PHOTOS: St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse at a Remembrance Day ceremony (Alberta Native News photo). Below: Councillor Cam MacKay, Councillor Cathy Heron, former deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk and former Wildrose candidate Shelley Biermanski.
ST. ALBERT, Alberta
In a lengthy statement on Facebook posted early this morning, St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse announced he does not intend to seek re-election in October’s municipal election after he completes his third term as the city’s chief magistrate.
But Mayor Crouse’s statement, which included a long list of what he sees as his successes as a member of city council since 2004, when he was first elected as a councillor, gave the impression of a politician who may be pondering a run for public office at another level of government.
“My decision is driven by the desire to have one more career stint; a stint that would involve the toughest challenge possible,” Mr. Crouse wrote in the announcement, which caught politically engaged citizens of the Edmonton-area bedroom suburb by surprise.
“I don’t know exactly what that next (career) will be, but faith and planning will point to that in due course,” he wrote. “I will share more on that in the coming weeks.”
A year ago this month, Mr. Crouse, an Alberta Liberal by temperament whether or not he owns a party membership card, responded to a rumour by saying quite categorically he would not be running for the leadership of the Alberta Liberal Party. Is he reconsidering?
Mayor Crouse wouldn’t comment when I asked him this morning, telling me only that if he stuck around as mayor he’d be into his late 60s by the time his fourth term was done – too late to embark on another career.
But his last term must have been frustrating, with city council divided between three members who generally support his program of modest tax increases and steady development and three that I would characterize as militant anti-taxers with a Wildrose Party cut to their jibs. Council meetings were often contentious as a result, and the tone could be extremely negative.
With turnouts typically very low in St. Albert’s municipal elections, and a vocal group of opponents who assailed everything Mr. Crouse did and said, I suppose his re-election was not guaranteed. He is, however, one of the most enthusiastic retail politicians you could hope to meet, and as a St. Albert resident I wouldn’t have bet against his being re-elected.
The chief knock against Mayor Crouse by his often bitter opponents has been St. Albert’s higher-than-average property taxes, a situation that does not rest in his hands alone. Mayor Crouse, in my view, aroused their ire mainly by not meekly crumbling when they complained about his willingness to maintain a reasonable level of public services in the city of 65,000 northwest of Edmonton.
In the last election campaign Mr. Crouse and other candidates were subjected to a vicious campaign of anonymous trolling by persons unknown who were obviously sympathetic to the campaign against him. This included Photoshopped images of the mayor flushing dollar bills down a toilet and the like. (Full disclosure: I ran unsuccessfully for council in that campaign and my name was featured in one of the toilet shots.)
A former timber and energy industry executive, company owner and successful junior hockey coach with an MBA, Mr. Crouse has been chair of the Capital Regional Board since 2012.
Naturally, social media was abuzz this morning with the names of possible candidates to replace Mayor Crouse, including city councilors Cathy Heron, who generally supported the mayor’s polices, and Cam MacKay, who generally opposed them. Also named have been former Alberta deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk (who has said no to the idea in the past), former Progressive Conservative MLA Stephen Khan (currently running to lead the PC party with a low probability of success), and former Wildrose Party candidate Shelley Biermanski (who has twice run unsuccessfully against Mr. Crouse).
Elections take place in most Alberta municipalities on Oct. 17, 2017.
Clarification: Nolan Crouse was first elected in 2004. An incorrect date appeared in an earlier version of this post.