Elections are an interesting time. For politicians looking to keep their seats and convince people to vote for them, elections bring out their convictions, visions, goals and sometimes, their claws.
In the lead up to elections, a Sept. 27 Town of St. Paul council meeting that seemed to be largely uneventful suddenly took a more explosive turn when a councillor brought up the issue of missed meetings and extended absences. While the comment was general, it seemed clear to those at the meeting that Trevor Kotowich was referring to one of his fellow council members, John Trefanenko, specifically.
The seemingly innocuous way of bringing up attendance led to more questions that showed Trefanenko had missed more meetings than any other councillor in the past term. The issue of missed meetings has been mentioned more than once in offhand comments during the last year, but has never been brought up officially during regular meetings. It was not surprising that Coun. Kotowich, who typically brings good ideas and points up at the council table, was the one to raise the topic, but the timing – less than a month before election - was strange to say the least, and hostile to say worse.
Trefanenko notes he has missed meetings for various reasons in this past term, but that in his entire years of service, including 15 years of mayor, his attendance averaged out would probably be very good, much better than some other councillors. But his more astute observation is that council should work as a team, not against one another, and that he would have been happy to take constructive criticism from any councillor, face-to-face and stated outright, rather than be the target of an evasive, surprise attack during a public council meeting. That is a fair and valid observation, as much as it is fair and valid for Kotowich to point out that council may want to look at having a clearer policy on attendance, since the Municipal Government Act allows for councillors to be away for nearly two months at a time.
The all-candidates forums tonight (for town council and school board) and tomorrow night (for County of St. Paul council and the Reeve-at-large election) offer a good opportunity to find out more about what each candidate has to offer. People should feel free to dig deep on their candidates, whether it’s on their attendance records, their representation on council, their abilities to work co-operatively with others, their contributions to the community, and their ethical decision-making.
After all, whether you live in the Town or County of St. Paul, the people elected will not just be making the decisions that affect you –they will be representing you at the council table and to the rest of Alberta. Attend the forums, and make an educated choice on Oct. 18.