Political winds a blowin'

I was driving out to Fort McKay yesterday on an extraordinarily beautiful day.  It was +3 in Fort McMurray and water was flowing on the Hangingstone River....in January!  I specifically said "on" the Hangingstone, because I'm pretty sure that underneath the runoff the ice was still intact.  The sun was brilliant as I drove up Highway 63, past the Parsons Creek interchange, and up Supertest Hill.  At some point, I had to pull out my sunglasses, as the glare was so intense.

Right about the time I hit a wall of fog, just a kilometre or two south of the turn to Fort McKay, tweets likely started appearing that Guy Boutilier had resigned his seat on municipal council.  I did not see them; I was driving.  Going from bright sunshine and perfect conditions to near zero visibility, the pace of traffic slowed down and the temperature dropped.  By the time I got to Dylan's grandma's house, it was -2 and a treacherous sheet of ice.

I gingerly made my way down the small hill to the front door, grateful that I had decided to leave the car up on the road.  Shifting my weight, working through the black ice patches, I made it inside without breaking anything.  It was then I got two emails from a colleague that made no sense, as they had assumed I was on social media watching the turn of events.

"Something must have happened," I said to Dylan, as he was gathering his things.


It took me less than 5 seconds on Twitter to find the context to the messages.  Political winds were shifting quickly, as Mr. Boutilier had stepped aside that day.

Dylan and I carefully made it up the hill, using the snow off the path for traction.  The final six feet were so slick that Dylan had to crawl on his hands and knees to get to the car.  We emerged out of  the fog exactly where I had come in; the beautiful sunny day was just as I had left it.

"Can you read the Fort McMurray Today story aloud for me?" I asked my older son, as he was searching Twitter for further details.

Reporter Vince McDermott did a great job of sharing the facts of the situation in his Fort McMurray Today story, referencing highlights of a Saturday interview with the former councillor, MLA, minister and mayor.  I'm sure speculation became the order of the day as to what's really next for this seasoned politician.  He was cited as one of four finalists for Tim Reid's old job as CEO of the Regional Recreation Corporation.  Maybe he got the job?  Maybe he wants to run in the anticipated provincial election? Maybe he wants to spend more quality time with his family?  Whatever he has decided, I wish him well.

What happens next?  With quite a bit of time left in this Council's mandate, a by-election will need to get called.  According to Section 162 of the Municipal Government Act, we would have to be within 18 months of a general election in this situation to avoid taking the voters to the polls.  According to Section 166, the election must be held within 90 days of the resignation.

There are more questions than certainties at this point.  A potential provincial election is looming.  Will other members of Council take a run at the next order government?  Who will step forward to earn Mr. Boutilier's seat around the horseshoe?  How will that person change the dynamics of a Council that has had a helluva ride since they were elected in October 2013?  One thing is certain: election signs are going to be popping up before the summer, once for sure, possibly twice.

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