Ruling doesn't change the fact that Edmonton city council did an end run around the democratic process, says AFL Sep 25, 2009
EDMONTON - The labour unions that launched a legal challenge aimed at reversing the secretive privatization of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of power generating assets owned by the citizens of Edmonton will meet next week to consider their options for appeal now that a lower court has ruled against them.
On September 11th, the Alberta Federation of Labour, along with two unions representing City of Edmonton employees (Civic Service Union Local 52 and Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 30) asked the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench to make a declaration on whether or not Edmonton City Council had followed the proper process when they decided behind closed doors to spin-off $3 billion worth of power generation assets owned by Epcor and sell about $500 million worth of those assets to private investors.
In a decision released this afternoon, the court ruled that, thanks to the "natural person powers" granted to the City under legislation, members of City Council didn't have to abide by sections of the Municipal Government Act which say all decisions made by municipal councils have to be made in public forums.
"We're deeply troubled by this decision," says AFL president Gil McGowan. "It seems to imply that there are no limits to the powers of City Council to delegate important civic functions and decisions to individuals and bodies that are not accountable to the public. It's a blank cheque for politicians who want to make unpopular decisions without any public input or scrutiny."
McGowan says that he and other union leaders involved in the court challenge will be meeting next week to consider all of their options - including whether or not to launch an appeal.
"Ruling or no ruling, the fact remains that major assets owned by the citizens of Edmonton were sold off in secret and without any public consultation," says McGowan. "The mayor and senior managers from EPCOR and Capital Power can now say that what was done is technically legal. But that doesn't make it morally or ethically right."
McGowan says he is disappointed that the lower court judge didn't directly address the union coalition's main argument that - in the spirit of promoting democracy - the City's power to delegate decision-making power needs to be interpreted narrowly.
"We frankly continue to believe that the arguments put forward by the City and Epcor are nothing more than flimsy excuses used to justify shutting the public out of this extremely important decision. The bottom line is that they did an end run around the democratic process - and in their heart-of-hearts they all know it."
McGowan says the union coalition remains committed to stopping similar kinds of "abuses of the democratic process" from happening again. That may mean an appeal of today's court decision, says McGowan, or it may mean making the privatization of Epcor a major issue in the next municipal election campaign.
"The citizen's of Edmonton deserve better from the people they elect to represent them. Citizens deserve transparency and they deserve to be consulted on decisions of this magnitude. We're going to everything we can to make sure voters know which members of Council let this travesty of democracy unfold. And we'll be encouraging voters to hold their elected officials properly accountable."
For more information call: Gil McGowan, AFL President @ (780) 218-9888