Bell: Mayor Jyoti Gondek speaks out and has words for Danielle Smith

Gondek did not mince words when talking about other moves by Smith and her people after she found out the details

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Your scribbler had a one-on-one chat with Mayor Jyoti Gondek Thursday afternoon.

But before I could write about what the mayor said she was up to the microphone and she was not pleased with the UCP government.

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As loyal readers read here first, the UCP government of Premier Danielle Smith is paving the way for city political parties in Calgary and Edmonton.

Gondek is against it. She shared her view of the move before stepping up to face the press.

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“I don’t believe in the party system at the local level,” says the mayor.

“You’re elected locally to serve the people and to make sure their day-to-day needs are met and for me that’s not partisan.”

In front of the newshounds Gondek did not mince words when talking about other moves by Smith and her people after she found out the details.

Allowing the provincial cabinet, the government’s inner circle, to remove a councillor if it is in the public interest.

Creating the authority for that cabinet to change or deep-six a city bylaw.

Allowing union donations in elections up to $5,000 and donations from businesses up to $5,000.

Here’s Gondek.

“So are we now in a world where elections can be bought by big money and can then be overturned by a cabinet that doesn’t like the results?”

Gondek again.

“I’m left asking why they’re inserting themselves into municipal government in a manner that actually strips the voting public’s right to elect a council they believe is the best to serve them.”

Gondek isn’t done.

“If the people that are in the provincial government are interested right now in doing the work of the municipal government perhaps they should have run for these positions.”

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The mayor talks about local governments being here to listen to the people while casting the Smith government as “far removed from them, intervening in decisions.”

Gondek clearly feels the UCP government is pushing their weight around in a big way and she pushes back.

The Smith side sees the mayor’s comments as over the top and not at all about what the government is doing.

In the premier’s office it is said “there is literally no scenario where the provincial government would overturn the results of an election.”

As for the sentiments expressed by the mayor, let’s hear from someone in the premier’s office.

“It sounds pretty much like a tinfoil hat conspiracy if you ask me.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

It is expected if a council did something totally off the rails the province would consider stepping in on that council decision.

Yes, what the province is doing sure looks like a warning shot.

As for how much damage, if any, this will do to Smith in Calgary.

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The Calgary city council is very, very unpopular.

Just sayin’.

As for citywide rezoning, in the sit-down with the mayor she gets a chance to answer the following question.

If the council votes No to citywide rezoning do you have to give back some of the $228 million the Trudeau government is giving the city?

“It’s not my expectation,” says Gondek.

Hearing for Bell
Some of the hundreds of people taking part in public hearings on proposed rezoning at Calgary city hall on Monday. Photo by SCOTT STRASSER /Postmedia

The mayor knows whatever decision city council makes on citywide rezoning there will be a backlash.

If the vote is Yes to rezoning, angry people will say their neighbourhood is being ruined.

If the vote is No, others will be angry and say council has chickened out on tackling the housing crisis.

Gondek says city hall needs to be better at communicating. No kidding.

“If we can be better at delivering the message of the reason for our decision I think we would be stronger.

“We are in a situation where we need more access to housing in our city. One of the ways to do this is to look at how we could provide a greater supply of housing.

“Will it mean a change to your neighbourhood? Absolutely. What does that change look like? Let’s talk about it.”

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The mayor says people are most worried about what new building will look like and they want a say.

She says she gets it.

Then there’s the other reality.

“You’re not going to make everyone happy. There won’t be a time where everyone is happy.”

The mayor mentions how politicians a lot of the time don’t want to ruffle feathers. Just stick with the same-old, same-old.

Gondek is well aware that what is before city council is not the same-old, same-old.

“If we don’t do something we will have fallen behind,” says the mayor.

“This council is playing catch-up and making some pretty tough decisions that weren’t politically palatable in the past.

“We’ve got a very real situation we’ve turned a blind eye to for a long time.”

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