A top Calgary homebuilder who was caught on video mapping out a plan to take control of City Hall through extensive fundraising for industry-friendly candidates denies contravening any election laws or receiving any favours.
Cal Wenzel, founder of Shane Homes Ltd., told reporters on Wednesday that while he is shown in the video using some "unfortunate phrases," he hasn't requested or received special treatment from council members. He said he has been politically active in legitimate fundraising and support for "pro-business" candidates.
"I've made no secret I haven't been happy with the governance we've been getting in Calgary for some time," Mr. Wenzel said. "But an attempt to buy a council? Buy an election? That's absolutely ridiculous."
A covertly recorded video obtained by Global News from an unnamed source and released this week shows Mr. Wenzel bragging to an industry gathering that he has helped amass $1.1-million ($100,000 from each of 11 people) to sink into The Manning Centre. The right-wing think tank is offering training for "market-oriented" candidates to prepare for October's civic election. Mr. Wenzel also talks about wielding "control" at council if he can collect eight votes and that some council members have already been "looked after."
The Manning Centre, which was created by Reform Party founder Preston Manning, has been trying to drum up interest in its "municipal governance project" being piloted in Calgary, but as incoming chairman and former Conservative MP Chuck Strahl said this week, not this way.
The Calgary District and Labour Council is considering filing a formal complaint of possible election law infractions, the only way to spur an investigation. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is also concerned that both federal tax and provincial election laws have been broken and may file a compaint.
He told CBC radio on Wednesday that he was not sure why industry members, who live in a world of "enormous wealth" and "Ferraris and private jets" are so mad.
Mr. Wenzel said he is concerned about transparency at City Hall, particularly in light of "closed, high-priced political fundraisers." That's a thinly veiled swipe at Mr. Nenshi, who recently held a $450 per person fundraiser for his mayoral re-election bid that was closed to the media.
The mayor and the home building industry have been at odds over the issue of suburban sprawl.