Calgary

Jeromy Farkas spent $821K in failed mayoral bid, but $13K enough to win city council seat

Financial disclosures from the candidates in last fall's municipal election show former councillor Jeromy Farkas spent the most money running for mayor in Calgary but lost.

Financial disclosures from Calgary municipal candidates released

From left to right, some of the mayoral candidates in the 2021 municipal election in Calgary: Brad Field, Jyoti Gondek, Jeff Davison, Jan Damery and Jeromy Farkas. Financial disclosures from the campaigns have now been released. (Submitted by the campaigns of Brad Field, Jyoti Gondek, Jeff Davison, Jan Damery and Jeromy Farkas)

Financial disclosures from the Calgary candidates in last fall's municipal election show former councillor Jeromy Farkas spent the most money running for mayor.

The former councillor for Ward 11 finished second but spent $821,241 on his campaign. That was nearly $200,000 more than the winner, his former council colleague Jyoti Gondek, who spent $633,342.

Former councillor Jeff Davison, who placed third, spent $359,545. Jan Damery, who came in fifth, spent more than Davison: $437,083.

Fourth-place finisher Brad Field did not file his paperwork by the March 1 deadline.

Lori Williams, a political science professor at Mount Royal University, said money is obviously important in politics, but it doesn't guarantee success.

"You clearly cannot buy an election. We knew this from previous Calgary elections," she said.

Lori Williams, a political science professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, says past municipal elections have proven that raising or spending the most money is not a guarantee of political success. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

There was a wide disparity in spending by successful councillor candidates.

Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra was re-elected in Ward 9 after raising — and spending — around $201,000. That was the most spent among all candidates for councillor.

At the other end of the spending scale, Ward 2 Coun. Jennifer Wyness spent just $13,632 to win her race. 

Wyness defeated former councillor Joe Magliocca, who was seeking re-election while embroiled in an expense scandal. Magliocca spent $103,347 on the race.

Former councillor Joe Magliocca, who spent $103,347 on his re-election campaign, was defeated by Jennifer Wyness, who spent just $13,632. (CBC)

Williams said what's missing from this week's disclosures is information from third-party advertisers that campaigned for numerous candidates.

Under provincial law, they must report their financials. But unlike the candidates, it isn't public information.

"To cloak an entire, very influential and well-financed group of parties under this [third-party advertiser] system I think really clouds that whole issue of democratic transparency and accountability, but also democratic equality and fairness," Williams said.

Former Liberal MP and MLA Kent Hehr, who dropped out of the mayoral race in September 2021 after citing risks from COVID-19, raised $124,685 for his campaign. 

Gondek, who went on to win the mayor's chair, had a few advertising contracts, spending $120,500 with the Burke Group of Companies on signs and brochures.

She also spent big on a company called Decide Campaigns, with a total of $130,000 spent. The firm is run by Stephen Carter, who became her chief of staff after the election but left the office last month.

Davison had initially said he would seek re-election in Ward 6 before switching to a mayoral bid. As a part of that early campaign, he raised and spent $93,041.

Complete disclosures are available for viewing by the public during regular business hours by appointment at the Elections Calgary office.

The city will post all of the candidates' financial disclosures on its website by the end of this month.

With files from Scott Dippel

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