Opinion: Lessons from an election

Enrique Massot
The County News

If there were any doubts left about forceful intervention of outside interests to sway the election process in Rocky View County, the last campaign provided sheer evidence of such intervention.

In an unprecedented public relations operation, members of the development industry purchased the coveted page 3 of the Rocky View Weekly, the only newspaper focusing on the County, for the whole length of the election campaign.

In the past, developers had quietly funded the election campaigns of friendly candidates, and the funding and its recipients would only be revealed four months after the election.

However, this time they came out of the closet by publishing seven full-page advertorials on each issue from Sept. 12 to Oct. 10, to boost the candidacies of Kim McKylor in Division 2 Springbank and Eric Lowther in Division 8 Bearspaw.

Advertorials, defined by the Merrian-Webster Dictionary as “an advertisement that imitates editorial format,” are usually clearly identified as such with a “paid advertisement” line on top of the ad. In this opportunity, the Weekly chose not to include such warning.

In the advertorials, Bruce McAllister of Rocky View 2020’s published texts praising council members such as Greg Boehlke, while launching attacks on the “angry, anti-everything candidates.”

“There’s a good chance they voted for Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau,” noted McAllister, a Chestermere resident who was hired to work as executive director for the RV2020 group when former executive Eric Lowther decided to run for office.

The advertorials featured writers such as real estate agents Gerry Neustaedter and Jason Bamlett, and even outgoing Div. 1 councillor Liz Breakey – singing praises to Lowther’s “decorum” in council.

The advertisers, however, reserved their heavy ammunition for resident-first Springbank incumbent candidate Jerry Arshinoff, by accusing him of…having been a Liberal Party candidate – in the 1980s.

They of course omitted to mention Arshinoff’s “yes” initiatives at the municipal level where party lines don’t count because bad roads or chronic flooding hurt all the same no matter which political party residents support.

They did not mention Arshinoff’s “yes” interventions on behalf of residents to solve flooding issues in Springbank or his intervention before the provincial government that finally allowed a lasting solution to Cochrane Lake’s flooding–paid by the province. The developer-friendly majority in council, including the area councillor had felt comfortable making the residents pay for the solution before Arshinoff succeeded in spreading the cost among the provincial taxpayers.

The advertisement group failed, however, to make their favourite, Eric Lowther, earn a victory in Bearspaw.

Surely Div. 8 residents took some hints from Lowther’s willingness to approve gravel pits in another division.

To read the advertorials, you need to go to the full digital version of the Rocky View Weekly and click on “Archive.”

Sour grapes is patent in this week’s RV Weekly’s letters to the editor.

Who is Rocky View 2020

Rocky View 2020 was formed in 2013 to lobby for changes to the County Plan, Rocky View’s highest-level planning document that designated 17 places for growth that the developers opposed.

The group’s founders, as revealed by the County News, were mostly Calgary developers with large projects in Rocky View.

It included Guy Buchanan with the Gardner project on Highway 8; Andy Crooks, lobbyist for the Glenbow Ranch area structure plan; Garett Wohlberg of Qualico Communities; Ron Renaud and Paul Douglas of Bingham Crossing; and Riaz Choudhry of Edmonton’s VIP Development group of Companies. More recently, the group announced the addition of Louise Locke of Bearspaw as RV2020’s board director.

 

 

Rocky View election night: Follow the results

Rocky View County has released the following information:

Once the polls close on Monday, Oct. 16 at 8 pm, you can follow Rocky View County Municipal Election results in the following ways:

Twitter

Rocky View County will Tweet the results of each polling station count and the advance vote counts for each division as soon as the numbers are known.

This is the most “active” way to follow results.

Rocky View Twitter account is @rockyviewcounty or click here.

Website

Rocky View’s official website, rockyview.ca will feature the same information as Twitter, but there may be slightly fewer updates with more information changes in each.

There will be a link to election results on the home page at www.rockyview.ca.  Remember to refresh your browser pages occasionally to see any updated information.

Facebook

Rocky View will post the final results of each division’s vote count as soon as it is known.  Search for “Rocky View County” on Facebook or click here.

