Monday, September 30, 2013

Crowsnest Pass begins Development????

Here is a link to a story on the Crowsnest Pass, related to our hotel development. Surprisingly our EDO makes it sound like a Best Western is coming here. Interesting to hear the reporters comments at the end that breaking ground should happen in a year or so.

To my comments:

I was asked if I was concerned about seeing us becoming another Canmore. I got the impression that the reporter felt we were going to be flooded with new hotels.

"We need development, people recognize that, we just want to be a part of it. We don’t want to move too fast. We’d like to see it happen, just in a controlled, sensible approach."

Election Poll update

I took down the poll on Sept 27, I will be putting it back on Oct 14 and we will compare the results from the two polls on October 18.

The results on Sept 27 in alphabetically order:


Decoux  27  14%
Painter  141  72%
Prince    27   14%


Anctil  111
Filipuzzi 113
Gallant  42
Glavin   74
JaegerBaird  41
Juhlin  39
Kovach  148
Lazzarotto  145
Londsbury  29
Mitchell  21
Saindon  36
Saltarelli  10
Strembicki  71
Thompson  8
Ward   141

Now I know this is not scientific but this is how the readers of my blog voted.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

They never knew it was this bad!

Over the last year there have been many comments left on my blog about the low morale within the municipal work force. Some people have chosen to ignore this issue, blow it off, there have been comments made that it's always been this way. At the Coleman sportsplex last Wednesday a presentation was given to all members of the municipal organization including Council, Administration and CUPE members.
I was told that the most common reaction from council members was "I never knew it was this bad". Which surprises me due to the fact that it seems almost everyone in the community knows their is a problem the issue was even touched up on in the Municipal Inspection.
Let's talk about the report and comments that came out of it I'm sure some of my readers will be very familiar. The report looked at many area's within the municipality I will go through them in order.

1. Decision Making Process:

"The impression is that decisions are made by leadership with little or no employee input or discussion; that this is the way it is going to be, and if you don't like it, there are other jobs out there".

"The most common sentiment was many feel they cannot get answers they require to do their work effectively, or that decisions are not made in a timely and efficient fashion"

2. Communication

"Lack of open, clear communication within the MCP was perhaps one of the strongest themes to emerge from the interviewees. It was described with such words as "deplorable" and "non-existent"

"Secretive" and "lots of closed doors" were terms used to describe the communication from leadership to employees"

"people are fearful of negative repercussions if they speak freely and their opinion differs from mangement"

3. Change/Change Management Processes

"The overall message from interviewees is not so much that the decisions are faulty (although some feel this way), but that the changes could have been better managed and communicated"

"Most employees feel if the changes were not "shoved down their throat" or managed with an "iron fist", the outcomes could have been much less divisive"

"People have simply not felt involved and engaged in the process for change to be successfully implemented in this workplace"

4. Human Resources Responsibilities

"In short, there is significant ambiguity and lack of effectiveness in this area"

5. Relationships within Peers

"At the employee level, there was no significant patterns of concern regarding difficulties withi working groups or between the working groups"

6. Relationship between Union and Management

"While many express that this relationship has, historically, not been "perfect", the theme is that, currently, the relationship is the "worst it has ever been".

"The union perceives management is saying "bring it on" in terms of grievances. There are those that believe the objective of management is to "break the union".

"This opinion, that it is a "difficult union", was not shared by any member of past MCP management interviewed. The perspective from this group was "just listen to them and treat them with integrity" and you will be able to work together effectively"

7. Effectiveness of the Union

"Those who feel either unsupported by their union, or perhaps feel it is not effective at this point, are left feeling "they have nowhere left to go" for help, as many do not trust management either"

8. Performance Management Systems

"There appears to be a system to review individual performance only at the management level, and isolated pockets within the organization".

9. Training and Development

"Some felt they had the support of the MCP and their managers to take courses and training as needed. Some felt the option to do so was limited by whether you were a "favorite" of the manager"

10. Rewards and Recognition

"There is no organization-wide rewards and recognition system in place"

11. Feeling Valued and Respected

"The overall feeling amongst most staff is that they do not feel valued and respected for the work they do"

12. Stress and Morale

"The majority of employees indicated they are experiencing significantly high levels of stress in this workplace. Longer term employees stated "morale is lower than they can remember".

Previous management and HR interviewed have chosen to leave, primarily because of the environment, indicating "they have never seen anything like it" in their years in the workplace".

"They say "people used to be so proud to work here", and "this should be the best place to work".

"Despite this core strength, engagement and initiative is dwindling. Many are losing hope; simply "waiting for the next election", where some believe a new administration will be appointed and thus translate into a more positive workplace environment".

13. Leadership

"For almost every interviewee, leadership issues were at the center of their concerns".

14. History of the CNP

"Many interviewed, did, however, speak to the "revolving door" of senior management in the MCP, particularly in recent years".

15. Disciplinary Management of Inappropriate Behaviors and Harassment

"The broad perception held by the majority is that discipline is not handled in a fair and consistent manner. There is a belief that some employees have been "persecuted" or "targeted" simply because they did not always agree with management. This belief was asserted by both unionized employees and previous management interviewed".

