Calgarians won’t fall for the “shadowy tactics” being used by a group calling for a handful of councillors and the mayor to be voted out in the next election, Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Ward 7 Councillor Druh Farrell said Tuesday.
They’re both calling on the group Save Calgary, a newly-formed political action committee, to release a list of its donors and provide more specific reasons why they’ve given Nenshi and four other councillors a “failing grade.”
“It’s a bit like shadow boxing because they haven’t identified themselves,” said Druh Farrell about the group.
LISTEN: Druh Farrell says Save Calgary highlights issues with municipal campaign finance rules
Save Calgary contends “it’s just a group of everyday Calgarians who are concerned with the direction council is taking” and that it’s time for some “fresh blood.” But it’s refused to release its list of donors until after the election, claiming some contributors are concerned about “retaliation.”
“I think we’ve seen from the mayor sometimes that he can be a bit vindictive with his comments about Uber, or his unwillingness to even sit down with the commissioner of the NHL about the arena issue,” said Haydn Place. “I think there is reason to believe that there will be retaliation.”
Place is also the director of Alberta Can’t Wait, an organization that says it’s dedicated to forging “a small ‘c’ conservative path forward for Alberta.”
LISTEN: Save Calgary on why it’s calling for four city councillors and Mayor Naheed Nenshi to be voted out of office
Druh Farrell said concerns about retribution are “absurd” and is calling on the group to release donor information.
“Elections are about debate and hopefully we keep it respectful and honest, but when you’re debating with a shadow organization that works in secret, it’s hard to know how to address it,” she said, adding she’s not afraid to discuss her track record on issues that matter to Calgarians.
“Calgarians are much smarter than that, they’re going to see right through these shadowy tactics,” Nenshi adds.
Place said Tuesday that Save Calgary does not plan to endorse a slate of candidates, but said it is concerned with councillors’ voting records on issues like small business taxation, property taxation and “pet projects that city council seems to pursue at the expense of ordinary Calgarians.”
Political analyst Duane Bratt said those issues are legitimate, but Farrell has called the group “cowardly” and suggested they should speak up about specific issues they are concerned about.
“I’ve voted against a number of things that would generate taxes and really expensive items, but they don’t talk about those things,” she said.
Bratt told News Talk 770 he’s surprised there haven’t been more political action committees (PACs), like Save Calgary, aimed at influencing the direction of elections in Alberta.
“A lot of the innovations in U.S. politics and U.S. campaigns meld into Canada and Alberta, but we’ve seen PACs in the U.S. since the 1980s,” he explained.
Bratt said despite changes at the provincial level when it comes to campaign finance laws, groups formed around municipal election issues are not required to release any financial information.
Farrell said the recent advertisements from Save Calgary have highlighted the problems with Alberta’s municipal campaign financing laws, adding she has repeatedly advocated to change the rules, with no success.
“We cannot continue to go forward with the lack of rules that we’ve been governing ourselves,” she said. “We need the province to step in and bring in rules that are defensible and transparent and provide more of a level playing field for candidates.”
WATCH BELOW: Exclusive: Cal Wenzel sizes up city council
Bratt said he believes the same group of developers who tried to influence the election in 2013 is likely behind Save Calgary. He pointed out that all of the people who’ve been targeted are “left-leaning councillors.”
He said he’s not sure what the impact will be on the 2017 election, but points out that the 2013 group had “spent a lot of money to remove Druh Farrell and Brian Pincott from office and failed.”
Farrell said in 2013, Ward 7 constituents were offended by that group’s efforts to influence the election.
“I can’t imagine that they would gravitate toward that kind of campaigning again.”
LISTEN: Rob Breakenridge chats with Druh Farrell about who Save Calgary is.