Vote Rod - Policy Posts

Positive Change - Proven Leadership

Fiscal Responsibility: No Tax Increase for Two Years (limit to rate of inflation)


The down - turn in oil prices has drastically hurt the local economy and has directly or indirectly affected everyone in Sherwood Park and Strathcona County.


Implementing a fair tax policy in a tough economy is one of the few levers that Council has to directly help the taxpayer.


I will work to implement a 0% increase in taxes. Taxes will not increase more than the rate of inflation for two years.


This will provide stability for property owners and help every resident.


Some claim that a zero per cent tax increase is a vote catcher, and it is “just not realistic”.


I run on a five – point plan, however, the core of which is designed to provide financial certainty for individuals and businesses.


As an example of budget containment (that could be used to support a net zero increase), Calgary found $325 million in savings in its most recent budget. This was accomplished by leadership from the Mayor and Council.


It takes the right attitude (“If you don’t need to spend the money, don’t”), strategy (focus on core services; and search for savings), effort, and persistence.


My platform contrasts with the County’s own forecast, that has taxes rising each of three years until 2020 - with rates as high as 4.79 per cent per year.


My plan is to provide two years of certainty up front. After two years of living within reasonable budgets, Administration and Council will have the fiscal discipline and skill to ensure any tax increases are reasonable and justified.


The plan is subject to the Provincial government’s proposed tax changes, which could have a deeply negative effect on the County’s tax base. In that event, under my leadership, the County will work hard to neutralize the negative consequences.  


Monday, October 16th - Get Out and Vote Rod


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Promote Free Enterprise to Support Our Quality of Life


The down - turn in oil prices has drastically hurt the local economy and has directly or indirectly affected everyone in Sherwood Park and Strathcona County.


I run on a five – point plan, the core of which is designed to provide financial certainty for individuals and businesses.


I will champion a pro-industry culture at County Hall.


I’ve spoken to business people ready to kill their projects and move – at the Spring Trade Fair one fellow spoke with the frustration of delays in moving forward on the 65,000 warehouse his company wants to build. A proposed resort has been stopped dead in its tracks. Other business people spoke of red tape and bureaucracy impeding their ability to compete, and
their concern with the current municipal government leaders.


As another example, in 2016, the Fraser Institute estimated new homes project-approval timelines ranging from 5.7 months in the MD of Foothills, to 12.9 months in Edmonton, to a dismal 18.1 months in Strathcona County.


Although the County may dispute the data, perception is reality. Industry does and will continue to move to where it is easier to do business. There is a gap between the County’s Strategic Plan, and what business is experiencing.


Tellingly, none of the Strathcona County Executive Team's Corporate Business Plan corporate goals or six enumerated goals speak specifically to a pro - industry culture to support our standard of living and quality of life.  If it's not in the plan, it won't get done, and the culture will not be created. 


I will work to direct administration to implement pro-industry goals in its Corporate Plan. Front and centre, our Economic Development services will be leader in the Province.


Monday, October 16 – Get Out and Vote Rod!


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Implementing Professional Standards


The down-turn in oil prices has drastically hurt the local economy and has directly or indirectly affected everyone in Sherwood Park and Strathcona County. I run on a five – point plan, the core of which is designed to provide financial certainty for individuals and businesses.


Professional standards will be applied and followed on all County activities. Cost overruns are never acceptable. A standout of course is the $8 to $10 million spent over-budget on Emerald Hills Pool under the current Mayor.


The Mayor and Council failed to have a clear view of the Emerald Hills project, and this massive overspend was the result.


Effective leadership demands unfiltered messages from Administration, and a direct line of sight into massive spends such as this.


Accountability means answering for these types of mistakes – and the Mayor call will need to face the voters on October 16th.


Under my watch, transparency and clear reporting will be table stakes.


Congrats to the County for earning a Canadian Award for Financial Reporting for two years.


This, however, falls far short of the citizens’ needs – case in point, the award did not prevent the Emerald Hills fiasco.

Such awards are run by and for accountants and financial officers – not the people.


Clear reporting must come the elected officials too.


As your Mayor, I will not rely on Administration to speak for me. I will report out in plain English, in a timely manner, and address your concerns.


Monday, October 16 – Get Out and Vote Rod


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Energy Centre of Excellence


For the long-term vision of Strathcona County, we need to better market ourselves as an Energy Centre of Excellence.


As your Mayor, we will team with businesses, other levels of government, and post secondary institutions for the County to take a more active role in leading the industry in branding, in research and development, and in technology expertise. This initiative will be net no cost to the taxpayer, as existing resources will be re-purposed.