"There is also the perception that significant breaches of confidentiality, and allegations of harassment, have attracted no through investigation, disciplinary measures of appropriate action of any kind".

"Another stream of commentary suggests that some unionized employees have behaved disrespectfully towards members of the current management team, refused to comply with certain directives, or failed to cooperate with other employees because of residual hard feelings (changes in the fire department for example)".

"In sum, the approach to misconduct and allegations of harassment appears to be inconsistent, often avoidant, and not always even handed".

16. Team Building/Social Activities

"People will no longer attend social gatherings and activities together because they are too divided"

"Prior to this administrative period, interviewees said social events were fun and well attended".

17. Roles and Responsibilities/Workload

"Many feel as though vacant positions need to get filled in a more timely fashion, as their workloads are impacted in the intervening period. Many also spoke to a lack of mentoring or transitioning when moving into a new role. Succession planning also seems to be absent. There was not seen to be a clear and consistent process for job postings".

18. Safety

"There are also concerns about the safety of crumbling infrastructure for the community, and the inabiliy to get a direct answer on how to proceed when it appears to be a safety risk".

19. Fire Department

"The emotional fallout of the changes in the volunteer based fire department is widespread, impacting both the community and the MCP".

20. Compensation and Benefits

"No issues of significance were raised here"

21. Organizational Structure

"No issues of significance were raised here".

This report was carried out by "Diverse Solutions" a consulting company out of Calgary, I am led to believe that the municipality and CUPE split the cost on this (around $10,000 each). The report indicates that there was 60 interviews conducted including past, present, management and union employees. For anybody that attended the Municipal Inspection presentation or the ratepayers meeting last week the public was informed that this was a second version of the report. My goodness if the first was worse than this then we really are in trouble.
In the last three years there have been how many policies, procedures and bylaws put in place to manage our community while at the same time the municipalities own back yard is in a mess.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Crowsnest Voice-Letter to the Editor and comments

Check out the following letter and comments posted on the Crowsnest Voice

Dean Ward Candidate for council 2013

Below is the information I handed out at the Ratepayers meeting Wednesday night about where I stand heading into this election and some of the issues that I feel are important to this community and it's residents.

                             Election 2013         -       Dean Ward

My name is Dean Ward  and I am very pleased to have this opportunity to ask for your vote in the upcoming election.

I am very proud to be the husband of Debbie, father of three and proud grandfather of two beautiful girls. I have been living in the Crowsnest Pass for 31 years.

I sat on the Historical society board for three years; currently I am a member of the Crowsnest Pass Health Foundation. In addition, I have six years experience sitting on council, which makes me very familiar with municipal budgets and all the other duties expected of a Councilor.

Crowsnest Pass is a great place to live and we are surrounded by nothing but pure natural beauty. We have great schools, a hospital and many other amenities.  But the most important, we have great people.

We do have challenges: a declining population, the oldest population in Alberta, high percentage of residents on a fixed income, and one of the lowest commercial/industrial tax bases in the province 

 In 2010 this community voted for change, but how much and how fast should have been the question.

Strategic Plan was put together in 2011 by mostly people that do not live here. It has many good recommendations, but it was always Council’s plan and it was never “our plan.” The Mayor tells the media “now that a lot of hard work has been done, they can move on to more sophisticated work” when, where and what he is hoping to do to us sometime later.

My positions moving forward 2013-2017

Taxes : Government’s job should be to minimize costs, not maximize revenues. Many of our residents live on a fixed income that never increases by more than the cost of living. I will work very hard to ensure that all municipal taxes, franchise fees, utility costs, permits, fines etc do not increase by more than the cost of living at the most.

Smaller Government: We cannot afford to have an administration that costs us well in excess of $1 million dollars a year. One out of every five homes pays taxes each year just to finance Council’s “Dream Team”.

Seniors-York Creek Lodge is a valuable asset for this community that is in dire need of up grading. Previous council had passed a motion putting aside $100,000 a year to prepare for that future opportunity. This year six months into the budget process administration realized that they had totally miscalculated the tax base, scrambling council agreed to balance the budget by dropping the $100,000 to the Lodge.

Seniors-Town Rounder is one of the unique services the municipality provides to its seniors. After the last driver retired, his position as only been filled by a temporary employee and this concerns me. I will commit to support and maintain this service if elected.  

Frivolous Spending: Our municipal brand/logo, sadly at the same time council cut the $100,000 contribution to the lodge, they approved an expenditure of over $300,000 to hire an expensive consultant to throw together numerous triangles, to build entrance signs, to put up banners and to put this mess on every piece of municipal equipment and stationary. Can anybody explain to me how the logo relates to the Crowsnest Pass?

Consultants: Will we ever really know how much money we have spent on consultants over the last three years? Now we have another one conducting a Recreation study. Our recreation board could have designed a survey, made it available to our residents and gathered the results at the municipal office?    

Peace Officer Program: We were originally told that the project would pay for itself because the municipality anticipated an Automatic Traffic Enforcement program would be put into place. They were wrong. Do we really need two peace officers to enforce bylaws and educate the local residents? We need a full disclosure on what this program is really costing us. As our reputation grows as a speed trap, the revenues will only decrease, but the costs will remain.

