Naheed Nenshi to be sued by home builder over 'Godfather' comments

A defamation lawsuit has been filed against Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi over numerous comments he made, including insinuating Shane Homes CEO Cal Wenzel heads a mafia-like organization.

Shane Homes' founder Cal Wenzel files suit after Calgary mayor's radio interview claims

Calgary home builder Cal Wenzel, right, settled a defamation lawsuit against Mayor Naheed Nenshi in December. (CBC)

A defamation lawsuit has been filed against Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi over numerous comments he made, including insinuating Shane Homes CEO Cal Wenzel heads a mafia-like organization.

Nenshi made the comments cited in the claim after a video of Wenzel surfaced prior to October's election showing him outlining a plan to defeat members of city council seen as being against the interests of home builders.

The meeting was covertly recorded and leaked to media in April.

The claim states Nenshi implied the video was similar to a scene "out of the movie [The] Godfather" in an Oct. 9 interview on CBC's Calgary Eyeopener.

When host David Gray attempted to clarify, asking Nenshi if he just called Wenzel the Godfather, Nenshi replied "maybe."

The exchange 

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

Gray: Look, a national newspaper has just published this story suggesting you invented the opposition between you and the Manning Centre so you would have an opponent in this election race. 

Nenshi: Yeah, that is interesting. So, apparently, I secretly called a meeting with 150 people and I gave a script to Cal Wenzel to talk about how they were going to spend more money than every single candidate combined in the last election. Apparently, I am the one who funded the secret third parties' super pacs in Calgary to oppose my own agenda. Fascinating piece of analysis. 

Gray: I think the sense was that you needed some gristle to fight against in this election race. 

Nenshi: Let's not be ridiculous here! This is one thing I do not understand, which is why everyone is being so polite. We had a scene right outside of — out of the movie Godfather. We had a guy admitting that he broke the law in 2010 in favour of one candidate, Ward 7's Kevin Taylor, running again. We realize the law cannot actually be enforced — it has no enforcement ability. We had a guy telling people in the room how to break the law in this election and going through every single race, saying "this is the councillor who will oppose Nenshi, make sure you vote for the guy who'll oppose Nenshi, make sure you give them money" — and I invented this? Let's not be ridiculous!

Gray: Sorry, did you just call Cal Wenzel the Godfather?

Nenshi: Maybe. 

Lawsuit alleges reputation damaged

In the video, Wenzel also talked about how 11 home builders donated $100,000 each — totalling $1.1 million — to two organizations founded by former Reform Party head Preston Manning.

Manning said roughly half of the money went to the Manning Centre, a non-profit corporation that focuses on conservative-oriented activities, and the other half went to the Manning Foundation, a research centre that is a registered charity. 

The Manning Centre's Municipal Governance Project also provided political training for some candidates ahead of the election.

In the video, Wenzel told the assembled group of home builder industry insiders that after giving the maximum donation to Ward 7 candidate Kevin Taylor he also provided the use of 13 trucks and helped assemble signs.

"That’s a 'donation in kind' — that means he was donating more than the allowed limit," said Nenshi at the time.

The defamation suit, filed Nov. 13, alleges the mayor damaged Wenzel's reputation by insinuating he had broken election laws. The documents also say Wenzel and his family received an anonymous death threat.

The lawsuit claims Nenshi's motive was for his own political gain in the election.

Mayor currently on vacation

The allegations in the suit have not been proven in court.

The mayor has not filed a statement of defence and has not been served with notice of the lawsuit because he is away on vacation. 

A statement released Friday by the mayor's office said Nenshi would not comment until after he is served. 

In the lawsuit, Wenzel objects to Nenshi saying he broke the law and told other people how to break the law.

He accused the mayor of uttering "false and maliciously-spoken" words.

Two weeks ago, Wenzel demanded Nenshi issue a public apology for distorting his remarks but Nenshi declined.

In a statement issued to media Friday afternoon, Wenzel said an apology would have ended the matter. He also said he waited to file the claim until after the election so it wouldn't be a distraction. 

Wenzel is asking for $5 million in damages, as well as $1 million in additional damages.

The statement says any damages awarded would be issued to charity. 

The Wenzel video 

Entire statement of claim 

Cal Wenzel's public statement 

With files from CBC's Scott Dippel


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