A rash of anonymous and semi-anonymous third-party groups have emerged with plans to influence the outcome in the City of St. Albert‘s municipal election.
With a population of more than 60,000, the second largest city in Alberta’s capital region has grown in leaps and bounds as the number of residents has increased by one-third over the past two decades. An affluent bedroom community without a significant business or industrial tax-base, St. Albert depends almost entirely on residential taxation to fill its city coffers.
Although it describes itself as a “grassroots group of concerned citizens”, ‘St. Albert Think-Tank‘ remains completely anonymous. Think-Tank opposes downtown revitalizations plans it claims will “change the St. Albert downtown core to resemble that of a major city such as Toronto or Montreal”, and opposes extension of Light-Rail Transit from Edmonton to St. Albert, flimsily arguing the city needs a population of 500,000 before an LRT line would be feasible.
Think-Tank plans to host an election forum on October 16, yet refuses to give election candidates any advanced notice as to the identity of the group’s leaders, membership or even the moderators at the planned all-candidates forum.
In an October 3rd email sent to Mayor Nolan Crouse and all council candidates, the group’s organizer declared that “the full membership list of the Think Tank is of no consequence,” and, despite continuing to remain completely anonymous, is “providing absolute openness and transparency.” (download a pdf copy of the email)
While the identity of the individual or individuals behind St. Albert Think-Tank remains a secret to the public, the group has purchased large advertisements in the community’s award winning newspaper, the St. Albert Gazette. The Gazette would know the names of the individuals who purchased the advertisement, yet the paper does not yet appear to have reported on the group’s agenda or who is hiding behind the advertisement.
Striking a real negative tone, two anonymous blogs – Stabnow and St. Albert Insight – have also been attacking the mayor and council candidates who do not fit within the authors narrow and bitterly toned anti-government agenda.
Another group, the Election Action Committee (EAC), remains semi-anonymous. The name of former St. Albert Taxpayers Association president Gord Henniger is listed as a contact and the group’s website appears to exists for the sole purpose of attacking incumbent Mayor Crouse.
The EAC has also purchased ads in the Gazette and loudly voices its opposition to taxes and various projects that any sensible person would think could improve the quality of life of St. Albertans, including LRT expansion and the proposed downtown area revitalization plan (the website also includes a strange daily recap of someone’s vacation in California).
In a recent ad in the St. Albert Gazette, the EAC claims that property taxes have increased by 26.37% since Mayor Crouse was first elected nine years ago. Whether or not that total is true, municipal taxes in St. Albert have only increased an average of 3.23% annually over the past five years. This remains fairly low compared to other cities in Alberta during the same period (4.62% in Red Deer, 4.53% in Strathcona County, 4.46% in Grande Prairie, 7.72% in Calgary and 5.63% in Edmonton).
But it is the “Famous Quotes” section of the Election Action Committee website that is most shocking. The page includes quotes from many historical luminaries, including Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler, which I am sure will be of interest to the candidates who the EAC has endorsed – Shelley Biermanski, Ted Durham, Sheena Hughes, John Goldsmith, Bob Russell, Cam Mackay, Malcolm Parker, Mark Cassidy, and Norm Harley.
While the two groups demand transparency from their municipal government, neither of these groups are transparent. I have emailed St. Albert Think-Tank and the Election Action Committee requesting information about their financial backers and who is involved in the groups. Neither have responded to my requests at the time this post was published.