Following a petition signed by 200 Thorsby residents, Municipal Affairs (MA) interviews with key people, and an analysis of information the village is required to annually submit to the ministry, MA has rejected the request for a Municipal Inspection saying the review did not identify concerns that would justify an inspection at this time.
In the letter to the mayor, Minister of Municipal Affairs Greg Weadick, stated the findings indicated “strained relationships between community members and council and administration” and “a general lack of understanding of municipal procedures and legislative requirements.”
Weadick suggested that Council consider support from the Collaborative Governance Initiative (CGI), a program to help municipalities build protocols to prevent conflict from occurring and proactively address conflict when it occurs. Weadick also offered ongoing advisory support and suggested a workshop session on council and administration roles and responsibilities.
Mayor Rasch said while Council has taken steps towards transparency by “increasing media relations and getting the word out,” and by the “establishment of the Financial Advisory Committee to listen to and address community concerns,” he is frustrated because this verdict does not bring closure that the community is seeking.
Councillor Beleshko was, in his words, “less complimentary.” He thought Council would be debriefed on how MA arrived at its conclusion due to the subjective nature of the evaluation process. After the review, he was made aware that one of the preliminary interviewers, Ms. A. Nelson, was a former Thorsby CAO. He wondered if that might be potentially prejudicial and why it was not disclosed.
Beleshko also wonders why the MA overlooked the will of 200 citizens who signed a petition “because of the mistake that two people made by using ditto marks for the address.” When Councillor Jardine suggested starting another petition with 500 names, twelve residents present in chambers burst into applause.
Council agreed there is a need for clarity from MA in what they need help with and in what areas there is a general lack of understanding of the MGA (Municipal Government Act). Councillor Burnett wants both clarity and for Thorsby to take advantage of any help the MA offered.
Councillor Hart offered another perspective, “The Minister, at his sole discretion, may open the door for programs to do what an inspection can do.” He then cited the cost-share price tag for an inspection—$50 thousand for the province, $30 thousand for the village. Beleshko stated an inspection would help Council identify areas that need to be addressed the most.
Council will send a letter to the Minister expressing their concerns regarding the vagueness of the letter and requesting further clarification of his letter and a detailed analysis of the criteria used that led to the decision not to hold a Municipal Inspection. Furthermore, Council wants a meeting with MA to discuss this.