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Council rejects implementing plebiscite question on secondary suites PDF Print E-mail
Written by Shane Flug   
Tuesday, 20 September 2011 13:44

No sense spending more money on public consultations, says mayor

It's a no-go for city council to ask its residents whether they are prepared to loosen the rules allowing far more secondary suites in Calgary.

Secondary suites are a topic of heated debate within city council. During yesterday’s discussion over a potential plebiscite, Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra accused critics of “environmental racism” against renters, which Ald. Gord Lowe took offense to. Carra later said the term was academic and apologized.
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Yesterday, city council voted against implementing a plebiscite (ballot question) on secondary suites by a vote of 10 – 5.

The process of bringing a plebiscite question to Calgarians was said by a city clerk's report not to be legally binding, citing rules within the Municipal Government Act.

In other words - regardless of the outcome of such a vote, the final decision still would have been left up to city council.

Although Nenshi ultimately voted yes to bringing a plebiscite question to Calgarians, he said that spending more on consulting voters “is not going to change anybody's mind."

"I was lukewarm,” he said of the idea. “I did vote for the plebiscite in the end because I think that democracy is always a good thing."

“The vast majority of the public is totally fine with (secondary suites) but a very vocal minority is not and council just can't seem to come to terms with that.

"It's rude to go out to citizens and ask them for their opinion and pretend it's going to make a difference," he said.


Changing zoning rules to legally allow basement suites in single-family homes, which was one of Nenshi's campaign promises during last year's election, seems to be a topic for divisive debate among aldermen.

The vote


  • Ald. Andre Chabot
  • Ald. Peter Demong
  • Ald. Ray Jones
  • Ald. John Mar
  • Mayor Naheed Nenshi


  • Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra
  • Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart
  • Ald. Druh Farrell
  • Ald. Dale Hodges
  • Ald. Shane Keating
  • Ald. Gord Lowe
  • Ald. Gael MacLeod
  • Ald. Brian Pincott
  • Ald. Richard Pootmans
  • Ald. Jim Stevenson

City management estimated a $1-million cost for a stand-alone plebiscite question. If it were to be included as a part of the ballot for the 2013 municipal election, the cost would have been $150,000.

A referral for city administration to report costs and legal implications of a plebiscite to council was moved by Ald. John Mar in late June.

Prior to the vote, Mar stood by his demand for a plebiscite.

"I think that council will be able to hear directly (from its people), street by street, community by community, quadrant by quadrant, ward by ward," he said. "A plebiscite is the best form of democracy that we have."

Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra said that although he could not support the cost of a plebiscite, he did say he “would love to know, polling station by polling station, how the communities of Calgary feel about this issue. I would love to just put it to rest."

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