A feud over who controls the Chestermere-Strathmore constituency association and who they support continues.
August 27th will be a critical vote for this board of volunteers within the quaint small town community, who's MLA is Leela Sharon Aheer.
Constituency association President John Kittler explained that earlier this year a new group of people showed up at one of the association meetings and voted out nearly the entire board.
“They’re painting us as bad people. These are volunteers that have donated their time, come to these meetings, I’ve been in the parade in Langdon and Strathmore the last couple of years and gone to events. They are not people who are going to benefit financially from this.”
The old board has since been restored due to a technicality. Kittler said instead of attempting to overthrow the entire board, the right thing to do would have been for the newcomers to the board to show up at meetings regularly and get to know the people.
“We could never fill the board. Legitimately show up. We know who the constituents are,” he said. “Come to those meetings and argue your case.”
“I think our citizens deserve the right to choose who they want and that’s kind of how it’s done, it’s through this board,” he said.
The issue that arises today is that there is some confusion of what exactly happens at the constituency association and how MLAs come into power.
Aheer, who is in her second term as an MLA, was the former Minister of Culture, Multiculturalism & Status of Women and Deputy Leader of the UCP until she was stripped of her cabinet positions after publicly criticizing Premier Jason Kenney. This followed an incident where a former staff member filed a lawsuit against the Premier’s Office alleging sexual harassment, defamation and a toxic workplace culture at the Legislature. On top of this, photos later revealed Kenney and other cabinet ministers dining on an outdoor patio during the COVID-19 pandemic at the Sky Palace.
For the constituency board, Kittler explained there were so few people in the community with a UCP membership who want to be on the board, that during meetings before the pandemic they couldn’t form a quorum. That means they didn’t have enough people to hold a meeting. He explained that an old political tactic is to put your own people into the CA board in order to form the LCNC (local constituency nomination committee), a committee that vets and makes a recommendation on who will be the riding's MLA.
“Then you have more control over the LCNC committee to vet out anybody you don’t want there,” he said. At meetings, the CA have a list of registered members of the UCP who are checked in, in order to attend and vote at meetings. UCP members are required to have joined the party at least 21 days prior to voting in an AGM (annual general meeting).
The CA AGM was held in January. He says the list showed a certain number of members, but the day of the meeting people came into the venue, and the representative from the party arrived 15 minutes before the meeting began and a large number of people were on the voters' list. “There were 50 to 75 more people on the list than there was the night before,” he said.
“Most of us got summarily voted out by a bunch of people we had never seen before,” he said. The old board has since been restored.
Kittler goes into the history behind the constituency formation.
Kittler explained that in the last provincial election, the electoral boundaries for Chestermere-Rocky View and Strathmore -Brooks were changed. The MLA for Chestermere-Rocky View was Leela Aheer and the MLA for Strathmore- Brooks was Derek Fildebrandt. The Chestermere-Strathmore constituency was formed and Aheer also won the election.
“There were some fireworks at that time. This was in 2015,” he said. “Business goes on but now you need a board,” he said to run the constituency association.
“The board's idea is to have citizens from around the constituency that meet once a month. What they do is basically listen to your neighbors. Your neighbors are complaining about something, well, you go to the constituency board and you talk about it with other people that are paying attention and the MLA attends these meetings,” he said.
“We can ask her questions and or tell her things," he said. "More importantly, she tells us what's going on in Edmonton. Now we get information from the horse's mouth. It comes to us as a board and then we can tell our neighbors,” he explained.
“It supports the MLA, whoever is the sitting MLA. If that’s Leela or anybody else that board is there to listen to her, talk to her, and as it gets closer to elections those are the people who put up signs and knock on doors.”
There will be a provincial election next spring. He explained that Chantelle de Jonge would like to become the local MLA as well. “She would first have to replace Aheer as the UCP candidate, but at the same time you could put your name in or I could put my name in,” he said.
De Jonge, according to her Linkedin profile is a recent graduate of the University of Calgary. She is a former political staffer to former Calgary-Skyview MP Jag Sahota.
Kittler explained that volunteers from this LCNC can make a recommendation of who they think they would prefer to be the candidate, but ultimately the decision lies with the United Conservative Party.
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