“No leave for Steve,” were the words written across a T-shirt Jack Friesen, of the Lacombe Tax Payer’s Association, chose to wear to Monday night’s City of Lacombe council meeting.
The Lacombe resident believes City of Lacombe Mayor Steve Christie, who is running as the Progressive Conservative candidate in the Lacombe-Ponoka riding after MLA Ray Pins announced last week that he would not run again, should resign as mayor.
“It’s all the talk around the coffee shops, everybody is saying the same thing: ‘Steve should resign,’” Friesen said Monday.
“He wants to be in the province and would like to hedge his bets and be able to come back here and work in his second choice job.
“What other employer would allow you to take a month off so you could go look for another job?”
Council unanimously approved Christie’s leave of absence as mayor from March 26 to April 23.
City of Lacombe chief administrative officer Norma MacQuarrie says that under division seven “disqualification of councillors” of the Municipal Government Act a clause states that a councillor, including the mayor, can only be disqualified from council if he is absent for eight consecutive weeks.
“There is absolutely nothing in any legislation that prevents him from running as a provincial candidate and retaining his seat on a municipal council,” MacQuarrie said.
“There is no guarantee that the mayor will be elected at the provincial level and if he is not elected then there is no need to hold a byelection in the municipality,” she added.
Christie says he thinks people who want him to resign were hoping that there would be a byelection for his seat on council.
“But there is a cost to a byelection, and if I don’t get elected as MLA, then that is money that didn’t really need to be spent,” Christie said.
“This happens all across the province all the time. Our MP Blaine Calkins ran federally when he was a council member,” Christie added.
“At this point a leave absence is a more palatable option for our community,” Coun. Peter Bouwsema said.
Coun. Ian Foster agreed, saying that he had several conversations with community members who were concerned about not having an official mayor on council.
“I can assure you that this is business as usual. We have the process in place regardless,” said Foster, who will act as deputy mayor from May to July.
While council agreed on Christie’s leave of absence, there was some disagreement as to the higher level of compensation deputy mayors would receive.
Council voted 3-2 in favor of endorsing the pay for the acting deputy mayors at the level approved for the mayor. Coun. Grant Creasey and Coun. Reuben Konnik opposed.
“I don’t think it is that appropriate that the two deputy mayors are here to discuss the fact that they may or may not be paid more,” Coun. Grant Creasey said.
Acting deputy mayor Wayne Rempel admitted that he was a “uncomfortable” discussing deputy mayor pay but then came to the realization that people are in “business for themselves” and that “time is a cost.”
“I have already been approached by two different groups of people who want to meet with me which is probably going to take a few hours out of my day and this does in fact take me away from my work and impacts me financially,” he said.