South Peace News
A proposal to hire a part-time consultant for the Northern Alberta Elected Leaders [NAEL] is being endorsed by some Peace region municipalities, but how they are going about approving the request greatly differs.
Northern Sunrise County, at its meeting Feb. 8, and the M.D. of Smoky River, at its meeting Feb. 9, presented the proposal in public for all to see while the Town of High Prairie chose to go into closed session at its meeting Jan. 25 citing it was a personnel issue.
All three approved the hiring.
When questioned, High Prairie CAO Rod Risling replied he recommended the item be in closed session.
“In my opinion, selecting/approving an individual for a position is confidential,” he said, citing two reasons.
“Section 17 – disclosure harmful to personal privacy – reveals information about an identifiable individual” and “Section 19 – confidential evaluation – reveals evaluative or opinion material compiled for the purpose of determining the applicant’s suitability, eligibility or qualifications for employment or the award of contracts or other benefits when the information if provided in confidence.”
The proposal to hire Jim Rennie arose after NAEL received a $25,000 grant from the Alberta government. In the past, NAEL received administrative support from the Northern Alberta Development Council, but the grant allows NAEL to transition away from NADC support.
NAEL is a group of 40 municipalities representing the northwest corner of Alberta.
Rennie previously served as a councillor for Woodlands County for 20 years, 15 as mayor. He chaired NAEL for several years until the 2021 election when he chose to not seek re-election.
“We feel he would be the right candidate as he understands the needs of the north, the role NAEL leaders play to unite the communities that are members, and would provide continuity to our organization,” wrote members of the NAEL hiring committee, which include Northern Sunrise County Reeve Carolyn Kolebaba, Village of Donnelly Mayor Myrna Lanctot, Town of Peace River Mayor Elaine Manzer, and County of Grande Prairie Reeve Leanne Beaupre.
Caters to larger centres
At the M.D. of Smoky meeting, Reeve Robert Brochu had concerns.
“Over the years, I found it catered a bit to the bigger centres,” he told council.
He added in the future, who would pay for the position if there was no grant.
“I’m worried this will become a permanent position,” he added. “We’ll have to start paying.”
“Going forward it could be,” Councillor Raoul Johnson agreed.
Jean Cote Councillor Andre Trudeau agreed with Brochu.
“I don’t get a lot out of it.”
Meanwhile, a newly-elected councillor deferred an opinion.
“I don’t have enough history to go one way or the other,” said Girouxville Councillor Alain Blanchette.
In the end, council supported the request.
“It’s not the end of the world to hire him,” said Brochu.