Pro-transit group, councillor trade accusations over southwest BRT

Sparring over the controversial southwest bus rapid transit (BRT) project has resumed ahead of a council debate next week on a motion to delay Phase 2 of the project.

Calgarians for BRT says Jeromy Farkas in-line with Ready to Engage; Farkas has accusation of his own

An artist's rendering of a section of the southwest BRT project near the Rockyview hospital. (Supplied)

Sparring over the controversial southwest bus rapid transit (BRT) project has resumed ahead of a council debate next week on a motion to delay Phase 2 of the project.

Two councillors, Ward 11's Jeromy Farkas and Ward 13's Diane Colley-Urquhart, put forth the motion to temporarily park plans for the southwest BRT while the project is reviewed.

A local pro-transit advocacy group — Calgarians for BRT — is calling on Farkas to be open and transparent about the links between his office and Ready to Engage, a citizens' group that opposes the southwest BRT.

Farkas has a member of Ready to Engage working in his office.

Chris Doyle with Calgarians for BRT said the hiring calls into question the councillor's ability to make decisions that are in the best interests of his constituents.

"He should be transparent about that group's involvement on his staff and to the level of influence that they're having there with this motion," said Doyle.

"We're disappointed how beholden he is to that group right now."

Well-known opponent of BRT

For his part, Farkas hasn't exactly hidden his feelings about the southwest BRT project. 

He openly campaigned against it during the election, but Farkas said he's not a member of Ready to Engage.

As for his office staff, Farkas said he hasn't hired anyone yet but he does have one person working temporarily in his office until he makes those decisions.

That person was involved with Ready to Engage.

"I would say that I've been nothing but transparent about my intentions, as well as the team alongside me," said Farkas. 

Rookie Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas openly campaigned against the southwest BRT during the election. (Sarah Lawrynuik/CBC)

While addressing the concerns, the rookie councillor fired back with a shot of his own.

He said that Calgarians for BRT used a picture on some of its social media feeds Wednesday that featured a house in one of his communities with a Ready to Engage sign on the lawn.

Farkas said that posting resulted in the "shaming and cyberbullying" of constituents who had expressed their concerns about the BRT.  

He called upon the group to apologize for the post.

Group takes down picture

Chris Doyle with Calgarians for BRT said that picture was taken down.

"Our intent was certainly not to identify a particular person at all and so we've taken that out," said Doyle. "We just wanted to draw attention to the group that's out there."

Both Farkas and Calgarians for BRT are encouraging people to contact council members ahead of Monday's discussion of the BRT motion.

For the motion to pass and temporarily halt the BRT project, at least 10 members have to support it as it's classified as a reconsideration of an earlier council decision to proceed with the southwest BRT.