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Mayor, councillor fire back against think-tank following secret tape controversy

CALGARY- The mayor and a longtime city councillor have strong words for a political think-tank, following the release of a controversial video uncovered by Global News.

In the secretly-taped footage, Shane Homes’ founder Cal Wenzel talks to the group about who in city council he supports, and names Ward 13 Councillor Diane Colley-Urquhart as someone developers should support. He also noted his group has given $1.1 million in donations to the Manning Centre to bring them on board.

On Thursday afternoon, she and Mayor Naheed Nenshi held a news conference to further clarify her role with centre’s Municipal Governance Project, and a conversation she had with project director Dimitri Pantazopoulous three weeks ago.

“He asked me about my commitment, and that the industry were concerned about the fact that I wasn’t supporting them to the extent that I perhaps had in previous years,” Colley-Urquhart says. “I was left with the impression that I wasn’t conservative enough, that I’d lost my way in the last year and a half, and was I serious about running [again].”
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After speaking about the meeting to reporters on Wednesday, Colley-Urquhart says Pantazopoulous called her, concerned she had gone public about the meeting.

“[He said] this was a confidential conversation, you shouldn’t have said this, you’ve misconstrued this, that wasn’t the intent, tried to straighten out my thinking and then said ‘well now that I know where you’re going with this, now I know what to do.’ [Those were] his comments.”

Colley-Urquhart says she told him she wasn’t accountable to the Manning Centre, to deal with the media himself, then hung up.

In a statement released Thursday evening, Pantazopoulous says:

“Diane’s characterization of our conversation is incorrect.  We had a very positive meeting where we discussed various civic issues and we left on very positive terms.  I am puzzled at what might have changed between then and now.  In point of fact, no candidate from her ward is receiving or has received any training from the Manning Centre.”

WATCH: Secretly taped video of Cal Wenzel’s meeting with developers

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Still, Mayor Nenshi has thrown his support behind the councillor, and renewed his concerns that the Manning Centre may not be what it claims to be.

“I really hope that Preston Manning will come himself and look at what’s going on in the centre that bears his name. If in fact what we’ve heard is true—and I have no reason to believe it’s not true—I would expect that Mr. Manning would realize that this is far, far beyond promoting conservative mindsets in Canadian politics,” says Nenshi. “It’s gotten beyond the boundaries of ethics, the boundaries of morality, and I would suggest as a non-profit organization, as a charity, we need to look very closely at the legality of what is happening here as well.”

The mayor adds that if people have a problem with him, they should focus their efforts on him.

“Don’t take it out on other aldermen, not because of their own merits, but because you don’t like me.”

Nenshi also has advice for those concerned about the controversy that’s erupted since the tape surfaced.

“The Manning Centre is worried that their integrity is being questioned. Mr. Wenzel is worried that his ethics are being questioned. If you don’t want your ethics to be questioned, don’t say and do ethically questionable things.

“If you operate in a way that’s not ethical…then you’d better face the consequences.”

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Colley-Urquhart has her own warning.

“I think the lesson to be learned here, is that in this day of social media, what you say in private is never private.”

Nenshi is calling for an investigation into developers’ campaign contributions to the Manning Centre.

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