RMWB councillors vote to become full-time after heated debate of surprise motion

Supporters argued a full-time council will make the RMWB more efficient. Critics were angry the public had not been consulted. Raises will be decided at a future date.

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The municipality’s part-time councillors have voted to become a full-time council.

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Councillor Kendrick Cardinal, who proposed the motion at Tuesday’s meeting, argued it would make an efficient council that works well with each other and administration. But a heated debate on the issue saw councillors arguing and making corruption allegations.

Cardinal said he raised the issue at past meetings, but council had yet to debate the idea. His motion called for full-time status to begin Wednesday. Council voted to waive the usual two-week waiting period and discuss the motion that night.

“I’ve been getting a run around and I’m sick of it, and I just want to move this motion forward and let’s get it done,” said Cardinal. “It’s very, very paramount that we move this motion and help build this community better and brighter for the future of Fort McMurray and the entire region and all the rural communities.”

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Cardinal said salaries would be decided in an upcoming review after Stroud raised the issue. It is not yet known what changes will be made to salaries, benefits or travel allowances. The expectations and duties required of full-time councillors were not decided at the meeting.

It was not decided who will draft those policies or when they will be made. It is not known if full-time councillors will need to hire assistants like in some cities with full-time councillors.

The mayor is council’s only full-time elected position. Creating a full-time council has been raised by previous councillors and political candidates in the RMWB. This is the first motion on the topic that has been presented to council

Outside of Edmonton and Calgary, there are a handful of municipalities, mid-sized cities and counties in Alberta with full-time councillors. St. Albert’s council recently voted to become a full-time council and approved raises, but only after the 2025 election.

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Councillor Keith McGrath speaks during a June 11 council meeting to decide if the RMWB’s councillors should become full-time in a screenshot from the RWMB’s YouTube channel.
Councillor Keith McGrath speaks during a June 11 council meeting to decide if the RMWB’s councillors should become full-time in a screenshot from the RWMB’s YouTube channel.

RMWB’s challenges need a full-time council: McGrath

McGrath pointed to a KPMG report presented to council last February. Auditors noted council made too many requests to an understaffed administration. This distracts staff from their duties and creates setbacks. McGrath said full-time councillors would not ask as many questions.

He argued a full-time council can help administration finish projects, and lobby for support from the province and Ottawa.

McGrath also alleged administration mismanages funding and programs. He claimed to be the victim of a scandal he’s calling “bonusgate.” Details will become public soon, but he said they would have been publicized earlier if council was full-time.

“I can tell you that this will work well and it might build a team because for a decade, I sat in this chair and all it is is a show against what can we throw under the bus and slow it down?” said McGrath. “I’ll support you 100 per cent and I’ll be a better councillor.”

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Councillor Shafiq Dogar was the only councillor to admit money was one reason he supported the motion. Dogar said after leaving a trucking business in Edmonton, he supports himself by driving a taxi in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, and delivering for Skip the Dishes.

He also said being a full-time councillor would let him spend more time in the region’s rural and Indigenous communities. There are no rural or Indigenous communities in Dogar’s ward.

“I have to make my living,” he said.

Councillor Funky Banjoko said she supported the motion, but felt some councillors should be allowed to remain part-time. Cardinal felt all councillors should be full-time.

Councillor Allan Grandison speaks during a June 11 council meeting to decide if the RMWB’s councillors should become full-time in a screenshot from the RWMB’s YouTube channel.

McGrath, Grandison spar over full-time status

Bowman, Grandison and Stroud argued it was unfair the public was not given a chance to give feedback on the idea. Bowman also did not like debating the motion while councillors Stu Wigle and Lance Bussieres were absent.

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Grandison was the motion’s loudest critic. He called it “self-serving” for council to make any decisions on salaries and felt it was not administration’s job to make those recommendations. He also pointed out no one on council ran on a platform of becoming a full-time councillor.

McGrath accused Grandison of calling the motion illegal and arguing supporters of the motion were only interested in money. At one point Grandison sarcastically asked McGrath “can I actually talk without you in my ear, please?” after he was interrupted repeatedly.

“It’s not about the money. You’re looking to fight, I’m looking to support this guy to make us get what we’re owed. And it’s going to take more than Mayor Bowman. We are owed transportation. We’re owed our land transfer agreement,” said McGrath. “There’s nothing illegal going on and that’s what I’ve heard Al say a couple of times.”

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Grandison said he understood before he was elected that his part-time position sometimes demands full-time hours. He challenged supporters to amend the motion so no full-time councillors would get raises.

“I keep hearing it’s not about money, so maybe the amendment also needs to be we can all be full-time but we’ll get the same pay. Why not that? If it’s not about money, let’s make it a full-time job at the same pay. I’d be OK with that,” said Grandison.

No one took him up on his offer.

Councillors Ball, Banjoko, Cardinal, Dogar, McGrath and Loretta Waquan voted in favour of the motion. Bowman, Grandison and Stroud opposed.

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