The ripple effect of this week's decision from the province to dismiss the Mayor of Chestermere and Three Councillors, alongside the city's three CAO's has prompted deep reflections and discussions within the municipal world across the province and throughout Canada.
Tyler Gandam, President of Alberta Municipalities, shared his perspective on the ongoing saga in an exclusive interview with Municipal Affairs' Chris Brown - which will be airing later this month.
Gandam emphasized the significance of this intervention by stating, "I think this is a really good opportunity to see that municipal governments are held accountable, they're there, they're not able to just operate in their own little world without having to answer to somebody."
Earlier in the week Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver dismissed Chestermere Mayor Jeff Colvin, Councillor Mel Foat, Councillor Blaine Funk, and Councillor Stephen Hanley, along with three Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs). McIver said in a press conference in Edmonton on Monday, ". I am profoundly disappointed that it has come to this, but the people of Chestermere deserve better." According to Gandam, this action by the province serves as a clear message that they are closely monitoring the actions of municipalities, ensuring compliance with the Municipal Government Act (MGA).
"I think this shows the commitment on the province's part to make sure that our residents are looked after as well, that if there are municipal councils or municipalities that aren't operating within, especially the MGA, that there are consequences for it," Gandam remarked.
The move has broader implications for municipal leaders throughout the province, according to Gandam. "I think that it shows the rest of the province that if there are some councils or some municipalities that might be operating in the gray area - And I'm not saying that there are - there is a way to be held accountable," he stated.
The city of Chestermere, located just outside Calgary, has been under Provincial Administration since March. The provincial intervention was prompted by a detailed 215-page inspection report conducted by George Cuff, following by a town hall held by then Minister of Municipal Affairs Rebecca Schulz. The public report outlined various concerns, including the departure of 62 employees, irregularities in the Chief Administrative Officer model, improper handling of code-of-conduct complaints, and late filings of audited financial statements.
The provincial government set goals for the city to meet by the end of the year, with potential consequences, including the removal of council members, looming if these targets were not achieved.
Gandam revealed that he had personally met some members of the dismissed council during various municipal events.
Expressing empathy for Minister McIver and the Alberta government, Gandam acknowledged the difficulty of the decision, irrespective of its necessity. "I'm empathetic to the Government of Alberta and Minister McIver for having to get involved in something like this. Then to make those tough decisions because no matter who it is, it's still a tough decision," Gandam stated.
When asked whether this incident could be a learning moment for Alberta Municipalities to better prepare future elected officials, Gandam highlighted recent discussions within the municipal community. He mentioned a virtual town hall hosted by Alberta Municipalities where council members from across the province participated, emphasizing their desire for more training and educational sessions. "(Members want) to make sure that we're training anybody who's been elected or is elected. I think it's a great opportunity at least once every four years to revisit the MGA and revisit what your job is and what your role is as a municipal elected official," Gandam added.
Gandam said that broader implications of this move could happen, indicating that it could potentially reshape how municipalities operate and how elected officials are trained and held accountable in the future.