PHOTOS: St. Albert City Councillor Cam MacKay, who is running for mayor of the municipality northwest of Edmonton. Below: St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse and mayoral candidate Cathy Heron, also a city councillor.
ST. ALBERT, Alberta
Surely more than a few St. Albert residents wondered what City Councillor Cam MacKay was doing outside an Edmonton courtroom last week as a judge inside heard an application by city resident seeking an order to remove Mayor Nolan Crouse from office based on allegations of impropriety that are both unproven and disputed.
I certainly did when I read about it in my local twice-weekly newspaper, the St. Albert Gazette.
Councillor MacKay, as it happens, is a candidate for mayor of the Edmonton-area bedroom suburb in the Alberta-wide municipal election scheduled for Oct. 16. Coincidentally, according to the rotation published on the City of St. Albert’s website, he is assigned to act as the deputy mayor of the city if needed during the months of July and August.
But Mr. MacKay’s explanation to a reporter from St. Albert’s community newspaper that he was waiting outside the courtroom in an official capacity as deputy mayor doesn’t make sense.
Just what official duty did he expect, in the Gazette reporter’s words, to need “to act quickly as deputy mayor” to complete in the event the judge delivered a ruling?
“I would have had to do a whole bunch of stuff in the evening and [the next] morning,” he told the reporter according to Saturday’s story in the Gazette.
He went on: “So I just made sure that I’m going to get copied whenever a judgment comes out – you have to be ready to act.”
Actually, in the event the mayor can’t perform his duties for any reason, St. Albert deputy mayors don’t need to be ready to do all that much right away. Process some routine paperwork, perhaps, be ready to chair the next scheduled city council meeting or stand in for the mayor at a ceremony.
The city’s procedure bylaw states: “The deputy mayor shall chair council meetings when the mayor is absent or unable to act as mayor and shall have all the powers and responsibilities of the mayor under this bylaw during the absence or incapacity of the mayor.”
But there was nothing about the hearing that couldn’t have been reported to the councillor assigned to be deputy mayor for the month in question with a telephone call the next day.
Like any citizen, of course, Mr. MacKay has the right to attend a court case he’s interested in, or for that matter to hang around outside waiting for the participants to emerge. After all, courthouses are public buildings and the courts in our Canadian democracy do as much of their business as possible in public.
Naturally, I am sure every member of council, quite a few city government officials and many politically active citizens were intensely interested in what was happening at the hearing.
So it would certainly not be surprising if Mr. MacKay was among them. Indeed, he seems to have had a family connection too. According to the Gazette’s account of the proceedings, Mayor Crouses’s lawyers questioned the involvement in the case of Councillor MacKay’s father, Cameron D. MacKay. The elder Mr. MacKay ordered and paid for transcripts given to the court by the applicant, the Gazette reported.
The applicant in the Court of Queen’s Bench hearing, by the way, was represented by former St. Albert Conservative Member of Parliament Brent Rathgeber.
Regardless, there was clearly no official need for Councillor MacKay or any councillor not directly involved in the case at law to be there.
Moreover, since Mayor Crouse has already stated his intention not to seek re-election in October, the outcome of the judicial proceeding now before the court shouldn’t have an impact, pro or con, on any short-term political questions.
And remember that the deputy mayor of an Alberta city is not a position to which voters specifically elect an office holder, like the vice-president of the United States. He or she is just another councillor called on to fill in according to a rotation schedule.
Indeed, next on the rotation to serve as deputy mayor is Councillor Cathy Heron, who at the moment is the only other St. Albert Council member who has declared an intention to seek the mayor’s chain of office.
But in light of the upcoming election, and the fact he raised the issue himself with his public statements outside the court, Councillor MacKay’s comments now beg some reasonable questions by voters.
To wit: What official acts did he plan to perform? To what end? And why the urgency?