Prairie Post (East Edition)

County council blocks member from post on Federation of Canadian Municipali­ties

- By Collin Gallant Alberta Newspaper Group

A Cypress County councillor has been blocked from rejoining a national lobby group by local colleagues apparently over internal disagreeme­nts.

Robin Kurpjuweit represents Ward 4 (Longfellow) in the county and also sits as a rural committee chair with the Federation of Canadian Municipali­ties. He says that post gives residents and the county a large voice in federal policy discussion­s, and fulfills a county priority to engage other government­s.

A majority of Cypress councillor­s however, argued the time commitment is disruptive to county business when decisions are made in his absence, then are reopened. Two weeks ago they voted down an annual request to allow Kurpjuweit to continue in the position.

On May 2, he requested they reconsider, but after several votes to bring the request back on the agenda for the regular meeting in Dunmore, and 40 minutes of discussion, it was again defeated by the same 5-4 margin.

Kurpjuweit declined comment to the News but told the meeting the decision would hurt the county’s efforts to build intergover­nmental relations.

“There is no stronger ability than this for us to advocate directly to the federal government, and provides a chance to engagement with rural (leaders in Alberta)…FCM is the most powerful voice for advocacy that we have,” said Kurpjuweit.

“These are not things that are specific to Cypress County but there are a lot of things we talk about directly related to our projects.”

He said discussion­s are active on federal help for water supply projects and sustainabl­e agricultur­e, even lobbying on behalf of farms for carbon credit programs.

Coun. Lloyd Want was the deciding vote to reopen discussion, in his words to get the issue in the open, but didn’t change his vote against the measure.

“I think it was the wrong thing to do in my opinion (close debate), but I voted for it,” he said, later stating there was a “fracture” growing on council that should be discussed.

Other councillor­s cited examples, such as the Irvine Library developmen­t, which consumed council’s workload this winter even though a decision was made early in the new year.

“It can make the rest of council look bad,” said Coun. Shane Hok.

“There’s a misconcept­ion in the public that we don’t know what we’re doing,” said Coun. Blaine Brost, who represents Irvine.

“Now we’re re-debating a motion that passed two weeks ago,” said Reeve Dan Hamilton.

Kurpjuweit said all councillor­s are able to ask that decisions be revisited.

“I don’t want to waste anybody’s time, either,” he said. “I think relationsh­ip building on council can go a long way and I’m committed to that … I’ll be more sensitive to it in the future.”

Kurpjuweit argued that the decision goes against council’s own strategic goal of improving intergover­nmental relations and will hurt local interests in the end.

The county’s provincial lobby group, the Rural Municipali­ties of Alberta, covers the expenses related to the position, but a local resolution is needed to be renewed each year to allow participat­ion on the FCM board.

“I think you do a fine job, but I know that it’s not fair to disrupt council, coming back and questionin­g decisions that were made in your absence,” said Coun. Richard Oster.

“I’ve never questioned the quality the work that you were doing (with FCM), but the challenge on our end was that it was creating a lot of extra work by absences at meetings). There were discussion­s made in your absence (and decisions) … but you chose to bring them back. I look at and think if that keeps happening it’s going to be a long tough year moving things forward.”

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