MLA Devin Dreehen faces tough questions

Written by Brenda Schimke

The Hon. Devin Dreehen, MLA, attended the Feb. 8, 2022 regular meeting of the Delburne village council to update, listen to and take local concerns back to the caucus. 

Dreehen opened the discussion by saying, “his personal and the government’s priority is to focus on economic development”.

Councillor Borne questioned why Bill 81, the Elections Status Amendment Act, now allows large corporations and individual donors to give much larger contributions to municipal election candidates than under previous legislation, and why these donations did not need to be reported until after the election. 

Dreehen seemed unaware of these changes and asked his executive assistant to record the concern.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Karen Fegan also questioned the nomination period extension in Bill 81. She realizes the previous period was way too short, but couldn’t understand the rationale to increase it to 9.5 months. 

Dreeshan’s immediate response was, “what was our rationale?” Realizing his mistake, he agreed to follow up on this concern as well. 

As an aside, he said Bill 81 was put in place because of the Alberta Federation of Labour’s affiliation with the NDP.

Mayor Wilson expressed his hope that the government will look and plan ahead for when the next COVID wave comes because the pandemic has taken a terrible toll on mental health. 

“We need to be planning for the next one, mental health matters”, said Wilson, “If you’re angry all the time and frothing at the mouth that is mental health. It becomes hard to talk people down.”

Dreehen gave a nod to mental health issues then said, “COVID is over and we need to live with it.” He also expressed disappointment that his government hadn’t gone far enough in lifting COVID restrictions.

On municipal funding, MLA Dreehen explained the overall MSI grant would not be reduced, but it would be front-ended in 2022 and 2023 to spur economic recovery and then reduced the following two years.

“If it [funding] keeps bouncing around, we can’t meet our legislative obligations, we can’t meet our budget,” said Coun. Bourne. “We have to do a 3-year plan, we need a longer, stable horizon.” 

Dreehen reminded the council that provincial governments can’t plan past the next election.

Provincial rural policing and the disbanding of the RCMP consumed much of the discussion. MLA Dreehen wants a re-commitment to community policing. 

He said, “I don’t want my police chief 2,000 miles away”, and mentioned the ability for himself to just pick up the phone and talk to the provincial chief in Edmonton. He wanted to give “an opportunity for a kid from Delburne to be the Village’s community police officer”, and argued the reason recruitment of officers had become so difficult was the “media keeps trying to portray police as bad guys.”

Councillors expressed concerns about the costs associated with transition, recruitment of replacement officers, loss of RCMP experience and resources, and, in particular, home-grown individuals working as police officers in their own communities. 

Council also assured MLA Dreehan that the RCMP were a community police force with good relations with community members.

Strategic priorities

The council’s strategic priorities, as agreed to at their Committee of the Whole, were seniors housing, camping spots, tiny houses and mobile home lots.

New business

A motion was unanimously passed to donate $200 to the Farm Safety Centre. It is an annual donation made in support of community programming for children.

A motion was unanimously passed to end the Annual Charity Golf Tournament and encourage organizations to apply for their funding needs through the Delburne Community Support Grant. 

This grant rarely has all of its money applied for each year.

Village staff requested council to provide more clarification on the fees charged for the Delburne Community Hall. 

CAO Fagen said under the current rules someone wishing to book the hall and kitchen for five days would be charged the daily rates times five. 

Fagan suggested perhaps a reduced rate for multi-day rentals might be considered. She has also suggested that the name, ‘3-day wedding package’, be changed to ‘3-day weekend package’. 

Councillor Bourne will take these suggestions to the Hall Rental Committee.

By-Laws

The Municipal Planning Commission Bylaw No. 1174/2022 received first, second, third and final reading and was unanimously approved. 

The membership of the Municipal Planning Commission will increase from three members of council to three members of Council plus two members at large.

The Water, Sewer and Garbage Bylaw, No. 1175/2022 received first reading. 

The new provisions would mean all properties having water or sewage connections would receive monthly bills, regardless if their services were turned off or not. Usage remains a variable cost.

The Traffic Control Bylaw, No. 1176/2022 received first reading. As per the recommendation of Red Deer County patrol, penalties for violations have been written into the bylaw. 

Persons in contravention will receive a minimum of $50 for the first offense and a minimum of $100 for a second offense.

Administrator’s Report

Municipal Affairs has set May 5 for Delburne’s Municipal Accountability Program Review. 

CAO Fagan said she is now working to pull together all the information they have requested.

Since starting email billing for utilities, 130 Delburne residents, about one third, have signed up for this option. It helps save on printing and postage costs.

About the author

Brenda Schimke

Schimke is a Graduate with Distinction from the University of Alberta with a BCom degree. She has lived and worked in Alberta, BC and Ontario.