A motion to get the ball rolling on setting a 12-year term limit for Calgary city council members and to give voters the power of recall was defeated by a 9-6 vote at a meeting on Monday. But conversation surrounding the motion exposed hurt feelings and a sense of brewing “toxicity.”
The motion, proposed by Coun. Joe Magliocca, would have set a three-term limit for members of council. An amendment approved by the group would have made the policy retroactive to 2013, the year when city council started serving four-year terms.
In the days leading up to the vote, Magliocca had made comments to the Calgary Sun describing long-serving Coun. Ray Jones as “killing time,” and telling Global News some councillors lean toward pushing pet projects after spending a considerable amount of time in office.
WATCH: Calgary city council asked to consider term limits and recall legislation
“I do find some of the statements made in the media to be incredibly insulting,” Coun. Druh Farrell said Monday. “I think that making yourself look good by making others look bad isn’t a good political strategy and it’s certainly not helpful around a table where we are non-partisan.”
Coun. Shane Keating told his colleagues he was in favour of having a broader conversation on the topic of electoral reform, including exploring whether a preferential ballot would ensure those sent to chambers truly had the support of the majority in a ward. However, he also expressed dismay at the tenor of the discourse leading up to the vote.
“My growing fear — and I hinted at it a little bit this morning — is that there seems to be a bit of toxicity brewing within this council,” Keating said. “We seem to be getting to the point where it’s much easier to make offhanded statements.
“So far, in the first three months, I’d have to say I’ve aged an awful lot because every time I come here, I have to put up with stuff like this.”
Coun. Jeromy Farkas raised the ire of some of his colleagues during the conversation as he described his first three months on council as “the best job” he had ever had.
“I find that it’s very comfortable now that I’ve got in here,” Farkas said. “The temptation is great around issues like the transition allowance, the pension offered to elected officials, our catered lunches and dinners, those sort of things.
“I literally expected to spend 90 per cent of my time out in the community, which just completely shocks me, with the amount of time we spend here in a degree of groupthink.”
“Please do not ever comment on my behalf that it’s cozy or comfortable or that I practice groupthink,” retorted fellow first-term Coun. Jyoti Gondek, visibly upset with Farkas’ comments. “I’m offended by your remarks you continually make publicly.”
“When that kind of comment gets made, it tarnishes or impugns the reputation of those of us that are dedicated to public service,” Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart said. “In my view, I would ask you to apologize.”
Farkas refused to apologize.
“I stand by what I said,” Farkas told reporters outside council chambers. “Elected office shouldn’t be a career; it should be a service.”
While the motion on term limits and recall was rejected, a further motion to ask the province for permission to require those on council seeking to run for MLA or MP to resign their seat was approved.