Banjoko wants RMWB council to debate reversing surprise full-time council vote

Coun. Funky Banjoko, who originally voted for the idea, says public outrage and criticisms from dissenting councillors has caused her to reconsider the motion.

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Councillor Funky Banjoko is asking her council colleagues to reverse a June 11 decision to skip public feedback and promoting themselves to full-time councillors the next day. Cancelling the idea will be debated at a special July 3 public meeting after Banjoko pitched the motion at an in-camera June 18 meeting.

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Banjoko originally voted in favour of both ideas. In a Thursday interview, she said those votes were the wrong decisions after listening to public outrage and criticisms from dissenting council members.

“It was wrong. The process wasn’t followed, it didn’t make sense, it’s not achievable and it’s not realistic to say ‘the next morning we’re full-time,’” she said. “The process has to be followed. The community and the public has the right to give their opinions on the matter, especially something of this magnitude.”

Councillors have had inboxes flooded with people angry the decision was made without any chance for people to give their opinion. A petition demanding an investigation from Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver has more than 1,000 signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

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The motion was proposed by Councillor Kendrick Cardinal and supported by councillors Banjoko, Ken Ball, Shafiq Dogar, Keith McGrath and Loretta Waquan. Those same councillors, with the exception of Ball, voted to skip public debate.

Mayor Sandy Bowman and councillors Jane Stroud and Allan Grandison voted against both motions. Councillors Lance Bussieres and Stu Wigle were absent from the meeting, although Bussieres said the motion did not sense to him. Wigle has not commented on how he would have voted.

“One of the qualities of a good leader, or even a good person, is when you make a mistake, you try and fix it. I haven’t met anyone who hasn’t made mistakes,” said Banjoko on Thursday. “I wasn’t comfortable with what was done and there has been lots of feedback on the matter. It is what it is and as a leader, we have to listen and I don’t think we did that right.”

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In a screenshot from the RWMB’s YouTube channel, councillors Keith McGrath, left, and Allan Grandison argue during a council debate about turning the RMWB’s councillors into full-time positions on June 11, 2024. Councillors Shafiq Dogar, centre, and Kendrick Cardinal, right, look on.

Councillors split on controversial motion

Outside of Edmonton and Calgary, there are some municipalities, mid-sized cities and counties in Alberta with full-time councils. St. Albert’s council recently approved raises after voting to become a full-time council after the 2025 election. That process included months of public feedback.

Cardinal said at the meeting that raises would eventually come with becoming a full-time job. He said in a June 13 interview he was frustrated council had not yet debated the idea, which has been raised by himself and past councils. He did not return requests for comment by deadline on Thursday.

McGrath and Cardinal argued at the meeting and in interviews that a full-time council is more efficient. McGrath, who was the loudest supporter of the idea, said a part-time council relies too much on administrative staff, which he described as “inmates running the asylum” who “tell too many goddamn lies.”

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“You can tell the community I did this to pull them together. I would like the community to be more involved with council. I would like to have the next council meeting full,” Cardinal said in a June 13 interview. “Some more debate needs to happen so the community needs to get more involved meetings. Those council meetings need to be full. Those council chairs need to be full.”

Bowman said changes to council’s salaries, expectations and duties should be decided by an independent review and begin under a future council. These details were not decided at the meeting.

“If we’re talking about salaries, that has to be based on expertise. If we’re talking about work requirements, that has to be based on expertise. It’s not expertise that I have, but a third-party has,” Grandison said in a June 13 interview. “I don’t believe it’s my job to vote myself a raise or a full-time position.”

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