By Tim Kalinowski
Southern Alberta Newspapers
Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver has granted sponsoring group Citizens for a Better Coaldale’s petition for a preliminary Municipal Inspection of the Town of Coaldale.
According to a letter sent out by McIver earlier this month, the group has exceeded the threshold of 1,730 signatures, or 20 per cent of eligible voters, to activate a preliminary municipal review. In the end, the group collected 2,307 recognized signatures, according to McIver’s office, after 146 were struck from the petition for being ineligible.
Citizens for a Better Coaldale spokesperson Jack Van Rijn said the minister’s decision was “gratifying.” “It is gratifying in a sense we had a group of volunteers that worked extremely hard,” he said, “and at the end of the day, we had more people sign the petition than the voter turnout in 2017, which was a tremendous response.” Van Rijn says there is a whole list of questionable decisions on the part of Coaldale’s town council and administration his group hopes get addressed through the Municipal Inspection process.
“Communication and transparency are the two big ones,” he stated, when asked what he wanted to see come out of the process. “In that sense, when they (council) are spending millions of dollars, maybe it would be a good idea to consult with their citizens to see if it is something they want to be involved with. Obviously, the citizens want to be involved in the decisionmaking.” “That (Civic Square project) is a perfect example where the town got caught with their hand in the cookie jar -where they should be consulting with citizens first, and getting them enthusiastically-involved on a project of that magnitude,” Van Rijn added. “They are trying to do that now, and what’s the old saying? ‘The train has left the station.'” Van Rijn admitted it was unlikely the Municipal Inspection will be complete by this October’s local elections, as it has to go through two distinct stages. First, he explained, there will be the preliminary inspection – which is basically a fact-finding mission from Municipal Affairs to investigate the coalition’s claims and meet with all parties. Once that report is brought back to the minister, McIver will determine whether or not to proceed with the full inspection.
“While the review is a voluntary process,” reads the letter sent to the Town of Coaldale from McIver in-part, “and you have a choice regarding participation, I would encourage your full co-operation and participation in order to assist me in making an informed decision on the (full inspection) request. Once I have reviewed the background provided through the preliminary review, I will advise you of my decision as to what further steps, if any, will be taken. Ministry staff will contact the Town Office to initiate this process.”
Mayor Kim Craig provided a copy of the McIver letter, in response to Southern Alberta Newspapers’inquiries on this matter, and e-mailed a brief statement.
“As this matter is still in the preliminary vetting process, I don’t feel it appropriate for me to provide any further comment until such time Municipal Affairs makes a final decision on whether or not to proceed with the inspection,” the statement reads.