The University of British Columbia in Vancouver received a $10.8 million grant from the federal government’s energy fund. Vancouver. That’s like Sherwood Park receiving a grant for salmon migration research. The County’s Industrial Heartland is the epicentre for energy in the country, and this is one vivid example of a grant system we need to be sharing in.


In March of this year Jeff Gaulin, Vice President at the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), visited Sherwood Park and noted the world’s need for energy will increase by 31% over the next 25 years. Competitors like the United States, however, are beating us at our own game – America is now the second largest producer of oil in the world (behind Saudi Arabia).


There is a role for government at all levels in Canada, including municipal, to take in being energy leaders. Sherwood Park and Strathcona County can be front-runners in this area, while respecting the environment.


In speaking with industry, it is clear there is an important and needed role for municipalities such as ours to step up work networking with other communities to promote energy, to avoid duplication of initiatives, and to support prosperity while maintaining a green environment.


Energy is our wheelhouse. We can intensify the work to partner with local and national industries, open connections with post secondary institutions working in the energy field, and nurture relationships with other levels of government. This will grow our reputation as experts in energy, and long term could lead to successes in the form of access to government grants, a development corporation, or an energy institute.


Monday, October 16th - Get Out and Vote Rod!


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Post Secondary Schooling Initiative – this was first introduced into my platform on March 13, 2017 in the Sherwood Park News. 


Communities thrive when there are opportunities for life long learning. Continuing education supports jobs, access to government grants, and adds to the culture of the community. 


To support our future success, Strathcona County needs a vision for post-secondary learning. 


We first need to make this a County long–term goal, it is not in the Strathcona Strategic Plan. What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done. 


Taking leadership, deepening relationships with other levels of government, reaching out to current institutions, and lobbying all need to be part of the strategy. 


Beyond that, this goal must be drilled down into Administration’s corporate plan as a long-term objective. Persistence and effort will be required to find opportunities. 


As examples, prospects in the post secondary sector may be found in the trades, as a satellite campus of an existing institution, or even breaking new ground. 


In speaking with forward thinking leaders, opportunities to explore include with the Building Trades of Alberta Pre-Apprenticeship (BTA) program.

 

BTA currently partners with the Calgary Public School Board to offer Pre-Apprenticeship training for students in their senior year of High School. Students complete their morning classes, and then spend the afternoon in anyone of four different BTA training centers to take skills training. After completing training, the idea is to place the apprentice with an employer. The program has been very successful and BTA is looking to potentially expand it to other areas of the province. Starting a program at the High School level may lead to possibilities in the post-secondary world.


As another example, there are employment opportunities in horticulture technician programs, but few individuals have the necessary skills to take advantage of that. 


In Strathcona County there is potential to partner with local businesses and with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology to fill this gap. It should be noted that Bev Facey High School in Sherwood Park is one of the few schools in the province that offer a horticulture program, and it could also be a part of this initiative.


For long term success, Sherwood Park and Strathcona County deserves a vision that includes a post secondary initiative.


Monday, October  16, 2017 - Get Out and Vote Rod!

Accountability/Protecting Your Wallet

  Citizens have a right to expect that those heading government and entrusted with public funds are accountable, and those leaders get results.

 My platform aims for accountability, and protecting your wallet.

 • Hold Mayor Accountable on Salary Freeze. A central issue that the Mayor must face in the 2017 campaign is the record on her salary freeze.  

 The Mayor stated in December 2013, quote: “I reduced my Mayoral salary by 5% and froze it for the remainder of the four-year term I will be serving as Mayor. My newly reduced salary will be the same amount per month, and stay that amount for the four-year term.”  

 On December 10, 2013 Mayor Carr made the motion, and she and Council passed the resolution that stated: “Effective October 29, 2013 the Mayor’s salary is fixed at $9,142 per month [$109,704/year]; 1/3 non-taxable, and shall remain fixed for the entirety of the 2013 – 2017 electoral term (October 29, 2013 – October 23, 2017).”

 After the 2015 public task force study, however, Mayor Carr cast the deciding vote to eliminate the effect of the motion. As a result, her salary has grown 12% in four years, to $10,232 per month ($122,785/year) (Fact Check: figures from the County’s Governance Support Services). This is $145,705 in real dollars (as the Mayor took her salary one third tax free in 2014, 2015, and 2016; and for six years as a councillor) (Fact Check, figures source: Canadian Taxpayers Federation) .  

 Voters view this as a broken promise, and the Mayor will have to answer for it at the ballot box.

 Elected officials should not be giving themselves raises.  

