Calgary: A Tale of Two Slates

If you’ve been paying attention to Calgary’s municipal election over the last week you would likely have heard about the Manning Centre, a $1,100,000 donation by the home builders to “in order to bring Preston [Manning] on board,” and the recent comments by Cal Wenzel on buying council members — earning influence for his industry and for votes for his gain on city council. It’s a rather sorry sight indeed.

This effort is beyond simply lobbying. And that’s should be what scares every citizen in Calgary: this is a massive engagement of funds, people, and electoral muscle to determine the future of the city. And it’s sole goal is the betterment of a few special interests over the public’s interest.  Did you know that civic elections don’t have limits on third party spending? And barely any reporting functions either?

But did you know that the efforts of this one group is being organized by another, a more progressive, bunch in Calgary? They may not have the same money as Manning or developers, but the rough etchings of a slate are being formed in preparation for the election in October. Some have suggested this group has been organized by CivicCamp — a non-partisan group that has stated time and again its non-partisan status. Mr. Wenzel even highlights the “CivicCamp Slate” in the eighteen minute video from Global TV.

It can be easy to see the difficulty in separating CivicCamp and this ‘progressive slate,’ however. With Nenshi founding CivicCamp, the political types heavily involved in CivicCamp and now more so in the mainstream political process (chief example being Nenshi elected mayor), it can be hard not to suppose their involvement in some mass conspiracy amongst different candidates. It’s very easy to assume people who think alike are going to work together. Seeing as Nenshi being more opposed to urban sprawl or other issues brought on by developers he’d find common interest with people of similar perspectives. He would also find conflict with a set of people opposed to this type of thinking.

For CivicCamp — a non-partisan organization focused on including the voter and in promoting a deeper sense of civic engagement — this confusion over its involvement is a terrible thing to take place. To even have its name associated with a slate or with political machinations hurts its cause severely. It would be at once self defeating and harmful to Calgary for it to take up a partisan organizing position.

Rather, a group of individuals who worked on Nenshi’s election (and before that with him in CivicCamp), and by virtue of Nenshi’s own political maneuvering and history, a camp has been created, albeit very loosely, around the upcoming municipal election.

And so naturally a loose group of candidates form on either end of this spectrum. It’s not so much an act of conspiracy by both sides but different peoples with different interests linking up together to influence the election in a very loosely coordinated manner.

And so each group is running around like chickens with their heads cut off, however. The developers and the Manning institute may have money, but the candidates they can find alignment with — in Kevin Taylor in particular — are disavowing them. You can see it again in this Herald article when the public was first introduced to the bumbling ‘slate.’ What’s even more humorous is the somewhat more progressive slate is hobbled by a distinct lack of common message or central taskmasters. If each ‘slate’ were to be considered slates it would be a most farcical exercise on all parts. If it wasn’t so serious of an issue it could cause any political watcher to just laugh at it all.

April 24 2013, 12:55 AM edit: The blog post has been edited for clarity.

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