Calgary’s top three mayoral candidates discussed a variety of issues on Sept. 21 at CREB®’s Courageous Conversations, an exclusive forum focusing on housing-related issues critical to REALTORS® and the city.
Candidates Andre Chabot and Bill Smith joined incumbent Naheed Nenshi in CREB®‘s W. Frank Johns Auditorium as the candidates took verbal jabs at each other over several issues.
The forum was hosted and moderated by CREB® CEO Alan Tennant.
Smith and mayor trade jabs over campaign donors
While answering questions about negotiations with Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) over the funding and location of a new arena for the Flames, Nenshi and Smith sparred over Smith’s recent history as the volunteer president of Alberta’s former Progressive Conservative party.
Nenshi questioned Smith’s ability to negotiate with CSEC, following reports that as PC president he had accepted nearly half a million dollars in donations from Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz leading up to the development of the new arena in Edmonton.
After demanding a list of Smith’s current donors, Nenshi visibly irritated Smith, and the pair began to take exception with each other’s conduct in the forum and in previous debates.
“You, sir, are quite a deal,” said Smith.
“You’ve created a culture of conflict everywhere you’ve gone – from developers in the last election, to Uber, to CSEC, which seems to have been deliberately negotiated to an impasse.”
Chabot indicated his campaign was considerably smaller, and thus his donation disclosure would take some time.
“I’ve had several fundraisers, but my financial agents are working pro bono on top of their full-time job. I promise that we will disclose our campaign contributions as soon at the materials are ready.”
Divided attitudes on arena negotiations
Returning to the issue of the arena, the candidates discussed both the potential location of a new home for the Flames and next steps in terms of further negotiations. After CSEC released the details of their offer to the City, opinions were divided over the proposal.
Chabot – who voted against releasing details of the City’s offer – noted that making the details public provoked CSEC to do the same. He added this led both parties to move further apart.
Smith indicated the arena deal’s current uncertain status (as CSEC has withdrawn their offer and stated that they are no longer working toward the development of a new arena) is the result of negotiations that have a pre-determined outcome for the city, and his previous experience of reaching across the table with CSEC would improve relations.
Nenshi pressed Smith to clarify his position, reiterating his previous statement that public dollars should be used for public benefit.
“Mr. Smith is such a great negotiator, but won’t answer what deal he thinks is best. The Flames deal states that the city will front two-thirds of the cost, but gets zero dollars out; no rent, no property taxes,” said Nenshi.
“This is a question of what we, as Calgarians, think is fair, and the City’s plan has the arena as the cornerstone for real development.”
Differing models for secondary suites
Smith noted his preference for a secondary-suites model that keeps zoning consistent, with homes remaining zoned R1 in neighborhoods that were developed with that model in place.
Chabot noted his recent work to improve the safety of suites and his proposal to restrict the advertising of suites to only those that have been inspected and registered on a City of Calgary website.
Nenshi expressed exasperation with the current debate, noting that both Smith and Chabot’s proposals would reduce the availability of affordable housing while noting CREB®’s leadership on the issue.
“I have stood in this room so many times over the last seven years, discussing this issue, and I want to thank CREB® for your support and your advocacy on this issue, because you got it right,” said Nenshi.
“Council has not had the political courage to deal with this. Councillor Chabot has moved the ball 10 yards with his proposal and I am tired of first downs. I want to see this thing in the end zone.”