Thursday, September 16, 2010

Issues Behind the ‘Hospital News Release’ Incident

Now that Council has ratified a way to move forward that will protect the rights of all individuals involved in the much publicized incident (see Blog: Why an Independent Investigation) I feel an obligation to clear the air with regard to two specific areas.

Firstly, statement after statement in the press has led people to believe that the incident was about an individual’s right to speak out. The issue was not about freedom of speech.

This is about one Councillor’s reaction to a press release which he did not agree with - that is a policy issue.

Who has the obligation to edit and approve County press releases? It is not Council as a whole. That is neither the practice nor the policy in this municipality.

The policy in Strathcona County is similar to that of other large municipalities in Alberta. Draft releases are circulated for approval to applicable department manager, executive team member, Commissioner and the Mayor. This approval process is a rigorous one that is put in place as a way to ensure  facts are correct.

At the Sept. 14, 2010, Council meeting, as a result of one Councillors disagreement with the tone of a press release, a motion was rushed to the floor of Council. Three Councillors spoke to changing the approvals policy so that Council would be the approval agent for press releases that concerned the Capital Region, the hospital and power lines. 

This was an ill conceived motion with no backgrounder or benefits-risk analysis. The result drags Council, a governing body, into operations. The current policy has proven effective for many years and should not be changed without some thought put into it as to the merits and down side.

Secondly, there was much ado made in the press recently about Mayor Olesen and myself meeting with representatives of the provincial government to obtain a clarification over the hospital. 

This is not about the Mayors ‘right’ to meet with a couple of Ministers – because, indeed she does have that right, in fact, the obligation, to represent the needs of our people at a meeting with provincial representatives.

I believe the meeting was in response to the call for clarification from myself, Strathcona County residents, and complaints voiced in the media. As the need for it was urgent , Minister Evans arranged a sit down with the appropriate Ministers.

Mayor Olesen had two hours to respond. While she was entitled to attend the meeting alone, she was able to get in touch with me and I attended in the capacity of Deputy Mayor.

Similar types of meetings have occurred at various times in the past – none of Council objected to those meetings.

Hopefully this will answer any remaining questions the public will have and we can move on with the business of running the County.


  1. I was at Council this past Tuesday and I think the County chose the most appropriate option that was there. Both Brownlee and George Cuff are knowledgeable and respected.

    In my semi-knowledgeable opinion (i.e. not knowing all the facts), I think this whole story morphed significantly over the past 10 days or so.

    First it was a hospital issue, then it became a personnel issue and then it changed into a political issue and was exploited as such. In all of this, the original discussion got overwhelmed and that's a shame.

    As for whether the county's executive committee had the right/responsibility to meet with our MLAs and senior government officials, I would expect that's present in a county policy or the Municipal Government Act (I've not checked). If there's no policy, statute or regulation about this, there probably ought to be.

    I agree with you that having council move from a policy body to an operational body is a slippery slope. To take it to the absurd conclusion, perhaps you’ll be the county person coming to cut the grass in my local park.

    I suspect council's only employee is the CAO and it's Council's responsibility to manage the CAO. Under this model, it's up the CAO to manage other staff in the operational areas of the county.

    Roxanne, I appreciate that you have thought this out for yourself and put your conclusions down on virtual 'paper'.

  2. None of this has been about the "issues" that have been mentioned. The motivation behind each of the actions has been simple election grandstanding by a few councillors and a mayoralty candidate in the upcoming municipal election. Each of the parties involved are experienced politicians and should be ashamed of their actions.

    Roxanne's choice to raise above this behaviour and not get involved in the juvenile gamesmanship is just one more example of why she is such a great councillor!


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