All results are unofficial until Friday, October 20, at Noon.

Opinion: Div. 8 candidate refutes opponent’s allegations

(Note from Janet Ballantyne – Rocky View Gravel Watch): One of the candidates in Division 8, Samanntha Wright, has been attacked in a most misleading manner by her opponent, Eric Lowther.  Her response is pasted below.
By Samanntha Wright
Candidate, Div. 8 Bearspaw
I have been bombarded by emails asking me to respond to my opponent’s recent attack on me. 
As most people know, this election campaign has been very contentious.  Time and again, I have taken the high road and not said anything.  However, this time, I believe a response is in order.

 There have been underhanded tactics going on throughout the campaign.  When you’re up against the type of machine that is backing our current councillor, that is not surprising.

 Look no further than the amount of money he has spent on previous campaigns. Ask where that money is coming from and why does he need to spend so much? In 2015, he spent over $25,000 and in 2013, he spent $30,000. That’s $55,000 in a span of two years.

 In his attack on me, he has taken tiny sound bites out of a lengthy presentation, eliminated any context for the statements, and presented them as if they were all I had said.

 Throughout this election campaign, I have focused my attention on issues that are important to Bearspaw residents and the County. I find it distasteful that my opponent has not done the same.

 As I have emphasized throughout this campaign, I support sustainable development – that is the right development in the right place. Development that follows policy and considers resident input. Development that passes its costs on to the developer. For the record, Rocky View 2020 is the lobby group that represents the developers who work in Rocky View. It doesn’t take much to figure out that Lowther’s attacks and theirs are the same or why they wouldn’t support me.

 Do I believe Rocky View should be a land bank for Calgary?  No

 My opponent and Rocky View 2020 have accused me of supporting Rocky View being a land bank for Calgary and of supporting high-rise development in Glenbow.  Neither is true and if anyone listens to the complete transcript of what I said at the April 25 GRASP public hearing that will become immediately apparent.

 As I noted above, they base their accusations on tiny sound bites extracted from a lengthy presentation, taken out of context and presented as if that were all I had said.

 What I actually said regarding Rocky View as a land bank for Calgary is – “I do not support the fact.  It is just where else is the city going to get its land from?  I understand that cities grow and they grow outwards.  Nenshi is trying to make it grow upwards so we may be talking a long time. … All I can say is that if the only reason to approve this today is to beat Calgary to the punch, then No.”

 Do I believe there should be high-rise towers in Glenbow?  No

 I used the apartment tower example to illustrate the absurdity of their claim that their proposed footprint was the smallest, specially considering GRASP’s conservation design exaggerates its achievement by including land with unbuildable slopes as land its plan will conserve rather than develop.

 What I actually said was that, ideally, I would like to see it all become a park.  I then went on to say that if anyone was truly interested in conservation design and had that as their main goal, “I would hope that in 20 to 50 years…they would have 20 to 50 years’ better technology and also that maybe the best footprint would be the smallest footprint.  You could put the same number of people in but with a density of what Toronto or Montreal had. … if you’re talking about simply developing to beat Calgary to the punch, then it should stay in the BASP as last to develop.”

 Did you express distaste for living near the dust & smell of agriculture?  No

 Again, my comments were taken out of context. And, again, they were tiny sound bites, presented as if they were all I had said. This is what Lowther does best – reduce municipal politics down to the level of the federal swamp.  This is the type of behaviour one would expect from a career politician.

 The context for my comment was that I was pointing out the difficulties and incompatibilities between high density residential development and adjacent agricultural land, as described in the County’s Agriculture Master Plan.

 In closing, I sincerely hope Bearspaw residents will consider the differences between our approaches when they vote tomorrow for what is right for Bearspaw’s future.

Resident update – October 15

By Jerry Arshinoff
Incumbent, Rocky View Div. 2 Springbank

1) Election is Tomorrow

Jerry Arshinoff

If you are in Division 2, the polling station is at​ the Springbank Heritage Club, 244168 RR 33.

