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Southern Alberta mayor says feedback not a focus of Provincial police engagement sessions

'It's really not a feedback meeting, it's a 'Here, we're telling you stuff and you've got 10 minutes to ask some questions, but there's no answers to any of those questions,'' said Thorn.

Representatives from the province's Justice and Solicitor General's office have hit the road to engage with municipal officials throughout Alberta on the proposed provincial police force. 

But, after attending the Jan. 25 session in Okotoks, Mayor Tanya Thorn said there really wasn't much opportunity to engage. 

"I'm happy to provide feedback, but if you're calling it a session for feedback, this wasn't it," she said. 

Thorn said there was a mountain of information presented during the two-and-a-half hour session, but attendees were given little time to ask questions. When questions were asked, she said presenters weren't able to provide solid answers. 

"It's really not a feedback meeting, it's a, 'Here, we're telling you stuff and you've got 10 minutes to ask some questions, but there's no answers to any of those questions,'" she said. 

According to registration instructions distributed to eligible attendees, "engagement sessions will focus on key concepts presented in the transition study with the intent to refine the model presented by PwC (PricewaterhouseCooper) and inform future decisions on an Alberta Provincial Police Service."

The document did contain links to several reports relevant to discussion, including the final PwC report, the current state report and the future state report, all of which are available to view on the government's website

These sessions will be held in various locations in-person across Alberta until March, according to the province.

Only municipal elected representatives, municipal employees and organizations representing municipalities are permitted to attend. The province indicated members of the public will be able to engage on the topic through a survey that is expected to launch "in early 2022." 

Thorn was less than pleased this was the case. 

"I have a huge issue with that," she said. 

In the interest of transparency, Thorn believes both the media and the public should be allowed in to the sessions. She said if well-rounded engagement is the goal, questions should arise from all affected parties.

Participants were allowed to take notes during the session, but were not given copies of the presentation. She added that this was in contrast to the National Police Federation's KeepAlbertaRCMP session earlier this month, where all attendees were given print-outs of the slide show and discussion guides.

Turner Valley Mayor Barry Crane was also at the session and he, too, felt there was more to be desired when it came to answers. 

"Being a session where we're supposed to be getting answers, and only to receive shadow answers, is disappointing to say the least," he said. "If we're going to have a public session where we want to be able to tell our citizens some correct Q-and-A, we need the answers.

"And so that session did not provide any answers for elected officials and certainly, if the public was there, I'm sure the question marks would be quadrupled." 

Foothills County Division 6 Coun. Don Waldorf said he appreciated government officials coming out to engage with municipal officials and thought the presentation was good, even though every question didn't have an answer and contrary to Thorn, Waldorf said he felt there was sufficient time for questions. 

"Many of the questions were answered, but many were not," he said. "Either it was out of scope of the PricewaterhouseCooper report or, many of the operational plans that we were  asking questions on, hadn't been developed. And they kind of came back to the group with 'Well, gee, we're looking for your input on maybe the best way to do it.' 

"And the group feeling was it's tough to have an opinion on something when – is it a chicken or an egg scenario?" 

Waldorf said the group expressed desire for their feedback to be meaningful and impactful, adding that they would be curious to know what other attendees are saying. He said a "what we heard" resource was suggested, but presenters made no commitment to such thing. 

Turner Valley Coun. Jonathan Gordon, echoed that sentiment after attending the presentation on Tuesday, and said he would like to see something in the realm of a frequently asked questions document compiled following completion of the sessions. 

"I'm pretty certain we've asked questions that will be consistently asked across the board, but [there might] be other questions that we haven't thought of," he said. 

Gordon said the presentation itself was comprehensive and eye-opening, but the sheer amount of information covered in the reports did present a challenge when it came to addressing questions on every piece of the puzzle. 

"The scope of work that PwC was asked to do and the manner in which they presented the reports really fit well within the scope," he said. "But there are some other outstanding questions that need to be answered before we can jump in and say, 'Yeah, let's go for it."" 

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