Commentary – Squeaky wheel gets the grease?

Chris Clegg

It is a council’s job to lobby for the betterment of its community as much as possible. It involves making phone calls, writing letters, sending emails and more.
How successful each council is varies. Some are effective, some not so much. On Oct. 18, the citizens will determine and/or decide the effectiveness of their council in the municipal election for villages, towns, cities, municipal districts, counties and more across Alberta.
Sometimes, the best efforts of a council and/or councils are futile yet citizens will blame the elected officials for inaction. A good example occurred Sept. 13 when the Government of Alberta announced $2.4 million in upgrades at Hilliard’s Bay Provincial Park northeast of High Prairie.
The announcement is welcome news to the region and Alberta. Any investment in a provincial park is a good thing for recreation enthusiasts. The money will be well spent.
What is baffling about the decision is who made it and why.
During the last few years, a very active lobby has occurred in the Smoky River region for another project at another provincial park. Councils at Girouxville, Falher, McLennan and the M.D. of Smoky River have all lobbied the Alberta government to either fix or build a new wading pool at Winagami Lake Provincial Park. To date, efforts have not been successful.
This reporter has attended Winagami Lake and Hilliard’s Bay many times. Both parks are well-used. During hot days at Winagami Lake, the wading pool was packed.
The striking similarities between the two parks are worth noting. Both are fantastic provincial parks, both offer fabulous recreation and camping opportunities, and both are well-needed.
What is strikingly different is there was no active lobby for the upgrades at Hilliard’s Bay. At least not remotely close to the outcry from the Smoky River region.
So, what happened? How did Hilliard’s Bay shoot to the top of the list?
The Alberta government tells us all the time it listens to the people. How come Hilliard’s Bay came before Winagami, especially with multiple councils all agreeing and lobbying for the project at Winagami?
Is it because the Smoky River region [Winagami Lake] is served by Central Peace – Notley MLA Todd Loewen, who was punted from the United Conservative Party caucus for not playing nice to Premier Jason Kenney?
And because recently reinstated Lesser Slave Lake UCP MLA Pat Rehn serves the area in which Hilliard’s Bay is located?
Just wondering.
We all know politics plays a huge role in some decisions. Not all, but some.
In a more recent example, High Prairie had to lobby strongly for dialysis treatment, despite reports from Alberta Health Services indicating High Prairie was near or at the top of the list for need. It will finally become a reality after a lot of letters, and, I may add, a lot of bad press for the Alberta government.
Did the same happen here? One politician told me the reason was “politics” but the name will not be disclosed without permission.
The Smoky River region councils and its citizens have every right to be discouraged but they should not give up. The government cannot ignore a squeaking wheel forever.
This decision, although it is a tremendous benefit to many in the Hilliard’s Bay region, stinks of political patronage.

Share this post