We have received a few letters to the editor from Ponoka residents of this week, angry and very skeptical, even cynical, one of which is printed on this page. They reflect the level of discomfort and frustration people of the town are apparently feeling.
One may or may not agree with the content of the letters, but there is a widely accepted view that things are not progressing in the right direction in the process of governance in Ponoka.
The symptoms of the disease have been emerging over the last few months with, among other things, rows over the fire department and transfer of gym club land deed.
These matters should be considered and resolved by the council, because the council members are the elected representatives of the taxpayers and they (ideally should) represent the ultimate authority in decision-making.
What we have been seeing, however, is that administration of the Town of Ponoka appears to be taking more of a driving seat role in managing town’s affairs.
Is this because the town council may be becoming less and less functional, as widely rumoured, because of a division among its members? Is the administration filling a power vacuum created by the weaknesses in the council’s decision-making ability?
Since the time of the earliest sedentary cultures, bureaucracies have existed as the quintessential instrument of conducting government business in a certain and orderly manner. They have, however, evolved over the centuries in a way through which they have not only continued to do government’s business, but also found ways of perpetuating and enhancing their influence. The hilarious show “Yes, Prime Minister”, produced and aired by the BBC in the 80s, is a perfect, but satirical demonstration of how bureaucrats intend to and do manipulate elected representatives as and when they want.
But bureaucracies are not accountable to people, elected representatives are.
One cannot help questioning why these problems have suddenly started popping up. After years of what appeared to be smooth functioning of a fire department, how come people who have put their lives at risk together have come to the point of describing their colleagues using humiliating words?
Why are the town and county finding it difficult to work with each other and questioning each other’s motives?
One cannot give definitive answers to these questions without knowing the full extent of the facts. Therefore, it is best to let everyone just think about these matters and reach a conclusion for themselves.
But there is something that stakeholders of the Ponoka community might want to think about: There are two ways of eating more cake, either by fighting for a larger share of it, or by working together to make it bigger.
Confrontation is always bitter and the results derived from it generally are not long lasting, unlike cooperation, which most of the time produces fruitful outcomes because it stands as a testimony of the confidence the parties entrust in each other.
In the latest fire department dispute, the county has clearly demonstrated to all parties involved that they would not be second guessed in their determination to maintain an effective fire and rescue service for the community, overriding the arguments of the town; and the county council are putting their money where their mouth is.
It will be the Town of Ponoka, which will lose not only face but also money if it fails to stick by the new regional arrangement the county is putting in place.
There probably are quite a number of good people in the town leadership and administration who care more about the community than who has jurisdiction over what nonsense; let’s hope that they will not be hindered in what they want to do.