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LETTERS: Residents should be leading and teaching council

A nine-month long journey for the Westlock Neutrality Team concluded on March 11 th with a hard-won victory when Town Council begrudgingly passed the “Crosswalk and Flagpole Bylaw”.
Former town councillor Robin Brett is running for mayor in the Jan. 10, 2024 Town of Westlock byelection. Submitted photo

To the Editor:

A nine-month long journey for the Westlock Neutrality Team concluded on March 11th with a hard-won victory when Town Council begrudgingly passed the “Crosswalk and Flagpole Bylaw”. Council had no choice but to restore the floodgates they’d opened back in June 2023. It’s a tremendous victory for town residents and for the democratic process. And it’s a reminder that council doesn’t tell you what to do. You tell council.

The wisest thing elected officials could’ve done was just pass the bylaw and move on. Mayor Jon Kramer, however, couldn’t resist pre-empting it with a speech.

It started well enough, with him admitting that council opposed the bylaw but that they were committed to respecting, hearing, and working hard for all residents. “We will debate ideas, not individuals. We will discuss policies, not people.”  Presumably, that means no more condescending remarks like those we heard from every councillor during their Nov. 27th meeting. Councillor Wold’s “small group of radicals”, Keyes’ “intolerant fearmongers”, and Morie’s “lipstick on bigotry” comments will hopefully now be a thing of the past. Hooray for progress.

However, Kramer then quickly veered into a different direction: that of defence and defiance.

In defence, he paraphrased a quote used in all his post-plebiscite interviews: “100 per cent of the data says this is a bad bylaw”. Although the town office couldn’t tell me what “the data” was, it apparently includes how the only other municipality with a bylaw like this rescinded it eight months later. Had they dug a little deeper, they’d have discovered, as we did, numerous municipalities across Canada with successful crosswalk and flag policies, far more than the lone cowardly flip-flopping of Norwich, Ontario. But I guess that would’ve affected their “100 per cent” claim.  Apparently, what they really meant is “100 per cent of the data that we choose to include in our decision making."

In defiance, he proclaimed unwavering allegiance to diversity and inclusivity. “… As a town, we will continue to pursue inclusive practices, programming, and policies across the board…” Effectively, council has learned nothing from this ordeal. They still believe their way is the right way. That disagreement from their citizens isn’t a flashing light on the dashboard; it’s merely an obstacle in the road to steer around. They clearly intend to drive the municipality towards the cliffs of diversity, equity, and inclusion. A battle for another day, perhaps.

In an online Cross Border Interview with Chris Brown, Mayor Kramer said “we have work to do as far as helping our community understand inclusion”.  That’s a hell of a thing for an elected official to say of their citizens.  But perhaps town residents aren’t the ones who need educating.  Perhaps town council needs to learn it’s possible to be a welcoming and inclusive community without pandering to every special interest group under the sun.  They’d better learn quickly, though, as October 2025 will be upon them before they know it.

Robin Brett, Westlock

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