Is Preston Manning involved in a scheme to ‘control’ Calgary city council?

Andy Radia
Politics Reporter
Canada Politics

It's not only in the United States where money can buy elections.

Global News has uncovered a video of a prominent property developer talking about donating money to the "right" candidates in order to take "control" over Calgary city council.

"There are some people that are on the City Council that are totally out of control," Alberta-based developer Cal Wenzel says in the video speaking to about 150 industry professionals.

"Unless we get somebody in there that's really going to be more on our side, than the dark side, we're talking another 4 years after next October.

"[Former Mayor Dave Bronconnier] is sitting there saying it doesn't matter if you got the mayor on your side or not, you need eight votes. He said as long you have eight votes, you can control whatever happens."

[ Related: Yahoo! Exclusive: Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi takes the high ground on mayoral scandals ]

Developers funding the campaigns of developer-friendly candidates is not all that surprising — it happens in every community across the country.

But what's interesting is that Wenzel also spoke about using former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, whose Manning Centre think tank recently launched a training program for municipal candidates.

"In order to bring Preston on board, 11 of us put up $100,000, so a million-one," he said.

"So it’s not like we haven’t put up our money, and we are going to be there to put up again, and we are also supporting candidates."

While it doesn't appear that Manning has done anything illegal, the insinuation from Wenzel is that the former federal opposition leader is 'on board' with a plan to take over city council.

It also raises questions about the independence of the Manning Centre and the objectivity of their research.

[ Related: Broadbent Institute bemoans Manning Centre inviting Ron Paul to speak ]

Alberta blogger David Cournoye explains it like this:

Because of municipal campaign finance laws limiting individual and corporate donations to a maximum $5,000, the presence of a special interest group like the Manning Centre in Calgary’s election appears to have given these wealthy developers a place to pour their money.

A spokesperson for the Manning Centre told Yahoo! Canada News that they are working on statement to release to the media.

This is what their release might say. writer David Climenhaga received this leaked Manning Centre email to participants of the program earlier this week:

Dear participants,

We were contacted on April 17th by a Global News Calgary reporter who informed us that a meeting of Calgary home builders held last November had been secretly recorded.

We have not yet heard the actual recording, but we were told that a Manning donor is heard saying he had exceeded his maximum legal political contributions, as well as claiming that Calgary home builders had bought the support of Preston Manning for over $1M in donations.

We understand that the story may run this evening.

Our Response:

  • The Manning Centre is indeed involved in the training of political candidates/campaign organizers in the upcoming municipal election – this should not come as a surprise.
  • The Municipal Governance Project adheres to the vision, mission, and values of the Centre, and is not directed by our donors.
  • Calgary is the pilot project for the Municipal Governance Project. However, the aim is to apply it across the country.
  • Preston is out the country and cannot comment.
  • Incoming Manning Centre chair Chuck Strahl is prepared to respond to media as needed in Preston’s absence.
  • If you have any question and would like to discuss this further, please contact Manning Centre Vice-President Dave Quist at 403.255.8100 or
  • All media enquiries are to be forwarded to Morten Paulsen (403.399.3377 or

Olivier Ballou

Director of Communications

Manning Centre for Building Democracy

(Photo Courtesy of the Canadian Press)

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