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Was Calgary city councillor Dan McLean golfing during a public hearing?
It sure looks like it.
Coun. Dan McLean, Calgary city council’s resident right-wing meathead, appears to have called into a July 26 public hearing from a golf course, according to a screenshot of council’s Microsoft Teams chat obtained by The Orchard.
Missing a vote, as McLean did, because he was on the green would be incredibly on brand for the Ward 13 councillor.
Coun. Andre Chabot, another conservative stalwart on council, may have suspected as much when he requested a roll call vote, rather than the usual electronic tally, on a proposed development in the Hillhurst neighbourhood.
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Under section 199 of the Municipal Government Act, the city clerk is authorized to order a roll call to confirm whether a member participating remotely is in fact participating.
McLean missed his turn to vote, as one might do if they were busy golfing.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek instructed the city clerk to mark McLean absent after the clerk called his name a second time, like Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Several votes later, as the roll call moved to Coun. Terry Wong, McLean interrupted: “I’m a yes, sorry, my technical difficulties.”
A city hall source told me at this moment, McLean turned his camera on in Teams, revealing a person sitting in a golf cart on what sure looks like a golf course. They provided The Orchard with a screengrab, seen as this story’s feature image, since the Teams video wasn’t visible on the livestream.
Gondek told McLean he was speaking out of turn and the councillor was unable to vote on the item.
The mayor expressed her frustration during the next vote when Chabot, who was also remote, chimed in to voice his opposition after the motion was carried.
“The public has been patient with us for some time. All of you who are remote have an absolute obligation to be paying attention as we’re going along and speaking up when it’s time to speak up,” said Gondek. “We don’t have time to wait for you.”
The morning of the public hearing, Calgary developer Shane Wenzel, the CEO and president of Shane Homes, posted a video of himself on Instagram at Heritage Pointe Golf Club for the company’s annual golf tournament.
It’s unclear if McLean was at this particular golf course, but he and Wenzel are well-acquainted.
The developer donated $1,000 to McLean’s 2021 campaign, according to the councillor’s financial disclosures, although Wenzel donated the same amount to Diane Colley-Urquhart, the incumbent McLean defeated, according to her disclosures.
Whether or not he attended the golf tournament while he should have been paying attention to a public hearing is McLean’s problem, not Wenzel’s.
The Orchard reached out to McLean’s office yesterday evening for an explanation of why there was a golf cart in the background of his Teams video. A phone call to his office this morning confirmed the email was forwarded to his executive assistant. This piece will be updated in the event they respond.
It’s no secret that McLean is a big golf fan. From 2000 to 2017, he operated McLean Golf, a golf cart distribution company.
In June, he appeared to publicly admit that he fibbed about the company’s social responsibility metrics to obtain a contract for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
In an effort to make a point about how social responsibility procurement criteria is unnecessary, he told council:
I was bidding on the Olympic bid for providing golf and utility vehicles in 2010. Lots of people competing against [sic]. They asked me if I had an Indigenous component and program. My daughter's boyfriend was a First Nations guy. So, I tick “Yes.” What's your recycling program? What's your environmental impact? And you know, I took my bottles and I could (tick) “Yes.”
I mean, people can just tick the boxes and say a little story. I mean, is that where we're going? Is that where we're at?
After Mayor Gondek observed “that we just had a member of council openly admit that he scammed the system on a bid,” McLean denied he’d done anything of this sort. He said he was simply making a broader point about “a ticking-the-box exercise,” which is of course not mutually exclusive to an admission of gaming the system to his advantage.
Contrary to what he had just told council, he said he did in fact have meaningful recycling and Indigenous programs.
But it might not have been wise for him to remind the public of his record on Indigenous issues.
Last year, McLean was forced to step down from his committee assignments and attend reconciliation training after videos emerged of him mocking Indigenous names out of frame as two notoriously litigious right-wing operatives laughed along while putting on Indigenous accents.
McLean said he has “zero recollection” of the incident in question, but confirmed the voice was his.
He responded by posting a Facebook video to showcase his “dear friend and spiritual advisor” Okanagan First Nation Elder Alice Marchand, whom he introduced as “an Indian school [sic] survivor,” to demonstrate his respect for Indigenous cultures.
McLean’s formal Indigenous engagement lasted a single session, according to a report from the Calgary Aboriginal Urban Affairs Committee, which he called “a very emotional and spiritual experience that I am very grateful for.”
It’s quite the accomplishment being the dumbest guy on a city council that includes Coun. Sean Chu, but one could convincingly make the case that McLean fits the bill.
In December, he was fined $500 for handing out prizes donated by corporations during a campaign Stampede Breakfast in 2021, which Elections Alberta deemed “unintentional.”
Corporate donations to municipal election candidates have been banned in Alberta since 2019. I have no doubt McLean genuinely failed to comprehend the connection between accepting in-kind corporate donations and corporate donations.
More important than his perceived intellectual shortcomings is the question of whether McLean was in violation of council’s Code of Conduct if he indeed missed a vote because he was golfing.
I’m not the integrity commissioner — hell, I don’t even live in Calgary anymore — but according to section 16 of the code, all members must comply with council’s Procedures Bylaw.
Well, what does the Procedures Bylaw say?
“When the voting process commences, Members must cease any distractions from the question until the vote is taken and declared,” reads section 28(3). It’s hard to argue golfing isn’t a distraction from council business.
Even if McLean wasn’t at a golf course at all, and was, say, watching golf on TV, he wasn’t paying attention.
The bylaw’s Appendix F outlines regulations concerning remote participation in meetings.
Section 12 gives the chair, in this case Mayor Gondek, the discretion to “determine the practices necessary to ensure the efficient conduct of a meeting where one or more Members are participating remotely.”
The code also requires councillors to abide by the Respectful Workplace Policy. Policy section 2.5.5 defines disrespectful behaviour as “[a]ny inappropriate workplace behaviour that does not meet the definition of Harassment.”
The impropriety of attending to council business while golfing ought to be self-evident.
Calgary residents who suspect a councillor has violated the Code of Conduct can find information on filing complaints to the integrity commissioner here.
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