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Brett Wilson Hosts Calgary's $52 Million Tax Surplus Debate

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BRETT WILSON CALGARY
Brett Wilson hosts Calgary's $52 million tax surplus debate at Devonian Gardens, Calgary. (The Huffington Post Alberta) | The Huffington Post Alberta

Dragon's Den star Brett Wilson brought his cut-throat questions and promise of entertainment to a city hall matter on Tuesday.

Seated with five aldermen, and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Wilson heard pitches from the council members on how the city should spend a $52 million tax surplus.

With more than 200 people dropping in for the lunch-hour debate at Devonian Gardens in the downtown core, Wilson demanded clear answers, calling out participants by saying things like, "That was a very political speech with no answer."

"Does this go on at every council meeting?" asked Wilson when he pressed aldermen for alternatives to their proposals.

"They're all politicians.

"Getting a straight answer out of these guys is usually pretty hard, so in this format I think we did a pretty good job."

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Aldermen took the Dragon's Den-like tongue lashings in stride and didn't shy away from cracking jokes on their own behalf.

When asked about what he thought of one of the ideas floated about, which would see the money go back to taxpayers, Wilson equaled the idea to Ralph Bucks -- money given back to Albertans during the reign of former Premier Ralph Klein -- something he called, "The stupidest use of capital that our province has ever used."

"I'd rather see the money back into our city than buy coffee."

Some aldermen refused to participate in the debate, calling it a circus or a gimmick with no real purpose. Wilson didn't have kind words for those politicians.

"They should be spanked or resign, one of the other, or maybe go to the Senate," he said.

Whether it was a gimmick or not, spectator Ros Doi thought the debate was a good idea.

"Either way, it got people out and more people are informed as a result," she said.

"We tried to keep it short, keep it tight and keep it entertaining, because if it's not entertaining nobody watches," Wilson told The Huffignton Post Alberta.

The reality-TV inspired debate is a way of getting Calgarians' input on how to spend a $52 million tax surplus.

The city launched a website www.calgary.ca/52million where Calgarians can vote for their preferred option, call the city, or people can engage in mall events across Calgary to share their feedback.

Nenshi emphasized that the city hasn't made their pick yet, and encouraged Calgarians to participate.

"I have never been more proud, as I listen to this kind of dialogue and conversation, at the fact that I choose to call Calgary, and always will call Calgary, home," Wilson said.

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