What started off as an angry swell from politicians and residents, after a leaked video showed a prominent home builder explaining how big money was being spent to make council more development-friendly, now includes unions and the industry itself.
“We need to look and investigate and to have some transparency around this, absolutely,” Alexander Shevalier, president of the Calgary and District Labour Council, told Global Calgary.
“We have a [campaign donation] limit and the limit needs to be respected.”
Shevalier's demand echoes Mayor Naheed Nenshi's call earlier this week for an investigation into the behaviour of home builders surrounding election donation practices.
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Accusations that Calgary home builders are taking it upon themselves to shape council to make members more development-friendly, and allegations they might have broken tax and election laws during the last municipal election, as well as the coming one this fall, have started to fester, after a hidden camera video was leaked to Global Calgary earlier this week.
In the video, Shane Homes founder and CEO Cal Wenzel is seen talking to a large group of industry members and explains how development-friendly council members have been "looked after," while other ones need to be removed in the coming ballot.
Wenzel also goes on to name the "friendly" aldermen and the ones that are on "the dark side" by name.
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He also explains how he and 10 other home builders have each donated $100,000 to the Manning Centre, so that they can hire a staffer to help home builder-backed candidates get elected. He also says that former Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier explained that home builders only need to have eight friendly aldermen in council to exact change.
Jim Lightbody, the University of Alberta's political science department chair, told CBC Calgary he wasn't surprised by the admissions in the video.
“The only thing that was unusual about the event in Calgary was that they were caught,” he said, adding rules governing municipal elections are softer in Alberta compared to anywhere else in Canada.
"The province does not take any municipality very seriously."
The issue has become so heated that even local branches of the the Canadian Home Builders Association and the Urban Development Institute (UDI) have both tried to distance themselves from that kind of thinking, the Calgary Herald reported.
Both groups explained home builders must maintain non-partisan stances, the Herald reported, adding the UDI stated it has a “positive working relationship” with council and city administration.
“We encourage our members to continue to strive for great development in Calgary and to evaluate for themselves their involvement in the political process,” the UDI statement reads.
“We further encourage that any actions of our members be mindful of and maintain our industry reputation as a fair and honest knowledge-broker and key stakeholder in sustainable growth in Calgary.”
There are also calls to investigate the Manning Centre - which was established and is run by founder and leader of the now-defunct Reform Party, Preston Manning - and it's possible involvement in the alleged plot.
Being a non-profit and a charity, it seems like a conflict of interest for the centre to be hired on by the home builders to get their candidates elected, Nenshi has said.