Last week, the Calgary Herald published an article regarding the difficulties which Aldermen were facing to fundraise in times of economical crisis. The article focused on Ald. Joe Connelly, who specifically addressed the Urban Development Institute for donations. It is well known that most aldermen accept donations from developers and specific-interest groups. However, limiting the funding sources to a certain lobby group while facing the Plan It Calgary Public Hearing on June 23rd rises some issues. While not being an illegal move, his financial strategy casts a shadow of suspicion on his position towards Plan It:
Will his vote be influenced by the donations received?
Should he recuse himself from the vote to avoid a conflict of interests?
Is it healthy for our City Council to accept donations from the industry?
The Connelly situation finally rises a bigger issue: aldermen funding. A funding system that accepts donations from any source, without a balanced origin and, in some cases, with dubious purposes, will keep casting doubts on the objectivity of our City Council.
Finally, a nice quote from a related article by Naheed Nenshi in the Calgary Herald:
What ruined by mood, though, was the story around Ald. Joe Connelly. As reported in the Herald over the last week, Connelly, like all aldermen (me, too, when I ran for Council in 2004), accepts donations from the development industry. Where he went further is that he asked the umbrella group for the industry–the Urban Development Institute– to advertise a fund-raising event for him.
They did so. Indeed, the head of UDI, Mike Flynn, implied that some of his members would no longer support all aldermen, as they had done in the past.
“It will definitely lead to a larger discussion down the road, whether we want to look at who’s been supportive of our positions and who hasn’t,” he said.