Naheed Nenshi files defence in $6M 'Godfather' defamation lawsuit

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has issued a stinging defence against allegations he defamed prominent developer Cal Wenzel during the last municipal election.

Statement of defence alleges election breaches by Shane Homes developer Cal Wenzel

Calgary home builder Cal Wenzel, right, filed a defamation lawsuit against Mayor Naheed Nenshi on Nov. 13. Nenshi says Wenzel has not proven he has suffered any damages, so the case should be dismissed. (CBC)

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has issued a stinging defence against allegations he defamed prominent developer Cal Wenzel during the last municipal election.

In a 40-page statement of defence filed late Tuesday obtained by CBC News, Nenshi makes it clear he is not about to back down from the threat of the Shane Homes founder's $6-milllion defamation lawsuit.

To the contrary, not only does Nenshi reiterate the original controversial statements he made about Wenzel, including calling him the “Godfather,” he says they are completely justified.

"Wenzel, like the 'Godfather,' is a wealthy and powerful man, who is kind and benevolent to those who give respect and agree with his views, but ruthless when something stands in his way," the document states.

Nenshi first made the “Godfather” comment in an Oct. 9, 2013, interview with David Gray of CBC's Calgary Eyeopener radio program.

The exchange 

  • Listen to the full October interview below, exchange starts at 6:17:

On mobile? Click here to listen.  

In his statement of claim, Wenzel said Nenshi’s reference to him as the Godfather would lead people to believe that he is “the head of a Mafia-like organization that is working to disrupt municipal politics utilizing immoral or illegal practices.”

But Nenshi, in his statement of defence, provides proof that Wenzel’s own son, Shane, referred to him as “the Godfather” in a tweet on April 14, 2012.

“To Mayor Nenshi's knowledge, Wenzel has not complained nor sought an apology from his son for referring to Wenzel as ‘the Godfather,”’ the document states.

Alberta Justice complaint

Nenshi also again states in the document that he believes Wenzel violated municipal election finance laws when he discussed, in a private meeting with 150 other developers and home builders, ways in which to exceed the $5,000 donation limit.

The meeting was surreptitiously recorded, a copy of which was made public by Global TV and then published on CBC's website

"On the basis of these public admissions of Wenzel's conduct, either personally or through Shane Homes, Wenzel's actions would constitute a prima facie [on its face] violation of the spirit and letter of Alberta municipal elections financing law," the statement of defence states.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi filed his statement of defence Tuesday in the defamation case against him. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

Nenshi, in the document, says he raised his concerns about this issue with Alberta Justice.

"Sometime later, Alberta Justice advised Mayor Nenshi that while there appeared to have been a violation of campaign finance law during the 2010 Calgary municipal election, based on Wenzel's statements in the Wenzel secret video, Alberta Justice had no authority under the applicable legislation to investigate the allegations and enforce the law."

During the secret meeting, Wenzel had discussed how he had donated the maximum $5,000 to Calgary Coun. Kevin Taylor during the 2010 election, but had also sent out Shane Homes employees and trucks to put up signs for Taylor. Wenzel later said the employees had volunteered their time and he said Taylor had given them a gas card.

But in the statement of defence, Nenshi says Taylor told him a different version of events. Nenshi said Taylor accepted the use of Shane Homes’ trucks and employees to assist his 2010 election campaign. But Taylor told Nenshi he “assumed” the Shane Homes’ employees were working on their own time and he did not know who owned the trucks or who had paid for the gas.  

Alberta Justice also told Nenshi it could not take any action “with respect to future potential violations of campaign finance contribution limitations for the 2013 Calgary municipal election.”

Wenzel sues mayor

Wenzel launched his defamation lawsuit against Nenshi on Nov. 13, 2013, after the mayor declined to apologize to the developer for statements he made during October’s municipal election.

The lawsuit stems from Nenshi’s public comments about Wenzel’s statements to the private meeting of home building industry executives. Wenzel’s lawsuit claims Nenshi distorted his comments as part of “an overarching civic election campaign strategy to smear Wenzel for political gain.”

Nenshi categorically rejects that allegation. He says Wenzel was “inconsequential” to his landslide victory. His statement of defence details how Nenshi had, on several occasions dating back to at least 2007, previously raised the issue of the need for campaign-financing reform.

“Wenzel has commenced and pursued this [lawsuit] for the principal purpose of preventing or dissuading Mayor Nenshi from publicly commenting on matters of public interest and policy,” the statement of defence says.

Nenshi claims, in his statement of defence, that the motive for Wenzel’s lawsuit is personal gain. He details how the new Corporate Framework for Growth and Change, a plan for orderly development of the city, pushed Wenzel’s Belvedere area development lower on the city’s development priority list.

By suing him, Nenshi says Wenzel “reveals his improper use of this court's process to draw public attention to himself, his businesses, and his proposed developments,” including the Belvedere development, the statement of defence claims.

Wenzel’s statement of claim provided no proof that he suffered any damage to his reputation or to that of his company, Nenshi says in his claim, and he called on the court to strike the lawsuit.

The case has not yet been tried in court and none of the allegations contained in either the statements of claim or defence has been proven.

Entire statement of defence: Nenshi

To view on mobile, click here

Entire statement of claim: Wenzel

To view on mobile, click here


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