Employee Morale: The level of the relationship between the municipal staff and management as sunk to an all time low, so low, that a consultant was brought in to look at the situation. This did not come about over the last two weeks, the next council needs to direct and demand that administration sit down with CUPE and resolve this quickly.

Communications: Newsletters are good until we have our representatives insulting us. Town hall meeting are great until they are used as a tool to attack and embarrass the people that pay the bills. Next council should communicate both professionally and in town hall meeting where council “listens” to the public’s input. Some how in the last year over 2500 residents felt that council was not listening?

Hotels: I will demand that next council not spend $50,000 or any amount to purchase a franchise for a private company, and let’s get the first hotel built before we start fantasizing about a second one.

Housing Affordability: Most elections, we hear candidates speaking about affordable housing. So many of our residents are seniors on a fixed income we need to keep our housing “affordable”. Municipal government cannot control the costs of everything in society; but there are some things they can. To vote to keep tax increases down while at the same time taking substantially more money from our residents in the form of Franchise Fees, Utility bills and every other dollar we can take out of your pocket achieves nothing for the average taxpayer.  

  On October 21, vote for Dean Ward

Any questions, comments or concerns please contact Dean at 563-4128 or

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Do you want it or not?

One of my readers posted the following comment. I think it is apparent where this group is going if re-elected the key question over the next four weeks is this what this community really wants for the next four years?

Mayor Decoux “now that a lot of hard work has been done, they can move on to “more sophisticated work”.

Larry Mitchell “he hopes to be re-elected to finish the things council started and to create a future by not dwelling in the past”

Jerry Londsbury “council needs to finish the initiatives of the strategic plan. A lot of thought and work went into it. It would be nice to run it through to completion.”

Brian Gallant “council started a lot of initiatives to help improve the community and wants to see them through”

Emile Saindon “he wants to continue working for the residents of the municipality and to finish what council started”

Seems like a fairly common theme here, I fully expect that strategic plan 2 will be much worse than 1. With the team above he would certainly have the tools to carry number 2 through.

I think the choices in our election are becoming much clearer. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Crowsnest Pass, Our brand our logo?

This is our logo and new brand how do you feel about it? Do you like it? was it money well spent? looking for opinions? 
Some will argue that it will be paid for out of grant money technically that is true MSI Capital funding what they do not tell you is all the other things that could have been done with that funding check them out at
was the logo/brand a priority? 
What did it cost us? budget $200,000 for entrance signs $50,000 to develop the brand/logo, $20,000 to buy and install banners (150). Three hour meeting with all municipal staff ($35 per hour including benefits), wine and cheese presentation for first dignitaries, and a second presentation for the rest of us. Updating web site, stationary, all municipal documents, placing on all municipal equipment and facilities. Administration and Council time this was not an insignificant burden on the taxpayers.
The reaction I am hearing from citizens while I am campaigning is one "did we really need this" two "I loved the mountain freedom" three "wasn't there better places to spend the money" and four "I don't care if it was $200K, $300K or even $400K it was too much money" 

Note: If anybody wants to dispute my numbers for the costs of the above please post what they believe to be the actual numbers!  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Candidates Comments

Joni MacFarlane is back, great article with some interesting comments from all of the council candidates.

Crowsnest election candidates come forward

After you have read the article please take the time to vote on the very informal polls on the right hand side.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Nomination Day, the race has begun.

Well as of noon today the nomination period as closed. To probably nobody's surprise the candidates for Mayor are the following:

The Incumbent Bruce Decoux and challengers in alphabetically order Blair Painter and John Prince.

The choices for Council a whole lot more complicated just because there are a lot of choices. (surprisingly less candidates than last election)

The Incumbents that decided to run:

Brian Gallant
Jerry Londsbury
Larry Mitchell
Emile Saindon

The challengers for the six councillor positions:

Marlene Anctil
Dave Filipuzzi
Doreen Glavin
Sasha JaegerBaird
Timothy Juhlin
William Kovach
Shar Lazzarotto
Paul Saltarelli
Ed Strembicki
Jamie Thompson
Dean Ward

On the right hand side are a couple of polls your opportunity to pick who you would see as being successful if the election was held today. I will only leave the poll up until Friday Sept 27, then I am going to run it again the last week before the election. To see if the mood of the voters that read this blog changes based on the up coming campaign. (Please pick one for Mayor and up to six for council)

Comments are welcome if they get personal I will not published them, if you want to attack candidates positions on issues that is fine just do not make it personal.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Crowsnest Pass Municipal Inspection Part 2

My Opinion of the Inspection.

In the province of Alberta there are roughly 450 municipalities, cities, towns, villages etc of various sizes and populations.
Municipal affairs is not going to get into the business of settling local issues in all of these communities. Once they settle one how many more will they have on their hand’s?
If you want more proof of this go look at the municipal affairs site, you will see there as not been a lot of Inspections and seldom do they go in favor of the petitioners.

