Coun. Nagel steps down from Manning Centre to focus on town council

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Dissatisfaction with council's progress made the last year and a half a deciding factor for the Cochrane town councillor

Cochrane town councilor Morgan Nagel will be leaving his position at the Manning Centre at the beginning of March. This decision comes as he’s decided to refocus his political aspirations.

“The whole thing with me working at the Manning Centre is that I love politics and I’m really patriotic and I wanted to do things to make a difference in Canada. I was involved a little bit in the provincial and federal stuff that’s happened over the last year and since the federal election ended, I really just felt that I’ve got way more important work to be doing in Cochrane politically.”

According to the Manning Centre’s website, “based in Calgary, the centre was founded in 2005 to support conservative and classical liberal activists in Canada. Named after its founder, Preston Manning, the Manning Centre is an independent organization that believes in a limited role for government in our lives.”

Nagel first became involved with the centre a couple years ago and eventually worked his way up in the foundation to his current position as the director of youth and student engagement.

“It all started with me reading some books that Preston Manning wrote, I thought he sounded like a really fantastic political leader. So a little over two years ago I found out about the Manning Centre and saw they had some internship opportunities.”

“As the youth director, my job was to help young people get involved in politics. We did that through networking events, conferences, visiting university campuses, and some educational sessions,” Nagel explained.

He focused on engaging university students, whether they were taking political science, international relations, or economics, or simply had an interest in politics.

“Mostly young people who have an interest in politics but have no idea how to get involved.”

“It’s been a really great job – I feel privileged I had the opportunity to get to know Preston Manning and to learn from him. He’s the best prime minister Canada never had.”

Nagel is confident this decision will allow him to get more things accomplished on council while working through correspondence to get his chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation.

“It’s been a big learning curve the first two years on council, and I know everybody on council works really hard, but I’m not happy with what we’ve achieved in those two years. I don’t blame it on the councilors, I blame it on the set up we have.”

He explained the town, which is technically the size of a small city, has a 46 million dollar budget and over 200 full-time employees.

“To think a group of people can get together twice a month and effectively manage and lead that is kind of ridiculous. The number of problems and number of challenges we have to tackle simply can’t fit into our council meetings,” Nagel said.

He noted one challenge the councilors face is their position is only part-time. The mayor’s position is full-time so he has a understanding of everything, but the councilors must rely on the town’s full-time administration to get all the information they need in order to make educated decisions.

He also believes the council meetings run time are too short to properly address everything on the agenda.

“It’s get to be 10 p.m. (at the meeting) all of a sudden, and we haven’t even finished our conversations and we just have to move on,” Nagel explained.

“A great example is this bylaw reform stuff that Councilors Toews and Levisky brought forward. They initiated that a year and a half ago and we have achieved almost nothing on that point – and that’s almost half of our term (as councilors).”

Nagel addressed some key issues he plans to bring up with the rest of council with his remaining time.

“Everyone in town knows we have traffic problems and we had really hoped the province was going to come forward and do something major like a big highway expansion, and they may yet do that but I have no reason to believe that they’re going to. So when people ask me what the town is going to do about traffic I think the answer is we have no idea.”

Nagel explained this is because council doesn’t have a plan developed due to time restraints. He realizes the positions on council need to be part-time because the other councilors all have kids and families to support. He also realized he is in a “unique situation” because he is young and can afford to live off of his council salary.

“At some point I’ll have to get another full-time job because I can’t live and support a future family on the salary the council pays, but I have an opportunity just to live off that for now and focus on being a councilor.”

Nagel has some ideas how to tackle the traffic congestion, but they require planning and discussion.

“We need some solutions – we need to know how we’re going to build the bridge in Riversong and how we’re going to pay for it. And we have to figure out how much it’s actually going to cost to get some more railroad crossings.”

He explained Canadian Pacific Rail has told the town all future railway crossings will need to be built as underpasses or overpasses – which is something the town would need to figure out how to pay for as Nagel believes it doesn’t have enough crossings at the moment.

“We also need to have some thorough conversations about the notices of motion that Councilors Toews and Levisky have brought forward. We need to solve those, whether we approve them or turn some of them down.”

“We also need a plan for our waste water treatment. At about 26,000 people, the town isn’t going to be able to approve any more developments until it has waste water treatment sorted out. Early estimates are showing it may end up being more than we previously expected it to cost,” Nagel continued.

“And finally we have no plan as to how we’re going to respond if Cochrane’s population starts shrinking in response to the economic problems that we have. So we need to come up with contingency plans as to how we would handle that.”

He believes a majority of the work these proposals will need done will have to take place outside of council meetings, with councilors meeting up on their own time in order to collaborate with each other and the town administration.

“The conclusion I’ve come to over my first two years as a councilor is I can’t achieve what it is I want to achieve on just showing up once every two weeks.”

His solution for this problem is meeting three times a month. The meetings have to be held in the evening as the position is part-time. He hopes that sometime in the distant future council will consider re-evaluating its own position as to how many hours councilors are expected to work and whether or not the positions can be full-time.

“We can’t be a part-time gig forever and expect to do our jobs properly.”

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