Calgary councillor slammed for repeated council absences, upcoming vacation during key budget talks
Diane Colley-Urquhart will be on trip to Antarctica during budget deliberations later this month
Calgary Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart is drawing fire after missing three council meetings since the recent election and announcing she'll be away again during upcoming budget deliberations.
Colley-Urquhart won a seventh term on council in the Oct. 16 election as the representative for Ward 13 in the city's southwest.
So far, she has missed a vote on the city's Olympic Games bid.
She also missed a vote on the southwest bus rapid transit (BRT) — even though she and Coun. Jeromy Farkas were behind the notice of motion to stall awarding the tender of Phase 2 of the project (the portion south of Glenmore Trail) pending a review of its scope and funding.
After she was a no-show without explanation at that meeting and the bid was overwhelmingly defeated, Farkas complained that he got "thrown under the bus."
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Colley-Urquhart also missed the 2018 calendar approval meeting in November. The calendar approval meeting had to be moved to Dec. 11 as policy dictates all members of council must be in attendance.
Now, Colley-Urquhart says she'll be gone for the last few weeks of November on a pre-planned vacation to Antarctica — which happens to coincide with coming budget deliberations, set to run Nov. 27 to Dec. 1.
'You've got to … be available when the public needs you'
The absences are raising questions, even among her supporters.
Cecil Jahrig, a strong Colley-Urquhart supporter who was president of the Woodcreek Community Association in Ward 13 for several years, wonders why the councillor planned a vacation at this time of year.
As a veteran councillor, she'd know the budget deliberations were coming up, he said.
"I would assume she would have known that this was budget time. The other things — BRT and Olympic funding — came up not too long ago, so she maybe wouldn't know about those," Jahrig said.
"But, yeah, unfortunately, when you are in public life, your life really isn't your own anymore. You've got to serve the public and be available when the public needs you."
He said he knows she'll get a lot of flak over the timing.
"She's done an excellent job for us and I've ben very pleased with what she's done for the community. But the couple of things she's missed, the BRT and the Olympics, and now possibly the budget: timing's not good."
Ward 13 constituents unhappy
Other Ward 13 constituents are also unhappy.
"This is not a new behaviour for her, so I think what she's doing is she's just demonstrating that she really isn't interested in representing us," said resident Dave Graham.
This is not a new behaviour for her, so I think what she's doing is she's just demonstrating that she really isn't interested in representing us.- Dave Graham
"She should have her holidays, but when there's such important votes, then I think she should have planned to be here," said resident Jean Braxton.
Ward 5 Coun. George Chahal says it's something he wants council to discuss.
"Well, she's been away for several weeks and I think it's an important discussion that we need to have with council, because this is a critical time of the year for us," he said.
"We're making some serious decisions and it would be nice to have all council members present.
Peter McCaffrey, director of research at the Manning Foundation, says Colley-Urquart's absence means her constituents' views won't be represented at a key time.
"If you're in Ward 13, obviously it means your views won't be heard during the budget debates," he said. "She's going to be missing the five-day plan for the next four years."
McCaffrey says Colley-Urquart's attendance record has been very good until now, with a 94.2 per cent score last term.
All of Calgary's city council members were above 90 per cent during the last term.
CBC News reached out to Colley-Urquhart for comment but she had yet to respond.
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With files from Lucie Edwardson