Council has a greater responsibility to the community

This week's editorial looks at the Town of Ponoka councillors and their responsibility to residents.

Town councillors are in a bit of a quandary over what to do with one of their members.

The issue relates to Coun. Tim Falkiner’s sporadic attendance at town council meetings. Based on the Municipal Government Act (MGA) a councillor who misses all the regular meetings of council in an eight-week period can be disqualified.

Unluckily for Falkiner this occurred during the summer months and he missed all the regular meetings held during that time in this case a mere two meetings. It’s put the rest of council in a tight spot having to decide how to move forward with someone considered not to be in compliance with the MGA.

What’s a council to do?

One side suggests remember that our council is split that it really was only a couple of meetings so the severity of being so-called “absent” isn’t that serious. For the other side, they want him out.

To me both arguments are moot. If council had developed a team-building environment and followed through with its mediation, the solution to this issue would be a lot easier to see.

Where council is failing this community is in its inability to come together. Members are more concerned with individual alliances and are holding on to negative feelings.

Ask anyone involved in team sports what they would do with someone who isn’t holding their own and you know what the answer would be.

As a group representing the community, this council as a whole is at fault for not holding Coun. Falkiner to a higher standard. Representatives are voted into office to do the work and to be involved and as peers they would be working together to ensure the job gets done.

Being a functioning and attentive councillor is more than just showing up for regular meetings. Falkiner’s attendance has been an ongoing issue with this council for quite some time now.

Besides missing a few regular meetings there is the question of not attending committee meetings and budget meetings and committee of the whole meetings.

The problem is really that we have a split council and Falkiner is on the winning side of the 4-3 dysfunction. Each and every one of our councillors are at fault for being unable to deal with this pressing issue so late in the game.

For his part, Falkiner has indicated a desire to ensure he makes all the meetings for the remainder of his term. That’s approximately two regular meetings a month.

Unlike team sports, however, we have no coach to give that motivational speech with their player to push them to do better. A coach has the ability kick a player off the team. Not so in this case. Indeed, in this situation, if council were to really force the issue the town would have to get involved in a lengthy legal back and forth and really, what’s the point?

An elector could make a case if they wanted. The MGA allows for an elector to file an affidavit but again, what’s the point? They would have to go through the same process and it would take just as long.

And this is where our council has failed the community. It has been unable to work out its differences for the betterment of our town owing to a couple key issues. I can guarantee you a bi-election would most-likely swing the vote the other way, something that frightens one side of our council.

Here’s what is saddening or maddening about that swing vote, we would still have an ineffective and split council. The underlying issues of distrust, bitterness and anger are still festering beneath the surface. No one’s willing to extend the proverbial olive branch to heal past wounds. Any councillor looking at running for another term of council next year needs to look at how they could have acted in this situation to make things better.

Mayor Rick Bonnett called on this council to make a decision on an important community issue and it failed in its duty.


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