Calgary, surrounding communities hire lobbyists to clear air on region board

An update on the advocacy efforts the City of Calgary is undertaking with other orders of government was on Thursday’s agenda at the intergovernmental affairs committee.

It was also the first time some councillors heard the mayor talk about hiring a lobbyist to do work for three members of the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board (CMRB) — Airdrie, Cochrane and Calgary.

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According to files from the Alberta Lobbyist Registry, Calgary-based New West Public Affairs was hired by the City of Calgary to lobby provincial offices like the office of the premier and the ministries of Transportation, Municipal Affairs, Infrastructure, and Environment and Parks about the role of CMRB in area development.

“The issue here was that the City of Calgary couldn’t take the lead on setting up these meetings because they were tripartite meetings,” Mayor Naheed Nenshi told the committee.

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“So the three municipalities decided to have a neutral third party do a little bit of admin work for us on that.”

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New West did that work from July 20 to Oct. 31 and the mayor said the funds to hire the government relations firm came from his office’s budget.

“We’ve had a lot of misinformation about [the CMRB],” Nenshi told the committee Thursday. “Indeed, just last week, the MLA for Airdrie East [Angela Pitt] stood up in Question Period and said that the CMRB had prevented a development that had been denied not by the CMRB, but by Rock VIew council many years before there was a CMRB.

“So the misinformation is running deep.”

Nenshi said New West “did very good work” on behalf of the three urban municipalities.

Calgary’s mayor pointed to Rocky View County’s use of a lobbyist in Edmonton.

According to registry filings, the county hired former Wildrose Party executive director Jonathon Wescott’s Alberta Counsel to lobby the premier’s office, Alberta Treasury Board and Finance, the ministry of Municipal Affairs and the legislative assembly on regional growth plans and evaluation frameworks and “any other actions or proposed actions taken or to be taken pursuant to the Calgary Metropolitan Region Board Regulation or other authority.”

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Nenshi said Rocky View’s lobbyist was hired to “help them on issues” that also included the Springbank dry dam.

That lobby work started May 4, 2020 and is due to continue until May 31, 2021, according to registry filings.

Rocky View County Reeve Daniel Henn confirmed to Global News that his county and two other municipalities combined to contract the services of Alberta Counsel.

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