​ It will be open for voting from 10 am – 8 pm tomorrow. The Heritage Club is the only voting location ​for Division 2.
For a map of Division 2 see votejerry.ca and click on Election Information.

2​) Election 

​Campaign Expenses and Funding​
As I have often said, candidates should declare their election expenses and sources of funding before the election. That should​ include any monies from 3rd party sources paid on their behalf for advertising.  I realize the law states disclosure must only be made four months after the election but I would be very suspicious of any candidate who refused to do so before the election.
2a) My election campaign expenses (incl GST) are as follows:
Nomination Fee  $100
Brochures             $1,081.50
Signs                      $682.50
Stakes for Signs   $257.09
Website                 $88.51 CDN or $71 USD
RVW Ad                $1,218.00

3rd Party Ads       $1,000.00

​ (i.e. – reimbursed by ​me to the 3rd party)
Labour                   $0.00 (done by volunteers)
Total:                     $4,427.60
2b) My ​Election Campaign Sources of Funding:
100 per cent self-funded
​3​) Final Thoughts
In the 2013 election campaign I said:
“My First Priority is to Protect Existing Communities and Preserve Their Quality of Life”
That hasn’t changed and​ it​ isn’t​ going to change.
Thanks!

Advance screening: Ghost Valley’s journey through clearcut logging

Forest, Fins & Footprints featured at Beaupre Hall 

  • On Thursday, November 23, @ 7 pm, the Ghost Valley community is invited to an advance screening of “Forests, Fins & Footprints.” 
  • This is the movie that was made to document our community’s journey through clearcut logging.
  • Come see our amazing landscape and our amazing community on the big screen at Beaupre Hall!
  • The film will be rolled out to the broader public in early 2018.

We would love to have you join us!

Kindest regards,
Sharon MacDonald (with the help of neighbours)

Opinion: Councillor gets special treatment

By Kim Magnuson
Springbank

I do wish that more people could come to Rocky View Council meetings on Tuesdays to see the antics that occur regularly, but I do understand that most people have other commitments.

The September 12 Council meeting was full of such antics.  The most offensive was the abuse of process used to deal with Councillor Eric Lowther’s failure to follow election sign rules.

On the weekend of September 9, Lowther put up election signs in Division 8.  Several residents reported these violations to Rocky View’s bylaw authorities.  The election sign bylaw and the material provided to candidates clearly state that election signs cannot be put up more than 30 days before an election –be September 15 this year.

Rather than just apologizing and complying with the bylaw by having his signs taken down, Lowther claimed that his signs were legal under the Land Use Bylaw so the election sign bylaw restrictions didn’t apply.

Council voted to hold a behind-closed-doors meeting over its lunch hour to deal with the issue – arguing that legal advice on which Bylaw took precedence was somehow a topic worthy of protection under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act.  In my opinion, the real reason was to allow Lowther  to defend his abuse of the rules out of the public view.

Lowther had to take his signs down…but got an apology from Administration for giving him “wrong information” about the bylaws.

Had any other candidate violated the election signs bylaw as Lowther has done, he or she would have been left to the Bylaw officials, who would have told them to remove their signs and perhaps fined them $100 per each sign under the Bylaw.  But, it appears that because Lowther is a sitting Councillor in the pro-development majority, he got special treatment.

If Councillor Lowther had any respect for the electoral process, he would have complied with the election sign Bylaw in the first place.  Or, if he had made an honest mistake he would have immediately removed the illegal signs.

Instead, Council turned it into a circus.  One might forgive a misunderstanding from a first-time candidate, but certainly not from a seasoned candidate like Lowther.

 

Opinion: Raging controversy over RV2020 advertisement

By Janet Ballantyne
Rocky View Forward

As the spokesperson for Rocky View Forward, I would like to comment on Rocky view 2020’s advertising in the Rocky View Weekly. 

We have absolutely no problem with RV2020 advertising during the election campaign.  We expected them to and are doing the same ourselves.  We do, however, object to their attempts to deceive Rocky View residents by not identifying their advertisements as such.

