Coun. Buck Buchanan was welcomed back into the Red Deer city council fold on Tuesday after apologizing for a social media comment he made in January.
Buchanan had been ordered by council to apologize — twice — after an independent investigator’s report concluded he broke three out of four tenets in the Council Conduct Code.
At issue was a comment Buchanan made after one of his friends broke provincial guidelines by filming a Facebook live event with other customers inside a Sylvan Lake restaurant, which was supposed to be locked down amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The councillor posted: “Good job, Glenn — any AHS yet?” on Facebook — and this ignited a storm of protest.
Staff at Alberta Health Services and the City of Red Deer, as well as many regular citizens, felt he was undermining the health system by openly supporting a rule breaker and not acting like a civic leader. After many failed attempts to informally resolve the situation by asking Buchanan to publicly explain himself, Mayor Tara Veer felt bound to make an official complaint under the Council Conduct Code on behalf of the outraged citizens.
On Tuesday, Buchanan lived up to expectations set by council after the investigator’s report concluded there was code breaking on Buchanan’s part: He made a public apology to the citizens of Red Deer at about 9 p.m. over a live streamed city council meeting.
“I made the comment in support of a friend who was supporting small businesses,” said Buchanan, who admitted he did not appreciate the “wider implications” his comment could have or how it could be perceived by society.
He added he wants to conclude the “misunderstanding… I want to put the (incident) behind me so I can focus on more pressing issues.”
Buchanan also had to apologize to the medical director of the Central Zone at AHS, or a designate. He told council he contacted several AHS directors on Thursday and was finally able to apologize to one of them. He said the female AHS director “wondered how council got that out of the comment that I made.”
His council colleagues voted to accept Buchanan’s apologies — which means he is able to step back into his role on council committees and to take his turn as deputy mayor.
Coun. Dianne Wyntjes admonished council for spending $20,000 of taxpayer money on the effort to get Buchanan to be contrite. “The Conduct Code should be used wisely,” she added.
But Coun. Ken Johnston noted it wasn’t council, but an independent investigator who found fault with Buchanan’s comment.
And Vesna Higham added, “all of this could have been avoided” had Buchanan apologized in the first place.