What we went through last night and over the previous six months in the Crowsnest Pass was a process where by the Province of Alberta through its municipal affairs department,  said local issues will be resolved at the local level through the election process.   

I understand why the ratepayers started the petition I understand why 2500 plus people signed it. We have a council that implemented “Change”, unfortunately they did too much to fast. During the last three years in my opinion they lost touch with the taxpayers, government cannot please everybody but you must have a majority of the public on your side. I believe that a lot of the 2500 were not just upset about various issues in the community but felt that council was no longer hearing them.

Back to the report things that stood out to me:

The consultant told us that council did nothing illegal, he also told us that they can hire and fire who ever they want, including volunteers, he told us they can raise taxes, and cut spending where ever they want. They can pass policies, bylaws and procedures as they see fit.

The consultant also told us we have a very limited tax base most of which is residential, he told us that a high percentage of our population are seniors on a fixed income. In addition he told us that combined our mill rate and franchise fees have increased our taxes a lot. He told us that council and administration have done a poor job communicating with the employee’s, with the public and at times even with each other (especially when it comes to the issue of change). He told us that labor relations at the municipality are poor, that the relationship between management and CUPE is strained to say the least.   

The consultant also told us that this community should look at the possibility of a “viability study” the possible breakup of the present municipality. The consultant feels that the Crowsnest Pass as never come together as one community since amalgamation in 1979. I disagree with that, as one speaker so passionately stated last night every time there as been a need for this community to come together they have. I doubt for a moment that any future council will take that approach, would any of our rural MD neighbors want to take on any part of the Crowsnest Pass? I doubt that to.  

What Russell Farmer and the Province have told us, just five days prior to nominations closing and thirty three days prior to the election is you the residents of the Crowsnest Pass all have a opportunity to agree with or against council during the upcoming election process.   

The report as really made this whole process simple if you agree with what as happened here over the last three years re-elect this council or like minded individuals. If you disagree with what as happened then you better look at the alternatives.

Think long and hard before you make your choice on Oct 21st, because if in two years you are not happy I think the Province as made it very clear you will be wasting your time looking to them to solve your problems   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Municipal Inspection Crowsnest Pass

If you want to know what happened at tonight's meeting (I will write more tomorrow after I read the full report) go back and read my post of Sept 11.

The only surprise to me was that the report recommends that next council considers the option of requesting Municipal Affairs to conduct a "viability study" of the Crowsnest Pass. In layman terms that would mean dissolving the municipality and having us gobbled up by our neighbours. Can you imagine the arguments some brave sole would make to convince the MD of Ranchlands or MD of Pincher Creek to take us in?

Below is the link to the full report

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Election 2013 Another one joins the race

Well it is official tonight the first of the incumbents Larry Mitchell announced  his intention to run in the upcoming election. Surprisingly during previous council terms most members of council stated if they would run or not at the last meeting prior to nomination day. Any way not one other member of council gave any hint of their intentions (other than Councilor Saje who had mentioned months back that he would not be running)

Monday, September 16, 2013

Election 2013 Dean Ward announces Candidacy

Below is the press release I provided to today's  Pass Herald regarding my official announcement to offer myself as a candidate for the upcoming election. If you have any idea's, concerns, questions or just want to help my information is at the bottom of the release.  

My name is Dean Ward I am very please to announce that I will be running for the position of councilor in the upcoming election October 21st.
I am very proud to be the husband of Debbie, father of three and proud grandfather of two beautiful girls. I have been a resident of the Crowsnest Pass for 31 years, I previously sat on the Historical society board for three years, currently I am sitting on the Crowsnest Pass Health Foundation. 

One of my greatest assets is experience I sat on council for six years (2004-2010), very few people can claim to have participated in six municipal budgets, my experience will become even more valuable if the next council is comprised of a majority of members that have never sat on council previously.

2010 this community voted for change, change is inevitable and will happen whether we want it or not. The questions with change are always, what, how much, and how fast. Moving forward the next council must focus on involving the community and allow the residents to have input and steer the directions of future changes.

The strategic plan of 2011 was put together by a group of people that do not live in the Crowsnest Pass for the most part. It lacked local support right from the beginning, the public was never given the opportunity to be a part of this plan. Even though the plan had some very good recommendations, it was never “our plan” it was councils.     

The greatest challenges we face in the Crowsnest Pass is the fact that we have no tax base, after the closure of the Devon Gas Plant approximately 10% of our tax base is commercial/industrial. Ninty cents of every dollar raised by the municipality comes from residential taxpayers. According to the last Canada Census on average we have the oldest citizens in the province of Alberta, in simple terms every time we increase the burden on our taxpayers, we make it less affordable for seniors to live here.  

If  you choice to vote for Dean Ward you will be choosing a candidate that believes very strongly in the following:

Fiscal responsibility, I will not brag about small tax increases for the next four years while at the same time taking an extra $400,000 a year out of the taxpayers pockets by increasing Franchise Fees a whooping 230% over three years. I will bring forth a bylaw that only allows the municipality to increase Taxes, Franchise Fees, Utilities, Permits, Fines all forms of revenue by a maximum of the annual Canadian cost of living rate. Governments job should be to minimize expenditures not maximize revenues we all must live within our means. This community does not have the luxury of being able to afford to spend $400,000 on a logo, or $50,000 to buy the rights to a Best Western brand for a private company.

