The CountyNewsOnline.ca is published by Enrique Massot, who has reported on Rocky View County and the greater Calgary area for the last 17 years.
The News section reports on County council decisions and from other sources.
Under the Opinion label, commentaries from the editor, as well as contributions from councillors, residents and stakeholders are posted.
The County News Online (TCN) does not necessarily agrees with opinions contained in contributors’ columns. Posted collaborations, as well as commentaries submitted, are the responsibility of their authors.
The section strives to present diverse points of view existing in the County. Readers are encouraged to submit comments or op-eds, to create debate on relevant topics. The more and diverse points of view TCN is able to publish, the better for democracy.
The County News subscribes to advocacy journalism
TCN subscribes to the concept of advocacy journalism, that is, the publication does not pretend to be neutral but discloses a pro-resident bias. Here’s why:
Through covering the news in Rocky View, abnormal practices began to appear. Growing hostility developed between the County and the City of Calgary in spite of their different (urban-rural) nature, on motives citizens were partially or not informed. Large borrowings were taken–in spite of the risks–to build stand-alone water and sewer infrastructure to facilitate developments in Balzac and Conrich. “Pressure for development” was often alleged as sole justification for some ventures.
Rocky View’s strange addiction to development
Since 2001, planners worked in overdrive to process development applications, most of which approved by council even against administration’s advice.
By 2012, there was an inventory of 40,000 lots across the County worth over 100 years of development at Rocky View’s average growth rates. Most of those projects, some approved as far back as 2001, never took off, revealing the speculative nature of the proposals.
What would be council’s motivation to turn its nose on an offer of the City to provide water and sewer for Balzac in early 2004 and then go on to build stand-alone water and sewer infrastructure for similar purposes at a cost of well over $100 million–over four times estimated City costs for servicing Balzac?
What would have been council’s motivation to approve a “city” of 10,000 adjacent to a growing Springbank Airport with all the grief that such incompatible land uses would be sure to bring about?
What would be the motivation of five of nine councillors representing distant divisions to outvote the Springbank councillor, three councillors from surrounding areas and an overwhelming majority of residents’ opposition so that a large retail centre could be built in the countryside?
Interests revealed by contributions’ disclosure
It was only after the 2010 election, when disclosure of election campaign contributions became mandatory in Alberta, that the extent to which the development industry obtained control over council through donations to candidates became clear.
The shock of many did not prevent the industry from increasing funding to certain candidates in the 2013 election and succeeding in keeping a 5-4 pro-development majority in the current council.
Residents go to the ballots every four years believing in good faith that citizens will elect, by and large, candidates representing their interests. They are as mistaken as this reporter was for during his first years covering Rocky View. Developers carefully choose their own candidates and provide them with funding for campaigns on vague agendas. The true objectives of those candidates only appear when they sit in council.
Because of their good faith, residents are really peons in the interplay of developers and elected officials. Residents are largely unaware of the extent to which this rural municipality has been hijacked by private interests. Because Rocky View surrounds Calgary on three sides, its farms and ranches are targeted by speculators buying cheap agricultural land, and then obtaining a municipal ruling rezoning land to residential, build subdivisions and leave with their profits.
Post-development issues such as flood from inappropriate drainage, bad roads, lack of recreation and other amenities for new residents and slow fire and ambulance response are all left to be paid for by the taxpayers at large.
As a result, TCN‘s activity is especially directed to reveal undemocratic practices in this municipality. While the publication strives for fair, balanced and unbiased reporting, most developers now avoid talking to TCN. Most pro-development councillors have refused to talk to TCN for years. As a result, TCN declares a pro-resident bias, although it will still strive to give voice to all parties in a story when those parties answer questions from TCN. This publication recognizes the uneven fight some residents are fighting. The opinion section will attempt to clarify and explain unsavory practices taking place in a municipality, and will try to support residents and councillors taking a pro-citizen approach.
The CountyNewsOnline.ca is published as a vocational, part-time venture. No advertising or any other form of revenue is received by the author/publisher.