Ready to Engage says it may sue Mayor Nenshi for defamation

Ready to Engage, the citizen group that opposes the city's plan for bus-rapid transit expansion in the southwest, is considering a defamation lawsuit against Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

'Every avenue of recourse is being explored,' says spokesman for group opposed to southwest rapid transit plan

Rick Donkers, spokesman for a citizen group opposed to Calgary's plan for expanded rapid transit in the city's southwest, speaks to reporters. (CBC)

Ready to Engage, the citizen group that opposes the city's plan for southwest rapid transit expansion, is considering a defamation lawsuit against Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Rick Donkers, who speaks for the group, told reporters Wednesday that the mayor's earlier comments regarding potentially criminal behaviour at some public engagement sessions attended by Ready to Engage members may tread into defamatory territory.

Donkers said he wouldn't rule out a lawsuit against the mayor.

"It's currently under consideration because what he said wasn't true," he said, adding that "every avenue of recourse is being explored."

Donkers made the comments during a press conference he called to announce the full results of a poll the group had commissioned on the city's planned southwest transitway project.

CBC News has a policy of independently vetting polls before reporting on their results and this poll — based on the published methodology and questions — did not meet the standard.

'Push poll' allegation denied

Donkers also denied Nenshi's earlier allegation that the telephone survey was a "push poll" designed to influence voters under the guise of being a genuine gauge of public opinion.

"Let me categorically state: This is not about the 2017 civic election," Donkers said. "We are not running a civic election campaign."

The poll, according to its published methodology, included four questions, the first two asking participants whether they approved of the job being done by Mayor Nenshi and Coun. Brian Pincott and Coun.Diane Colley-Urquhart.

Donkers said the group wasn't even going to release the results of the poll before Nenshi made the accusation that it was a push poll.

"We've decided that we're now releasing the entirety of the poll," he said.

'War of words'

He also blamed Nenshi for "inflaming" emotions surrounding the issue and called the mayor's decision to cancel future public information sessions on the project "an affront to democracy."

Ready to Engage has launched a significant campaign against the Southwest BRT project. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"We didn't ask to be dragged into a giant war of words by the city," Donkers said. "We just wanted to get some questions answered. This has blown to a proportion that, frankly, we're not comfortable with."

Nenshi said the cancellations were necessary because city staff were verbally abused and threatened at a public information session last week and one female employee had been physically assaulted at a public meeting last October.

The controversy centres around Calgary's plan to expand bus rapid transit to the city's southwest, including the addition of bus-only lanes along 14th Street S.W.

Ready To Engage claims the city did not do enough to inform area residents about the project, which was approved by council in 2011, and has failed to address concerns about the plans.

CBC News reached out to Nenshi for reaction and a spokesperson said in reply, "The mayor has no comments to make about a threatened lawsuit."

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