Smaller government, we now employ more administrators than the Crowsnest Pass as ever had previously, with another new position currently advertised. With a staff of less than fifty employees, do we really need nine administrators, when you add up all the salaries, benefits, vehicles, cell phones, computers etc we will be spending in excess of $1.2 million a year. To put that in a different perspective out of the 3100 homes in our community, 600 of them will be paying taxes just to maintain our administration.

There is much more to my platform, which I will be sharing with the public over the next six weeks, I look forward to speaking to as many people as possible. If you have any questions or concerns or would like to help me with my campaign, feel free to call me at 563 4128 or email

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mayor's Corner (Maybe referred to as the first campaign speech?)

Mayor's Corner  
Summer is gone, rivers have receded to near normal, the leaves are turning yellow, the kids are back to school and some are leaving for college and we are all in the process of adjusting to a new schedule knowing all too well that Halloween and snow are but a few months away. This year there will be a change in our schedule in that it will be an election year. I encourage anyone with an interest in the well being and progress of our community to consider “running”. Particularly I encourage any of our many, many competent and intelligent women to step forward.
Speaking of schedules, the time requirement for elected officials has changed. Terms are now four years. In some quarters it has been estimated that the extra year may cause as many as thirty to forty percent of current mayors not to run. It gave me pause for thought so I noted down the “very approximate” time commitments one would need if elected. It is quite a bit of time and doesn’t include issues that come up daily. In no particular order they are, or would be (based on an eleven month year), approximately:
  • 88 Agenda Preparation Meetings (1 hour each)
  • 8 Alberta Urban Municipalities Association & Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties Conferences (Edmonton/Calgary 3 – 4 days each)
  • 88 Governance and Priorities Committee Meetings (2 hours each)
  • 70 Special Group Meetings/Speaking Invitations (1 – 2 hours each)
  • 88 Council Meetings (3 hours each)
  • 12 Parades (2 hours each)
  • 88 Policy Committee Meetings (3 hours each)
  • 12 Parade Related Activities (2 hours each)
  • 8 Special Meetings – (Approximately 2 hours each)
  • 44 Newsletters and Seasonal Greetings
  • 44 Mayors Meetings – Lethbridge
  • 100 Radio Comments – (Approximately)
  • 44 Alberta SouthWest Meetings (various Southern Alberta communities)
  • 1,040 Daily Conversations with the Chief Administrative Officer
  • 4 Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conventions in various Canadian centres (4 to 5 days each)
  • 1,440 Citizens Calls (over 1 per day)
After jotting down these approximations, I realized being the Mayor is quite onerous regardless of how gratifying it is. Well I have until the 23rd of September to decide, as do your current councillors.
Our community is starting to thrive. Building permits and construction are up and several new businesses have opened. Planning for a new hotel just South of the Crowsnest Consolidated High School is underway by a private developer. Demolition of the old hospital and Learning Centre should begin this month and meetings with potential developers are occurring and being sought after. The development of the new mine has now been confirmed and the Riversdale people will be making some announcements shortly. At least one family from the Company is living in the Pass with other individuals to arrive shortly. I think a new mine is now a reality. Another mining Company is also interested in the area, however your Council has had no communication from them at this time.
Our new entrance signs at the East and West end of our community will be going up by the end of October.
Your Council has now begun the process of annexing a portion of the MD of Ranchland. Unlike some of the hysterical newspaper headlines the process will be a logical, sequential series of events with perhaps some heated community meetings along the way. However at the end of the process I feel our Crowsnest Pass will experience huge benefits relative to tax issues and tourism potential for many years into future.
Our Prevention Task Force is being developed and individuals are being requested to participate. The Provincial Government has treated us very well relative to the compensation for flood damage and are very pleased with our efforts to mitigate future natural occurrences through Task Force recommendations.
All told your Council has come through a difficult summer on top of things. I am looking forward to a long, dry, warm autumn that we can all enjoy.
“Every generation thinks its problems are unique and potentially fatal. And yet every generation has survived to the next.”
                                                                      Carl Sagan 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Government Wages something to think about?

In this era of high taxation we often ask the question where are how tax dollars spent, I believe we have a problem in the Crowsnest Pass of an ever increasing bureaucracy both size and cost wise.

The following numbers came from various articles I have read recently in Macleans magazine. A few days from now I will add in the wage ranges for our administration.

