Calgary councillor accuses justice minister of misrepresenting facts around police budget conversation
'The only way to stand up to a bully is to speak up,' says Coun. George Chahal
A Calgary city councillor is accusing Alberta's justice minister of displaying a lack of judgment and resorting to dog whistle politics.
Last week, Minister Kaycee Madu spoke with the Calgary Sun about the city's plan to look at reallocating $20 million in planned increases to the police budget. That money would instead be spent on addressing gaps in crisis and outreach services — to reduce the number of calls to police by supporting people with mental health and addiction issues.
Madu described the plan as defunding the police, and said it was prompted by "socialist" "activists," who see the concept of law and order as "alien."
Coun. George Chahal, who is a member of the Calgary Police Commission and chair of the city's Public Safety Task Force, said Madu is misrepresenting the situation.
He said he tried to speak with the justice minister to clear up misconceptions but so far Madu has not responded.
"His silence is clearly indicative of his attitude … the only way to stand up to a bully is to speak up," he said.
"If you're going to use that rhetoric and call people activists or socialists or Marxists that don't align with your views, that's quite concerning … we have to find ways during these challenging times to work together."
Chahal said it's hypocritical of Madu to say he is so concerned about the police budget when his government cut millions of dollars in revenue from police last year.
"I think he should focus on getting their house in order instead of trying to influence and micromanage our city," he said.
He added in a release that the justice minister has "repeatedly demeaned Albertans while making no effort towards constructive and unbiased engagement" and "demonstrates total disregard and disrespect for those with differing opinions."
Chahal said he hopes to have a conversation with the minister about how to find a balance between police and social supports that increase public safety — without that conversation devolving into inflammatory rhetoric.
In September, police Chief Mark Neufeld had raised the idea of reallocating some of the police budget to community partners to develop alternate ways of helping people in crisis.
Calgary Police Service's budget was $401 million this year, the largest item in the city's budget. Council had approved increases of $10 million for both 2021 and 2022.
The money would account for about five per cent of CPS' budget.
With files from Scott Dippel