News / Calgary

Politicians behaving badly: Nenshi urges conversation after concerning public comments

Calgary councillors have been making public statements some believe should be one-on-one conversations

Coun. Shane Keating said some councillors need to stop undermining others with offhand remarks and questions at a meeting on Wednesday.

ELIZABETH CAMERON / for Metro

Coun. Shane Keating said some councillors need to stop undermining others with offhand remarks and questions at a meeting on Wednesday.

Barbs, personal insults and complaints about one councillor’s pop consumption: it’s three months into the new council term, and things are tense at city hall.

So far this week, councillors have spoken out about disrespectful characterizations. Some by Coun. Jeromy Farkas, who remarked offhand about municipal politicians suffering from groupthink or suggesting bureaucracy is where ideas go to die.

In a newspaper editorial, Coun. Joe Magliocca suggested councillors become “brain dead” after the third term.

Matters escalated at a strategic council session on budgetary planning Wednesday, when Coun. Sean Chu took aim at an unnammed fellow councillor for shipping a piece of furniture to a city warehouse for cleaning instead of just giving it some scrubbing.

City administration later reported back to council that the table had not been moved back to a warehouse for cleaning and Chu apologized.

During the meeting Mayor Naheed Nenshi said Monday's meeting was one of the strangest he'd sat through in his seven years on council.

"I think we should have a little conversation about how we want to work together going forward," Nenshi said.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Coun. Shane Keating expressed frustration at recent "lightning bolt comments” in council chambers.

"If we're going to get into the same scenario where councillors will throw out comments only to get a rise or to make a derogatory statement against other councillors… we have to rethink as an individual how we're going to proceed," he said.

Coun. Peter Demong said that over the last two terms there’d been “a surface congeniality” among councillors, but worried that was changing.

"Comments like brain-dead, lost their mojo, groupthink," he said. “You can have your personal views but you don't necessarily air them in public."

But Coun. Farkas disagreed, arguing that debates between councillors should happen in public, regardless of content. Coun. Sean Chu added that he thought the recent sparring was healthy for democracy. "It's healthy to have opposite opinions," he said. "Have some guts."

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