Prime Minister of Canada $320,400
Leader of the official opposition $236,900
Leader of the Liberal Party $245,000
Speaker of the house $236,900
Premier of Alberta $217,750
MP's $160,200
MLA's $134,000
Mayor of Calgary $201,839
Mayor of Toronto $172,803
Mayor of Montreal $156,128
Mayor of Vancouver $145,581
Mayor of Edmonton $135,694
CAO MD of Pincher Creek $130,000
CAO Town of Pincher Creek $113,000
CAO Cardston $120,000
CAO County of Lethbridge $200,000
CAO of Coaldale $140,000
CAO of Olds $174,000
CAO of Brooks $196,000
CAO of Nanton $116,000
CAO of Okotoks $213,000
CAO of Stony Plain $169,000

Note: This is why the information above is relevant and I believe that this will become a very big issue during the election. We are not Okotoks, Pincher Creek, Brooks or any where else we have a small tax base and a declining population we must run a lean efficient municipal government and administration.
We have the following in our municipal administration structure:

CAO $180,000 per year 
Directors (3 positions one currently being advertised) $105-120,000 per year
Fire Chief $95,000 per year
Deputy Fire Chief $75-85,000 per year 
Public Works Supt $75-85,000 per year
EDO $100-110 per year
HR position (Part time for now) $45-55,000

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Crowsnest Pass Municipal Inspection

Wednesday night September 18, 5:30 pm at the MDM.

Expectations? Mine not a lot the report will find that according to the MGA council did nothing illegal. They will tell us that Council has put in place strategic plans, process and procedures. All those wonderful things that thrill and employ consultants and help feed the never ending bureaucracy we call government. The report may even mention that some of the things done here were very unpopular (again not illegal) they may even mention that council needs to look at some better approaches as far as communicating with the public. Then we will spend the next six weeks listening to everybody that has a interest picking apart the report to support their own positions.

What we all need to appreciate at this late point in this council's term this report is now a diversion.

The voters of this community really do have a simple choice ahead of them, if you support what this council as done then you need to vote for them or like minded individuals. If you do not support them then you need to look at the alternatives.

It is time now for the Crowsnest Pass to move forward, yes change is necessary but it needs to be change that the public supports and feels a part of.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sparwood showing how a community grows.

The story below appears at the following address in the East Kootenay News On line Weekly, very interesting publication that is well worth checking out.   

The Link to the story below is available at Ian Cobb of /e-KNOW did a great job on this article.

Investment announcement biggest in Sparwood’s history

Posted: September 10, 2013

SparwoodInAnnWideThe District of Sparwood’s commercial tax base will soon be in line for the largest singular injection of growth in the town’s 47-year history.
A group of investors and dignitaries gathered at Sparwood’s Visitor Information Centre (VIC), before a freshly painted Titan Truck, at noon today (Sept. 10) to celebrate the announcement of $85 million in development investment and potential coming the town’s way.
“What a wonderful day for Sparwood,” District of Sparwood Mayor Lois Halko stated while welcoming about 60 special guests.
SparwoodInAnnBBOn hand for the announcement was Minister of Energy and Mines, Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, who hailed the announcement as “the biggest thing that has happened here since the creation of the town. I think the size of the truck behind me is actually a pretty good metaphor for the size of the opportunity that has come along as a result of the work of the mayor and council and business community.”
The crux of what is going to occur in the development project, which will encompass the strip of land between the VIC and the junction of Highway 3/43, including aspects on the east side of the junction and across the highway in the old pit area.
Development participants include Schickedanz West, which is building an 82-room hotel at the junction, including a 3,500-4,500 square foot restaurant and lounge and they are in negotiations to bring in a fast food outlet. The project will also present retail and similar opportunities.
SparwoodInAnnTeck has purchased eight acres that it intends to add to the potential of the project, while Joy Global is constructing an office and operations building on the south side of the highway, which will be accessed by an underpass. Additionally, BC Hydro is providing the district with a beautification grant to bury power lines in the area and Greenwood Mall ownership is spending about $500,000 in upgrades to the inside and outside of the mall – all part of Sparwood’s ongoing efforts to beautify the downtown area, Halko said, adding the plans are “another great step forward for our community. This will take us further in our journey to develop our community by adding more valuable assets that will create jobs, services and further economic opportunity.
SparwoodInAnnLois“We have arrived at this point thanks to a huge amount of hard work from councilors, district staff and commercial partners.
“Our staff has worked tirelessly to accomplish this goal. Under the dynamic leadership of CAO (chief administrative officer) Terry Melcer, District of Sparwood have worked hard towards making today’s announcement possible,” Halko said, adding she thanks the investors on behalf of the community and council.
“Today’s announcement of a multi-faceted investment program is the largest and most significant business development initiative since our municipality was incorporated in 1966,” he said.
Noting that Highway 3 is the second busiest in B.C., Bennett said Sparwood will find more of that traffic stopping in town thanks to the proposed project, expected to take three to five years to complete.
“That represents a huge commercial opportunity for the small businesses here, and the big businesses and it also represents an opportunity for the community to grow their tax base and improve the already high standard of lifestyle and living that you have here.”
SparwoodInAnnDWKootenay-Columbia MP and former Sparwood Mayor David Wilks said the investment launch will help propel the town forward toward a bright future.
“It’s the old adage – if you build it they will come and that is what is going to happen here. We’re looking forward to a very bright future and I believe that if you look at what will happen in the next 10 or 15 years with Sparwood, you’ll find some amazing things are going to happen. I truly believe this is what the community was meant for and I think in the years to come you’ll find that it is a phenomenal place to live. It is a great day for Sparwood.”
SparwoodInAnnSDJoy Global representative Steven Droste stated, “We are really excited to be a part of this community’s future. The future that we are investing in is better facilities for our employees, to enable us to provide better service to our customers and to really improve the mining industry in this particular area.”
Droste noted to the audience that Sparwood “is really quite influential” in the coal mining industry, explaining he’s met people around the world who have lived and worked in the town.
“There is always someone who has worked here and it had a real impact on their lives and career,” he said.
SparwoodInAnnRKSchickedanze West representative Roland Kraemer said his company, which has extensive projects in Radium Hot Springs and Fernie, is proposing a “comprehensive development.”
Phase one will be the 82-room hotel will be “a branded hotel,” he said, adding they are not yet certain what brand it will be. When the hotel was first announced for that location, is what supposed to be a Best Western but that is now no longer the case.
The facility “will include all the modern amenities which you see in a modern hotel,” including meeting spaces.
“For Sparwood this will be a very modern business centre,” Kraimer said.
While negotiations are ongoing to lure a fast food chain, he pitched to those gathered an opportunity for businesspeople to consider taking on the restaurant/lounge feature.
“We welcome your great ideas. We’ve got a great opportunity for you right there,” he said.
Phase two of the development “is fairly conceptual at this time and it is based on enquiries we’ve had to date from various people. We see great opportunities for potentially a gas station/convenience store, another fast food, various retail activities on that site,” he said, noting that property is located on the east side of Highway 43 at the junction.
He explained the site visibility and large traffic volumes on the highway “makes it a great location for any type of investment, for retail or commercial activities. We look forward to great times in Sparwood.”
SparwoodInAnnNMTeck’s Nic Milligan said the company, which owns five coal operations in the Elk Valley, is “very supportive of Sparwood’s efforts to enhance the community, to enhance its economic development and to enhance this beautiful gateway to the province of British Columbia.”
The property Teck has purchased is potentially for an office complex but no firm plans have yet been developed.
“But let me emphasize, we are so grateful for the relationship we have with Sparwood; our shared past and our shared future,” he said.
Some of the highway frontage property included in today's announcement. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW photos
Some of the highway frontage property included in today’s announcement. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW photos

