By Collin Gallant
Southern Alberta Newspapers
A Cypress County councillor has been blocked from rejoining a national lobby group by local colleagues apparently over internal disagreements.
Robin Kurpjuweit represents Ward 4 (Longfellow) in the county and also sits as a rural committee chair with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
He says that post gives residents and the county a large voice in federal policy discussions, and fulfills a county priority to engage other governments.
A majority of Cypress councillors however, argued the time commitment is disruptive to county business when decisions are made in his absence, then are reopened.
Two weeks ago they voted down an annual request to allow Kurpjuweit to continue in the position.
Last week, he requested they reconsider, but after several votes to bring the request back on the agenda for the regular meeting in Dunmore, and 40 minutes of discussion, it was again defeated by the same 5-4 margin.
Kurpjuweit declined comment to Southern Alberta Newspapers but told the meeting the decision would hurt the county’s efforts to build intergovernmental relations.
“There is no stronger ability than this for us to advocate directly to the federal government, and provides a chance to engagement with rural (leaders in Alberta),”
“FCM is the most powerful voice for advocacy that we have,” said Kurpjuweit.
“These are not things that are specific to Cypress County but there are a lot of things we talk about directly related to our projects.”
He said discussions are active on federal help for water supply projects and sustainable agriculture, even lobbying on behalf of farms for carbon credit programs.
Coun. Lloyd Want was the deciding vote to reopen discussion, in his words to get the issue in the open, but didn’t change his vote against the measure.
“I think it was the wrong thing to do in my opinion (close debate), but I voted for it,” he said, later stating there was a “fracture” growing on council that should be discussed.
Other councillors cited examples, such as the Irvine Library development, which consumed council’s workload this winter even though a decision was made early in the new year.
“It can make the rest of council look bad,” said Coun. Shane Hok.
“There’s a misconception in the public that we don’t know what we’re doing,” said Coun. Blaine Brost, who represents Irvine.
“Now we’re redebating a motion that passed two weeks ago,” said Reeve Dan Hamilton.
Kurpjuweit said all councillors are able to ask that decisions be revisited.
“I don’t want to waste anybody’s time, either,” he said. “I think relationship building on council can go a long way and I’m committed to that … I’ll be more sensitive to it in the future.”
Kurpjuweit argued that the decision goes against council’s own strategic goal of improving intergovernmental relations and will hurt local interests in the end.
The county’s provincial lobby group, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta, covers the expenses related to the position, but a local resolution is needed to be renewed each year to allow participation on the FCM board.
“I think you do a fine job, but I know that it’s not fair to disrupt council, coming back and questioning decisions that were made in your absence,” said Coun. Richard Oster.
“I’ve never questioned the quality the work that you were doing (with FCM), but the challenge on our end was that it was creating a lot of extra work by absences at meetings). There were discussions made in your absence (and decisions) … but you chose to bring them back. I look at and think if that keeps happening it’s going to be a long tough year moving things forward.”