Has Druh Farrell finally gone too far?

Let’s face it. Druh Farrell has never really been the sharpest knife in the Calgary city council drawer. Despite having resided in a council seat for nearly 16 years, there really has been little of note accomplished by Druh. The only real hallmark of Farrell’s extensive term has been a propensity to vapidly jump on and lobby for whatever the latest self-styled, hipster trend is happening these days whether its taking countless hours to try to regulate what sort of soups restaurants may serve to the completely catastrophic Memorial Dr. closure for her failed anti-automotive initiative called “The Bow River Flow”.

In Calgary, a councilor typically needs only to be mediocre in order to maintain their seat in perpetuity. Dale Hodges managed a council career that spanned decades and used the simple strategy of conveniently timed bathroom breaks to ensure that he never had to vote on a contentious issue. Druh however has made sure to be vocal on any issue where she can take shots at the things she despises in life such as automobiles, suburbs and successful businesses. This trend of blind ideology has led to a steady decline in Farrell’s support to the point where she only gathered 37% support in the last municipal election. This is an appallingly low level of support for an incumbent and it was only through a fortunate splitting of votes that Farrell managed to cling on to her cushy spot.

Having served so long in city hall, Farrell views Kensington as her own personal little fiefdom where she hopes to build a small, inner city hipster’s paradise where her name will go down in dreadlocked history as the founder of this miniature Portland North. That would explain Farrell’s hypocritical opposition to a project that would add density and economic expansion to her little demesne. While Farrell strongly opposes, suburban expansion and supports increased density throughout the city, she is the ultimate NIMBY in her own neighborhood and has pulled every string possible to fight these elements in her own community.

This hypocrisy leads up to the battle that began in 2008 with the owners of the Osteria De Medici property that has now landed her in the middle of a rather comprehensive looking lawsuit.

The statement of claim against Farrell can be downloaded in full here.

It begins with Farrell apparently trying to use city of Calgary bylaw officers as something of her own personal army in working to shut down an annual Stampede parties at Osteria. Farrell couldn’t abide by seeing so many unwashed Calgarians celebrating Western Canadian culture in her neck of the woods. Only drum circles and vegan tastings are appropriate! Apparently after failing in getting bylaw services to shut down the popular event, Druh began a personal vendetta that finally led to changes in rules surrounding popular Calgary Stampede parties.

This began the feud between Osteria and Farrell which clearly has only gotten worse over the years.

The statement of claim contends that Farrell coached people to defame the Osteria group in city hall. Farrell then apparently reiterated the the claims that the family was made of up criminals. This all has to be proven in court still of course but is sure sounds familiar. Nenshi’s forced apology and settlement with Cal Wenzel proved that the courts do not look kindly on accusations of criminality being leveled at business people by elected officials.

Even uglier, the statement claims that Farrell through an agent essentially tried to extort from the group through demands for a campaign contribution, a commitment by the group not to support any other candidates and a commitment to hire her preferred architect in order to get her support for a new development on the Osteria land. If any of this is indeed proven true in court, Farrell indeed is unfit to serve in office any longer.

I cant see Farrell’s support getting any stronger over the last few years and I don’t expect that this legal action will aid in her chances of re-election.

The arrogance displayed by Farrell in this matter and in her behavior over the last 8 years or so has at least brought about some very serious conversation about term limits for city councilors and some new ethical guidelines being brought down. A silver lining perhaps. Maybe a new accountability guideline can be dubbed “Farrell’s law”.

I suspect that Farrell has burned enough bridges over the years. She very likely will not retain her chair this time around.

It is time to reform accountability for city councilors in the future though or we may simply see a Druh Farrell by another name assume the chair she vacates.

This will be an interesting court proceeding to watch to say the very least. I am sure that more than a few elected officials will be watching it in Alberta as these sort of actions may come their way too if they don’t take care.

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Calgary taxpayers give Nenshi a loan.

purplepeacock

From yesterday’s CBC article: The city is picking up the tab for Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s legal battle with developer Cal Wenzel, but he now has to fundraise in order to pay the city back.

When Nenshi found himself rightly being sued for slandering a Calgary businessman and philanthropist during a radio interview, many people were rightly concerned that taxpayers would find themselves on the hook for the legal bills.

Nenshi could have easily ended this entire mess with a simple retraction and apology years ago. That is exactly what he ended up doing in his settlement anyway. Clearly Nenshi was on the losing end of that settlement as he had to humbly apologize and didn’t get his legal fees covered.

I suspect that His Worship in his arrogance was so confident that he would come out on top in this lawsuit that he never thought twice before screaming to any and all critics that he would pay all the legal bills.

One has to wonder if Nenshi would not have dragged out this legal mess as long as he did if the city wasn’t going to backstop the legal bills for him until he could pay them back? How many employers will pay 6 figures in legal fees on a loan for employees who are in the midst of getting sued for slandering somebody and outside of their employment duties? Nice loan if you can get it.

The Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation acts as a watchdog on political spending on all levels of government. This is very important in municipal politics as there is no official opposition working to ensure that our elected servants are being responsible with our money. In doing his job at the time, Derek Fildebrandt made a request to ensure that the Mayor indeed was going to pay his own damned bills.

Fildebrandt’s inquiry set off a classic, petulant Naheed Nenshi public tantrum. Calgary’s Mayor truly does sound like a six year old when he gets upset.

Roger Kingcade with QR77 radio in Calgary did a fantastic, dramatic reading of Nenshi’s social media hissy fit which can be played at the link below.
Nenshi Vs Fildebrandt tantrum.

Nenshi sure was sensitive to the issue.

As Canada’s highest paid mayor ($216,401 per year), I guess Nenshi felt he could absorb the costs if he had to.

