By Tim Kalinowski on December 17, 2020.
Community group Citizens For A Better Coaldale were successful in collecting the necessary number of signatures needed to force a Municipal Inspection of the Town of Coaldale. The petition has now been sent to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for final certification.
Citizens For A Better Coaldale spokesperson Jack Van Rijn said his group needed 1,738 signatures representing 20 per cent of electors in the Town to force the Municipal Inspection.
“But we wanted to go around the 2,100 mark just to be safe,” Van Rijn explained, “because there is always signatures that get disqualified for technical reasons, wrong address, spelling mistakes, etc.; so we wanted a comfort zone, and then we had such a good response we were able to get 2,334, which exceeded the 2017 municipal election turnout. That was a big comment in and of itself for administration and council, that the citizens are not pleased with what’s going on.”
Along with the petition, Citizens For A Better Coaldale also sent a package of 39 areas of concern with how the Town of Coaldale is being run which they want to highlight for Minister of Municipal Affairs Tracy Allard’s officials as they embark on, hopefully, the inspection process in the new year, said Van Rijn.
Included on the list were the lack of community consultation on how the site for the new high school and rec centre on the north side of the tracks in the community was chosen, and other concerns surrounding the lack of transparency with how the new Civic Square and town hall were being planned and paid for.
Van Rijn said having such a strong response from the community over issues his group has been raising alarm over for the past several months is both encouraging and disconcerting at the same time.
“I was pleased with the response for signatures but, at the same time, I am a little saddened where we find ourselves in this position where we actually need to go to this extreme in requesting a Municipal Inspection,” he said. “We asked council initially to initiate the Municipal Inspection themselves, but one thing they are is masters of deflection and blame. So they turned around and not only blamed our group, but other individuals as well, for even bringing this inspection up. Now that we have got to this point, council and administration overwhelmingly knows there is a lot of dissent amongst citizens and concerns. All we are asking for is accountability and communication, transparency, and a willingness to listen to the citizens.”
The Town issued a statement on behalf of all elected councillors in response to the successful petition.
“Citizens are welcome to make that request of the province,” the statement reads; “we as a council considered the matter, and decided that given the lack of evidence provided to justify such a significant expense, that pursuing an inspection simply wasn’t a responsible use of taxpayer dollars.
“We as a council,” it continues, “are committed to using the time we have left this council term to fulfil our strategic mandate and to serve the citizens who elected us to office. We are in receipt of the final report of the workplace culture audit and plan to release the results in short order.”
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