Alberta justice minister lashes out at Calgary mayor for talking about police cuts

Alberta's justice minister lashed out at Calgary's mayor on Tuesday after Naheed Nenshi spoke out about provincial budget moves that will take $12 million out of the police budget. 

Doug Schweitzer branded Naheed Nenshi as 'Trudeau's mayor'

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer says his government hasn't cut grants to police, but Calgary's service will still faces cuts by other means. (CBC)

Alberta's justice minister lashed out at Calgary's mayor on Tuesday after Naheed Nenshi spoke out about provincial budget moves that will take $12 million out of the police budget. 

"Trudeau's mayor is out to lunch," wrote Doug Schweitzer on Twitter. "We made tough decisions in our budget but didn't reduce police grants by one dollar. Unlike his friend in Ottawa, he should get his fiscal house in order."

While true the province didn't cut grants, it did decide to take a bigger chunk of revenues from fines, to the tune of $10 million per year, and will charge police for forensic testing, which will cost the service $2 million each year. 

"Perhaps rather than personal insults, you may wish to explain your budget," Nenshi replied on Twitter. 

City made cuts earlier in year

Calgary's police chief, Mark Neufeld, said the budget impacts will be hard to deal with so close on the heels of a $7-million cut from the city earlier this year. 

"Over the last couple of years, we've found about $20 million in efficiencies … we're an efficient organization the way it is now," he said on Monday. 

Schweitzer was angry when asked about his tweet by reporters at the legislature on Tuesday, visibly shaking while clutching headlines culled from the media about Nenshi offering assistance to Trudeau in the wake of last week's federal election. 

"You know what, I'm not going to be lectured by Mayor Nenshi on the funding priorities of this government. He needs to get his own fiscal house in order and stop funding pet projects," said Schweitzer. 

"We made justice a priority of our department. We're going to continue to fund policing. We've done so."

Calgary recently cut $60 million from its own budget but is pushing ahead on a new arena deal with the Calgary Flames that will cost the city $225 million.

'Trudeau's mayor'

When asked why he referred to Calgary's mayor as a "Trudeau's mayor," Schweitzer read media headlines that said Nenshi and former premier Alison Redford were both open to helping the prime minister build bridges with the province. 

"I'm sorry, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Albertans spoke loud and clear. Seventy per cent of Albertans voted for the Conservative government," said Schweitzer.

"They want a government that's going to fight for Alberta, that's what we intend to do."

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Schweitzer promised 500 new police officers in Alberta, and then pointed to comments from Neufeld that the Calgary Police Service is now losing the equivalent of 130 full-time policing jobs. 

"This justice minister needs to be accountable for the decision he makes," she said. 

"I'm not sure if it's that he doesn't understand the decisions that he makes, or that he's truly willing to be as misleading as we have seen from him in his tenure thus far."

'Is this the new communications style?'

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt says the comments by Schweitzer are insulting. 

"It's almost like if you oppose the UCP, you must be tied in to Trudeau," he said. 

"Is this the new communications style? If I were to come out and criticize aspects of the budget, which I've done, does that brand me as a Trudeauite?"

Police funding isn't the only issue the city will have to struggle with in the wake of the budget. Provincial contributions to the Green Line LRT over the next four years have been slashed by 86 per cent.

The province will also cut the amount of money it pays to the city for provincial properties. That program will see a 25 per cent reduction in 2019-20 and another 25 per cent reduction in 2020-21. 

"With two months to go in the fiscal year, we've got to find $17.5 million," Nenshi said on Oct. 24. "[It] means all the rest of us have to make up for that tax that they're not paying."


Drew Anderson

Former CBC digital journalist

Drew Anderson was a digital journalist with CBC Calgary from 2015 to 2021 and is a third-generation Calgarian.

With files from Michelle Bellfontaine and Colleen Underwood