(This is a blog - to read it chronologically, scroll to the bottom post and work your way up.)
So in the last election the Rigney crew got pummeled. In late 2016 we are getting within a year of a new election. The question becomes 'How does this group get re-elected?'. The councillors have largely been doing a petty good job according to most everyone I've talked to. It certainly is nothing like the dysfunctional and controversial mess of the previous council. You get those who buy property on a gravel road and then complain it's dusty in summer, muddy in spring and icy in winter; but every place has its share of chronic cranky's. Not a whole lot of demand for big change among the electorate.
In 2006 we saw the spectacle to the south of us. A goof that very few like, spouts a vitriol of outlandish B.S. that is repeatedly proven as lies, almost nobody likes him, yet he wins an election. Nobody seemed to vote FOR him, but he stirred up so much fake news and allegations that people were going to the polls to for Against a candidate instead of For a candidate. (Of course it didn't help that his opposition was badly flawed).
Could a similar tactic work here? Get people cranked up so they are voting people out instead of voting people in? What if we just raise a whole bunch of allegations to rile people up? We all know that most people have very little interest in following municipal governments. People are more inclined to just believe what they hear rather than actually take the time to fact-check. We don't even have to lie, just present half-truths, word things to sound worse than they are, and exaggerate at every opportunity.
The problem is you can't be seen to be doing this. You also can't let people know your hidden agenda is probably much worse than anything the current group is up to. In real politics there are a lot of transparency rules to ensure some wealthy person or business cannot buy political favor. Lately in the U.S. the work-around for this is the super-PACs. These are organizations that are stood up with legitimate sounding names and purport to have wide public grass-roots support on an issue but in fact mostly launder large contributions from a few powerful interests. They are not subject to the same transparency laws about who they REALLY represent.
Now keep the above in mind and think carefully as we go forward and draw your own conclusions.
- The new Sturgeon council has clamped down on property developers insisting only quality applications that aren't going to become expensive legacy issues will be allowed. There is a certain group that would like council members replaced with more 'lenient' councillors.
- Morinville has high taxes and has had difficulty bringing in new businesses.
- The lack of a Rec Center and other amenities is seen as a barrier to competing with others.
- Morinville Rotary executive is heavy with Morinville business owners including several in the real estate/land development related businesses.
- Morinville Rotary announces they are going to build a multi-million dollar Rec Center.
- Recreation centre concept tops $70 million
- The fact that cities many times their size have trouble funding them doesn't seem to be an issue. St. Albert Gazette March 19, 2013
- Morinville's finances are already tapped out. They hope to contribute $13.75 million that isn't even theirs - it is a federal grant intended for infrastructure - roads, sewer lines, that sort of thing. Morinville Multi-Use Rec Facility Trouble is Rotary's grand vision cost a tad bit more.
- Sturgeon County meanwhile has been following a tightfisted budget process and investing a lot of their budget into the Industrial Heartland. But payback is about to happen. The refinery is about to start pumping $15-25 million/yr into their budget and more projects have been announced.
- Morinville and Rotary go to Sturgeon and propose they go in with them on the Rec Centre. Now this meeting was in-camera so only a few really know what went on in that meeting. (Maybe our mayoral candidate Hnatiw will agree to opening the books on that meeting-but I doubt it.).
- From all I can gather what seemed to happen was Sturgeon refused to sign on as requested. Sturgeon did agree to provide funding for a business case and offer land and servicing and apparently the bulk of costs for preparing a business plan. County signs on to Town Rec Centre project Their statements since also do not rule out contributing, but insisted to have factual numbers that they could then take to the residents and get their direction on what a fair contribution would be, pointing out that this would only serve a small portion of their residents as many live closer to other communities and rec facilities. In other words Morinville should not expect them to pay a major portion of the costs.
- This sounds legit to me because it clearly states there was no business plan (therefore no reliable costs) when Morinville/Rotary went to the County so I don't understand what they would be expect them to being signing on to, unless they were asking to sign a blank cheque. Actually that would explain Sturgeon's reaction.
Now a very interesting development takes place. Tighe and Bokenfohr join Morinville Rotary in late 2016. This is when interesting things begin to happen. (Remember what you read about super PACs?)
- 2017 begins with the announcement of a Sturgeon Taxpayers Advocacy group. Now I've heard the explanation of the who, what, why this group was created from several times.
- Their spokesperson, John Wasmuth certainly does his best to imply this is a grassroots citizen organization started by 'common-folk taxpayers sitting around the kitchen table' image.
- Bokenfohr and Tighe even denied they had anything to do with it when asked in Council (while under oath of office).
- SUREAL quickly began to criticize Sturgeon Council for a range of issues and information was routinely exaggerated or described in misleading ways to put the worst possible spin to it.
- SUREAL meetings were routinely attended by almost all of the Rotary Executive including Hnatiw who would give presentations on how Sturgeon Co should be financially supporting the Morinville Rec Center while the rest of the presentation would be critical of spending on County matters.
- There was never any reference to the person's who actually started or ran SUREAL. It was described as common grassroots taxpayers. He describes their coming together as a sort of random act of people who met at various events, neglecting to mention they are all working together as Rotary members making applications for money to the Sturgeon County council.
- SUREAL stressed that they were not a political group even though they were going to encourage people to run for council on their mandate. (Isn't that what a political organization does?)
- Bokenfohr and Tighe are both challenged by members of the public during a County meeting and accused of trying to undermine Council and working behind their backs with SUREAL. Both adamantly deny they are SUREAL members or are working with them.
- An email is leaked clearly showing that Bokenfohr and Tighe lied about their involvement with SUREAL and that they were in fact organizers of it.
- As election season arrives the SUREAL sounder, Hnatiw double-speaks an explanation about how she is leaving SUREAL but going to continue acting for the same principles.
- Another email gets released showing that Hnatiw, Bokenfohr and Tighe as well as the other founders of SUREAL had a plan from the outset involvement amalgamation, but decided to keep it under wraps until a later date because it would be controversial.
It has since been revealed that the creators of SUREAL consisted of Alanna Hnatiw, John Wasmuth, Brian Reed, Duane Gibb, Don Levers, Pat Tighe and Wayne Bokenfohr - ALL MORINVILLE ROTARY but one and he is a close associate of two of them.
The long and short of it is the Morinville Rotary (aka SUREAL) wants Sturgeon Council put money towards a $75M Morinville Rec Center but chastises them for wanting to spend $25-$65M minus rent savings on their own buildings.
And there you have the introduction of Morinville Rotary/SUREAL into Sturgeon County politics.