RV2020 used its financial power and influence to reserve the “best real estate” in Rocky View Weekly for the entire election period.  The fact that RV2020 purchased page 3 has been confirmed by RV Weekly staff to me and to many other individuals.  It is highly unfortunately that RV Weekly has not had the internal fortitude to publicly acknowledge what they are willing to repeatedly confirm in private.

Supporters of RV2020 have continuously denied that page 3 is advertising or that it has been paid for by RV2020.  We find it disturbing that RV2020 supporters are willing to stoop to blatant lies.  Even worse, we find it appalling that they believe it is appropriate to try and dupe the public in communicating their positions.  Rocky View Forward has always publicly owned its positions.  We would have hoped RV2020 would do the same.

The claims that the “articles” that appear on page 3 are simply independently submitted opinion pieces and letters to the editor would be laughable if it were not for the fact that the underlying motivation is to deceive the public.  The argument that the newspaper has just happened to position these “articles” on the same page week after week is ludicrous.  RV Weekly has at least made page 3 a different typeset than the newspapers’ actual articles and letters to the editor.  Unfortunately, this may be too subtle for some readers and is clearly what RV2020 and its supporters are counting on.

The insistence on maintaining this deception leaves one wondering why the individuals associated with their full-page advertisements have so little faith in their positions that they feel it necessary to disguise their actions.  If they simply acknowledged the page as the paid advertising it is, they would at least have been upfront and honest in presenting their opinions.  The fact that they have not been speaks volumes.

Opinion: A biased report from Division 2-3 candidate debates

By John Beveridge
Springbank resident

Candidate Debates for Div. 2 Springbank and Div. 3 Elbow Valley took place earlier this week at the Heritage Club in Springbank.

I would like to give you my synopsis of the event.

Before doing that however, you need to be introduced to the characters involved. On the north side of the mighty Hwy 1 live the McKylor clan, clustered around potentially fertile commercial property next to the airport.

South of the Hwy 1 live the Arshinoff clan, who live in the peaceful Longeway Place, named after the gentle giant Eric Longeway, who everyone loves and respects.

Members of the McKylor clan include Cindy Turner, who unsuccessfully challenged Jerry Arshinoff in the last election and Kim McKylor, who is the present challenger to councillor Arshinoff.

After losing the last election, Turner was hired as an “ambassador” for the Harmony Discovery Centre and shortly after that she was joined by McKylor, also as an ambassador. Harmony, as you recall, is the large development north of the airport that is currently under construction. It has a new state-of-the-art water treatment system, man-made lake and generally an impressive well-organized infrastructure.

By the way, McKylor did not mention even once  that she worked for a developer.

The original debate was set up for Wednesday evening by Ian Galbraith, Cindy Turner’s husband. Because of some concerns over the neutrality of such a debate, another debate was scheduled for Tuesday evening to be moderated by my wife Kim Magnuson (a former Rocky View Councillor and shameless Arshinoff supporter).

The Tuesday debate included Jerry from Division 2 and Kevin Hanson and Gordon Branson from Division 3. This was a rather tame event as McKylor had “previous commitments.” This set the stage for a packed house at the Heritage Center on Wednesday night, moderated by Darrel Janz, with all four candidates.

Because Harmony is well on its way to be a successful development, the gist of the debate seemed to be related to Bingham Crossing, that is mired in a patch of land stripped of topsoil and collecting water. This is apparently due to some problems with Provincial regulations around either storm water drainage or wastewater disposal.

The debaters were specifically asked as to whether they would intervene on behalf of this and other potential developments in order to have them go ahead.

Councillor Arshinoff started off by stating that it is not his place to interfere with the proper design and implementation of any project. The problems related to the WindHorse development were brought up to illustrate the personal, financial and legal difficulties that can arise when there are technical problems related to infrastructure.

Kevin Hanson, an engineer by trade, strongly agreed that it is not the place of a councillor to try and influence the decision-making process by those in charge of and qualified to make such decisions.

On the other hand, McKylor and Branson, both stated that they would do whatever they could to push things through.

So there you have it: the Clan from the North (along with Branson) stated unconditional support for the development agenda. The Clan from the South (with Kevin Hanson and moral support from Enrique Massot running in Bragg Creek and Samanntha Wright running in Bearspaw), support development only if it follows the guidelines and is of benefit to the local residents.

