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Sylvan Lake council hopes to repair relationship with Wildrose MLA

Sylvan Lake town council will meet today with local Wildrose MLA Kerry Towle to fix their souring relationship.

In an unusual move that suggests how deep the divide has become, a moderator has been recruited to referee the luncheon get-together to improve communications.

“I think the reason to go to a moderator is because we’re starting to have a pattern in how the MLA handles the affairs of our community,” said Mayor Susan Samson. “And we need to break that pattern. (It) doesn’t work for us.”

Relations between the town and its MLA have been rocky for months.

In August, the town went as far as to post an open letter to local residents on its website criticizing Towle for not communicating with the municipality.

The letter followed a Wildrose-organized meeting that drew 500 people on the contentious intersection at Secondary Hwy 781 and Hwy 11.

Towle irked town council by questioning why it wasn’t there and suggested they weren’t listening to the needs of the community.

A raucous meeting in the town on Wednesday seemed to further exacerbate relations between municipal officials and their local Opposition MLA.

The meet and greet was advertised as an opportunity for residents to get some face time with Deputy Premier Thomas Lukaszuk to discuss local issues such as the need for an urgent care centre and highway access improvements.

However, a vocal contingent, travelling from as far as Camrose, showed up to debate property rights.

Samson decried the gathering as an opportunity lost.

She knows of a resident who wanted to discuss the care an elderly parent was receiving in a seniors home, but could not.

“The deputy premier was not able to address that because the meeting, the style of the meeting and the intent of the meeting ,was changed through the actions of our MLA working in collaboration with Joe Anglin (Wildrose MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre).

“That’s not how we do business, what happened last night.”

Towle takes issue with the suggestion that she changed the meeting into something the town didn’t intend.

“I didn’t change anything about the meeting. It was not my meeting. The only thing I did was to ask residents to come out and attend.”

Dissatisfaction with the format of the meeting came from some of those attending and asked the deputy premier to change the style of the meeting, which he did, she added.

“The fact that the people changed the outcome of the meeting (Wednesday) night, that had nothing to do with me,” Towle said.

“I didn’t organize anybody at the meeting to do anything.

“There were some land surface rights people who were there who were pretty vocal, but it was an open meeting.”

Towle feels the mayor’s criticism of her “pattern” for handling local issues is a “bit unfair.

“The residents of Sylvan Lake are coming to me because they’re saying they’ve never had a voice before,” she said.

“They are calling me consistently and asking me to take their voice to the provincial level, which is what I’m doing.

“Unfortunately, that’s at odds with how it’s been done before — I understand that. And it’s also created some friction, apparently, between council and I.”

Towle sees no need for a mediator or moderator, but is happy to go that route if it helps relations with the town.

Despite their differences, Towle is confident a good working relationship can be formed.

“We’re all here for the residents of this riding and Sylvan Lake. I think both parties absolutely want to figure out a way where both sides have to be able to do their job.”

While she is happy to work with the town, she won’t stop speaking up for residents, she said.

Bob Clark, a former Alberta Ethics Commissioner and Social Credit Party leader, has volunteered to moderate the lunch-hour meet with council and the town’s chief administrative officer at no charge.



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