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What does Diane Colley-Urquhart believe in?
The contortions of a 21-year career city councillor
When she first ran for Calgary City Council in 2000, Diane Colley-Urquhart pitched herself as not your average “career politician”.
“If elected, I will serve two terms, then get out so there can be fresh leadership,” Colley-Urquhart told the Calgary Herald shortly before the July 2000 by-election that brought her onto council.
Twenty-one years later, she is running for her seventh term.
One important asset of Colley-Urquhart’s is her ability to change positions based on which way the wind blows.
Being indecisive has been a feature, not a quirk, of Colley-Urquhart’s political career.
In November 2017, as council was preparing to plug a $170-million hole in the budget with disruptive cuts, Colley-Urquhart informed her colleagues that she wouldn’t be present — because she opted to go on a $25,000 cruise to Antarctica “to spend time with penguins and icebergs.”
“When I am in Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands, I will tip one for each of you and think of you,” she wrote in a letter to fellow councillors dated Nov. 17, 2017. “Will I gain insight into global warming – perhaps!”
A few days prior, Colley-Urquhart had been absent from a meeting where her own notice of motion to pause the second phase of the southwest bus rapid transit was defeated.
Sadly, Colley-Urquhart’s cruise ship broke down two weeks before the cruise was set to end, so she returned to council chambers in the nick of time for budget deliberations. “I want Calgarians to know through hell or high water I’m back, rolling up my sleeves and working on the budget,” she said, as if the cruise incident never occurred.
One area where Colley-Urquhart has been uncharacteristically consistent is her staunch support of the Calgary Police Service.
Calgary police purchased two new helicopters for $11 million in 2019 and came under critical scrutiny due to increased budget pressures, but Colley-Urquhart was completely enthusiastic in her support for buying the choppers. “We should get three,” she said.
Merely two months later, council approved $60 million in cuts, impacting fire services, transit and affordable housing. “I think there are more cuts coming,” said Colley-Urquhart. “Structurally, we’re not there yet. We’re transforming municipal government into the 21st century.”
A week later, she voted to give the Calgary Flames $275 million to build a new arena. “It is the right deal for the right time,” she said. I guess municipal government in the 21st century entails austerity for city workers and public largesse for the billionaire owners of the Flames.
Colley-Urquhart’s passion for police funding returned in November 2020, when Coun. Evan Woolley put forward a motion to re-allocate a modest $10 million, or 2.5%, from the police budget to fund alternative response models. Colley-Urquhart voted against it in a 9-5 vote.
The police offered to defund themselves to the tune of $8 million during budget deliberations. Council offered instead to take those funds out of its reserves, which earned Colley-Urquhart’s support for the motion.
On an interpersonal level, Colley-Urquhart does appear to have some redeeming qualities.
She was forced to resign from the police commission in 2017, which she had sat on since 2007, after meeting privately with female officers to detail their experiences of harassment from their male colleagues outside the official channels of the commission.
And in 2013, she used her nursing abilities to save the life of a drowning, bloodied surfer in San Diego.
So what are Colley-Urquhart’s principles? Whatever gets her re-elected, it appears.
And in that respect, barring a failed provincial candidacy for the PCs in 2009, she has been remarkably successful.
In Other News …
Embattled Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro, who early in the pandemic went to his doctor neighbour’s driveway to yell at him over a Facebook meme, will swap cabinet roles with Jason Copping, taking over at the ministry of labour and immigration.
Premier Jason Kenney said it was time for a “fresh start” at the health ministry after a “gruelling two-plus years for Tyler,” which included Shandro and his family getting berated by anti-maskers on Canada Day this year. What goes around comes around.
Shandro will now be tasked with crushing Alberta’s labour movement.
In Monday’s federal election, the NDP’s Blake Desjarlais, who is Métis and Two-Spirit, defeated notorious Conservative ghoul Kerry Diotte, who once sued a student newspaper for calling him racist.
Desjarlais received 1,000 more votes than Diotte, beating him 40% to 37%.
Meanwhile, Calgary city councillor George Chahal won Calgary Skyview for the Liberals and Edmonton Centre, which is too close to call right now, could also go red.
Edited by Joel Laforest