Monday, September 9, 2013

The hidden tax-“Franchise Fees”

Most residents in most municipalities do not even know about the hidden tax known as “Franchise Fees” in fact some municipalities even go to the ridiculous extreme of trying to claim it is not a tax. The quote below was copied from one of these municipalities. Thanks to an awareness created within our municipality over the last two years, the residents of the Crowsnest Pass are not fooled by this sly trick. This “Fee” as become an alternate revenue source used by politicians to create an illusion that taxes are not being raised by a significant amount when in reality they are just taking the money out of your left pocket instead of our right one.

"Are franchise fees a tax? No. Franchise fees are simply the cost utility and cable providers incur for being allowed to place their facilities in the public's right-of-way. Franchise fees are considered a cost of doing business. Franchise fees are an important component of a diversified revenue stream for municipalities."

In 2010 the Municipality of Crowsnest Pass collected $295,551 in Franchise fees this number jumped to $374,288 in 2011, $569,749 in 2012 and was originally budgeted to go to $906,694 in 2013 until the huge out cry by the public. Which led to council having a change of heart and only increasing it to $682,000 for 2013.

2011 increased by $79,000
2012 increased by $196,000
2013 increased by $112,000
2010-2013 increased by $387,000

That is correct in total the “Franchise Fee” increased by $387,000 over those three years a whooping 130 % if these same dollars had been generated by increasing taxes, it would have required additional tax increases of 1.25% in 2011, 2.9% in 2012 and 1.75% in 2013.
Without the public out cry previously mentioned the Franchise Fee would have risen by another $225,000 in 2013 the equivalent of another 3.5% tax increase.

It would be very interesting to hear what position candidates for the upcoming election will take  on Franchise Fees, would they agree that they have gone up more than enough in the last three years? and commit to not increasing them for the next four years?    

Note: Cost of administration $4325 per day

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Crowsnest Pass where nobody is getting the answers

Courtesy of the Pass Herald, read more at 

Municipal council may have wrapped up for the week but drama is still unfolding around the September 3rd meeting.
Councillor Andrew Saje filed a complaint with the local Peace Officer for what he feels to be an infraction against municipal council’s ability to do their job.
“I was not able to do my fiduciary duty to this community by being interrupted by the mayor,” says Councillor Saje.
Councillor Saje would have asked why Chief Administrative Officer Myron Thompson’s hours and the associated costs to the municipality (the time he spent assisting with the recent transaction for the rights to a Best Western Hotel franchise by Group Vachon) were not released to municipal council.
Councillor Saje’s question was stopped by the mayor before council could respond and deferred until the next meeting of municipal council, according to Saje.
“I wanted to know how these associated costs were addressed and to which project they were addressed and to which project they were assigned,” says Councillor Saje.
Saje’s questions follow the requested release by the municipality to the Crowsnest Pass Promoter of the figures involved for Group Vachon to retain the rights to a Best Western franchise from the municipality (Crowsnest Pass) and over $18,000 in additional cost released on.
The Promoter reported there was an additional $8,000 (approx.) in legal fees associated with building a new hotel on the site of the Crowsnest Centre, and another $10,000 spent on a hotel feasibility study conducted by Rich Eichler.
“I hope this brings awareness that council needs to follow the bylines and duties so council will be able to do their job,” Saje said.
Mayor Bruce Decoux insists he was not out of line because Councillor Saje’s question was not an actual motion declared to municipal council.
“I indicated to him to keep track of his questions and bring them for the next meeting,” says Decoux.
Decoux says the proper procedure for a question such as what Councillor Saje asked should be brought to the attention of the CAO before or after the meeting and if the matter is urgent, it can then be read before Part ll Section 7 of Bylaw 791 which reads:
When the Mayor or other presiding officer is called upon to decide a point of order or practice, the point shall be stated without unnecessary comment and the Mayor or other presiding officer shall cite the rule or authority applicable to the case.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Municipal Inspection, Crowsnest Pass

