Category Archives: politics

Klaszus: Calgary’s Council is Broken

Metro Calgary columnist Jeremy Klaszus on the dysfunction of Calgary’s City Council

In 2010, Nenshi ran on a platform of “better ideas.” His No. 1 better idea was secondary-suite reform.

Last December, for the umpteenth time, council blocked this effort — despite consensus among citizens and organizations that reform is long overdue.

Some on council were miffed when, ahead of the vote, Nenshi publicly asked business leaders to pressure five on-the-fence councillors to vote “Yes.”

“If I were to vote for secondary suites now, people would say, ‘Joe knuckled under to the mayor,’” Coun. Joe Magliocca told the Calgary Herald. “That just burns my ass.”

That’s unbelievably puerile on Magliocca’s part — try considering the good of Calgarians, pal, rather than your own image — but Nenshi’s approach of publicly pressuring his colleagues clearly backfired.

While Nenshi revels in adulation, he struggles to build crucial relationships and is notoriously poor at handling his critics on council and off. (Remember when he aggressively berated that AM770 caller last year?)

Yet for all his flaws, Nenshi has a strong vision for Calgary’s future. The same cannot be said of the cadre of councillors that often oppose the mayor — the likes of Magliocca, Ward Sutherland, Sean Chu and Jim Stevenson.

This bunch would eagerly take Calgary back to 1973 if they had their way. They can’t imagine a city where people bike to work and live in secondary suites.

Saskatoon’s Chamber of Commerce feels the same way about cycling

Because Nenshi embraces the future of cities, he’s a magnet for top talent to Calgary.

City chief planner Rollin Stanley and Calgary Public Library CEO Bill Ptacek have both said the mayor was a factor in their decisions to come here.

It benefits Calgary when Nenshi is celebrated nationally and internationally. Now his challenge is to build the right allies locally.

If Nenshi can do that, he might be able to salvage this council before it’s too late.

This is what I want my mayor to do, embrace the future of cities.  It’s what Don Atchison has never seem to be able to do, he has embraced the way Saskatoon used to be and wants us to be that.  In a war to attract top talent, Saskatoon will keep falling behind when we have councillors and a mayor that looks back to the past and not forward.

Brian Bowman’s political career comes to an end…

You might not be able to build Rome in one day, but you sure can destroy Camelot in a matter of hours.

At the start of this week, Mayor Brian Bowman marked his first 100 days in office by highlighting all his good deeds since he moved into Sam Katz’s old digs.

A mere two days later, Winnipeg’s rookie mayor was effectively called out as a liar by the most popular man in the city, True North Sports & Entertainment chairman Mark Chipman.

The owner of the Winnipeg Jets, who appears to enjoy publicity as much as a Siamese cat revels in an ice bath, stood up in front of reporters on Wednesday afternoon and declared he’s disappointed with Bowman, regretted publicly endorsing the privacy lawyer during the 2014 mayoral race and then delivered a political gut punch to the rookie mayor.

You know that massive True North development proposal for a pair of downtown properties south of Graham Avenue? You know, the one Bowman has been demanding to hear details about since the middle of January? The one that has caused a vicious public airing of accusations and counter-accusations between the mayor and CentreVenture, the city’s downtown development agency?

Well, according to Mark Chipman, Brian Bowman has known about the $400-million proposal to build three towers and a public square since November, when the new mayor attended a Jets game with provincial cabinet minister Kevin Chief.

Not only did Bowman know, but he and Chief were shown a promotional video about the project in the True North chairman’s office, which offers a view of the land in question.

This creates a massive credibility problem for Winnipeg’s new mayor, who told reporters in January he did not meet with Mark Chipman and did not know much about the proposal beyond “rumours and rumblings.”

The proposal in question involves the construction of residential housing, office space, retail stores, a public square, a new hotel and two if not three skywalks on a Manitoba Public Insurance-owned surface-parking lot at 225 Carlton St. – optioned to True North partners since 2012 – and the former Carlton Inn site at 220 Carlton St., owned by CentreVenture. If all goes well for True North, it will also involve a new headquarters for Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries.

For three weeks, Bowman has blasted CentreVenture for signing an option on the Carlton Inn site while another corporation, construction company Stuart Olson, was obligated to build a hotel on that land.

