Editorial – Good government is talking about it

Jeff Burgar

What does it take to make good government?

Some community councils sincerely ponder that question. They ask themselves what is best for their town or district. Others think their council job is boss around whomever they can. Others are happy doing as little as possible.

Some talk about dissolving their local government. Or how many councillors does it take to run a municipality. Others worry themselves with mighty topics like “rotating the mayor’s chair.”

McLennan town council is one of a handful considering cutting its number of councillors from seven to five. Last week, this newspaper reported on some reasons council was considering. A big one is saving money. It was presented going to a council of five from seven would save about $4,500 per year.

That doesn’t sound like much, particularly compared to the way many councils pass out money.

Of note is one council that has (don’t call it this, they say) a slush fund of $5,000 per councillor to pass out as each sees fit. One councillor in that community is adamant she thinks council has no business passing out grants and donations that taxpayers themselves could donate if they wanted.

Curiously, another person on that same council, showing no respect at all for the adamant councillor, decided it was a good idea to make a motion donating the first councillor’s ‘amount’ to STARS Air Ambulance. Never mind the merits of any such donation. Or even the fact taxpayers had no say in the matter at all. One supposes the generous councillor wasn’t happy enough donating his own ‘slush,’ he had to shovel out the door any other dollars he thought were just laying around.

His motion was defeated.

Thankfully, McLennan councillors seem much more considerate of taxpayers. It is also worth mentioning McLennan also debated some pros and cons of a separate vote for their mayor.

It is common practice for municipal districts and counties, and even some towns, to elect the mayor or reeve from within their own members after they are all voted to office in an election. As mentioned in McLennan, there are often excellent candidates who run for mayor and lose, thus depriving the community of a worthy addition to council.

On the other hand, one Peace country council decided it was a wonderful idea to “rotate” their mayor’s chair. After an election, with no warning to voters. Basically, they still had a mayor, but each councillor, if they wished, would get ‘experience’ in running meetings. As it turned out, this was just political maneuvering trying to usurp a duly elected mayor. Proof is that community, in a following election, and having elected their ‘bloc’ of councillors to be counted on to follow the strings pulled by a few, no longer ‘rotates’ anything. Out with the ‘wonderful’ idea!

Another example of complete disrespect for whom voters put in office and also disrespect of voters themselves.

So, five councillors. Or seven, three or nine. Mayor elected or not. In the end, its really up to voters to recognize when they have a good council. Or not.

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