Calgary·Exclusive

Naheed Nenshi being sued by home builder over 'Godfather' comments

Naheed Nenshi is being sued for defamation by home builder Cal Wenzel over comments the Calgary mayor made in which he called the Shane Homes founder a "godfather."

Shane Homes' founder Cal Wenzel files suit after Naheen Nenshi radio interview

Calgary home builder Cal Wenzel, right, settled a defamation lawsuit against Mayor Naheed Nenshi in December. (CBC)

A lawsuit has been filed against Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi over numerous comments Nenshi made, including describing Shane Homes founder Cal Wenzel as a "godfather."

Nenshi made the comments after a video of Wenzel surfaced showing him outlining to a group of fellow home builders – prior to the October 2013 municipal election – a plan to defeat members of city council who are seen as being against the interests of home builders. 

Nenshi, in an Oct. 9 interview on CBC's Calgary Eyeopener, implied the video was similar to a scene "out of the movie [The] Godfather."

When host David Gray attempted to clarify, asking Nenshi if he just called Wenzel the Godfather, Nenshi replied, "maybe."

The defamation suit, filed Nov. 13, alleges the mayor damaged Wenzel's reputation.The documents also say Wenzel and his family received an anonymous death threat. None of the allegations in the suit have been proven in court.

The mayor has not filed a statement of defence and because he is away on vacation, has not been served with notice of the lawsuit. As yet, he could not be reached for comment. 

The exchange 

Gray: Look, a national newspaper has just published this story suggesting you invented the opposition between you and the Manning Centre so you would have an opponent in this election race. 

Nenshi: Yeah, that is interesting. So, apparently, I secretly called a meeting with 150 people and I gave a script to Cal Wenzel to talk about how they were going to spend more money than every single candidate combined in the last election. Apparently, I am the one who funded the secret third parties' super pacs in Calgary to oppose my own agenda. Fascinating piece of analysis. 

Gray: I think the sense was that you needed some gristle to fight against in this election race. 

Nenshi: Let's not be ridiculous here! This is one thing I do not understand, which is why everyone is being so polite. We had a scene right outside of — out of the movie Godfather. We had a guy admitting that he broke the law in 2010 in favour of one candidate, Ward 7's Kevin Taylor, running again. We realize the law cannot actually be enforced — it has no enforcement ability. We had a guy telling people in the room how to break the law in this election and going through every single race, saying "this is the councillor who will oppose Nenshi, make sure you vote for the guy who'll oppose Nenshi, make sure you give them money" — and I invented this? Let's not be ridiculous! 

Gray: Sorry, did you just call Cal Wenzel the Godfather?

Nenshi: Maybe. 

In the lawsuit, Wenzel objects to Nenshi saying that he broke the law and told other people how to break the law. He accused the mayor of uttering "false and maliciously spoken" words.

Full Oct. interview

Exchange starts at 6:17. 

In the interview with Gray, Nenshi also suggested Wenzel could have been in violation of election laws. 

The mayor said the video exposes potential illegal activity over the home builders' involvement with the Manning Centre, a conservative think-tank founded by Preson Manning, former head of the Reform Party of Canada.

In the video, Wenzel talks about how 11 home builders donated $100,000 each, for a sum of $1.1 million, to the Calgary-based centre. 

Wenzel is asking for $5 million in damages, as well as $1 million in additional damages.

The Wenzel video 

With files from the CBC's Scott Dippel

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