Calgary developers sh*t the bed. I want to hear your opinions.


full video (18 minutes):

quick summary: Romney-style 47% video showing conspiracy and collusion of local residential developers to subvert the democratic process and ensure continued sub-urban peripheral expansion in the city of Calgary. This is the place where the oil firms planned to build the Keystone XL pipeline down to Florida from Fort McMurray, and the provincial premier (Canadian equivalent to governor) banked the budget on that and another huge pipeline - now we're all paying for them mistakes in huge cuts across the board, but mainly in education, health, and social service sectors. Also, if you look up Calgary on Google maps, you will quickly realize that even though this video (shot in November) is just surfacing as 'smoking gun' evidence, the developers have obviously had the municipal government under their thumb since the 1950's (1947 is when the first oil boom began here, fiy).

Too early in the morning to give more proper context, but in a nutshell, we have a municipal election coming up in October. Last election a progressive Mayor was elected, who has majority support in the current council, and has replaced the head City planner with a guy from Washington called Rollin Stanley. If anybody knows anything about his deal - I'd love to hear that too, since all we get here is shitty mainstream media press releases about the man. Bronconier (referrred to several times) was mayor for three or so terms before, and was basically understood to be in these pockets all along. The guy put down the only major peice of public transit since the 1980's so that all of his own land holdings skyrocket in value... Basically, this meeting would have been organized by one of the three major regional 'home-builder' organizations, for the purpose of getting 'the industry' on board with the illegal donations proposed at the 14 minute mark.

will be back tomorrow to feed more info, as well as links to the websites of the home-building companies involved, city resources such as the 2009 Municipal Development Plan (the thing these people are so scared of, but that was ultimately skewed by their own back-room interference in the planning process while Bronconnier was mayor to favor the status-quo anyways) or anything else relevant.

In the meantime, I can't wait to see what the archinect community thinks of all this; how do you think we should or could deal with this as a city; etc. Thanks.

Apr 24, 13 4:22 am

I have lives in Calgary for the last 15 years, have done all my schooling here and work for the city. This isn't news to me. I think it is great that conclusive evidence of developer interference has come to light. Mayor bronconier (previous mayor) was in deep with the developers, Nenshi seems to be opposed to letting things be run by them which is good. 

Wasnt too long ago a developer would plan out every aspect of a subdivision, leaving planning to rubber stamp their plans. This resulted in urban sprawl, automobile dependence and poorly designed subdivision access and layout. There has been a slight pushback, developers now have to conform to area structure plans and area redevelopment plans. The city recently updated its municipal development plan. Developers pushed for continuance of the expansion plans they had been doing (think Los Angeles) whereas the planning department wanted to halt growth outward, focussing on density instead. In the end a hybrid model was adopted, making developers passed off with council. 

For those not in the know, to out Calgary in perspective, we are the same rough footprint size as New York, but a tenth the size population wise. 


I for one am glad that the public at large is seeing this exposed for what it is. 

Apr 24, 13 6:31 am

...conclusive evidence of developer interference has come to light

This can only be good, and I wish it happened everywhere. But I feel pretty confident that real change in the relationship between politicians and the wealthy well-connected will only happen with revolution, which will probably (unfortunately, necessarily) end up turning slightly violent.

Apr 24, 13 8:57 am

i don't know anything about the situation in calgary except briefly looking at this thing that says developers are buying policy makers.  having the generally cynical view i have, i would like to point out, just as devils advocate, that this could potentially be a very bad thing.

if nothing happens, and the people of calgary allow things to continue as 'business as usual,' or people say 'all politicians are liars and there's nothing we can do about that', or whatever else it is people say, then this behavior becomes accepted status quo. 

people knew this collusion was happening and they continue to allow it to happen.  obvious evidence only means people will have a more difficult time justifying to themselves why they sit back and do nothing, if justifying such things is important to them.  this is only a good thing if all of the people involved are completely removed from society.  if they aren't, it's validation that the public will continue to allow a certain sect of society to screw them.

Apr 24, 13 9:29 am

Not to be overly cynical, but is there any city anywhere where at least some of its elected officials are not unduly influenced by [insert well-financed interest group here*]? 

Is the objection to undue influence?  Or just influence purchased by the "wrong" special interest?

