Unconventional Panel: Is Calgary NIMBYism a class issue?

Bad behaviour at a recent public consultation session on the southwest transitway has sparked a conversation in the city about what divides us. The Calgary Eyeopener’s Unconventional Panel weighs in.

Divide between rich and and poor fueled by lack of worldliness, says panelist Ravin Moorthy

City of Calgary transportation spokesperson Sean Somers, left, gets barked at by a Woodbine resident during a public information session for southwest transitway on Feb. 24, 2015. (CBC)

A public consultation meeting that turned sour has sparked a conversation in Calgary about what divides us.

"If you're driving a Mercedes Benz and you can afford a Mercedes Benz, you're not going to take public transit to goddamn downtown Calgary or Mount Royal College," one opponent of the proposed BRT line told a city transportation spokesperson on Feb. 24 in Woodbine.

Soon after, Mayor Nenshi cancelled the rest of the public engagement sessions for the SW transitway — citing incidents of physical assault, threats of violence and a death threat.

And so this week's question for our Unconventional Panel — is Calgary NIMBYism a class issue, fuelled by rich people keeping poor people out of their neighbourhoods?

This week's Unconventional Panel — Shelley Youngblut is the general director of Wordfest, Ravin Moorthy is a Calgary engineer and Anila Lee Yuen is the CEO of the Centre of Newcomers. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

"I don't think this is a divide between rich and poor, north or south, smart and not smart, worldly or non-worldly," said panelist Shelley Youngblut told the Calgary Eyeopener on Wednesday morning.

"I actually think it's about the process. I think the process with which we engage our citizens is horribly flawed."

The general director of Wordfest says instead of "public consultations and pretty poster boards" the city should consider arbitration.

​Small-town mentality 

"There was a time when people would get their passport once in their life and take their trip to Mexico and Hawaii and that was their worldly experience," said Calgary engineer, Ravin Moorthy.

And he says those people are still kicking around.

"You know, a lot of Calgarians haven't lived elsewhere, they haven't really been to big cities or spent a lot of time there so these transit things [which] in a Toronto, in a Vancouver, would be a slam dunk — tend to cause problems here," said Moorthy.

Is Calgary a city divided along class lines? Our Unconventional Panel joins us with their thoughts.

Anila Lee Yuen, CEO of the Centre of Newcomers, "fully disagrees" with Moorthy — saying that's the Calgary of the past.

"I think that was absolutely true in the 1980s — even up to the 90s and early 2000s. But I really do feel that we've become much more globalized," she said.

"I think people's views have been able to change. You can look at the elections and how we've been electing people to show that we are having a changing viewpoint."


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