Calgary councillor calls out justice minister over 'lack of judgement' in police funding criticism
CALGARY -- Calgary city councillor George Chahal says Alberta’s minister of justice has shown a "lack of judgement" and has brought "dog whistle" politics to issues such as police funding.
In an interview last week with the Calgary Sun, Kaycee Madu criticized the city’s proposal to potentially reallocate $20 million in planned increases to the police budget.
Under the proposal, the money would go toward social programs and outreach services in the community in an effort to reduce mental health calls and support those with addiction issues.
Madu viewed the plan as defunding the police, adding that it was created by "socialist activists" who see the concept of law and order as "alien."
Chahal — who chairs Calgary’s Public Safety Task Force and is a member of the Calgary Police Commission — took offence to the comments. The Ward 5 councillor says Canada is a democracy and everyone has the right to be treated equal and share their opinion.
"The minister’s position as chief law enforcement officer requires he treat all Albertans equally before the law, by being empathetic, compassionate and open-minded," said Chahal in a statement released Wednesday.
"The disdain expressed in his comments toward 'activists' is a clear expression of bias, not to mention hypocritical. A healthy democracy requires that activists and politicians act in good faith."
Chahal adds that he has tried to speak with Madu to clear up misinformation, but he has not received a response.
Though the councillor didn't speak with the justice minister directly, Madu doubled down on his comments on Wednesday in response to Chahal's letter.
"I encourage you to drop the "defund" rhetoric and stop pandering to radical activists," Madu wrote on Twitter. "This rhetoric is utterly reckless and demoralizing to the women and men in uniform."
Justice experts say it's unusual for a justice minister to be so outspoken and opinionated about policing decisions.
"In my time in Alberta, 30 years now, I've never seen anything quite like this," said Doug King, a justice studies professor with Mount Royal University.
"Why don't we just calm down, find out what it is tht the city is proposing for the money and respond to that, as opposed to just slamming each other in the media?" King asked.
The 2020 Calgary Police Service budget was $401 million, the largest expense in the city’s budget.
Council had previously approved $10 million increases for both 2021 and 2022. Calgary council is set to start its budget deliberations next week.