John Mar opponent questions his motives on council vote

Evan Woolley says community should always come first

John Mar is angry over allegations from his opponent that imply the Ward 8 alderman strategically missed a crucial council vote in 2011 to legalize secondary suites.

On September 12 and 19 of 2011 Mar abstained from discussing or voting on all secondary suite issues citing a conflict of interest as he was in the process of applying to build a secondary suite on his property. From Mar’s voting record and past comments on the issue it was reasonable to expect he would have voted in favour of legalizing or expanding secondary suites in the city at those council meetings.

Those motions to legalize secondary suites failed.

Ward 8 candidate Evan Woolley and his team discovered through Freedom of Information document searches made in September of this year that Mar has never made any formal development or rezoning applications to build a legal suite on his property. Now they are asking why he missed a vote that may have made thousands of suites legally available in his constituency.

“It’s about representation” says Woolley campaign representative Jeremy Barretto. “If John Mar you know was absolutely conflicted and must must do this suite for whatever personal issue that’s fine. But if he changed his mind or didn’t even bother to fill in an application it’s tragic that a year and a half later [and] after the flood we don’t have secondary suites still and no one was there for Ward 8 which is 60 per cent renters.”

Mar admits he never built a secondary suite yet he is incensed at the allegation that he was not acting in good faith when he recused himself from the 2011 votes.

He says that when his family began construction of their current home in 2011 they wanted to build a suite for his children’s nanny above the two-car garage behind the house. Mar still has the blueprints for that suite written exchanges between himself and the neighbourhood’s community association that detail his plans and a 2011 email to then city solicitor Paul Tolley asking to recuse himself from voting: “Paul as you are aware I have begun construction on my home. We’re applying for a land use re-designation to have a secondary suite. [Therefore] I declare a pecuniary interest in all secondary suite discussions that would have an impact on my own property… for myself and my wife until our own personal issue is resolved.”

David Watson the former general manager of planning and development for the city confirms Mar fully intended to construct a suite along with his new home but that it’s not uncommon for people to abandon the process before formally filing permit applications.

“He was quite interested in building it we had several conversations [but] it was obviously going to take some time and with all the secondary suite stuff going on [in council] he wanted to get on with building the house” says Watson. “The city has… pre-application meetings and quite often people come in and find out just how complicated or expensive or how long it’s going to take and they tear things back.”

Mar says that once it was clear the community association opposed the suite and that it could cost as much as $100000 to build he scrubbed the idea. Instead the Mars’ nanny has lived in the family home for the past two years.

Woolley still believes the circumstances cast doubt on Mar’s commitment to increasing the number of secondary suites in Calgary.

“I don’t need to talk about the details of why he recused himself…. This is about good representation and accountability. Our councillors need to be representing the constituents and residents of Ward 8 on issues that are of critical importance to the communities and they can’t be recusing themselves from votes on personal reasons it’s unacceptable” Woolley says.

Mar’s response is that he has always been in favour of secondary suites.

“If you look at my voting record every single time that secondary suites have come to council I’ve supported it every single time. The second thing is as soon as I was free and clear of having my own conflict of interest and right after the flood in the September meeting of council what did I do? I made an urgent motion arising to legalize suites throughout Calgary” Mar argues.

He points out that Ald. Shane Keating who he expected would have voted against the motion was also recused from the September 2011 votes because he was building a suite on his property. Either way Mar says there was never a majority on council who supported legalizing secondary suites citywide during the 2010-2013 term.

That “kind of blows away every single claim that they had against me on this issue” Mar says.