by Tristan Turner
Morinville News Correspondent
Last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting involved an agenda item that should be recognizable for residents who have followed Council over the years, the annual report from Murray Knight of the Morinville Historical and Cultural Society on the outcome of 2016’s Canada Day celebrations. The organization has been responsible for one of Morinville’s largest annual events for years, receiving funding from the Town and the Federal government to organize volunteers who disperse Canadian flags on lawns, coordinate the fireworks display, and decorate Main Street, and many other duties preparing for the event. Knight went through a full report of nearly all elements of the event, thanking Council for their support and informing them of the return of $1,725.46 of excess funds left over at the end of the festival, an annual practice for Knight.
Council universally thanked Knight for his volunteer service in organizing the event and his transparency that “goes above and beyond other groups [who receive Town funding]”, in the words of Councillor Nicole Boutestein.
Following the presentation, Knight immediately diverted from the events themselves and delved into a rebuttal against some comments left regarding a mural controversy in town. Knight addressed comments left in local media and online in response to a decision made by local organizers for Morinville’s contribution to Canada’s 150 national Mural to be kept under wraps until Canada Day. Knight is directly involved with the project along with other Historical and Cultural Society colleagues.
The controversy largely started following an editorial published by The Morinville News – penned by contributor Lucy Roy – which criticized a decision by local organizers to decide to delay publicly revealing high-resolution photos of the mural online until it is revealed to the local public on Canada Day. The controversy focused on a decision to omit an image and additional promotional materials being posted to canada150mosaic.com, a website designed to display all 150 mosaics online for all Canadians.
Following the editorial, multiple comments have been left online on both sides of the argument. Some, such as Murray’s colleague on the Society who also spoke at the meeting, Andre Noel, argued that it would be better to post more information about the mural online, including photos, to capitalize on the opportunity to advertise Morinville across the country. Noel argued that “an opportunity like this to advertise Morinville… across the country is once in a lifetime,” commenting that the potential dollar value cost of advertising the community across the country would be in the millions.
Knight and others who agree with him have argued that the mural itself should be kept concealed until Canada Day to build anticipation and excitement for the project. Edmonton, another community selected among the 15 in Alberta have recently announced that they would also keep the mural secret.
Speaking to the issue, CAO Andrew Isbister made it clear that his thinking was more in line with Knight, saying, “when it’s my birthday, I might celebrate a bit the week before and the week after, but I still don’t open my present until the actual day.” He told Council that how they would proceed with the Mural unveiling was their prerogative. Mayor Lisa Holmes and other members of Council suggested a potential compromise between Knight and Noel, suggesting that potentially a small lower resolution photo could be posted online along with some additional information and potentially a video, but omit a high-resolution image that allowed anyone to see each individual tile.
No decisions on how to proceed were made that evening, though CAO Isbister will be coming back to Council at their next regular meeting Feb. 28 with some additional information about action Council could take in response to the controversy.