ALBERTA
12/19/2013 06:04 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 01:38 EST

Calgary's Cal Wenzel And Naheed Nenshi: HuffPost Alberta's Feud Of The Year

Shame Homes

Many would argue he is right. Some even hope he succeeds.

Like the title character in "The Godfather", many may not necessarily agree with his tactics but more than a few cheer his style of getting things done.

To be clear, Cal Wenzel, founder of the ubiquitous Shane Homes and de facto spokesman for Calgary homebuilders, is not running an underground syndicate that dictates what happens in the city and that exacts immediate action when challenged.

But after Wenzel's statements this year, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi drew a direct comparison between the builder and the Don of the film classics.

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Alberta Villains

Wenzel has gone about waging a very personal fight against Nenshi, culminating with Wenzel suing the mayor for defamation to the tune of six million dollars.

The relationship between Nenshi and the city's homebuilders has been acrimonious from the beginning. But that strained connection took on the dynamic of a Hollywood tale when this happened...

Video From Global Calgary

In the above video -- filmed secretly during a meeting of the who's who of Calgary's homebuilders and developers -- Wenzel is seen holding court pitching a plan to fund election campaigns that would reshape city council and neuter Nenshi's power.

After all, Nenshi is only one vote in a council of 15, he tells the audience.

All that they have to do, Wenzel says, is help get eight development-friendly councillors elected, and they'll achieve the change they want to see in city hall.

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Calgary Developers Scandal

In the video, which was leaked to the media this spring, Wenzel rallies the troops by narrating how he donated $5,000 (the maximum amount allowed) in 2010 to unseat one of the councillors from the "Dark Side" -- how he refers to the politicians who don't tow the homebuilders' line.

He goes on to detail how his company's trucks helped the campaign and how he and 10 others were donating $1.1 million to the Manning Centre for the 2013 vote, money that would be spent helping development-friendly candidates get to city hall.

And, although he doesn't explain how, he says he's "taken care of" some council members, while others who won't cooperate should be made to fail in their election hopes.

And this is when Nenshi goes ballistic.

Weeks before this fall's municipal election -- which Nenshi won in a landslide -- the mayor accused the industry patriarch of breaking election laws.

The mayor reasons that if Wenzel already donated $5,000 to the candidate, the fact that company trucks and employees were out working for that campaign puts Wenzel's political contribution above the legal limit.

This is the point when Wenzel goes ballistic.

Right after Nenshi's crushing victory, Wenzel sues the mayor for $6 million. Wenzel claims Nenshi defamed him when he accused him of breaking the law.

Nenshi has been upfront about his dislike of urban sprawl and Calgary's infatuation with suburbia and he's doing everything he can to halt the outwardly growth of the city. In the process, homebuilders are finding it hard to start new communities and many residents in the outlying areas of the city feel they're being penalized for living in the fringes, where it's still affordable for families.

But seeing a group of wealthy men discussing how they're going to pump big money to reshape the makeup of city council doesn't sit well with a democracy-loving public.

To hear Wenzel vow to find the "coward' responsible for taping the meeting and releasing it to the media is disturbing to most.

And then to sue when things don't go his way, launching a legal action that could saddle the taxpayers with big legal fees?

And, as Nenshi pointed out, the lawsuit can also be construed as a shot across the bow of future politicians who dare take on the city's homebuilders.

Queue the soundtrack...

It’s like joining a dodgeball league and being annoyed when you get hit by a few balls. Did Wenzel really think he could play backroom politics and not ruffle a few feathers?"

- Mike Morrison

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