CALGARY- Former opposition leader Preston Manning is finally breaking his silence about a controversial meeting between Calgary developers.
The meeting was secretly taped last November and obtained by Global News. It shows Cal Wenzel, the founder of Shane Homes, outlining an election plan to oust city councillors who are perceived to be anti-development.
Wenzel’s plan included help from the Manning Centre’s program to train civic candidates.
On Friday, Manning denied any wrongdoing in accepting a large donation from developers for the training program, and says he welcomes an investigation to clear the air.
“Does anybody think we haven’t thought this through? We’ve been doing this for seven or eight years,” Manning told Global News. “I’ve sat in the federal parliament that passes the tax laws and Industry Canada regulations that governs what’s charitable and what’s not.
“Does anyone think it never occurred to us? You know… really.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi called for an investigation after the tape was shown on Global and says he still wants one, even if he has to start the process himself.
“There are a lot open questions,” he says. “I am actually quite surprised that no one has actually called the Canada Revenue Agency, or the CRA hasn’t themselves started an investigation.
“I am busy being a mayor, but if it is going to take a letter from me to the Charities Directorate of the CRA to look into these things, then I am happy to write the letter.”
Political analysts say that might not be enough.
“There appears to be a partnership—either tacit or not—between the Manning Centre, the homebuilders and a number of different political candidates,” says Mount Royal political scientist Duane Bratt.
He adds that all candidates should declare who is supporting them, and by how much, prior to the fall election.
The Manning Centre recently commissioned a survey to understand where they stand on various municipal issues. You can read the full report here.