Bowman denounced this option as a secret deal. He excoriated CentreVenture staff and board members. He declared city hall would no longer tolerate backroom conversations about real estate, especially in the wake of the Winnipeg fire-paramedic station construction scandal, police headquarters scandal and other Katz-era real-estate scandals involving lands swaps, unappraised property purchases and suppressed land valuations.

After nearly three weeks of silence, the usually reserved Chipman gathered reporters into the bowels of MTS Centre – the Excalibur-like source of his power and popularity – and called out Bowman for failing to disclose what he knew about the “True North Square” proposal and when.

So no one looks that good in this and I suspect this has just ended Brian Bowman’s political career.  The corpse will serve to the end of the term but few survive these kind of shots he is taking because no one believes him anymore.

Nobody comes out of this sorry mess looking good. Chipman faces a conflict allegation, even if he did recuse himself from the CentreVenture board and quit shortly afterward. Bowman appears to be a disingenuous liar, doing whatever it takes to appear to be righteous in the face of previous city malfeasance. Stuart Olson looks like a bad-faith actor in its commitment to build a hotel for RBC Convention Centre. The convention centre board looks like a bunch of amateurs for failing to sign a construction contract with Stuart Olson.

A friend of mine calls municipal politics the “minor leagues”.  Another one calls it the ECHL of politics.  It feels that way at times.  There is so much bumbling and incompetence whether in Saskatoon or in Winnipeg that you just have to appreciate it for what it is.  A mess.

It’s just nice to read about it somewhere else and not here.

Is Putin winning the confrontation with NATO?

The Guardian thinks he is

It’s different for dictators or authoritarian regimes. Flick a switch, pull a lever, and things happen, often instantly. Which is one reason why the Putin-versus-Europe contest in Ukraine is so one-sided; why one side acts and the other struggles to react; why one side is consistently ahead of the curve, the other behind it – in the short-term, at least.

Six months after the Kremlin stunned Europe with its land grab in Ukraine, a Nato summit in Wales unveiled its ideas for shoring up security in eastern Europe. For more than two decades, the alliance had been beset by self-doubt. Having won the cold war, what was the point any more?

Putin gave the military planners at Mons and the armies of bureaucrats in Brussels a new lease of life. Nato’s core purpose – facing down and containing Russia – was newly legitimised.

The summit decided to put a spearhead force at brigade strength, more than 5,000 men, into Poland and the Baltics at short notice: small units of special forces within hours, bigger reinforcements within days, at the first hint of trouble.

That was six months ago. But since the September summit, the plan has atrophied, bogged down in endless circular discussions of who does what, when and where. Who pays for it? Where is the kit coming from? Will the Americans step up to relieve the Europeans? Who will be in command?

First of all, NATO did not win the cold war, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did for the exact reasons mentioned.  It won’t win this conflict unless the United States has a stronger foreign policy and from what we have seen from Barack Obama, it will have to come from the next President.

Conservatives are Attacking Palin. What changed?

She personalized the attacks on her and her family

In fairness, Palin was once a reform-minded governor who enjoyed an 88 percent approval rating. But something happened on the way to Des Moines. I suspect the most vicious attacks (especially the “Trig Truther” stuff) radicalized her and embittered her, but I also suspect she also took the easy way out. Instead of going back to Alaska after the 2008 defeat, boning up on the issues, continuing her work as governor, and forging a national political comeback, she cashed in with reality-TV shows and paid speaking gigs.

This isn’t an original or new observation, In fact, back in July 2009, I wrote: “The tragedy of Sarah Palin’s recent press conference announcing her resignation as governor of Alaska flows from the sense that so much potential has been wasted.”

The trouble with taking the easy way out is that it doesn’t last forever. The people who truly last in this business don’t rely on shortcuts or good looks or gimmicks; they survive on work ethic, wit, and intellect. (That’s why, no matter how grandiose he gets, Newt Gingrich will always have a gig. Newt will always be interesting, because he will always have something to say—something to contribute.)

I had dinner a couple of months ago with a politician of a different political philosophy than I.  This was a big part of our talk.  Governments and politicians that can engage with their critics are far more successful in the long term (think Peter Lougheed or a Bill Davis) than those that treat all criticism as a personal attack that must be defeated.

Of course more troubling are the personal attacks, even if they have a hint of accuracy.  What do you do about them?   Some can shrug them off while others are changed by them.  Palin was changed by them.  I was never a fan but I agree that instead of fixing her flaws, she has doubled down on them, something that too many politicians do.