CALGARY – Calgary’s mayor says he’s calling off any future open houses to talk about a rapid transit plan because city staff were physically assaulted and threatened at a public meeting this week.
Naheed Nenshi says there was yelling, swearing, pushing, shoving and even a death threat at the gathering to talk about the Southwest Bus Rapid Transit plan.
He says the behaviour is “inappropriate, it’s wrong, it’s unCalgarian” and says he will not stand for it.
The project, which was approved years ago by city council, is moving into its final design and the city has been looking for and providing feedback on the plan.
A group which is angry with the project has been formed and the city says it is spreading misinformation about the project, which has riled up residents even more.
Nenshi says online consultation will continue.
“There were times where I felt unsafe, yes,” councillor Brian Pincott said of the meeting on Tuesday.
“It’s unbelievably childish and I am completely committed to engaging my communities. There were citizens there last night who were afraid to put down their comments if they were vaguely supportive, if they were at all supportive of the project, they were scared to do it. That’s ridiculous.”
A group called “Ready to Engage” has called the city’s plan “dangerous” and has said it will cause more traffic disruption in the area.
Rick Donkers, a spokesman with the group, dismissed Nenshi’s accusations and called them a bullying tactic.
“I am appalled at the intimidation tactics that the City are using,” he said. “They’re trying to intimidate their citizens from asking and doing their democratic right to question the City on poorly planned projects. This is a banana republic tactic by the mayor.”
Donkers said his group wasn’t allowed inside, so he couldn’t comment on the claims of physical violence and abuse, but he noted police were not called to the event.
Nenshi said one employee reported being surrounded by a group of about a dozen people, one of whom kept asking: “Does the City just feed you candy bars and shine bright lights in your eyes to force you to repeat whatever you say?”