 If elected Mayor, my proposal will be to put matters of salary and benefits to a truly independent committee, who’s decisions are binding and not subject to approval or change by the Mayor and Council (like those recommendations of the 2015 public task force). My position is that the County should pay at the 50th percentile, with incentives topping out at the 60th percentile dependent on objectives being achieved. Changes should be calculated by looking at the percentage change (up or down) of Alberta’s average weekly earnings.  

 [Sidebar for those claiming to be working 80 hours a week, consider time management principles; this is a sign of being unproductive. One starting point is Steve Prentice: 


http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/2014/12/18/merry-christmas-to-you-from-you http://www.sherwoodparknews.com/2015/01/08/give-yourself-the-gift-of-time-in-15 ]

 • Accountability on $8 million overrun on Emerald Hills pool. Enough said – those responsible for this debacle would not survive in the private sector. Accountability needs to come at the ballot box.  

 • Discretionary 1801 honeypot account misuse.  

 It is a matter of public interest, and fair, to ask questions when the public’s money is being spent. As an example, taxpayers funded $1,380 for a councillor’s Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) Board of Director’s election run.

 Why was the councillor’s already more than ample Individual Account not used? More importantly, the taxpayer asks, where was the financial case in support of this decision? The cost – benefit analysis?

For starters, the AUMA director role is to represent not the municipality that one is from, but all municipalities of a certain size in a certain region. Should Strathcona County foot the bill for an entire region? Should the other municipalities kick-in?


It is also important to note that if the councillor had won, he would have been paid $35 an hour on top of his already full-time wages paid by the taxpayer and one third tax free salary (the latter finally outlawed by the Feds in 2017), and would be reimbursed to travel to AUMA events. Would the citizens be refunded out of this hourly wage?  

 And where does the proposition of funding campaigns end?  

 After all, everyone running in the current general municipal election is doing it to be at the table when decisions and discussions are being made that affect our community, if that is the justification. Should we also finance councillors’ and mayor candidates’ campaigns for the 2017 election? In my view, in the current environment and at the municipal level, clearly no.

 In the question of the expenditure of the public’s money, the standard needs to be to apply a fair but sold financial analysis.

 • A failed mission. Council shot for “We are Canada’s most livable community.” As evidenced by comments from our own citizens and the County’s 2017 Community Talks, it has not succeeded. Findings included that the County is “not affordable”; and is “socially disconnected.” In fact, affordability and connectedness have been identified as issues by the County since 2007.  

 Meanwhile, Strathcona County dropped from No. 3 to 31 by MoneySense’s best places to live, while St. Albert stayed at 4.

 In my view, the County’s mission statement needs to be re-visited – superlatives invariably lead to failures; the purpose of the statement must be understood (Marketing? Guidance? An ideal? Other?), and the meaning derived therefrom.    


Get Out and Vote Rod - Monday, October 16, 2017

End Entitlements

 One-Third Tax Free Salaries


On March 7th, 2017, I filed my intent to run as a candidate (for Mayor) with the County.


As published in the Independent and the SP News on March 14, I said a core piece of my campaign was to end a culture of entitlement at County Hall. If elected, within one hundred days there would be a four-point motion(s) to restore “economic reality and protect your (the citizens’) wallet”.


As published on that day, I said the motion would include axing Council’s one-third tax free salaries. The Mayor’s salary is $145,705 in real dollars (Fact Check, source: Canadian Taxpayers Federation); not $122,785. The Mayor taking a 33% credit on her tax bill is not reflective of the real world and rubs citizens the wrong way.


Eight days later, on March 22, the Federal government agreed with me, and in their budget mandated axing of this excessive tax break.


Taxpayers suffer because our County Hall had to be forced by the law into stop doing something that should have been done away with years ago. Federal politicians ended this generous advantage for themselves in 2000, and it was ended provincially in 2012. Many municipalities have long since ended it – but not Strathcona County.


In 2015, Mimi Williams reported that the lavish benefit was introduced in 1947 to provide “an allowance for expenses incidental to the discharge of the person’s duties as an elected officer.”


But the original purpose of this tax exemption was eliminated by the introduction of expense accounts and budgets for office expenses, and should have been given up.


Williams reported that Jim Lightbody, a professor at the University of Alberta specializing in municipal government, calls them an “absurd anachronism.”


“It’s a throwback to a happier time when being elected to municipal office was considered a civic duty,” Lightbody said. “…a legal tax evasion that no citizen would ever get away with.”


“This is the best-paying job that any of these people will ever have,” he added, noting that there’s little chance they will do anything to mess with that.


