Editorial – One issue drops, another pops

Jeff Burgar
Election season rolls around this fall. What could have been a major, major issue – the dissolution of the Town of High Prairie – is not on the radar.

There are two reasons for this.

First, Mayor Linda Cox, despite opposition from a diehard clutch of what might be called ‘big spenders’, or perhaps ‘those determined to buy friends and votes’, managed to get some sensible councillors on board. She was helped by local businesses and even homeowners who finally understood having the highest property taxes in Alberta was a lousy idea.

Second, of course, was the money given to town council by Big Lakes County.

Big Lakes is by far the biggest municipal government in our region. Due to resource taxes, it is usually awash in money. Both High Prairie and Swan Hills benefit as the county transfers some of that money to them. This is good.

Do not think Big Lakes County is playing Santa Claus. If either Swan Hills or High Prairie decides it is going broke and dissolves, the other one probably would, too. Suddenly, the whole political makeup of Big Lakes County would change. As in, how many councillors should go to High Prairie and Swan Hills? Half? More than half? Not to worry. That whole situation looks off the table.

But on the topic of dissolving, what about the High Prairie and District Regional Recreation Board? There were three successive reports on issues with High Prairie governance. The last report about five years ago led to High Prairie council being placed under what is called ‘administration’ by the provincial government. Councillors of the day wiggled and waggled [and some still do] about how hard done by they were. In the end, a new mayor was elected and an entire new council was elected.

All three reports became increasingly louder there were serious issues in High Prairie. Included in this was the recreation board. Although it is a joint body between the county and town, the board has never really answered to either council. It is a body all its own.

Let’s not suggest that something is going on with the recreation board. But it is interesting that almost always, in High Prairie at least, there is always a tussle to see which councillors will sit on the board. At a go-round a year ago, councillor Debbie Rose made a noticeable stink about not being appointed. What the heck is the attraction?

Is it really an old boy’s [and girl’s] club as some allege? Is it really a government all its own, that makes its own rules, hires its own people, and plays its own little political games?

It very much was until mayor Cox and councillors, the late Quenten Emter, Donna Deynaka, and Michael Long put their feet down and demanded accountability.

But running a clean show, accountable to the real bosses, the taxpayers? Not so much, it seems.

This latest incident with the Aquatic Centre makes one wonder, does anybody on the board really know or care what they are doing, or how the public sees them? Fair questions.

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