Bell: Gondek hits new low, slams Smith, plays politics in water crisis

Gondek couldn’t leave the politics alone — even in a city emergency

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She couldn’t stop herself.

She just had to keep talking.

She just had to take a cheap shot.

She just had to play the blame game.

She just couldn’t leave the politics alone — even in a city emergency.

She had to point the finger and you know she wouldn’t be pointing it at herself or city hall.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek, the most unpopular leader in this city’s history, is on Global TV and is asked point blank by the interviewer about the fear this water emergency could happen again with different pipes.

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What else is under the city that could cause problems?

The heat was on Gondek.

This was not going to be an easy time where the mayor could just cast herself as the saviour of the city and people wouldn’t be asking questions.

You ask questions when you know they might shut off the water.

The mayor had already done some talking.

The pipe causing so much grief was almost 50 years old.

It was up for maintenance.

During the maintenance work a couple months back, and these are Gondek’s words, “nothing was identified so it’s hard to say what happened and I really don’t want to speculate.”

Huh?

Water main break
Workers at the scene of a major water main break in Montgomery on Thursday, June 6, 2024. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

So Gondek tells the interviewer there might be a concern for people.

Again, she said the city was very aware of the age of the pipes, the materials used on some of the pipes and the city is very good at identifying when they need to do checks.

But she didn’t stop there.

Oh no. The city wasn’t going to be holding the bag on this one.

So Gondek continued.

“But I do have to say … ” says Gondek.

She does have to say.

And here we go.

The city doesn’t have enough money. It’s not their fault.

It’s the fault of Big Bad Premier Danielle Smith and the federal government in Ottawa as well.

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“Without strong partnerships from the federal and provincial governments we will continue to be in a situation where the city takes on the full cost of having to do that maintenance work.”

The city hall? Calgary city hall?

The city hall where for years the likes of this scribbler have talked about the hundreds of millions, the billions of reserve funds in the piggy bank downtown.

The surplus dollars never returned to taxpayers.

What’s this? A surplus of $237.7 million last year.

What’s this?

All the years city hall took Calgarians to the cleaners with fees on power bills calculated to rake in the cash all the while resisting any attempt or suggestion to be more fair to ratepayers.

Yes, all the money over all the years in the city’s rainy-day fund. Google the articles.

And then Google the stories about the dough often doled out when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

Then there was the money from all of the water bills paid by all of the Calgarians.

That’s cash the city itself says is to maintain the water system. It’s on their website.

Calgary city hall.

How many stories have been written about city council giving out millions, hundreds of millions without batting an eye?

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How many grand schemes and pet projects have been bankrolled?

Gondek goes on, the sob story script well in hand.

“You are relying on councils to make the decision, the very difficult decision of …”

Yes, you know what’s coming. Yes, you do.

“The very difficult decision of increasing property taxes to make sure the maintenance work gets done.”

Was Gondek done? Of course, she was not done.

Danielle Smith
Premier Danielle Smith speaks to the Alberta Municipalities 2024 Spring Municipal Leaders’ Caucus, in Edmonton on Friday, March 15, 2024. David Bloom/Postmedia

The interviewer asks Gondek if she is calling out the government of Premier Danielle Smith and the feds.

In other words, was the mayor willing to go political at the wrong time.

“I’m not going to call them out in this situation.”

Maybe the mayor should look at the dictionary for the definition of calling out.

“But …” says Gondek.

Here we go again.

“I am going to call them out to say they have not paid enough attention to our infrastructure needs over time.”

Really?

Then, because she wasn’t quite over yet, Gondek dusted off her city hall report saying the province is shafting the cupboard-is-always-bare city hall.

She wants another $311 million a year.

No wonder Smith was reportedly not amused. Not amused at all. Politics at a time like this?

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The premier fired off a statement.

Smith and her government cut a $224-million cheque for such things as the Calgary water system. They’ll cut a bigger cheque next year.

Gondek never asked for money to repair the water supply infrastructure and Calgarians are paying for such things on their water bills.

Smith encourages the mayor and city council to “immediately review and assess all water supply infrastructure.”

After all, says the premier, there’s “the increased density that will come from implementing blanket rezoning.”

Smith walks through the door Gondek very stupidly opened.

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