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Controversial fundraising lunch for Mayor Naheed Nenshi scrubbed over ‘mischaracterization’

WATCH: Mayor Naheed Nanshi's campaign fundraiser was cancelled on Monday. The event was to be hosted by Kasian, a prominent Calgary architecture company. Gary Bobrovitz reports.

A re-election fundraiser for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has been abruptly cancelled after raising eyebrows among some members of city council over how it could be perceived.

Kasian Architecture vice president Bill Chomic had organized an event Wednesday in which invited participants were asked to pony up to $5,000 for a two-hour lunch with Nenshi, although “any amount over $2,000 would be appreciated,” the invitation stated.

In a statement issued late Monday afternoon, Kasian and the Nenshi campaign team issued a statement that they had made a joint decision to cancel the fundraiser “due to mischaracterization about this event and our host.”

READ MORE: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi gets a pay cut, other recommendations overturned

Coun. Sean Chu said the perception that if you pay a fee you can have access to the mayor, looks bad.

“It says that you have an exclusive time with this person — together in private — that looks bad,” Chu said.

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Coun. Andre Chabot is one of the candidates running against Nenshi for mayor, and was also critical of the fundraising campaign.

“I’m not against the idea of giving $5,000 donations, but to advocate against it and then actively promote it is kind of disingenuous,” Chabot said.

Nenshi said he’s been calling for changes to campaign financing rules since before becoming mayor. He said he operates under a much more stringent set of rules than the law actually allows.

READ MORE: Calgary council wants to see budget with 0 to 2% tax hike in November

The mayor bristled at the suggestion that the lunch is is a cash-for-access event.

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“That’s an absolutely ridiculous and baseless statement,” Nenshi said.

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“Let’s be honest here, that’s so dumb, I can’t even imagine people wanting to go there because there has never been a mayor more accessible than this one.”

The mayor also cited interactions with 10,000 Calgarians this past weekend, none of whom paid a cent to listen to him.

“And certainly, but let’s see, this weekend I probably interacted — without a word of an exaggeration, because I was at a bunch of very large Eid events — approximately 10,000 Calgarians, none of whom paid a cent to hear me speak or to talk to me about it. So it is kind of ridiculous.

“And lord, if we made our decisions about ethics and rules based on what people say on Twitter on a Monday morning, we’d be in a bad world.”

The full statement cancelling the event is below.

“Due to the mischaracterization about this event and our host, the Nenshi campaign and Kasian have jointly decided to cancel this event,” read a statement from the mayor’s office. “The campaign very much appreciated the willingness of Kasian to support the Nenshi campaign and is disappointed about the treatment Kasian has received in its efforts to support the democratic process. The Nenshi campaign will continue to participate in fundraising and free public events in the run up to the election.”

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— With files from Global’s Gary Bobrovitz and NewsTalk 770’s Haley Jarmain.

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