Tuesday, April 28, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 17 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week

“It starts with the public, the public is involved in the process, and it must end with the public as well.”

- Sergeant Scott Howard  
- on crime and convictions   

 

 
This last winter, from December into February, local residents organized and circulated a petition for a ministerial review of council, to be presented to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Ray Danyluk. On Wednesday, April 22, they received their reply.
The minister wrote to Lisa Sygutek, the petition representative, to report that the petition was found to be insufficient under the provisions of the Municipal Government Act.
The petition required 1150 valid signatures in order to represent 20 percent of the municipality's population. According to Lisa Sygutek, there were 1201 signatures on the submitted petition. This means that more than 51 signatures were determined to be invalid.
There are a number of reasons why signatures could be considered invalid, including incorrect printed names or incorrect street addresses. While Alberta Municipal Affairs cannot confirm the exact number of signatures that were found invalid, one particular reason may be what ultimately sank the petition.
The letter from the minister states, and Public Affairs Officer Jerry Ward confirmed to the Herald, that Minister Danyluk received the petition on Monday, February 9. According to the Municipal Government Act, any names signed more than 60 days before this date are considered invalid.
This puts the cut-off date for valid signatures at December 11. However, Sygutek says that residents of the Crowsnest Pass first started signing the petition on December 8. This means that three days' worth of signatures at the beginning of the petition process would have been disregarded.
This was not a problem caused by the petition organizers, however. Sygutek showed the Pass Herald documents confirming that the completed petition was picked up by Purolater Courier at 2:10 p.m. on Thursday, February 5. The documents also confirm that the petition was delivered to the Alberta Legislature building on Friday, February 6 at 9:20 a.m. This date is within 60 days of the first signatures put on the petition.
It is unknown why the petition did not officially reach Minister Danyluk until after the weekend, at which point three days' worth of signatures became invalid. Sygutek says there were well over 50 names signed to the petition in the first three days.
Another point of possible contention revolves around a different criteria for determining the validity of signatures. To be eligible to sign the petition, a person must be at least 18 years old and a resident of the Pass who has lived in Alberta for the past six consecutive months.
 
In order to determine who belongs in that category, Public Affairs Officer Jerry Ward says that the person assigned to the task obtained the tax owner master list and the civic utility list from the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass.
Some individuals in the Pass are adult residents who do not directly pay taxes or utilities, such as young adults living at home or some individuals living in rental accommodations, such as apartments or basement suites where utilities are included in the rent. These individuals may not appear on the noted lists.
In Line

“They can cut it and colour it any way they want, it doesn’t change the fact that 1200 people put their names to something saying they feel council’s not doing a good job.”

- Lisa Sygutek  
- Petition Representative   
In Line
When asked how these individuals would be determined eligible, as they rightly should be, Ward replied that the number of eligible people who do not appear on those lists is considered a small sample, and the discrepancy is not considered statistically significant.
"We always encourage the petitioners to get well above the threshold," says Ward. He notes that there was little margin for error on the petition from the Pass.
Ward adds that even if a petition is deemed sufficient, it is still at the minister's discretion whether or not to conduct the review.
Sygutek expressed disappointment upon learning of the result. "We did what we could do," she says. "Myself and 1200 other people said there was a problem. This council needs to look at the fact that 1200 people feel they're not doing a good job. They can cut it and colour it any way they want, it doesn't change the fact that 1200 people put their names to something saying they feel council's not doing a good job."
She says that she hopes everyone who signed the petition remembers everything that has happened when the next municipal election occurs.
The minister noted in his letter that he has suggested that the municipality hire a third party to conduct a review of its administrative and governance processes. "The review presents an opportunity to evaluate the municipality's strengths and identify potentials for improvement," he wrote. "This evaluation should be a co-operative effort of council, administration, and the community."
The minister's letter has been reproduced in its entirety on Page 6 of this issue.
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   Volume 79 - Issue 17 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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