I am completely biased as Jerry Arshinoff is my neighbor and friend, so you should probably take that into consideration when thinking about the above.

Opinion: The real scoop on Rocky View’s property taxes

By Rocky View Forward
For the County News Online

When the County talks about taxes, it always emphasizes the low residential property tax rate in Rocky View, especially relative to the tax rates in our neighbouring municipalities.

Many of us had bought into this messaging.  But, while the County’s assertion is technically correct, it is far from the whole story.

The reality is that none of us pay a tax rate – we pay an actual amount of dollars in property taxes.

When you look at the property taxes paid by the average household, the story-line for Rocky View changes dramatically.  It becomes obvious why the County prefers to compare tax rates.  Based on tax rates, Rocky View has the second lowest tax rate of neighbouring municipalities (see Table 1).  However, when you look at the actual taxes paid by the average household in each municipality, Rocky View is the fourth highest (see Table 2 below).

The tax rate is simply the total amount that needs to be raised divided by the total assessed property value.  The tax rate is dependent on the assessed value of the properties in the municipality – the higher the assessed values, the lower the tax rate will be for the same level of expenditure.  But, for most people, it is the amount we pay for the services we receive that is most relevant.

The clearest way to look at this is to compare what the average household pays (total residential property taxes collected divided by the number of households) relative to the services they receive.  Some of us will be above average because our property value is higher than the average; some of us will be below average.  But, comparing the average across municipalities is the best way to understand what we pay for our services relative to households in other municipalities.

The average household in Rocky View pays more property tax than do the average households in Calgary, Cochrane, Airdrie or Crossfield.  This is troubling since these are all urban centres that have significantly more services than Rocky View.  One would have thought that households would pay more to have more services.

The services we get in Rocky View are more comparable to the services households receive in our neighbouring rural municipalities – Bighorn, Kneehill, Mountain View and Wheatland counties.  But, the average household in Rocky View pays two – three times as much property taxes as do the average households in these other rural municipalities.

The obvious question is:  What are we getting for our money?

We are paying more, on average, than almost all our urban and rural neighbours.  Are we getting more?  Not that we’ve noticed – we’re definitely getting less than our urban neighbours and about the same as our rural neighbours.

The next question is:  Why are we paying more for less?

The apparent answer to this question is that the County’s financial situation must not be nearly as rosy as our current Council wants us to believe.  There must be significant amounts of waste and inefficiencies in the County’s budget to explain why the average household in Rocky View is paying so much more than most of our neighbours for comparable or lesser services.

The County’s finances need a thorough examination – a detailed value-for-money audit – to get us onto a sustainable path.  Had our current Council supported the proposal to establish a finance/audit committee during its term, we might already have some answers.  As it stands, we need to ensure we elect a Council that will be committed to putting our financial house in order – not one that will continue the money-wasting business as usual.

Table 1

The County’s Story on Property Taxes

2016 Residential Property Tax Rates

Community Rate Per $1,000 of Property Value
Beiseker $8.95
Irricana $8.26
Chestermere $5.24
Crossfield $4.82
Cochrane $4.23
Airdrie $4.06
Wheatland County $3.86
Calgary $3.71
M.D. of Foothills $3.38
Mountain View County $2.81
Kneehill County $2.80
Rocky View County $2.44
M.D. of Bighorn $1.89

Source: Rocky View County, Vantage Point, July 2017

 

Table 2

The Other Story: What You Actually Pay

2016 Property Taxes Paid by the Average Household in Each Municipality

Community Average Property Taxes
Chestermere $2,662
M.D. of Foothills $2,247
Irricana $2,237
Rocky View County $2,099
Beiseker $1,820
Calgary $1,577
Cochrane $1,502
Airdrie $1,364
Crossfield $1,297
Wheatland County $971
M.D. of Bighorn $942
Mountain View County $916
Kneehill County $706

Compiled by John McMurray, candidate in Division 6, with data from www.regionaldashboard.alberta.ca