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New political action committee formed in Calgary, spearheaded by outgoing councillor

The Calgary municipal election is fast approaching, leaving some citizens and even some city councillors concerned about the viability and expertise of municipal candidates.

Ward 12 Councillor Shane Keating announced at Rotary Park the formation of the Responsible Representation Political Action Committee. It joins at least five other third party advertisers registered in the municipal election.

The newly-formed PAC (also known as a Third Party Advertiser under election law) is composed of four members, including Coun. Keating. It includes urban planners, volunteers, entrepreneurs and community leaders. Keating said the group wanted to cast a wide and diverse net to represent Calgarians.

This PAC will evaluate candidates from each ward, through interviews and questionnaires, based on the RRPACs criteria for leadership. The idea is that this will ensure candidates represent the qualities the RRPAC feels would serve Calgary the best.

RELATED: Calgary campaign financing: ‘It will be an election of the PACs’

Each member will go out into the wards and interview groups of candidates and present their findings to the main committee.

Based on their decisions, the RRPAC will release endorsements for candidates from each ward. The slate chosen by the RRPAC will ideally be broad and unique, not all holding the same beliefs, Keating said.

“The rise of the extreme right and economic downturn taints the view of what is going on,” Keating told media on Wednesday.

“My worry is that outside forces will come in and influence decisions that aren’t in touch with reality. I’m hoping that by selecting excellent candidates that won’t be the future.”

Councillor Keating said that the group is focusing on Calgary wards, keeping away from the mayor’s race.

Questions about the PAC’s influence

The creation of this PAC brings with it questions about the ethics of evaluating candidates and endorsing them on the PACs criteria.

Keating said that he understands the concerns about the PAC endorsing only those of a certain political viewpoint. That was the reason for bringing together a diverse group of individuals to operate the PAC.

“This is why we selected the team we have because they are of vast political stripes,” he said.

“One question we have to ask is ‘are you going to separate your political stripe from the decision at the municipal level?,'” he said.

“Municipal politics are vastly different from other levels of politics. If you can’t get that in your head, then maybe you are in the wrong place.”

Keating said Calgary is a city that has kept political affiliations from influencing municipal affairs and wants to keep it that way. Transparency was also a key topic. The councillor stressed that he wants everyone to know who is behind this PAC.

One distinction made at the press conference was that when an individual chooses to endorse a candidate listed on the PACs website, they select that person for the donation. The councillor stressed that individuals don’t give money to the PAC, then have it broadly distributed.

Why now?

When asked why this was the time to start this PAC, Keating said this is one of the most pivotal times in the city’s history.

With only four incumbent councillors running and a new mayor, the direction of the city may change substantially. With so many newcomers, Councillor Keating said that there should be someone monitoring who has Calgary’s best interests in mind.

“Our focus is mainly helping Calgarians research and support the best candidate for councillor in each ward,” he said.

“Even though I’m not running in the next election, it does not mean I and many others are not concerned about the ability of Calgary’s next council.”

No conflict of interest

This is the councillor’s last few months in office as he’s not running again. The councillor said this is a good opportunity to stay within political discourse without running afoul of any ethical violations.

“If you had asked if this was an ethics violation two years ago then maybe it would’ve been.

“I am a lame duck and anything I’ve done is done. I’ve discussed this with the ethics advisor and cleared it at as many places as I can,” Councillor Keating said.

For funding targets, the RRPAC is looking to raise $40,000 per candidate totalling up to $560,000.

The endorsements for different wards will be released every few days for the next little while until the election arrives. Although, no exact timeframe was given for the start of this endeavour.