A leaked video shows a prominent Calgary developer seemingly declaring war against city council and touts a million-dollar war chest with which to do it.
The footage, obtained by Global Calgary and aired Monday night, is of Cal Wenzel, founder of Shane Homes, at a podium talking to reportedly 150 industry members last November, touting the money is in place to make council more "developer-friendly."
"There are some people that are on the city council that are totally out of control," he says, and goes on to mention council members by name.
"(Shane) Keating we have looked after, Diane (Colley-Urquhart) we looked after and Peter Demong," he adds, and mentions Ald. Druh Farrell and Ald. Richard Pootmans as sources of concern.
"At one time, where Pootmans was kind of guided as to, you know, maybe vote for us when it comes up, and then he forgot to ask any questions and forgot to vote the right way.
"Unless we get somebody in there that is really going to, you know, be more on our side than the dark side, we are talking about another four years after next October."
Wenzel's strong focus on reshaping council may lie in the fact he says he is certain Mayor Naheed Nenshi, the most popular mayor in the country, cannot be defeated.
"When I talked to (former Calgary mayor) Dave Bronoconnier, Dave is sitting there saying it doesn't matter if you got the mayor on your side or not," Wenzel says on the video, which was leaked to Global by a source Global has chosen not to identify.
"You need eight votes, said as long as you have eight votes, you can control whatever happens."
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Apart from directly supporting strategic candidates when Calgarians go to the polls in the fall, Wenzel also mentioned that a large contribution is also going to the Manning Centre, a right-wing think tank headed by founder and leader of the Reform Party, Preston Manning, in order to help bring about a more desirable result in the coming election.
"In order to bring Preston on board, 11 of us put up 100,000, so $1.1 million. So it's not like we haven't put up our money, you know, and we are going to be there to put up again and yet we are also supporting candidates," he said.
Any insinuation that members of council may be in the pockets of developers is just not credible, Nenshi told CBC after watching the video.
“I don't believe it for a second. I've worked with these people every single day and I don't think a single one of them is bought and paid for by anybody,” Nenshi told CBC, adding he's concerned because $1 million being raised by any group, when there is a $5,000 single donation limit in place, can have a significant impact on the city's politics.
“And I would suggest the recipient of those funds needs to think very, very hard about whether they're fulfilling their own mandate or enriching a small group of wealthy donors.”
The Calgary Herald reports that candidates for Wards 2, 4, 7, 9 and 11 have attended training at the Manning Centre but are told by a source that Ward 4 candidate Sean Chu has dropped out from the program.
The service being provided by the centre to the candidates, "adheres to the vision, mission and values of the centre, and is not directed by our donors," states an email issued by the Manning Centre and quoted by the Herald.
The relationship between developers and council, particularly with the mayor, have been tense the last few months.
The Canadian Home Builders’ Association - Calgary Region was booted off city committees in February after the body's president Charron Ungar said during a speech that there was effectively a "development freeze," in Calgary.
Nenshi re-instated the association in March but relations remain strained.
Some council members, as well as the city's head of planning Rollin Stanley, have said that Calgary is sinking under the financial weight of its own urban sprawl and that the city needs to move towards higher density and less suburban-style construction.
Developers. generally, strongly oppose that view.
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