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Calgary city councillors want investigations into approval of upzoning plan

Three members of Calgary city council are calling for investigations into the way a contentious upzoning plan was handled.

Council voted 9-6 last week in favour of the upzoning plan, which will change the zoning on more than 300,000 single-family house properties in the established areas of Calgary.

The change will allow for greater housing density in those communities. 

But councillors Andre Chabot, Dan McLean and Sonya Sharp say inconsistent answers were given to key questions that were asked, such as whether federal housing money for Calgary was really at risk if council rejected the plan.

During a marathon public hearing held across 16 days in April and May, council heard that federal dollars were not contingent on the rezoning plan being approved.

Late in the hearing, a city official told council that only the last quarterly payment of the federal dollars could be at risk if upzoning was defeated. That payment was said to be worth $57 million.

Secret meetings

The councillors also say secret meetings were held between some members of council and city officials to discuss the upzoning plan.

Chabot said he and his colleagues are planning to file a complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner, who investigates complaints involving the actions of members of council.

“We’ve had a mixed bag of answers from administration, that it was/was not tied to the approval of the blanket zoning and we want to get to the bottom of it,” said Chabot.

“We want to know how it came to pass, what the communications have been between administration and members of council, as well as communications between our administration, members of council and the federal government.” 

If the integrity commissioner finds there have been violations of the council code of conduct, sanctions can be recommended. 

But that ethics complaint may not be the only one filed.

Whistleblower complaint too

Coun. Sharp signalled that the group is also looking at lodging a complaint through the city’s whistleblower program about the actions of administration.

She said council members had the responsibility to keep an open mind about the upzoning plan, but she questions if the outcome of the vote was pre-determined.

“My spidey sense is telling me, my gut feeling is telling me this doesn’t seem right. There had to be some conversations behind the scenes that some of us were not privy to,” said the Ward 1 councillor.

She said Calgarians need answers about what happened and whether pressure from Ottawa played a part, because many people don’t understand how something opposed by so many homeowners could be approved by council.

Sharp said the complaints would be filed in the coming days.

Mayor unsure

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said Friday that she was unsure what all the calls for investigation were about.

She said the city’s contract with the federal government for money from the Housing Accelerator Fund was signed before federal housing minister started telling municipalities that they’d risk losing money if they didn’t change zoning rules.

The mayor said she’s unsure if these members of council have actually read the city’s contract with the federal government, especially with regards to changing the zoning rules.

“It simply talks about promoting it and undertaking the process and clearly states that we are not fettered, our decisions of council are not fettered by this agreement,” said Gondek.

“So I’m at a loss to understand what they want investigated.”

Gondek added she’s unsure exactly which members of council Chabot, McLean and Sharp are targeting with their complaints, or exactly how any members are suspected by the three of violating the council code of conduct.

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