A request by Lakeland mayors and local elected leaders is adding a new and unsettling layer to government levels.
In addition to local, municipal, provincial and federal levels of democracy, we can now add 'financial'; Mayors and elected leaders from across northern Alberta are asking their ratepayers for money so they can speak to provincial and federal politicians.
A request filed to municipal council members in Lakeland communities in recent weeks from the Northeast Mayors, Reeves and Indigenous Leaders Caucus is asking local taxpayers to foot the bill to hire lobbyists to "further regional issues with other levels of government."
The caucus — which includes elected officials from Bonnyville, Cold Lake, Lac La Biche, Two Hills, Lamont and Indigenous communities from across the region — has held four meetings since last April. The next meeting is slated for mid-March in Vegreville. The agenda items at the meetings include rural crime, healthcare, broadband connectivity, highway maintenance, and ironically — municipal funding.
The funding request being pitched to municipal councils across the Lakeland is calling for a few thousand dollars from member groups. The Lac La Biche County ask, for example, came to council last week. It's for $2,000. Councillors approved it. Similar requests are expected to be made by mayors to their councils in the weeks coming. Several councils, like Lac La Biche County, have already approved the funding.
It's sad. We now have to pay to speak to other elected officials, bureaucrats, provincial or federal leaders? Don't we already pay those folks quite well to work on our behalf? This proposal seems to be making that open and accountable access we cherish in our democratic freedoms something that will only continue for the highest bidders. Will groups with the most money and the best lobbyists get better healthcare or better economic assistance? It's sad. Not only sad that this is being asked of ratepayers, but also sad that our local, elected officials think it's OK to pay a ransom to be part of the democratic system.
Why pay more to have our local politicians hire someone to speak on our behalf. That's the role we elected our local politicians to do — and we already pay them quite well to do it. If they need to pay someone to do their job, what are we paying them for?
Perhaps residents should ask their local municipal councillors about this issue ... before the local politicians start charging more than just their municipal salaries to provide answers to the people they represent.