Who wants closed government anyway?

By Alderman Wayne Rothe

The election polls open at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow and this afternoon my phone rang. It was “Donna,” a Lakeview resident who got my election material yesterday. “I’m looking at the candidates and I have a question for you,” she said.

Donna asked about the impact on the community of Spruce Grove’s high growth rate. Over 18 minutes and 12 seconds we deviated into four or five topics. One of those was openness and transparency.

Everyone wants government to be open and transparent; no one wants closed, secret government. Is the City of Spruce Grove open and transparent? What can and should we do better?

In my career no one has challenged the need to go in camera more than I have. I strongly believe that we should only go in camera when it’s essential.

We may go in camera for certain matters that pertain to land, labour and law. For example, we can’t reveal sensitive land negotiations when disclosure could compromise our position. However, should all land, labour and law matters be private? In my opinion: no.

A few years ago council went in camera to discuss a residential development proposal. There was one small piece of information that the developer felt must be private. We went in camera despite my objection.

Council spent an hour discussing that development – including two minutes on the part that the developer wanted private. I would have preferred to have most of the discussion in public and then go in camera only for that one part – if even that was appropriate. As a result 58 minutes were spent in private when there was no legitimate reason, in my opinion, that it could not have been public. That’s why not all land, labour and law matters should be private.

If re-elected I’ll continue to advocate for open government. This website was launched for my re-election bid but I’ll keep it active throughout the next council term as a means of getting important information out.

Years ago I initiated a council newspaper column that ran for a time then died due to lack of interest. I asked for it to be resurrected, but again it died. I’ll bring it up with the new council (again, electorate willing). Regardless of the column’s future, this blog will be my means of getting information to the public on issues that matter.

If I’m re-elected tomorrow I’ll continue to push for full public engagement on the sport and event centre. If I’m not successful then I’ll continue to advocate on the SEC as a member of the community.

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