The Mayor can’t duck accountability and pin this on the pubic task force of July 2014 that looked at Council’s wages – the Mayor was elected in 2013 and had plenty of time to put forward a resolution to Council before that to end it.


And the task force’s recommendation of 2015 could easily have been rejected by Council, but Council voted for it (Fact Check: January 20, 2015 Council Minutes, pp. 5 to 7). As leader, the Mayor could also have at any time put support a motion to end it once and for all.


Before being Mayor, the Mayor was a councillor for two terms.


For ten years, the Mayor has enjoyed this perk.


As Jim Lightbody said commenting on the situation in Edmonton back in 2015: “if . . .  councillors want to be taken seriously as a level of government, they should clean up their act and stop being tax dodgers.”


As your Mayor I will be accountable, and fight to generate trust with the voter and End Entitlements. But thank you Minister of Finance for taking my lead, and helping me do the work that I have set out to do!


Monday October 16 – Get out and Vote Rod!


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Working to  Have Wages Determined by an Independent Committee; Rolling Back Individual Accounts; and Affirming Elected Officials Work is Full Time


As your Mayor, I will not give up on protecting the taxpayers’ wallets. It’s your money.

 I will lead with the attitude, strategy, effort, and persistence required to advance a clear vision with economic opportunities, built on a solid fiscal foundation.

 • Working to have Mayor’s and Councillors’ wages and benefits determined by an independent committee.  

 Although the County used a task force in 2015 to report on council remuneration, the task force’s findings were seriously flawed.  

 As examples:

 - The task force could not independently bind Council. Council amended and voted on the task force’s recommendations.

 - Council voted in favour of one – third of the Mayor’s and Councillors’ salaries remaining tax free. See my previous post on this issue.

 - Council voted in favour of the task force’s recommendation for a salary increment each July, and that it not be “less than zero percent.” That is not reflective of the reality Albertans face in our flattened economy.  

 As my campaign literature states, wages should be calculated using the “percentage change (up or down) of Alberta’s average weekly earnings.” For example, in January of 2017, Edmonton’s Mayor and Councillors took a 2.49 per cent cut to reflect the percentage decrease in the 12-month Alberta average.  

 Council also voted in favour of a transition allowance, and a $400/month vehicle allowance for each of the Mayor and all councillors (with additional mileage reimbursement for business travel outside and inside the County). The Mayor and Council participate in employee benefits that include health care, dental care, accidental death, and long-term disability (all paid 75% by the County), and can participate in an RRSP program that the County will contribute to.

 Elected officials should not be giving themselves raises.

 If elected Mayor, my proposal will be to put matters of salary and benefits to a truly independent committee, who’s decisions are binding and not subject to approval or change by the Mayor and Council (like those recommendations of the 2015 public task force).

 • Working to Roll Back Mayor’s and Councillors’ Individual Accounts.  

 These are far too rich. For example, in 2015 they were at $27,500, yet in Red Deer (a municipality with a similar population) councillors were at $11,500. Surely our elected officials do not need $16,000 additionally, each, to do the job that the Red Deer elected offiicals manage to do? Additionally, the discretionary 1801 Honeypot account was available to council.  

 Some question how will I get council to agree to roll back accounts?  

 Of course I can’t tell any individual council member what to do, and I only have one vote. I realize as a leader I have a responsibility to build consensus, motivate others, and generate trust. I am fully confident, based on thirty years of leadership building teams in the business, legal, and non-profit sectors, of my ability to do this.

 I am not going to County Hall, however, to perpetuate entitlements; and I am willing to stake my campaign on ending them. I am coming to open the windows, to allow a blast of fresh air that will protect the voters’ wallets.  

 If I am elected, councillors will have a moral imperative to follow the will of the people.  

 That’s politics. Ignore it at the peril of the ballot box.

 • Affirming councillors’ work is full time.  

 I have listened to thousands of citizens before, at, and since the Trade Fair in April 2017.

 There is a concern among the electorate that there is still more work to be done to turn around the perception (or reality) that the primary work commitment of some elected officials is not to their elected role.  

 Citizens expect:

 • A fully scheduled day each working day at the County, returning all calls and messages, and being present in the office or otherwise on County business.

 • Vacation time limited to comparable private sector allowances.

 • Attending all meetings (except with a valid excuse).

 • Councillors Not being distracted or conflicted by moonlighting in other careers and other interests. 


• Professional development directly linked to County’s strategic objectives.

 • Limiting attendance at professional development to two or three councillors (except with valid exceptions).

 Those seeking re-election or election can choose to ignore this feedback, at their risk.

