Chestermere residents file petition of non-confidence in their mayor and council

Thousands of people who live in Chestermere are calling on the Alberta government to step in because they've lost confidence in their city council's ability to govern.

Thousands sign document calling on Alberta to investigate their municipal government

Chestermere residents pour over a city presentation last January, trying to figure out how utility board members took three years to figure out a major accounting problem that led to a sudden, 25% hike in their monthly bills. (Colleen Underwood/CBC)

Thousands of people who live in Chestermere are calling on the Alberta government to step in because they've lost confidence in their city council's ability to govern.

Chestermere resident Laurie Bold hand delivered a petition to the legislature in Edmonton on Thursday, one that she said includes more than 5,400 signatures.

It calls on the minister of municipal affairs to launch an investigation into the mayor and council of Chestermere, based on a host of concerns raised by residents of the small city on Calgary's eastern flank.

"The people have lost their faith in their governing council and there's many reasons why this has come to be," Bold said.

"It wasn't hard to go get these signatures."

Bold said residents are fed up with ever-increasing taxes and utility bills and a recent, massive financial error by the town's utility provider was the "last straw."

The new CEO of Chestermere Utilities Inc. alerted town residents to the mistake last December after she realized customers had been charged less than the cost to provide water, wastewater, garbage and recycling services for roughly three years.

The result was a sudden, 25 per cent hike to monthly utility bills, angering many residents in the community of 15,000.

Tax bill quadruples in 10 years

Judy Dougan said she's upset because she moved to Chestermere in 2004 due to the fact it had lower property taxes than Calgary but has since seen that advantage evaporate.

She said her first annual tax bill in Chestermere was about $1,200 but, by 2014, the tab had grown to $4,800.

Part of that, she said, was due to improvements made to the home but she said finishing a basement shouldn't account for her property tax bill quadrupling over 10 years.

"It's very expensive," Dougan said. "It's to the point, for us, if things don't change, we're going to move back to Calgary."

CBC News has requested an interview with Chestermere Mayor Patricia Matthews but she has yet to reply.

Ministerial powers

Shannon Greer, press secretary for Municipal Affairs Minister Danielle Larivee, said the petition has not yet been officially received and she can't comment specifically on it.

In general, however, she noted the minister does have the power to direct the council or chief administrative officer of a municipality to take any action that the minister "considers proper" if it is found that a "municipality is managed in an irregular, improper, or improvident manner."

"Only in very rare and extreme circumstances does this result in the removal of councillors," Greer said in an email.

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