Commentary – Citizens pay. Councils. . .?

Jeff Burgar

Ask just about anybody in Smith, AB what they think of the latest news in Grimshaw. Good chance they will look at you with, “Huh? What news?”
Also, in just about the same breath, they might ask, “Grimshaw? Isn’t that some place over by Grande Prairie?”
To be fair, you could switch the places around and pretty well get the same answer. If the question about Grimshaw or Smith was asked to the average person in Edmonton or Calgary, one could almost guarantee that person wouldn’t have a clue.
Now try asking that question to a Quebecer. Or a Nova Scotian. Newfoundlanders get a pass on this. It’s because so many of them have flown through Edmonton or Calgary on their way to Fort McMurray, they have a fair idea where Alberta is. The rest? For the rest, Canada ends at the Ontario border. Except for that little part way out west where they make wine and the sun supposedly shines all day and actually, all night too.
This is human nature. If it isn’t in our faces constantly, it isn’t even close to being top of mind. Try Heavy Rescue 401, the TV show about the Ontario and North American busiest highway. It gets way more attention than Yukon Gold Rush. Or even Heavy Rescue about a B.C. highway.
The folks at Northern Sunrise County at Peace River know this. Council there voted Jan. 25 to not send a delegation to the annual meeting of what is known as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
With COVID meeting rules relaxing, the big conventions that mark one of the perks of public office are coming back to life. FCM, as befits a national organization, holds their conventions in quaint, inexpensive and easy to get to places like Halifax. Quebec City. Niagara Falls. Banff. You know, touristy places where mucky mucks relax on the taxpayer’s dime. To be fair, seminars and meetings are often great for volunteer boards to learn better ways. For most councils? Junkets.
A few years ago, a different northern Alberta council said, “We have to go there to make an impression. You know, Alberta oil is really important and we have to tell everybody that. Doing this in person is the best way.”
We think one delegation actually printed up T-shirts to pass out.
It’s fair to say most people attending that convention still don’t know where Grimshaw, Smith, and even Barrhead, Stettler, Cochrane, Lloydminster, Falher, and many more places around Alberta actually are. But let’s be fair. How many of us can name five small places outside of Toronto or Montreal? Heck, how many can even name the capital of New Brunswick? Or Quebec for that matter?
Lastly, what’s the most common comment from any attending these conventions?
“We learned a lot.”
Most common, honest observation?
“Food was really good.”
Here’s how to make an impression. Hire three or four streakers to run the opening address. While your delegation passes out T-shirts.
Much better, have a real action plan.

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