City of Wetaskiwin Mayor Tyler Gandam took to Facebook this week to address ongoing online criticism about the city, council and himself.
In the seven-minute and 35-second video, Gandam covered a number of topics that he considers to be “rumours, myths and flat-out lies.”
“I haven’t said anything or posted much about it, because I figured if I didn’t give it any attention, it would stop. That has not been the case,” he said.
“In fact, they just get more ridiculous by the week.”
Regarding the operation of an emergency shelter run by the non-profit Hope Mission, Gandam says the shelter has a contract with the province and not the city.
“I also don’t get paid for the Hope Mission in any way,” he said.
Gandam says that he has been receiving emails both in favour and against the shelter.
“What I don’t understand is how you can have a petition signed by 1,000-plus people both by locals and people outside the community and say the majority of the people don’t want it here,” Gandam said.
“A thousand people is about eight per cent of Wetaskiwin’s population. One thousand people isn’t even the number of people who didn’t vote for me in the last election.”
In the video, he also addressed a recent sanction he received from council. He said that he contacted two chiefs as well as Minister of Indigenous Affairs Rick Wilson, who is also the MLA for Wetaskiwin-Maskwacis, regarding the shelter.
“The email was to two chiefs in Maskwacis that said ‘looking for some clarification on the homeless shelter for Wetaskiwin.’ The province has a contract with Hope Mission to operate a shelter in the current location for a minimum of two years. No one from Maskwacis has offered an alternative solution for four years. Minister Wilson has not come up with an alternative solution in the past four years, other than saying the City of Wetaskiwin has a big problem. Tell me what the plan is moving forward,” Gandam said in his video.
“I have not pushed anything. I have worked with the very limited information and resources we’ve received from the province.
“And the text to Minister Wilson said ‘So I’ve been the driving force for the shelter? Maybe step up and be the minister for Indigenous Relations and the MLA for Maskwacis-Wetaskiwin. I’m getting tired of being the scapegoat for the social problems we are having in Wetaskiwin. I’m also well aware of the lies you are saying about me to other ministers. It won’t last long before they know how full of B.S. you are.’”
He said he has since apologized to the two chiefs in person.
Gandam also explained that an old interview has surfaced and is being repurposed to encapsulate his thoughts on the shelter situation.
“Recently, there’s been a recording of an interview used that I did a few years ago, about wishing I was rich so I could help people who didn’t want to live here move. Someone has taken that video completely out of context and made it seem like I said that about anyone not in favour of the shelter,” Gandam says in his recent Facebook video.
“In that interview, I was speaking to people who chronically complain about Wetaskiwin and wish they could move, but couldn’t afford to. Not about the shelter.
“You lose all credibility when you make stuff up like that and lie to support your narrative and try to discredit me. The difference is, I can disagree with someone about something and not take it personally.”
He also rejected claims that the city had set up an electric charging station at city hall because he has an electric vehicle.
“For the record, I don’t own an electric vehicle. No one from the council owns an electric vehicle. City hall has had an EV charging station since about 2012,” Gandam said, adding the city used grants to cover about half the $15,000 cost of replacing an old charging station.
In response to some claims about the city being broke, Gandam says that when he started on council in 2013, the city was almost $33 million in debt, while the city now has only around $11 million in debt.
“Ten years later, we are down to $11.9 million in debt, and have just about $18 million in reserve.”
In response to mayor and administration “controlling council’s decisions,” he called the accusation “silly.”
“It takes four members of council to vote in favour of something before it can happen,” he said, adding that the council had a risk assessment done because people had been threatening staff and council.
“Calling me Hitler shows more about lack of knowledge and ignorance than it insults me.”
At the end of the video, in a nod to his critics, the mayor said he finds the memes and videos “extremely entertaining.”
“I think common sense is fantastic to have; it’s even better when you have all the information,” he said.