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Calgary mayor cancels Southwest Transitway open houses amid alleged death threat, bullying

Click to play video 'Calgary Mayor halts future meetings for Southwest Transitway' Calgary Mayor halts future meetings for Southwest Transitway
WATCH ABOVE: The public discourse over a southwest transitway reached a boiling point and in response the mayor is halting all future meetings. At several public engagement open houses concerned residents packed the meetings and city employees say they became the targets of bullying, intimidation and abuse. Jill Croteau reports – Feb 25, 2016

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has cancelled all future face-to-face engagement meetings on the controversial Southwest Transitway project after a meeting Tuesday night turned ugly.

“There was yelling, there was swearing, there was pushing and shoving,” Nenshi said of the Woodcreek Community Association meeting.

“There were incidents of physical assault on City of Calgary staff. There were threats of violence, and yes, there was a death threat.”

Nenshi called it “unCalgarian” and referred to an October meeting at which a city employee was assaulted by a community member, “including ripping at her clothing, pulling off her name tag, and yelling insulting comments at her.”

WATCH: Calgary Mayor Nenshi says his staff was threatened at a meeting on the Southwest Transitway project.

Click to play video 'Calgary mayor Nenshi says his staff was threatened at meeting' Calgary mayor Nenshi says his staff was threatened at meeting
Calgary mayor Nenshi says his staff was threatened at meeting – Feb 24, 2016

The mayor claimed for months a group of Calgary citizens called “Ready to Engage!” has been spreading “misinformation” about the project, which he tolerated until now.

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READ MORE: Concerned Calgarians rally against bus rapid transit project

“I will not tolerate threats, violence, or intimidation against other citizens or against my colleagues at the City of Calgary,” he said. “Public engagement needs to be a safe space for citizens—a place where anyone can feel free to ask questions without being intimidated and it must be a safe workplace for dedicated public servants. I am deeply disappointed with what happened last night.”

Ready to Engage! member Rick Donkers said his group wasn’t doing anything wrong, and shouldn’t be portrayed that way by the mayor.

“This wasn’t about Ready to Engage doing anything … this is about the city trying to intimidate citizens who are merely doing their democratic right to ask questions,” he said. “It’s the citizens of Calgary who are asking these questions, and now we’re being portrayed as thugs?  It’s reprehensible.”

Watch below: Rick Donkers from Ready to Engage! speaks to media after Mayor Nenshi said city staff were the subject of verbal assaults at an open house on the proposed Southwest Transitway.

Click to play video 'City is using ‘banana republic tactics’: Ready to Engage!' City is using ‘banana republic tactics’: Ready to Engage!
City is using ‘banana republic tactics’: Ready to Engage! – Feb 24, 2016

The transitway project on 14 Street S.W. is already approved and funded, and construction could start this year. The meetings were meant to fine tune its design.

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Nenshi said public engagement will continue, but only through online feedback systems and virtual town halls.

Watch below: Ward 11 city councillor Brian Bincott describes ‘ one of the worst meetings he’s been to’

Click to play video 'Councillor Brian Pincott responds to southwest transitway ‘bullying’' Councillor Brian Pincott responds to southwest transitway ‘bullying’
Councillor Brian Pincott responds to southwest transitway ‘bullying’ – Feb 24, 2016