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Bye, bye Pingu, hello budget: Diane Colley-Urquhart makes it to Calgary meeting

Councillors debate budgetary specs while Ward 13 councillor tells her constituents why she left for a trip during the important decision-making process.

Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart placed a toy penguin on her desk during budget deliberations on Nov. 27, 2017.

ELIZABETH CAMERON / for Metro

Ward 13 Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart placed a toy penguin on her desk during budget deliberations on Nov. 27, 2017.

After her trip to Antarctica to see Pingu and family was cut dramatically short, Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart is back at city hall and ready to roll up her sleeves.

The once-in-a-lifetime trip scheduled smack dab in the middle of the City of Calgary budgetary deliberations had some raising an eyebrow last week when news broke that the six-term councillor was pursuing her quest to learn more about global warming and penguins while missing the council decisions.

But she's not in Antarctica anymore.

In a dramatic twist, the Silver Cloud, the luxury cruise liner carrying the Ward 13 councillor and other Antarctic enthusiasts, had engine failure forcing the trip to be cut short and passengers sent home.

"I think the sea swells were 25 to 30 feet and we had to go back to port," said Colley-Urquhart. "I didn't quite realize how serious it was until the captain sat with us for dinner on Wednesday night ... we were making a run for Drake's Passage to get through and that's when the fuel pump seized up."

She said the ship listed side to side for about an hour until the engine could be rebooted.

If the trip hadn't been cut short, she would have been back in Calgary for Dec. 3.

When asked how she felt about missing budget week she explained that as a councillor she only has vacation in August, and the only time to visit the Antarctic is fall and winter. She said it's a matter of balancing her public life and personal life.

"When I looked at it and reflected on it when councillor Stevenson and Magliocca took a whole month off during the four-year budget cycle three or four years ago, with no mention of that, and no letter to advise," she said.

Metro looked into the meeting minutes for Action Plan in 2014, and both mentioned councillors, and Colley-Urquhart, were in attendance. That year, Couns. Stevenson and Magliocca were on council business attending the Grey Cup – Magliocca said he missed a half-day to attend.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he was surprised to see Colley-Urquhart in council chambers on Monday, but felt bad about her trip.

"To be fair, Coun. Colley-Urquhart volunteered to step up to be the deputy mayor for the month of August which is when the rest of us, hopefully me, have some time off," he said. "That said, I'm not familiar with anyone ever missing budget before, so I'm glad she's back."

When it came to writing a memo to her colleagues Colley-Urquhart said she originally though about marking the document "confidential" but she said she knew it would be leaked and now knows who released the document to the media.

When asked how she feels about one of her colleagues leaking the document she said "no comment."

Colley-Urquhart has sent out a letter explaining why she was absent to her constituents.

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