Bell: Calgary rezoning probe of Gondek, city hall brass moving forward

Couns. Sonya Sharp, Dan McLean and Andre Chabot want answers

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Let’s get ready to rumble.

The fighters are walking to the ring.

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There are three councillors who have summoned up their courage and are sticking their neck out.

On Tuesday, the Three Muckraking Musketeers, city hall politicians by the name of Sonya Sharp, Dan McLean and Andre Chabot are going to formally tell the city auditor where they want this story to go.

The city auditor oversees the city hall whistleblower program and the three councillors want answers.

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They want an investigation. They want the citywide rezoning file to get the Sherlock Holmes treatment.

When the dust settles they want the straight goods.

No stickhandling, no dipsy-doodling. No word salad, thank you very much.

Just the truth. Sooner rather than later.

Have to get McLean in right now.

“If the mayor or anybody from administration misled us on purpose then what would be the normal protocol? Would people be fired? Would people have to resign? This is a pretty damn big deal.”

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Were Calgarians and members of city council misled when they were told they didn’t have to vote Yes on citywide rezoning to score the $228.5 million Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and company coughed up for the city of Calgary?

In reality, if city council voted No would they have had to give Trudeau back some or all of the $228.5 million?

It’s an amount of dough the Trudeau government says is an “incentive” to do what they think is the right thing for cities to do.

Here’s McLean again.

“Are councillors acting in the best interests of their community, their neighbourhood, their ward? Or are we now acting in the best interest of the federal government and their ideology?”

McLean says the rules say the mayor and council have to be open to persuasion from the public.

What if someone on council thought a Yes vote was needed to cash Trudeau’s cheque? Could that belief lead someone to a Yes?

Almost everybody believes the city needed to vote Yes on citywide rezoning, getting those four units on a lot, because Trudeau’s housing sidekick Sean Fraser seemed to make it clear in a letter and then in a do-it-or-else tweet in response to a Calgary article saying cash from Ottawa might not need a Yes vote on rezoning.

Someone has to explain what that was all about.

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Other federal Liberals have talked the same way, to the point where Evan Spencer, a southeast city councillor seen as a maybe Yes or a maybe No vote, said he could see how Trudeau’s people would talk the way they do but “boy, it sure doesn’t help us here.”

Spencer ended up voting Yes to citywide rezoning.

Still, Mayor Jyoti Gondek and the city hall movers and shakers sing from the same songsheet.

Their tune?

There is no connection between a Yes vote and getting the $228.5 million.

Still, a city hall somebody replying to city council recently said any commitments the city didn’t follow through on might risk some of the Trudeau dough, like $57 million.

Do we need Agatha Christie to figure all this out?

So the three councillors are going the whistleblower route and they want to know everything that happened behind the scenes all the way back to last year involving Gondek, her office, city hall mucky-mucks, certain councillors, Trudeau’s people.

Like most mysteries there are plenty of roles to play.

Depending on how that goes, as early as sometime this week, the tough-minded trio could also push for a look-see by the city Integrity Commissioner.

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On another front, there is also expected to be individuals wanting a judge to review the rezoning decision.

Stay tuned on that one.

Councillors Sonya Sharp and Andre Chabot
Calgary city councillors Sonya Sharp and Andre Chabot are seen on Monday, November 20, 2023. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

The only thing not happening at Tuesday’s city council gabfest is an actual debate on the Trudeau money.

That’s been put off until a city council meeting next month.

Instead, McLean will ask questions at the council’s Tuesday question period, a pitch and catch that’s usually an exercise in bureaucratic butt-covering.

The three councillors will also be scrummed by the press as will Gondek.

Sonya Sharp, the northwest Calgary councillor who worked at the city for 20 years, says looking for the truth is important.

“We need to find out the facts. We’ve been getting inconsistent messaging since June. We need to know the decision was made based on proper information given to council.”

And why is Sharp pursuing a probe of Gondek, city bigshots and who knows who else?

“Calgarians are still asking why this decision was made. My past experience at city hall has to weigh in to why I’m pursuing this. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But better to do something than to do nothing at all.”

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