Prisoners running the asylum

Guy Boutilier has announced that he will re-enter the world of municipal politics, running for council in Ward One in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.  Unfortunately, the words he chose to use to hurl this unexpected political bomb into the campaign that officially starts today were like a 12-gun salute as to what we can expect from this former minister, MLA, mayor and councillor.

“I don’t know how to put this diplomatically, but some are telling me the inmates are running the asylum,” he said to reporter Vincent McDermott from the Fort McMurray Today.  Read the story here.

Whether he meant it this way or not, that inflammatory statement is a slap in the face to the thousand-plus employees of the RMWB that demonstrate incredible commitment, professionalism and passion every single day.  It also suggests that he is choosing to listen to members of the electorate who have this specific view of the relationship between regional council and administration,  discounting the progress we have made together, and with the citizens of this region.

He made a statement, that while holding true during an election, is absolutely reckless and dangerous after all the votes are counted.  He said that the citizens are the bosses at city hall.  If so, which ones?  That vocal group of six opposing issue A, or the thousand and six who stayed home fully in support?  No. The way decisions get made as a municipal government is through governance, and that is why we go through an election process in the first place.

Do we have to listen to our citizens?  Absolutely we do.  Their views and perspectives, whether in favour or opposition add incredibly valuable context to the decisions we have to make as elected officials.  Ultimately though, our job....no, our duty, is to make the decision that, based on the available facts, background, perspectives and opinions, is in the best interests of our region.

Maybe Guy has a sincere and authentic desire to return to public service as a councillor, and if so, that is fantastic.  I will encourage him, share his information and platform - as I do every other candidate, and will shake his hand and welcome him to the "team" if we are both successful on October 21st.  My only regret is that he didn't come out the gates with language that was more generative, respectful and constructive.  Instead, he has ripped out of the starting gate with paternalistic undertones that make me slightly uncomfortable.

I'm not going to dive into the debate as to whether Mr. Boutilier can even run in this election, as I know he's a very smart man and wouldn't be putting his name on a nomination form if it could be contested successfully.  However, it needs to be said that as municipal politicians we are out in the community and at events an awful lot, sometimes three and four times a week.  I can't recall the last time I saw Guy out in public.  So, whether he owns a house here or not, it still feels like he is a fly-in, fly-out candidate.

At the end of the day, Mr. Boutilier has long years of service, with the City of Fort McMurray, Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo and the Alberta government, as an independent and with several different parties.  He would have much to offer in terms of experience, knowledge and political smarts.  However, based on his opening narrative being punitive, accusatory and belittling to those of us who have stayed here and worked through the tough times, I am not optimistic of the actual value he would bring.  Instead, I fear the acrimony and dysfunction that could result.

Right now, the power is in the hands of the people. This is your opportunity to set the council table with the people you feel best understand the issues and have the best interests of the region at heart.  The arrival of Guy Boutilier in Ward One is uniquely interesting, but so is the entrance of hopefuls with names like Ault, Kelly, Doleman, Tupper, Manyevere, and several more who will likely land on the ballot after today along with respected incumbents Meagher, Tatum, Burton and Germain.

The area of power on the ballot is your space, your opportunity to influence who will work for you and with you for the next four years.  It is a democratic privilege and responsibility that I hope you will exercise.

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