Clegg’s Corner – Rules made by people wanting to keep secrets

Chris Clegg

You have to give Alberta Health Services credit.

They tried! They really tried!

The offer of $150,000 (other sources say it was actually $148,000 but we should not quibble over a measly $2,000) to the Town of High Prairie to buy 10 acres of the old hospital land was one sweet offer. One can argue High Prairie citizens and its council should not have had to pay one cent for the land, but the $150,000 offer was in fact a gift considering its true value.

Whoever buys the land may do wonderful things with it. We all hope so.

But what should be concerning to citizens is the complete lack of transparency during this negotiation and willingness of the Town of High Prairie and and AHS to deal in secret behind closed doors.

The fact is, had AHS not revealed what was going on after the land was listed, the good citizens of High Prairie would have never known their council refused this sweetheart deal. It was a sure thing council was never going to tell us.

So why did AHS reveal details of the offer and not town council? That is the million dollar question, actually, $150,000 question. We can all guess why.

Let us examine this. Both AHS and town council constantly tell us they are open and transparent. Here we have two levels of government dealing on a property (old hospital land) that belongs to the citizens of Alberta. Not them but us. And when questions are asked, town council runs and hides under the skirts of their mothers.

Nothing should be more important than the people’s fundamental right to know how their elected officials vote. When South Peace News asked for that vote during negotiations, we were refused. The answer provided by Mayor Brian Panasiuk is ridiculous. In part, here is what he wrote:

“The Code of Conduct further states that members of council shall accurately communicate the decisions of council, even if they disagree with council’s decision. It would be a violation of the Code of Conduct for an individual member to discuss their personal views after the decision of council is made.”

The problem is, South Peace News asked whether any member of council voted to buy the land or refuse to buy. Simple question. The people have a right to know that. How does that violate the Code of Conduct? Do we not have a right to know how our councillors vote?

And, remember, this Code of Conduct Panasiuk refers to is passed by the same council refusing to divulge how it votes. Pretty convenient, isn’t it?

So why the big secret in this matter? It is pretty easy to see why. If it is disclosed how a council member voted, then accountability comes into play. In effect, they have to answer for their decision.

In this case, we do not know – and council will never tell us – if anyone voted to buy the land. All we know is council chose to not buy the land.

How is that fair to any member of council who voted to buy the land? It is not but for the majority who voted to refuse to buy, who cares? Such little respect for the councillors who may have opposed let alone the public’s right to know.

And that is the problem with our so-called democracy. Far too many loopholes and rules council passes and abuses for the right to keep the public in the dark.

Interesting how during an election campaign not one member of council talks about the Code of Conduct and refusing to allow disclosure of votes.

In the court of public opinion, council cannot win this battle. People want to be informed and know what is going on. The $150,000 offer was beyond generous. Any land developer would jump at the chance to buy at that price. Why council refused to buy boggles the mind.

Share this post