the worst in some. Last week one city council candidate reported 60 of her signs had gone missing, other candidates reported signs stolen or damaged. Similar issues have been reported among candidates in Sturgeon County.
The temperature is rising in St. Albert and Sturgeon County. Voters must be dazed and confused. Who do you believe? Who do you vote for? Social media is full of venom and misinformation. Voters need to get past the heated rhetoric, make themselves aware of the real issues and make intelligent choices. The next four years will depend on it.