CALGARY- It is a rare glimpse into some of the backroom politics going on in Calgary, ahead of October’s municipal election.
Global News has obtained a recording of a November meeting hosted by Cal Wenzel, founder of Shane Homes. In the video, Wenzel presents a plan to defeat select members of city council who are perceived to be anti-development.
Some in the housing industry have been clashing with the city over growth and who should be responsible for infrastructure.
In the video, Cal Wenzel tells the group, apparently made up of about 150 industry leaders, that while Mayor Nenshi is unbeatable, that may not be the case for other council members.
“Dimitri asked me the question a little earlier on, ‘Can anyone beat Nenshi?’ And I said ‘no, likely not’. I am not sure what he’s hoping for – I don’t think he can and I had in my notes here, ‘I don’t think he is beatable. But you know when I talked to [former mayor] Dave Bronconnier, Dave is sitting there saying, ‘it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the mayor on your side or not. You need eight votes. As long as you have eight votes you can control whatever happens.’
“So for whatever and however, we have to ensure that we end up with the eight votes.”
Wenzel runs through a list of councillors he approves of and says he is supporting with campaign donations including Ward 12 Councillor Shane Keating, Ward 13 Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart, and Ward 14 Councillor Peter Demong. He also names those he does not support or is unsure of.
“One time where [Ward 6 councillor Richard] Pootmans was kind of guided as to maybe vote for us, when it comes up he forgot to ask any questions and forgot to vote the right way.”
Wenzel claims millions of dollars a year are at stake for developers.
“Unless we get somebody in there that is you know really going to be on our side, rather than the dark side you know, we are talking another four years after next October.”
Preston Manning’s name is also mentioned at one point in the tape. Wenzel talks about a big donation from members of his group to the right-wing think tank founded by the former opposition leader.
“…in order to bring Preston on board, 11 of us put up $100 thousand, so a million-one, so it’s not like we haven’t put up our money and we are going to be there to put up again, and we are also supporting candidates.”
After seeing the tape, political analyst Duane Bratt called the recording ‘a smoking gun.’
“It is clear there is an expectation from the developers that you will do our bidding,” says Bratt. “And there will be no independence, we will tell you how to vote.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi says the way the group is apparently going about its agenda for change is especially revealing.
“When you see this live, captured on tape in this way, it’s very distasteful,” Nenshi says. “And as viewers watch this, I think they will agree this is shadowy, weird and unpleasant.
“I have no idea what this small group of extremely wealthy individuals is so mad about. Our housing starts are really healthy. They all admit the industry is extremely profitable.”
Nenshi is now calling for an investigation into possible wrong-doing based on what he’s seen in the video.
Cal Wenzel has declined Global News’ repeated requests for comment until he sees the video.
Former mayor Dave Bronconnier has denied through his lawyer that he ever gave any advice to Wenzel or is in any way associated with his group.
Preston Manning is out of the country. The Manning Centre is aware of the video and is considering its response.