Three weeks ago, this newspaper called on local municipal councils to join the Community Rail Advocacy Alliance. The Town of High Prairie and Big Lakes County have since joined.
The alliance is stressing the importance of access to railroad transportation, which is an ongoing concern for municipalities and businesses in the Peace for years. Agricultural producers, logging companies, and other large producers from the region bank on reliable train service to get their product to market.
It is a good move to join.
However, during debate at High Prairie’s council meeting March 14, Councillor Judy Stenhouse asked a legitimate question. She questioned the need to join “another” organization when we already have the Northern Alberta Elected Leaders (NAEL) group, as well as Peace Country MLAs and a MP, working for us. Not to mention the provincial organizations (Alberta Municipalities for cities, towns, villages, etc. and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta for counties, municipal districts, etc.) which are also supposed to be working and lobbying for us.
Each voter is entitled to address the effectiveness of your local MLA or MP. The question surrounding the NAEL is worth examining.
In short, what the hell do they do?
Apparently, the idea of this rail advocacy group sprung from the NAEL. Or at the very least, the NAEL organization is lobbying for other Peace Country municipalities to join. It is where High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk heard about it and reported back to council.
It brings to mind questions. It already costs us money to be a member of the NAEL. We are paying for leaders to attend. So, why isn’t the rail advocacy group simply a committee of the NAEL? Many members of the NAEL and rail advocacy group are the same. Do we really need another organization?
And, if the NAEL only exists to meet and form new organizations, its existence is useless. Ideas like the rail advocacy group do not need a bunch of mucky mucks gathering to make decision like this. There are better ways to reach the same goals without fattening the wallets of leaders through their attendance.
Or, as Stenhouse is suggesting but not saying directly, how much money are we willing to spend on fledgling organizations before too much is too much?
Every organization starts with the best of intentions. Someone obviously sees a value and a goal in mind. Councils must decide on a case-by-case basis which organizations bring value to the table. Decisions to join some will bear fruit, others will leave councils with the taste of sour apples over time.
As for the rail advocacy group, it is a good organization to join because it directly affects so many of our industries who need to market their product. Industries are joining local governments for the common goal.
Stenhouse knows this and admitted it, but her concerns should not be ignored. There is a time when joining too many organizations is too much.