Red Deer city councillor Buck Buchanan believes he will have no choice but to apologize for a social media post that many felt undermined the health authority during the pandemic.
Apologizing “certainly wasn’t my initial reaction, but I’ve since had several people say, ‘Whatever you do, don’t resign,’ so that only leaves the other option,” said Buchanan on Wednesday.
Until he apologizes, Buchanan will have to step down from about six council committees and give up his deputy-mayor rotation. He was also ordered to take social media training, according to a council vote on Monday.
Despite this reprimand, the retired police officer still doesn’t feel his six-word post should have been construed as if he was opposing Alberta Health Services pandemic restrictions.
His comment: “Good job Glenn — Any AHS yet? was posted on a Facebook live event staged Jan. 27 by former Innisfail town councillor and current Innisfail Mayoral contender Glen Carritt. The event showed a lack of social distancing and masking protocols happening inside Hockey Central Sports Lounge in Sylvan Lake at a time when no customers were allowed to dine indoors.
Buchanan noted the province lifted dine-in restaurant restrictions only a couple of days after Carritt’s event. He said he’s a long-time acquaintance of Carritt’s: “My initial head-space was I just wanted to show support for someone who was doing something for small businesses,” which had lost thousands of dollars in sales and expired food during lockdowns.
He added he did not mean to show disrespect for AHS’s restrictions.
But many members of the public took it that way and called for Buchanan’s resignation. After many informal attempts to get the councillor to either apologize or publicly explain himself were unsuccessful, Mayor Tara Veer filed an official Council Conduct Code complaint on behalf of the numerous upset citizens, including city staff and health workers.
On Monday, city council discussed a report compiled by third-party investigator SAGE Analytics that found the councillor had acted in a manner not becoming of a civic leader. The majority of Buchanan’s colleagues then voted to censure him, as the investigator recommended.
Accordingly, Buchanan will have to apologize at a city council meeting — and the next one is on Aug. 24.
Some angry Red Deerians commented on the Advocate’s Facebook page about this report costing taxpayers $20,000.
Buchanan said he hasn’t felt a lot of blame directed at him for this spending. He added it was the mayor who chose to make the formal complaint.
Deputy mayor Vesna Higham said Buchanan had two-and-a-half months to try to resolve this matter voluntarily. “We didn’t have to spend a dime on this process… the responsibility lies with him.”
Under the Council Conduct Code, it’s up to the rest of council to determine whether there’s validity to a complaint, and in this case, the majority felt there was, so the independent investigator was hired, added Higham.
Buchanan would not say whether he would be running for re-election, stating an announcement will likely be made next week.