 We have the tools and advantages for our community to succeed, let’s build our future on a solid fiscal foundation.

 Monday, October 16th - Get Out and Vote Rod!    


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Response to Letter to the Editor of April 18, 2017: Working for a Net Zero Tax Increase and Ending Entitlements


As your Mayor, I will not give up on protecting the taxpayers’ wallets. It’s your money.


I will lead with the attitude, strategy, effort, and persistence required to advance a clear vision that has economic opportunities, built on a solid fiscal foundation.


Below we Fact Check a letter to the editor that said I should check out the accuracy of the information I am publishing regarding my Mayoral campaign.


I am happy to Fact Check with the writer.


The writer says that a zero per cent tax increase is a vote catcher, and it is “just not realistic”. He presents no facts to back up this bald statement.


Rather than throw vote catchers, I run on a five – point plan, the core of which is designed to provide financial certainty for individuals and businesses.


The down - turn in oil prices has drastically hurt the local economy and many County citizens. Implementing a fair tax policy in a tough economy is one of the few levers that Council has to directly help the taxpayer.


Fact Check: As an example of budget containment (that could be used to support a net zero increase), Calgary found $325 million in savings in its most recent budget. This was accomplished by leadership from the Mayor and Council.


Instead of giving up like the writer suggests, I will work to see that taxes do not increase more than the rate of inflation for two years. This will provide stability for property owners and help every resident.


It takes the right attitude (“If you don’t need to spend the money, don’t”), strategy (focus on core services; and search for savings), effort, and persistence.


My platform contrasts with the County’s own forecast, that has taxes rising each of three years until 2020 - with rates as high as 4.79 per cent per year.


My plan is to provide two years of certainty up front.


The writer next claims the one third tax free salary for elected officials costs the County nothing and “encourages quality people” to run.


Fact Check: In 2015, Vue reported that the benefit was introduced in 1947 to provide “an allowance for expenses incidental to the discharge of the person’s duties as an elected officer.”


The original purpose of this tax exemption, however, was eliminated by the introduction of expense accounts for office expenses and should have been given up.


Federal politicians ended this generous advantage for themselves in 2000, and it was ended provincially in 2012. Many municipalities have ended it, but not Strathcona County.


As published in local papers (including the Independent and Sherwood Park News) the week of March 14, I said a core piece of my campaign was to end a culture of entitlement.


On March 14th, I said I would introduce a motion that would axe Council’s one-third tax free salaries. The Mayor’s salary is $145,705 in real dollars; not $122,785.


Eight days later, on March 22nd, the Federal government agreed with me, and in their budget mandated axing of this excessive tax break.


Jim Lightbody, a professor at the University of Alberta specializing in municipal government, has analyzed this benefit as an “absurd anachronism” “…a legal tax evasion that no citizen would ever get away with.”


Lightbody added, commenting on the situation in Edmonton: “if . . .  councillors want to be taken seriously as a level of government, they should clean up their act and stop being tax dodgers."


The writer also relies on the work of the 2014 task force on Council salaries, and says that it is tacky to tackle “the remuneration of our council”, and that I am merely vote gathering.


Fact Check: The taxpayer pays the Mayor’s and Councils’ wages, and their remuneration is a matter of public interest.


The task force’s recommendations need improvement:


- The task force could not independently bind Council, Council amended and voted on its recommendations.


- Council voted in favour of one – third of the Mayor and Councillors salaries remaining tax free (see above).


- Council voted in favour of the task force’s recommendation for a salary increment each July, and that it not be “less than zero percent.” That is not reflective of the reality Albertans face in this flattened economy.


On top of this, Council voted in favour of a transition allowance, and a $400/month vehicle allowance for each of the Mayor and all councillors (with additional mileage reimbursement for business travel outside and inside the County). 


The Mayor and Council participate in employee benefits that include health care, dental care, accidental death, and long term disability (all paid 75% by the County), and can participate in an RRSP program that the County will contribute to.


My campaign literature states wages need to be determined by an independent committee, and that wages should be calculated using the “percentage change (up or down) of Alberta’s average weekly earnings.”


As an example, in January of 2017 the Edmonton’s Mayor and Councillors took a 2.49 per cent cut to reflect percentage decrease in the 12-month average of the Alberta Average Weekly Earnings values.


As your Mayor, I will not give up on protecting the taxpayers’ wallets. It’s your money.


I will lead with the attitude, strategy, effort, and persistence required to advance a clear vision with economic opportunities, built on a solid fiscal foundation. 


Monday, October 16, 2017 - Get Out and Vote Rod!