* major developers; public employee unions; major industrial employers; major utility providers; etcetera

Apr 24, 13 1:09 pm

@citizen: The video exposes the plans of this special interest group to subvert the democratic process of municipal elections by "taking care of" public officials, who get paid by taxpayers to represent them - the public - not the private interest of corporate campaign donors.

That is fundamentally what is wrong about this at first; then there's the issue of which urban growth models benefit said private companies at the expense of ordinary citizens (who, by lack of choice resulting from the subsidies the industry receives, often are also the consumers of the products put on the market by the companies in question), versus which urban growth models ultimately provide citizens with a good place to live.

@curtkam, you're right, this could end up actually legitimizing the whole thing. The local conservative media has been trying to spin it that way, to be sure (articles in the Calgary Herald and Sun are always suspect for this sort of thing). I brought it here in hopes of gleaming insight into how to keep that from happening, and also to encourage potential whistle-blowers in other parts of the world to shine a light on this sort of racketeering. 

@marisco, I know this is perhaps too straight-forward of a question, but what do you do at the city? I'd love to get together for a chat sometime, especially if you're in the Planning and Development Approvals business unit. What's your take on Rollin Stanley? Anybody from Washington care to weigh in on that character?

Local architects remain mute on any matters of importance, including this one, so I'd really love to hear more opinions, shared stories of this sort of thing going down where you are from etc. Is there room on the table to discuss design quality when it comes to dealing with things like this?

These are four of the companies that have so far been identified as having participated in the $1.1 million donation to the Manning centre - a neo-conservative 'think-tank' committed to infiltrating municipal politics in the same way they have tinkered with things on the federal level in Canada. Take a look, and let's hear what you think of the products and business model these people are desperately trying to protect from progressive planning policy and free market competition.

Apr 24, 13 1:47 pm


Municipalities have to make budgets meet— they can only do this one of three ways:

  • Operate the city as a business: public ownerships of utilities [power, sewerage, garbage], public landlord [city-owned market-priced or below-market-priced property], "angel investor" [economic development agency loans]
  • Taxes and impact fees: property taxes, impact fees, permit fees, parking fees
  • Slash-and-burn: cut budgets, accept risk-laden business agreements, sell off land claims [right-of-way, mineral, water, air], plunder entitlement accounts [preservation, retirement, economic development], federal bailouts [white elephant projects, subsidies, grants]

Most of North America has been privatized and the business community tends to complain extremely loud when the government operates anything that produces surplus revenue. So, everything in the first category is unlikely.

From the third category, this is something we've already done for the last two decades. Many cities are out of things to sell or lease, the federal government isn't particularly forthcoming with money and most of the budgets used on education, retirement and preservation have been picked clean.

And that leaves us with the second option; taxes in the form of impact fees.

And if someone wants to pay $10,000 to get rubberstamp approval for cookie-cutter developments? Perfect. These are the only things keeping most cities afloat right now.

I have no idea why people discount people like Jane Jacobs, Johnathon Barnett and Willaim Whyte who've basically said that an unbalanced city lacking mixed-densities and mixed- uses will eventually fail.

Everyone wants a single-family house. No one wants to actually pay for what they cost in their *entirety.*

Apr 24, 13 1:48 pm

This merger of corporate and state interests (aka fascism) is the #1 threat to our liberty and our overall future.  Politicians should not be allowed to take any money from special interests.  All elections should be publically funded.  each voter should pay a 5$ voting fee at the both and waalaa problem solved.  Even to poorest of the poor could cough up 5 bucks to vote... This money could pay for a series of public televised debates.  100 million voter...that's 500 million bucks...Even James Cameron could make a couple movies with that kinda loot.   So fucking simple. 

Apr 24, 13 2:15 pm

Corporate donations should be called bribes, because that's what they are.  If an elected official accepts a bribe they should be thrown in jail.

also, any type of unsustainable development or practice should be taxed to pay for the future cleanup that my kids generation will be dealing with.  developers should have to pay an offset fee just like I have to pay an environmental fee when buying new tires...That fee would be used to offset carbon footprint by paying for the installation of alternative energy, carbon sequestration....ect.....on public lands or gov't facilities like schools.  This would discourage such unsustainable developments and pay for their "real costs"  Developers would be able to avoid this fee if they build sustainably on their site...

Apr 24, 13 2:32 pm

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