Nenshi Accuses Province Of Treating Calgary Like 'Farm Team,' Minister Doug Griffiths Fights Back

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NENSHI GRIFFITHS CALGARY
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had some harsh words for Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths this weekend over the province's handling of future plans for Calgary's growth. (CP) | CP

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had some harsh words for Municipal Affairs Minister Doug Griffiths this weekend over the province's handling of future plans for Calgary's growth.

In a column for the Calgary Herald, Nenshi accused the provincial government of treating the city like a "farm team."

Nenshi complained that the province has failed to take action on the Calgary Metropolitan Plan -- a master plan created by area municipalities to help guide decisions about future transit, roads and water in the region.

The plan outlines the need for logical development, to ensure infrastructure is not built in a haphazard or excessively expensive fashion. The plan is meant to govern the next 60 years of growth in the region spanning from Banff to Strathmore and from Irricana to Nanton. Fourteen municipalities are part of the plan, while three rural districts continue to hold out.

However, the province is refusing to cooperate, says Nenshi.

"Instead, we have received mixed messages at best and outright abuse at worst," he wrote in his column.

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During his annual State of the City address at a Rotary Club luncheon last Tuesday, Nenshi also called on the province to provide more leadership on the city charter currently being developed by the city and province.

"I'm very frustrated," Metro Calgary reports Nenshi as saying.

"When I hear the minister and the premier start talking about items we thought we were negotiating, and laying down the laws so the city is the farm team, and to be told what its going to be, this is a big problem.... we need a little more political leadership from the province on this -- and that's me choosing my words carefully."

Minister Griffiths shot back in an interview with the Herald over the weekend.

"He's got an election coming up, he's going to puff up like a peacock and be tough. So be it; we're just going to carry on," Griffiths said.

Griffiths told the Herald there has been work done to convince the three rural districts who did not originally sign on to come back to the planning table. As well, the province is willing to pay for a mediator to help work things out.

Larry Spilak, reeve of the Municipal District of Foothills, told the Herald rural areas fear the Calgary Metropolitan Plan will dictate what rural landowners can and cannot do with their land.

"I can understand the mayor (Nenshi) trying to influence the province to legislate this plan, simply because the mayor and Calgary have everything to gain from it," Spilak said.

"But in the case of rural municipalities that are surrounding Calgary, we have everything to lose."

Griffiths added that Nenshi has not called him in months and prefers to pick his battles through the media.

"It's really unfortunate that (Nenshi)'s so determined that everything he's going to do is right, he doesn't need to consult, he doesn't need to build consensus, he doesn't need to pull a team together," Griffiths said.

"He just needs to get it done because he's never wrong. We don't operate that way."

This is not the first time the mayor and minister have traded words over deals between the province and the city.

Last summer, the pair sparred over the allocation of provincial money to Alberta's municipalities, and vice versa.

"Calgary taxpayers send $4 billion a year more to the provincial government than we get back in all provincial services. Yet we have responsibilities downloaded on us," Nenshi told the Calgary Sun.

"We've got to sort that out."

Griffiths countered, saying he hears similar sentiment from rural municipalities.

"They say there are no cows in Calgary, no oil wells in Edmonton. They say: 'We generate all the real revenue and we don't get anything back.'"

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