When Solicitor General Frank Oberle opened his mail earlier this week, he discovered the mayor of Fort Macleod is on his trail again. Mayor Shawn Patience sent a letter to Oberle Monday asking why the town has heard nothing from the province since the March meeting at the Empress Theatre.
“We agreed after Oberle was at the theatre that we would wait two months and see what has transpired, but we’ve heard nothing,” Patience said. “So I have spent the last four weeks drafting a four-page letter, which went out Monday.”
Patience asks in the letter, “While at our theatre you pledged to get this project in front of the treasury board and to do all that you could to move it forward, so we would like to ask what has been done since our meetings to move this project forward?”
Since it appears the answer to that question is “nothing,” the mayor and council have set before Oberle a request in the letter.
“We would ask you to consider setting up a project steering committee to get this facility built, similar to the training centre technical committee we were previously involved with, a group that met many times over the years. This building committee could include yourself, members from your department, associated police and enforcement agencies along with members from our council or community.”
Patience is skeptical that the delay in building the police college is actually a matter of lack of funding.
“This has now seemingly become an issue of political will and internal politics,” Patience wrote to Oberle. “With $6-billion in new capital funding in the latest budget and nothing allocated to the centre, the issue has become one of more than money.”
Patience points out to the solicitor general the province has sent mixed messages to Fort Macleod over the funding issue.
“We had long been told that if the formula for a P3 didn’t prove viable that this project could still end up as a traditional government build . . . yet the province now seems to be attempting to change history by stating that they were never going to put any funding towards the project and that it had to be self sustaining.”
“And yet since 2006 we have been told that the delays were a result of the government having limited funding available. These two stances are in direct conflict with each other, so outside of comments made by a few ministers, are there any motions on the books to suggest that the government would never fund this project, since our former MLA openly states that the government was always aware that a financial commitment would be required?”
Patience told Oberle the P3 framework also demonstrates that a government P3 partnership requires either a funding commitment or a guarantee from the province.
“So why does the province now believe that this project should be any different than a P3 project for a highway or school, both of which require either a funding commitment or a guarantee from the province?” Patience asked.
Patience concluded the letter with another appeal to the province to make good its promise, telling the solicitor general of the betrayal Fort Macleod is feeling, and reminding him that the PC government will be held accountable for making a promise it has not kept.
“Will the province fulfill this vital commitment, does it have the moral capacity and political will to keep their promise?” Patience wrote. “It is a question that will not only be answered here, but it also will be answered in full view of all Albertans. You need to understand that because of the importance of this project, our council, our community, and our region, will do all we can to ensure this commitment is fulfilled and that the government is held accountable for its promises. It’s also important to point out that we are also more than willing to work with the province to bring this process to a successful conclusion.”
Patience reminded Oberle that during the March session at the Empress Theatre Oberle committed to move the project forward.
“May we also suggest enlisting the help of the premier, who, while visiting our community, readily committed his support for the centre during both his leadership bid and during the last provincial election,” Patience wrote. “This was a commitment that our area’s citizens did not take lightly, nor should you or he. We ask you, what if this was your town? Or your constituency, or the premier’s? How would any of you respond when put in our position?”
Patience told the solicitor general Fort Macleod residents now feel strongly they being punished for a great victory and confidence in government is eroding.
“It’s time that the premier’s support, and yours, was turned into a positive outcome for this community and area, and for your government,” Patience wrote. “Mr. Minister, Mr. Premier, simply put, it’s time to build the training centre.”
Copies of the letter were sent to Premier Ed Stelmach, Livingstone-Macleod MLA Evan Berger, Finance Minister Ted Morton, Treasury Board President Lloyd Snelgrove, and Justice Minister Allison Redford.