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EDITORIAL: Future direction at stake

Much can change in municipal government with the casting of a ballot.
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One down, one to go — elections, that is.

It’s tough not to be electioned out after listening, day after day, to federal party leaders making promises with our money. Each new day brought another grandiose announcement, as leaders tried to outbid their opponents.

But, let’s be honest, we all had an inkling the federal vote would go the way it went — another minority Parliament. Whether the Liberals or Conservatives actually formed the minority government was inconsequential. Not much has changed in Canada.

The same, however, cannot be said for our municipal government, where much can change with the casting of a ballot.

St. Albert's previous city council set many precedents and cast many decisions over the last four years. Now it’s our turn to put our stamp of approval on the group, or vote for a change in direction.

One of the precedents set by the previous council was the amount of time spent in-camera, away from the watchful eyes of the media and citizenry. The Gazette recently reported council spent nearly one-third of all its time meeting behind closed doors. By comparison, the 2013-2017 council spent 13-per-cent less time meeting in private.

Where do our mayoral candidates stand on open and transparent government? Do our candidates for council stand for open and accountable government? The Gazette will be asking these questions of all who seek a role on council. As voters, we should be seeking answers to these questions, too.

Whether to proceed with borrowing $30 million to construct the proposed solar farm and whether the city should create a municipal energy corporation will be among the biggest decisions the new council must make. They deserve scrutiny and full public disclosure of the plans, including the risks taxpayers will be asked to shoulder.

Should we question whether the solar farm is the best use of urban land when less risky development may be the right answer? Should taxpayers be underwriting a government corporation that will compete in a renewable energy sector dominated by experienced players with deep pockets? Can we expect to beat them at their own game? What happens if we fail?

Taxes almost always top voters’ priority lists. Do we need to raise them to pay for services and capital expenses? Do we need to create new revenue streams as the city is currently arguing? Do we need to address expenses, reduce services or service levels?

Voters need to know how the candidates feel about all these things, the process to address them city council has followed to date, and how they plan to deal with them, if elected.

As is usually the case, the level of government closest to us can have the biggest impact on our quality of life.

The municipal race is underway. Voters must think about these key issues, do our homework, and support candidates who most closely conform to our vision of the future. For residents who lived here during the great Ray Gibbon Drive debate, this really may be the most important local election in 20 years.

Editorials are the consensus view of the St. Albert Gazette’s editorial board.