You’d never know it from the tight city councillor races happening in Edmonton and Calgary but just last year there was the largest protest movement in North American history and all of it centred around one simple demand that city councillors actually control: defunding the police.
Discussion of defunding the police this election cycle simply hasn’t happened. Journalists aren’t asking about it (except a few) and candidates aren’t campaigning on it. This is despite the fact that police funding is the single largest line item in nearly every city’s budget. When you add the yearly police budgets for Edmonton and Calgary together it comes to roughly three quarters of a billion dollars every year. And once you get elected to city council you sit down for two months and engage in a budgeting process essentially locks in the next four years of funding.
And in the latest Progress Report pod guest Trent Daley and I go over this in detail, including which city council candidates in Edmonton actually make concrete statements about police funding and which ones don’t.
And the police keep giving ample ammunition to folks who want to see their budget reduced and funds allocated to housing, harm reduction and social supports. The day after we recorded this pod the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team found that an RCMP officer in Sherwood Park had assaulted a person who was in their custody. The conspicuously unnamed officer had slapped a man who has in handcuffs and surrounded by police officers just because he was mad at him. The Alberta Crown Prosecutor Service declined to prosecute despite the finding of assault and recommendation by ASIRT.
At 3pm on a Friday before a long weekend ASIRT then released the news that Constable Dylan Awid of the Edmonton Police Service had been charged with assault from a violent June 11, 2019 arrest that was caught on camera from multiple angles. The incident was relatively famous because of its extreme brutality. The affected person was tased, pistol-whipped, kicked while on the ground, elbowed in the head, slamming head first into a brick wall, then shoved into a cruiser while he was handcuffed.
And then just yesterday a huge story broke from Janice Johnston at the CBC. Detective Dan Behiels has been investigating notorious landlord and criminal Abdullah Shah for two years.
According to Behiels approximately 10 per cent of Edmonton's homicides between 2016 and 2018 occurred in a property owned or controlled by Shah. After the investigation was complte the Alberta Crown Prosecutor Service declined to prosecute on all but one charge and Behiels turned whistleblower. He handed over to CBC 64 gigabytes of documents detailing his investigation into not only Shah but his fellow officers.
In a January 2021 report to Chief Dale McFee, Behiels wrote: "I believe that members of the Edmonton Police Service have engaged in corrupt acts that have effectively insulated this criminal organization from investigation and prosecution." Chief Dale McFee just got his contract extended to 2026. His newly negotiated salary was not disclosed.
We will be following this series by Janice Johnston closely (part 2 just came out) and if you have a chance, ask your city councillor candidate how they feel about defunding the police. They need to know that you’re paying close attention to this issue.
- Calgary city councillor Joe Magliocca and dear friend and ally of Jeromy Farkas has been charged with breach of trust and fraud under $5,000 by the RCMP. It looks like he will continue to be a candidate and is the favourite to continue on as a councillor. Whee!
- The government of Alberta is spending $15.2 million on the $100 debit cards that were an incentive for previously unvaccinated people to get the shot. At $200k a pop that would have built 76 affordable housing units.
- The drug poisoning public health emergency continues and Edmonton is being hit especially hard. The government has released a new app and is discussing plans for a supervised consumption site on the south side of the river but safe supply is still anathema to this government for ideological reasons.
- Gondek and Farkas are in a dead heat for the Calgary mayor’s chair according to a new poll
- The municipal election is on Oct. 18th. If you haven’t heard yet I am running for the “Senate” and I would love your vote. I have a very simple pitch: these “Senate elections” are fake and illegitimate but if you vote for me it will Jason Kenney off and also be very funny. Thank you for your support.
- If you’re in Edmonton you are invited to a Senate sausage sizzle happening today at 5pm at Mary Burlie Park. There will be sausages, coffee and water and Treaty Six Outreach will be there with harm reduction supplies. This is a test run for a Senate sausage sizzle we’ll be holding on election day, Oct. 18.
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