Party politics a municipal distraction

This week a group known as Red Deer First announced that it would have as many as eight candidates running on the same platform for spots on council in the 2013 civic election.

This week a group known as Red Deer First announced that it would have as many as eight candidates running on the same platform for spots on council in the 2013 civic election.

That platform includes the all-too-familiar conservative ideas of fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability and safer streets.

Whether by accident or design, Calvin Goulet-Jones is the group’s bellwether. He announced his intention to run for council earlier this year, and he is the first candidate to declare his affiliation with Red Deer First.

In his first interview about the group, Goulet-Jones takes great pains to reassure Red Deerians that Red Deer First is just a group of individuals who share the same message, not a political party, which many consider to be anathema in the intimate world of municipal politics.

However, the group’s slick poster and flashy logo, coupled with the candidates’ plans to share resources and cheer each other on during the election, don’t exactly support his claim.

Goulet-Jones goes on to deny that Red Deer First’s goal is to gain control of council. It just wants to hold it accountable on behalf of the citizens. In fact, Red Deer First will make it easier for those citizens to choose city councillors, he says, because it can be challenging to figure out what people stand for when there are 25 names on a ballot.

Apparently, Red Deer First doesn’t give Red Deer voters much credit, either.

Goulet-Jones’s denial that Red Deer First seeks power not for itself but for the masses is disingenuous.

There is another word that more accurately describes Red Deer First’s goal: domination.

Red Deer First is nothing more than a thinly veiled political party that seeks to dominate the city’s political landscape for years to come.

The party wants to ensure that the city’s policies as well as its councillors conform to its conservative definition of “common sense.”

What’s worse is that Red Deer First is counting on voters to bite at its offer of greater power over a “community serving council,” when it really intends to keep any power it attains for itself to further dominate and exploit Red Deerians.

Red Deer First’s claim that the current council is unaccountable and fiscally irresponsible and that it is the cure smacks of self-righteousness.

Think of the totalitarian system that city council would become if Red Deer First elected enough members to hold the majority on council.

Debate would be stifled or eliminated outright in an atmosphere based on the principles of exclusion, segregation and division.

Votes would become perfunctory as councillors voted “NO” in lockstep with the party’s platform, which vows to cut deep to ensure the city lives within it means.

There is a certain terror in the neurotic, conflict-free council that Red Deer First envisions.

As Goulet-Jones readily admits, there are ideas that he would love to take to council, but they are not in the Red Deer First platform, so he won’t.

What is truly frightening is that Goulet-Jones says that he is fine with that. Presumably, he will bury those ideas deep within his subconscious to avoid calling into question the established order or his desire to be a team player.

Of course, the prospect of Red Deer First winning the majority of seats on council in the 2013 civic election is far from certain this early in the race.

Its current slate — all faceless, nameless conservative clones with the exception of Goulet-Jones, will face an experienced list of challengers. Paul Harris, Dianne Wyntjes, Lynne Mulder and Buck Buchanan are seeking re-election. Councillors Tara Veer, Frank Wong and Chris Stephan have not confirmed their intentions. Lawrence Lee, a third-term public school board trustee, and student Matt Chapin are also in the race. More candidates are certain to join in the coming months.

Red Deer First will also have to face Red Deer voters, and they are not the innocent dupes the group believes them to be. Red Deer voters will see through Red Deer First’s attempt to rob them of their political power.

Instead, they will seek out free-thinking candidates who promote innovative ideas and show a willingness to make connections with their fellow councillors in interesting ways, freeing up the city to focus on growing in refreshing directions.

Party politics may be a necessary evil at the provincial and federal levels of government, but it’s an unnecessary distraction at the municipal level.

Cameron Kennedy is an Advocate editor.

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