Tuesday, November 3, 2009  
   Volume 79 - Issue 44 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
“If the private meetings between councillors continue, the matter should be referred to the Minister of Municipal Affairs for an inspection/inquiry of council.”
- George B. Cuff  
- regarding the municipal   
review of council   


Over 75 people attended a presentation by George B. Cuff and Associates, the organization hired to provide a corporate review of Municipal council and administration.
According to Cuff the resounding issue in council is that, “This council has become known as a 4-3 Council,” with a group of four not including the mayor. “In effect the Municipality has a dysfunctional group of elected officials who attempt to give the appearance of a functioning body while scrambling behind the scenes to stack their votes on specific issues before the council meetings are called to order.”
Cuff stated that this 4-3 council results in a display of poor leadership to its residents on an ongoing basis. This type of voting defies the Municipal Government Act by meeting before the open Council meeting and determining their vote on particular issues. The 4-3 council shows little respect for the community’s election of its chief elected official Mayor Irwin. According to Cuff these back door meetings, “results in a public which is ill-served on the more significant issues because it can not agree on a course of action”.
Cuff said all these actions result in the community receiving less than full value for its votes. “It in effect is being told by the members, all of whom were elected individually, that you now have a slate and our slate will dictate the terms of how issues are going to be resolved.” Cuff felt that the remaining three councillors could, “stay home and nothing about the issues would change in any material way”. He stated that the community deserves better.
Cuff notes that this “ill-considered and undemocratic process of trying to influence the decisions of the full council needs to halt immediately or the matter should be referred to the Minister of Municipal Affairs as the subject of an inquiry/inspection into the affairs of council”.
Regarding the Crowsnest Centre Cuff felt that the issue is one on which no agreement is possible. Both sides of council are fractured over the issue. He felt a better resolution would have been to for council to create a citizens’ committee comprised of those with no known bias. They might have been asked to review all of the factors surrounding the issue with a timeline for reporting back to council and to the community. According to Cuff, “The issue has been allowed to fester and relationships soured”.
According to economic analysis the municipality is in financial and economic crisis. The population of the community is on a steady decline. From 2006 to 1996 the population in the Pass has decreased 9.6% with more reduction forecasted for the future.
Municipal spending has increased 8.3%, whereas revenue and corporate tax base is decreasing. Municipal reserves are also steadily decreasing. Reserves in 2003 equaled 2.2 million to 1.3 million in 2008.
Regarding management Cuff stated that the town is not overly staffed by municipal workers and that if cuts had to be made he was unsure of where they would be.
He noted that succession planning for replacement of staff and mentoring should be done on all municipal levels.
Cuff felt that individual councillors should not be interfering with the day to day operations of the town. He recommended that all inquiries from individual councillors to municipal workers be made in writing to Gordon Lundy stopping councillors from questioning upper management on a day to day basis.
At the end of the public meeting Cuff came up with some key recommendations regarding council, its conduct in the community and its conduct as elected representatives of the people in the Crowsnest Pass.
Highlighted in the recommendation is that council commit by policy to an improved understanding of its approach to governance.
Council must place a very strong emphasis on the role of the CAO as the principal policy advisor.
He recommend council place the CAO at a separate table in council chambers.
Cuff strongly urges council to bring in a qualified facilitator within 30 days to guide council through a useful strategic planning process that includes the involvement of the senior management team.
Cuff wants to see council stop all private meeting. He recommends that council commit by resolution to not hold private meetings with other members of council unless such meetings are held at the council chambers are advertised to all other members of council. He does not want to see members of council or members of administration in any e-mail exchanges unless all other members of council are simultaneously copied on each.
During his final proclamation to council Cuff noted that financially the community is in trouble. The Pass is one of the largest land based communities in Alberta and as a result the cost of maintaining infrastructure is massive. Administration must set aside 7.7 million dollars per year just to maintain equipment.
Cuff recommends council come together with a common goal of keeping this community sustainable. “It is the duty of council to leave the community in a better place than it was when they started.” To do this council must stop bickering, it must stop private meetings to decide on votes ahead of council and it must lobby the provincial and federal government to recognize the unique situation that is the Crowsnest Pass.
“The government asked the five towns in the valley to amalgamate in 1979 which made the Pass a special place compared to other communities in Alberta.” Cuff feels that it is council’s responsibility to thus lobby both the MLA and MP in the constituency to provide the community with special funding in recognition.
Cuff ended the evening handing out the full report given to council and indicated that a copy would be available on the municipal website.
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   Volume 79 - Issue 44 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: passherald@shaw.ca   $1.00   
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