Discover more from The Orchard
Top Edmonton developer lobbyist donated to the far-right Freedom Convoy twice
Kalen Anderson previously served in various roles with the city, most prominently as director of the City Plan.
The head of a developer lobbyist group who previously served as the director of Edmonton’s City Plan donated a total of $400 to the so-called “Freedom Convoy,” The Orchard has learned.
A regular fixture at city council meetings, Kalen Anderson heads the Urban Development Institute (UDI) - Edmonton Metro, which advocates to city council on behalf of developers throughout the city. She’s listed twice in leaked data revealing the names of convoy donors and other identifying information, donating $200 each time.
Prior to her lobbying role, Anderson worked for the City of Edmonton in various capacities from 2006 to 2020, serving as the director of Edmonton’s City Plan from December 2017 to November 2020, and working on its predecessor, the Municipal Development Plan, from 2006 to 2007. From November 2020 to October 2021, Anderson served as the chief planner for the National Capital Commission in Ottawa before returning to Edmonton to lobby on behalf of developers.
The Orchard is a reader-supported publication. If you like my work, please consider a paid subscription starting at $5 a month, so I can continue doing it.
“Go Canada! Freedom 2022. You guys and gals rock. Sending you love and strength from Edmonton, Alberta,” Anderson commented alongside one of her convoy donations, both made on Feb. 7, which were included in a spreadsheet of convoy donors The Orchard obtained, including their names, IP addresses, home addresses, emails, amount of money donated, date of their donations and comments, among other details.
For obvious reasons, I won’t be sharing the spreadsheet.
Alongside her other donation, made six minutes later, Anderson wrote: “Thank-you Truckers Freedom Convoy 2022! We support you, have been praying for you, and send you love & strength from Edmonton Alberta. PS: We also doubled our personal contribution after the GFM [GoFundMe] debacle. Literally doubled-down ? [sic]”
GoFundMe cited “evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity,” and its policy against encouraging violence and harassment, as reasons for its reversal.
While not everyone who supported or participated in the convoy was a racist, many of its organizers certainly were, and it attracted support from all the usual far-right actors.
The convoy ended up occupying downtown Ottawa for almost a month, with truckers blocking main streets, honking their horns at all hours of the day, displaying hate symbols and harassing people for wearing masks, according to a report from Ottawa’s Centretown Community Health Centre released Jan. 30.
Solidarity events occurred throughout Canada, including a blockade of the Coutts, Alta., border with Montana, where police found a cache of two pipe bombs, thousands of rounds of ammunition, gas masks, firearms and accessories. Five people face criminal charges in relation to the Coutts blockade, including conspiring to murder police officers.
Convoy supporters also descended on Edmonton to show their support for the convoy every weekend for a month, which at its height resulted in revenue losses of 60% to 90% for downtown business, according to the Edmonton Downtown Business Association.
Edmonton Journal reporter Hamdi Issawi, my former Sprawl colleague, aptly described the protestors as “creating congestion and a cacophony,” resulting in the city imposing a temporary injunction on Feb. 11 to prohibit sustained loud noises.
Anderson told the Journal in March: “Cities are super competitive. If investors come to downtown and they see tumbleweeds blowing down your main street, and they can invest anywhere, why would they choose your city?”
How about truck drivers honking their horns endlessly while blocking traffic?
Anderson isn’t just some private citizen. She sits on the advisory committee for the University of Alberta’s School of Urban and Regional Planning and is a frequent media commentator.
Anderson co-authored a Journal op-ed during November’s budget deliberations, in part urging city council to “look seriously at getting out of whole lines of business that are not core mandates of a municipality and/or which would be better handled by the private sector, NGOs, or other orders of government.”
In July, she wrote in the Journal that the solution to keeping Edmonton an affordable city is to “reduce red tape and ensure speed-to-market” so developers can build more homes.
The notion that building more homes will automatically reduce the price of housing is a major talking point of federal Conservative leader, and outspoken convoy sympathizer, Pierre Poilievre.
Supporting the convoy while pondering why businesses don’t want to invest in downtown calls her judgment as a prominent municipal voice into question.
A small sample of her profile’s “likes” on Twitter in the first two months of 2022, when the convoy was in full swing, further demonstrates Anderson’s ideological leanings:
A Feb. 14 tweet from True North editor and former Jason Kenney staffer Candice Malcolm saying “Trudeau has lost control of the country;”
A Feb. 12 tweet from Police on Guard for Thee applauding cops who supported the convoy;
A Feb. 7 tweet from Conservative MP Michael Cooper claiming “Trudeau is working to make his punitive & ineffective vaccine mandates permanent;”
A Feb. 6 tweet from crackpot psychologist and right-wing self-help guru Jordan Peterson applauding Conservative Lethbridge MP Rachael Thomas’s “courage” for supporting the convoy;
A Feb. 4 tweet from an anonymous account calling positive perspectives on the convoy “something the MSM refuses to report and in fact chooses to vilify;”
An infamous Jan. 27, 2022, tweet from billionaire Elon Musk, before he owned Twitter, declaring “Canadian truckers rule.”
There are many more examples, but you get the picture.
Neither Anderson nor UDI - Edmonton Metro responded to requests for comment. I’ll update this piece if they do. But don’t get your hopes up. At some point after I reached out to Anderson for comment at two separate email addresses, she locked her Twitter account.
On its website, UDI - Edmonton Metro boasts of its influence on city policy: “We advocate to municipal and elected officials to establish policies and programs that promote efficient, cost-effective, and smartly-planned development across the Edmonton Metropolitan Region.”
Anderson’s bio on the website describes her as a “passionate and dedicated city-builder [with] a broad understanding of urban and regional policy, economic development, and community engagement to support growth and change,” whatever that means.
Edited by Stephen Magusiak