Now it looks like Nenshi will be asking others to pay his bills through contributions. How long that will take and how that may work on a political influence level is tough to tell at this point.

One thing that we can be sure of though is that taxpayers have tied up a bunch of capital in covering Nenshi’s legal fees until he can find a way to pay them. Will there be interest charged? Service fees? Loans typically aren’t free and I don’t see why an exception should be made for our Mayor who dug his own legal hole.

6yearold

We can doubtless look forward to more outbursts from Nenshi on this and other issues.

We must follow up on this though as no matter how hard Nenshi howls, the bill simply isn’t paid until Nenshi finds a way to pay it.

For now as usual, taxpayers remain on the hook for the cost of Nenshi’s big mouth.

I hope he has pursued insurance for future suits.

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OK now folks, raise your hand if you thought that smoking wasn’t bad for you.

The Redford government has launched a $10 billion lawsuit against tobacco companies for what appears to be two reasons:

1. To desperately try and find the funds required to pay for the massive spending promises Redford made in the last election.

2. To filter money to her ex-husband’s law-firm as it has unsurprisingly managed to land the contract for the suit and could potentially make millions.

The Alberta government has already reaped many billions of dollars in revenues from tobacco taxes over the years. This lawsuit is the equivalent of a drug pusher suing his supplier for the damage having been caused to his clients while he continues to push the product. The tobacco industry is so heavily regulated and taxed by the provincial government that the government is an outright partner in the distribution and sales of the product.

One common vapid defense for these kinds of lawsuits is claiming that people did not know that cigarettes were bad for them because tobacco companies so effectively hid the adverse health effects of smoking. Come on people, that is nothing less than a load of crap. People have known smoking is bad for them for nearly a century now and most were not so stupid as to fall for ads understating the risks from tobacco companies.

To prove my point I am thrilled to be be able to link to a piece by some of the most brilliant entertainers of our time. Yes, I am speaking of the Three Stooges of course.

 In this episode, the stooges have won a large prize from the “Coffin Nail cigarette company” at about the five minute mark if you want to watch it. The term “coffin nails” being used as a slang term for cigarettes has clearly been around since at least 1938 as demonstrated by Larry, Curly and Moe. The origin of that term is of course because people knew that smoking tended to send people to an early grave thus cigarettes were compared to adding nails to the coffin.

 While the full extent of health damages caused by tobacco may not have been known 80 years ago, it is pretty clear that nobody was under any illusion that there was not a health risk associated with smoking.

The above point is key because these lawsuits are predicated on the assumption that nobody really knew that smoking was bad for them until the 1980s or so. That assumption is simply not true.

The other flaw in these lawsuits is the calculation of apparent health costs due to smokers. The numbers being drawn up by anti-smoking activists and class action vultures like Redford’s ex-husband are brutally flawed. It has to be assumed that non-smokers will never get sick or die for the numbers to be correct with the alleged health costs due to smoking. Believe it or not, non-smokers can get chronic and expensive illnesses too. While it sounds unbelievable, I have to point out that non-smokers indeed do eventually die and often cost the healthcare system a great deal of money on their way out the door as well.

Most people use the vast majority of their healthcare consumption in the last couple decades of their lives. You can visit with some of the healthiest of people in their 70s and I assure you that they still will be able to draw you a long list of the medications that they are on, the procedures that they have had done and the very frequent schedule of visits to health professionals. I am not holding that against these people of course, but it does have to be faced that senior citizens are very expensive to care for health wise. Now it needs to be noted that seniors are not contributing income taxes and such as they used to as well and that many are drawing from government services such as OAS and subsidized care for decades.

In light of all of the above the case could be made in a very cold way that coupled with massive tax revenues to government, smoking may indeed actually save the public purse money in that it takes so many people out at a young age thus saving the costs associated with a 30 year retirement. It is indeed clear that the costs of smoking to governments are greatly exaggerated to say the least.

Now before the chorus of offended health zealots harms my virtual ears let me say that I do not see tobacco consumption in any amount is good for people or for society at large in any way. I am not advocating that people should die young in order to save the system money or that smoking does not still cost us all in lost productivity or even the emotional costs of seeing loved ones dying early due to health issues associated with smoking.

What I am saying is that we must stop being disingenuous in the efforts to demonize and sue a legal entity. Lets base this stuff on real facts before moving forward and lets start embracing some personal responsibility here.

I started smoking while young and only managed to quit a few years ago. I was never under the illusion for a moment that smoking was not bad for me. I did have that youthful “it will never happen to me” attitude but knew deep down that smoking was harming me. Since quitting I have packed on a fair degree of weight which is not a healthy thing either. Now regulating my diet and exercise is my responsibility as well but it should be pointed out that stopping people from smoking does not mean that they will immediately become healthy in every other way.

Governments ban all sorts of drugs, items and even simple pesticides based on those things being unhealthy to people. If the government really feels that smoking is so harmful, they really should ban the practice altogether. Will this lawsuit stop people from smoking? No! Again this legal action is nothing less than a corrupt and hypocritical money grab. Even after the suit government will continue to profit from the massive taxes levied on tobacco products.

Where indeed will this end? What other companies that are legally operating and following every government regulation may be sued for damages to people consuming their products? Will Sifto Salt be sued because people use too much salt? Over-consumption of salt is epidemic in North America and it is a proven killer so why not? Soft drinks? Meat packers? None of the aforementioned examples are unrealistic at all should the province win this lawsuit. How about ski hills? Orthopedic injuries cost a fortune in surgeries and lost productivity.

I guess we will simply have to watch and wait on this one. It is sad that government has to rely on shaky lawsuits to backstop their irresponsible spending.

 

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