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Calgary city council has a new Farkas
And his name is Dan McLean
For those missing former councillor Jeromy Farkas’s spendthrift antics on Calgary city council, look no further than the current crop of councillors for his ideological successor.
On Monday, Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean brought forward an urgent notice of motion to freeze councillors’ pay for 2022, in a grandstanding move reminiscent of Farkas.
Never mind that since 2008 councillors’ pay has been determined independently by a citizen wage review committee, which indexes pay according to average weekly earnings for a year, or that admin has yet to formulate what next year’s pay will look like.
(An earlier version incorrectly stated that councillors’ pay has been independently calculated as of 2020. Whoops.)
“This is a very simple motion, as far as I’m concerned,” McLean said.
“It simply reads, ‘be it resolved that based on the current economic climate, effective January 1, 2022, salaries for the mayor and councillors remain frozen for the 2022 year.’”
Mayor Jyoti Gondek argued the notice of motion was not in fact urgent, since it would require undoing council’s previous decision to have pay determined by the citizens’ body.
Council voted 9-6 against adding McLean’s motion to the agenda, with usual suspects McLean, Andre Chabot, Peter Demong and Sean Chu in support, as well as Jennifer Wyness and Sonya Sharp, who were both endorsed by the progressive Calgary’s Future PAC.
(An earlier version incorrectly suggested they voted against adding it to the agenda. My bad.)
Voting in favour of adding an item to the agenda isn’t the same as voting for it, but it does equate to taking it seriously.
As McLean sees it, he’s standing up to the fat cats at city hall, who seek to increase their pay while working class Calgarians continue to struggle.
But these stunts of politicians cutting their wages are almost always a pretext for broader cuts in the public sector, which harm the very working people these populist showmen claim to care about.
When Farkas attempted to get councillors a pay cut for 2020, which ended up being a freeze as recommended by the citizens’ committee, he was quite explicit that his goal was to roll back “unsustainable increases in public sector compensation."
In a sympathetic profile last month, Calgary Sun’s Rick Bell asked McLean if he’s the second-coming of Farkas.
“I’m the next Dan McLean. I’m my own person. I’m fiscally conservative. I’m pretty moderate on a lot of social issues,” the Ward 13 councillor said. Swap the names out and that sounds like something Farkas would say.
Without naming names, McLean added he intends to pursue his agenda of austerity in “a kinder, gentler, softer way” than some of his predecessors.
If this is how he conducts himself, McLean could end up being a far more effective conduit for free market fundamentalism than Farkas.
In other news …
Mayor Gondek broke the news on Twitter last night that Flames co-owner Murray Edwards told her the arena has been kiboshed.
Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC), which owns the Flames, wanted the city to pay an additional $12.1 million for climate mitigation and road issues, but the city would only agree to pony up $6.4 million.
The initial deal reached in July 2019 had the city and Flames splitting the costs of the $550-million event centre and up to $25 million in any additional costs, with the Flames paying the rest.
Edwards, who in addition to the Flames owns Canadian Natural Resources Limited, is worth a reported $2.1 billion. He moved to London, U.K., in 2016 for tax-dodging purposes and then St. Moritz, Switzerland, in 2019, for the same reason.
CSEC issued a statement accusing the city of adding additional costs that weren’t part of the deal, which the company “was not prepared to fund.”
Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang, who most recently served as the NDP’s democracy and ethics critic, will now sit as an independent.
NDP leader Rachel Notley said she believes the Mounties’ warrant was based on a data breach to the Alberta Health vaccination records website, which she said Dang told the cops about when it occurred.
At the same time, Notley said she doesn’t know what allegation prompted the RCMP to execute their warrant.
Councillors Jasmine Mian, Raj Dhaliwal and Evan Spencer will lead a task force to look at ways the city can support a legal challenge to Quebec’s Bill 21, which prohibits people in public sector jobs from wearing religious symbols.
“On a personal level, the fact that this law exists in our country makes me sick,” Mian said. “I think about what this law would mean for my own Muslim family. I think about what it means for young children in Quebec, who wanted to grow up to be teachers, lawyers, firefighters and judges.”
While a figure of $100,000 was initially floated, the notice of motion passed at Monday’s meeting does not include any funding figures.
Even without a financial commitment, councillors McLean, Chu, Chabot, Sharp and Demong voted against assisting the challenge.
Edited by Scott Schmidt
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