There's been some pushback by some people in the community on Town Councillor Morgan Nagel's decision to seek the United Conservative Party nomination in the new Airdrie-Cochrane riding, but Nagel says if he is successful he believes he can serve the community even better as MLA.
Pat Huot and Andy Marshall are among those who have been publically critical of Nagel's decision to run.
Huot is upset over the announcement and questions if Nagel knew a run was in the making prior to the fall municipal election.
"I was just blown away. We just spent all this time and money and effort to elect our town council and he turns around and says, 'Yeah, I'm out of here'," says Huot. "I'm not saying he has the ticket from the UCP to run, but in my mind, he's kind of turning his back on Cochrane."
"If you ran a campaign to be a town councillor for Cochrane for a certain number of years, how can you turn around in four months and say you're going to run to be nominated as a provincial candidate?"
"To me, it feels like someone who's trying to have all their eggs in one basket. It's like, I have my fall back position of being a town councillor just in case I don't get a provincial seat."
Huot is also concern over statements attributed to Nagel that he worked 60 to 80 hours a week on the UCP leadership of Jason Kenny.
"That's a lot of time. If he was misquoted or exaggerated, I understand, but that's a lot of time. That says to me for that whole year when he was supposed to be out there advocating for Cochrane, he was not. He was supposed to be helping our community, he was not. And he was not being present even at community events, which to me speaks a lot about where someone's priorities lie, which is obviously not here."
Nagel, though, says the needs of Cochrane are very much on his mind.
"I will be able to do far more from Cochrane in every single area people are concerned about," says Nagel.
That includes highway expansion, 24 Hour Urgent Care, and helping to attract more businesses to the region by lowering taxes and reducing regulation.
"If people like the way that I have been serving the community as a councillor, I think that they will be in support of the things I can do for them in the provincial government."
While Nagel says he knew at some point in the future he would consider running provincially he hadn't made up his mind before the fall municipal election.
"Some people think that I had this whole thing planned all along, but I really didn't," says Nagel.
"The two biggest factors were, who's going to lead the party and what will this riding look like and who's running in the riding.Then when everything became clear that it made sense for me to run I ended up making the decision right around Christmas after talking to my family and friends."
With a provincial election more than a year away, he says he will continue to focus on issues in the community.
"I've made a commitment to everybody that I'm not skipping any council meetings or strategic planning sessions. I'm still putting my duties as a public representative first and still attending all the important decision-making meetings."
Outspoken resident and former town councillor Andy Marshall has reiterated a stance he took when then Cochrane Mayor Truper McBride sought the Progressive Conservative nomination for the Banff-Cochrane riding in 2012.
"It is such a cynical move to run for public office, then change your mind about serving because something better comes up," says Marshall. "Nagel has done this, and, apparently, sees nothing wrong in it. His dismissal of the costs associated with a byelection only adds to the cynicism of the exercise."
He was not surprised when Nagel stepped forward as a candidate because he has been a visible supporter of Jason Kenney's successful UCP leadership campaign.
"That in itself is understandable, but he's spent some effort vilifying our current MLA, Cam Westhead. This is reprehensible and quite unprecedented that a member of town council would be speaking so negatively about the MLA representing the town. It's been a long tradition of Alberta municipalities that partisan party-based politicking has no place on a local council."
A partisan slant has already raised concern with current Banff-Cochrane MLA Cam Westhead.
Westhead won't be running in Cochrane in the next election but he has concern over a Nagel statement that essentially says he will only consider the views of UCP members. Westhead says he should be held in account for the narrowing of his views to listen to only a segment of the population.
"He talks about a grassroots guarantee and forming a local committee, but what I'm reading is that it's only open to UCP members. So it would concern me that a future potential MLA is already saying he's only going to listen to a very small number of people that are involved with the UCP. So my question would be, what does that mean to the rest of the people in Airdrie-Cochrane? If they're not UCP members does that mean their voices aren't being heard? That's not the way I currently operating. I listen to everybody regardless of their political affiliation."
Mayor Jeff Genung says some people have reached out to him on the matter and that he has also sat down with Nagel
Genung has received some emails, both pro and con, and has been responding with information on the process. Nothing prevents Nagel from serving on council while seeking the nomination or for running in the provincial election.
"People have been questioning what the process is, what can we do and we can't do. I have been just getting back to them with facts."
The mayor says Nagel did advise him of his decision and they were able to discuss the matter prior to the announcement.
"Morgan and I have spoken about it. He let me know before he announced he was planning to do this and we just talked about how it would be best to keep the campaigning out of our council chambers, and he agreed and was very professional about it. I don't have any real position other than I'm going to be looking out for the Town of Cochrane's interests."
An election could be as much as 16 months down the road and regardless of what happens, the rules are clearcut for the town. Should Nagel, or any council resign their seat, the Municipal Government Act (MGA) determines what happens.
According to the act, a council must hold a byelection to fill a vacancy on council unless: the vacancy occurs in the six months before a general election; or in the 18 months before a general election and there is only one vacancy; or in the 12 months before a general election and the number of councillors remaining is at least one more than the majority of the number of councillors comprising the council.
The cost of a byelection is estimated to be about $50,000, according to town officials.
Nagel says government spending money isn't a good thing, but he believes he can save the town way more than $50,000 as MLA.
"I've literally been a voice to save millions of dollars as a Cochrane town councillor," says Nagel, pointing to his stands on the pool, curling rink and salary increases as three examples.
Fellow Town Councillor Alex Reed backs Nagel's run and believes it's a good thing for Cochrane.
"I know some people are concerned about the municipal cost of a byelection if he wins," says Reed, "but even if I ignore the bigger picture and focus solely on Cochrane’s best interests, it still seems like a big win for our town if Morgan is elected."
So far two candidates are in the running for the party's Airdrie-Cochrane nomination and timelines likely won't be announced prior to the UCP Founding AGM, May 4-6.