Was just informed by Russell Farmer that the municipal Inspection report will be presented to the public on September 18th. He stated that the municipality will be responsible to book a venue and advertise times etc.
So we should be seeing something soon. Reports will be made available to the public at the end of the presentation.

NOTE: In error I had posted Oct 18 what Mr Russell told me was Sept 18 just five days before nomination day.

Political Forum, Crowsnest Pass

Further to my last post, just spoke to the Chamber of Commerce they will be hosting a Forum for the upcoming election October 10, 7pm at the MDM facility.
They will be contacting all candidates shortly after the nominations close on September 23.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The waiting is almost over, the time to step up is very soon.

Only eighteen days to nomination day (Sept 23 by noon), nomination forms will be made available to anybody that is interested starting Monday morning (Sept 9) at the Municipal Office. There are only three council meetings left prior to the election (Sept 17, Oct 1 and Oct 15) so if you want to get a sense of how the process works your opportunities are becoming fewer. I have not seen anybody show up with a note pad in the last couple of meetings. Maybe that is an indication that there are not a lot of people interested or maybe some potential candidates have made up their minds and do not see a value to attending council meetings.  

This election is going to be a big one for the Crowsnest Pass, first of the next council’s  term is four years, so if we make the wrong choices we are stuck with them for that extra twelve months.

Much larger issue in my mind is like it or not Decoux and his group promised change (unfortunately very few people asked what kind of change) but they did deliver change. Today we have the largest administration we have ever had, we have the most regulation we have ever seen in the Crowsnest Pass, more bylaws, policies and procedures than even the most avid bean counter would care to count. We enjoyed a council that promised us a mere 2.5% mill rate increases over the last three years, then attempted to fool us all by slapping on franchise fee increases that today would equate to an extra 5-6% tax increase annually. We saw changes that tore this community apart and led to 2500 plus people signing a petition in what appeared to be record time. At that point you would think a government at any level would have realized it was time to hear the people. Instead the taxpayers of this community got an attitude of “do your investigation you will not find anything illegal here” And a Mayor that used a monthly municipal newsletter to attack anybody that dared to disagree with his direction.  

Now on the eve of the election we see a desperate attempt to buy votes by spending $600,000 of our own money to demolish a building that could have been tore down three years ago long before we spent $70,000 buying a Best Western Name for a consultant, redundant studies and legal fees.
We the voters get a choice in forty six short days,  I am sure most of the present council will put their names forth, I am also sure we will have quite a number of other candidates to look at.

My hope for this election is that the public asks questions lots of them when somebody talks about “change” ask them what they mean by that. Do not wait for the public forums each candidate will be lucky if they get five minutes to speak. Seek out the candidates ask them where they stand on the issues important to you. If a candidate is serious, he/she will make their phones numbers, emails and mostly themselves available to address your concerns and questions.  

Do not be easily fooled if a candidate promises you no tax increases for the next four years he is a liar, if he promises you tax decreases he is not only a liar he is a fool.

Remember a candidate can promise you the world but unless he can convince a majority of council to vote his way the promises really mean nothing. So if there is a particular direction you would like to see the municipality head in then you better make sure that there are enough potential councilors that have those common beliefs.

I hope the public does not get fooled by the politicians that attempt to please everybody, it is not possible and those types of people end up not taking a position on anything.

I have often been asked what kind of commitment is required to be a councilor? Time, it is not just showing up every second Tuesday raising your hand 25 times and going home. You will put in an average of 20 hours per week you will attend numerous meeting, and events. You will receive calls, you will be approached by the public where ever you go. If you want to be knowledgeable about issues you will spend a lot of time doing research. You will have to make a lot of tough decisions, some that affect people’s livelihoods and some that involve issues that people have been very passionate about for a long time.

You will get paid for doing this but if you are in this purely for the money you will be disappointed over the last ten years councilors have made somewhere around  $12-14,000 a year and the Mayor $22-25,000 a year.

Lastly make sure you have thick skin there will be times where those calls you get will not be so pleasant, and yes it should never be personal but there are a very small minority out there that like to make it that way.

Kudos  to everybody that decides to put their name up for a very difficult job ahead.