Big shakeups in Alberta's city councils present a rare opportunity for real change

Have you ever wondered about the phrase “strike while the iron is hot”? It’s from blacksmithing. It isn’t easy to change something as hard as a lump of metal. You could hammer at it for days and not get anywhere. But get that iron into the forge for a bit and the bonds that kept it stuck loosen up, and for a brief window—until it cools down—it’s malleable. You can change it, if you strike while the iron is hot.

The iron is hot in Alberta today. Across the province, power arrangements in many towns and cities, especially the big two, have been melted down. That’s mostly thanks to Premier Jason Kenney, the least popular Premier in Canada and possibly the most hated Premier in Albertan history. This election was an opportunity to stick it to him, and wow did we ever.

All of the notable conservative councillors in Edmonton are out, and the majority of them in Calgary are gone too. The UCP-aligned candidates for mayor in those cities, Jeromy Farkas and Mike Nickel, didn’t just lose—they were demolished.

You very well might have a town or city councillor now who is completely fresh. And if you’re looking for change in your community, for a brief window, before everything settles down and hardens again, you may have the opportunity to get it. But the iron doesn’t stay hot forever. We’ve all seen promising politicians turn into disappointments before—a food-security advocate turning into a catspaw for privatization, a mayor falsely promising to end homelessness, a policy wonk falling into a developer’s pocket.

Keep up the pressure, and keep up the heat. Now is the time to shape our town and city councils into the tools we need. Redouble your efforts with that issues-based organization you support, or with your union, or your community league. If you have a completely fresh councillor I would encourage you to at the very least write to them and tell them what you need. We have a real opportunity to forge these institutions into things that truly help people, and for the first time in a long time, I’m genuinely excited.

Last-minute revelations leave Calgarians demanding a resignation

I must forewarn you that this matter concerns a sexual assault. The rest of the newsletter continues in the Sundries section below.

By now you’ve likely heard the news from Calgary about councillor Sean Chu. In 1997, according to documentation from the Law Enforcement Review Board, Chu—at the time a 34-year-old Calgary Police Service officer—engaged in sexual activity with a 16-year-old girl.

A publication ban prevented the media from reporting on this until just before election day, after advance ballots had already been cast. Chu can thank that delay for his incredibly narrow win. He took his council seat with a lead of fewer than sixty votes.

The ban meant we were all blindsided by this, but Chu wasn’t. Knowing this was about to go public, he didn’t resign, or end his campaign; he got ready to play defense. Almost immediately after the CBC broke the story, Chu was at Derek Fildebrandt’s right-wing disinformation hub, the Western Standard, to tell ‘his side.’ And almost immediately he was caught in multiple lies.

Chu claims that he met the young girl at a bar, where she shouldn’t have been if she was a minor; but he was actually called in to drive her home from a diner. Chu claimed through his lawyer that he was unaware of her age, but he was already acquainted with this person, having met her during an investigation when she was 14. Chu claims that the sexual contact was consensual, but if the police had ever let this matter go in front of a judge, they’d have likely disagreed: under Canadian law, a 16-year-old can not give consent to an adult if that adult is in a position of authority over them. The person he assaulted, who has been seeking justice for nine years while being jerked around by internal police ‘investigations,’ certainly doesn’t describe it as consensual. And it definitely doesn’t help Chu’s credibility that there’s news now of him committing domestic abuse in 2008.

Chu’s vicious support of the UCP’s cruel campaign against supervised consumption sites was already reason enough to turf him from council and all polite company. Now there’s no argument. Mayor-elect Jyoti Gondek and the majority of Calgary’s city council are demanding Sean Chu’s immediate resignation. Posters are already circulating calling for a mass protest at Calgary city hall on Sunday, October 24, at noon.


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