CALGARY – The founder of Shane Homes, Cal Wenzel, is defending himself against allegations he was involved in a plan to take control of city council in the upcoming October civic election.
In a statement he read at the start of a news conference on Wednesday, Wenzel said the allegation of a plot to control city council was ‘wrong and hurtful’ and can’t go unchallenged.
“I have made no secret I haven’t been happy about the governance we’ve been getting in Calgary for some time, but an attempt to buy a council? Buy an election? That’s absolutely ridiculous!” adds Wenzel. “I have never requested or received a favour from any alderman in the city of Calgary in the history of my company.”
On a secretly recorded video of an industry meeting last November, and obtained by Global News from an anonymous source, Wenzel runs through a list of the 14 city councilors. He appears to tell those at the meeting who he supports and who he doesn’t.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Wenzel lashed out at person who recorded the video, and said he is close to finding him or her.
“It’s one of the most cowardly things I’ve ever seen done. I mean, this was a private meeting and a hundred people were invited. I honestly can’t say how or why anyone would do that,” says Wenzel.
When asked by Global Calgary reporter Doug Vaessen if he was sorry about what was said on the tape, Wenzel replied “no”.
The home builder said in return for donations to civic candidates, he expects nothing more than ‘common sense decisions at council.’
In his statement, Wenzel admitted he is not happy with the city’s push to contain urban sprawl.
“Limiting suburban development restricts growth of single-family homes, and at a recent CHMC poll, 63 per cent of the people had suggested they wanted to own a single-family home,” says Wenzel. “That is market driven and we seem to be under a social engineering program.”
Wenzel on the Manning Centre
Wenzel says former opposition leader Preston Manning was at the developer meeting in November to make a presentation on the Manning Centre, a right-wing think tank based in Calgary that has a program to train civic election candidates.
On the secretly taped recording of the meeting, Wenzel refers to $1,100,000 donation given to the centre from developers.
During Wednesday’s news conference, Wenzel confirmed 11 developers each donated $100,000 . He said the money was not specifically designated for the centre’s municipal governance program.
“I am a supporter of the Manning Centre,” says Wenzel. “I was asked to participate and I agree with their mandate- that is to train candidates to be politicians in the three levels of government, not just civic. We are a believer in the democratic process, and I believe the Manning Centre will make a positive influence in our society looking down the road.”
Wenzel said the donation was no secret.
“The Manning Centre is very open with any of the lectures they have and anything like that,” said Wenzel. “All you have to do is go look at the donor wall to see who’s involved.”
Cal Wenzel’s complete statement:
“It’s been a difficult couple of days for me, a very difficult day watching my integrity dragged through the mud in a manner I’ve never experienced before. All a person has in life is their reputation, and I’ve spent 69 years building that.
The allegations that have been cast at me in the past couple of days are so wrong, so hurtful, they can’t go unchallenged.
Yes, there was a meeting of Calgarians discussing how to get involved in the political process. 100 people were there at the Jayman Theatre. Yes, there was a discussion among the group about politicians who are smart and thoughtful and understand the importance of a private enterprise to the growth of our city… that is participation in the democratic process.
I have made no secret- I haven’t been happy about the governance we’ve been getting in Calgary for some time. But an attempt to buy a council, buy an election, that’s absolutely ridiculous.
That insults every one of us who hold our integrity near and dear, and especially insults councillors.
I have never requested, or received, a favour from any alderman in the city of Calgary in the history of my company.
I am a supporter of the Manning Centre, because I was invited to participate and I agree with their mandate – that is to train candidates to be politicians in the three levels of government, not just civic. They just completed their largest conference ever in Ottawa. We are a believer in the democratic process, and I believe that the Manning Centre will make a positive influence in our society looking down the road.
The aldermen I support personally, are the ones who are business-minded and exhibit common sense.
My philosophy is that councillors should be as informed as they can, before voting on any issue, asking questions and not bowing to internal pressure. I am weary about hearing of transparency, especially when I hear about closed high-priced political fundraisers. I have never been to a fundraiser that was closed to the media. I am transparent when I say who I will and won’t support.
As I said, I have concerns over how Calgary city hall is run, and I believe there is room for a better grade of democracy.
I am a committed Calgarian who worked hard to build this community. At Shane Homes, we build any kind of home in any part of the city. But limiting suburban development restricts growth of single-family homes, and at a recent CHMC poll 63 per cent of the people had suggested they wanted to own a single-family home. That is market driven – yet we seem to be under a social engineering program.
It has been stated that new home sales have been maintained the last year, and that is true, but the supply is tightening and by the latter part 2014 it will be extremely tight. The implications of shorting a supply is that the prices increase and the end result makes housing totally unaffordable for anyone moving to the city. So obviously we are very concerned about that.
Yes, there were some unfortunate phrases used in the recording that was given to the media, and I am here today to bring some clarity to that.