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EDITORIAL: Transparency needed

The union told the Gazette it had reached out to Fire Chief Bernd Gretzinger to have a conversation, and that its members deserve an apology.


1. the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.

2. a policy of holding public officials or other employees accountable for their actions and results.

You get the idea. A question is proffered, an answer is given.

Some of our elected officials and bureaucrats, at all levels of government, have a tough time with the concept. Most are great at non-answers, if they talk to the media at all. They have black belts in ducking and dodging. After all, ‘Question Period’ is not ‘Answer Period’ for a reason.

Mayor Cathy Heron and city administration attained black belt status last week, earning their designations by refusing to publicly comment on the alleged actions of two fire chiefs and hold them to account for reportedly getting vaccinated ahead of their front line workers.

The allegations surfaced last week when the Edmonton Journal reported accusations from the fire union, stating firefighters had been disappointed and angered by the events. The union told the Gazette it had reached out to Fire Chief Bernd Gretzinger to have a conversation, and that its members deserve an apology.

Instead of addressing the members' concerns, our city leaders chose a different route. Our fire chiefs were silent. Our city administration released a number of non-answers and declined to say if there would be any consequences for said behaviour. Our mayor and council refused to speak to media – instead, Heron chose to muddy the waters on social media, responding to a Facebooker by claiming the Journal's report of how many fire chiefs the city has was inaccurate (it wasn't), citing misinformation to back up that claim, and calling into question the integrity of media by opining, 'You would be surprised how often the press is wrong.'

Now, let's be clear here: we certainly aren't infallible. But at least we cop to our mistakes when we make them – more than can be said for our mayor, who, when called out by the Journal's reporter who posted receipts of her fact-checking in the form of emails from the city itself, once again fell silent.

There’s something wrong with this entire scenario, and it is deeper than just Heron’s refusal to comment to the Journal or the Gazette. Juxtapose that refusal with her response to her fellow Facebooker, which read: “Although they are considered front line as they are paramedics I think it was a poor decision to get vaccinated ahead of those that are actually providing front line services every day. A leader looks out for those in their charge first. The city is investigating."

Relying on social media, which is a cesspool of misinformation and disgusting behaviour by trolls hiding behind pseudonyms, as a primary communication tool is a dangerous practice. It didn’t turn out very well south of the border.

This dodging of questions, obfuscation of the issue and refusal to speak with media is, unfortunately, also a refusal to be transparent with residents. It has the side effect of unnecessarily tarnishing the city's reputation. If residents can't trust that they will get answers from their leaders over something like this, how can they trust that those leaders are serving the public’s best interests?