Different notions of representation

Lesser Slave Lake MLA Pat Rehn certainly has his work cut out for him.
It seems Rehn’s idea of an MLA’s job was quite different from certain other parties, the council of the Town of Slave Lake being one.

As reported, that council took the drastic step earlier this month of asking Mr. Rehn to resign. It is drastic for a number of reasons; one of the big ones is the need to continue working with someone once you’ve burned your bridges.

It’s fair to say council thought of this. The fact that council members are a pretty conservative bunch means they couldn’t have arrived at the decision lightly. They were getting nowhere with Rehn, and finally decided they had more to gain than to lose by calling for his resignation.

So what wasn’t he doing that council thinks he should have been? According to them, basic things; answering phone calls, attending meetings, being prepared and advocating for his constituents.

Rehn’s idea of serving his constituency was – or seemed to be – bigger picture stuff. If he could help his party undo some of the policies of the previous government they saw as hurting the economy, then he was doing the job he was elected to do. Get rid of carbon tax? Check. Reduce the business tax? Check. Dismantle annoying changes to farm labour laws? Check. Reduce red tape, promote the energy industry, etc. etc. etc.

That was the role Rehn saw himself playing, as part of the provincial UCP team that was going to make Alberta great again. Nothing wrong with that as far as it goes. But there are those pesky constituents, with their peculiar problems. Nag, nag, nag. Pesky environmental concerns. Pesky pothole complaints. Pesky municipalities always asking for this and asking for that.

To be an effective representative, you have to spend a lot of time in your constituency. You have to answer your phones. You have to show up at meetings, well prepared and offer real help and follow through. At all those things, judging by the Town of Slave Lake action of Jan. 5, Rehn was doing an exceedingly lousy job.

In our experience, community leaders are extremely reluctant – at least on the record – to speak ill of their colleagues in other levels of government. Especially when they depend on those reps so much, for grants, paving, attention to law enforcement and whatever else. Burning bridges is risky business and nobody we’ve talked to can remember a municipality taking such a drastic step. It speaks volumes and not just any old volumes. Big volumes: Dickens and Tolstoy type of volumes.

What happens now? If Rehn continues as MLA he’s going to have to find a way to establish some sort of working relationship with Slave Lake. And town council has to reach out as well. What alternative is there?
Well, there’s always resignation.

Share this post

Post Comment