It’s Time to Put an End to Weaponized Misinformation

It’s fast becoming my most used phrase, and believe me, I’m not too happy about that. It shouldn’t be something that I have to say. Councillors, as your elected representatives, have the duty to provide factual information, both to colleagues and to our residents. We keep running into situations where members of Council, outside organizations or residents will toss out a “fact” or figure that maybe they believe to be true, but is fundamentally false. Worse yet is when these individuals again and again willfully and knowingly spread information they know to be false, simply because they know the reaction it will incite from some residents of Calgary. That is weaponized misinformation. This can’t be accepted by Council and it certainly shouldn’t be accepted by Calgarians.

Take for example one Councillor’s reference to an article by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) that by refusing the Council pension and transition allowance, he will save tax payers $1.1 million. This figure has proven to be false and the Councillor has admitted to Council that the numbers used by the CTF are way off. Yet despite knowing the figure is false, he continues to reference it again and again. Here is the rough calculation for a Councillors pension and transition allowance, if you’re interested:

Salary: $113,000 /year
Councillor contribution: 9%, equal to $10,170 /year
City of Calgary contribution: 18%, equal to $20,340 /year

So if a Councillor stays in office for 12 years, the City of Calgary will have contributed approximately $244,080 to the private trust fund. A Councillor cannot collect the pension until they are 55 and all payments, once they start collecting, are made by a private pension fund and NOT from the City of Calgary. City of Calgary contributions end as soon as that Councillor is no longer in office. At that point, all contributions are managed by a private fund and not by the City of Calgary. So the total cost to the City of Calgary in this hypothetical case would be $244,080. This is in no way the amount of pension received by a Councillor, just the contributions paid over a 12 year period to the pension fund. I will also note that the fund is currently 127% funded.

As for the transition allowance, it is 2% of a Councillor’s salary multiplied for years in service. So in the above example, the calculation is $113,000 x 2% = $2,260 x 12 years = $27,120.

So the total cost to the the City of Calgary is $244,080 + $27,120 for a total of $271,200 for any Councillor, regardless of their age, so by declining this compensation, a Councillor comes no where close to saving tax payers $1.1 million. There may be a conversation to be had if this compensation is appropriate, but the claim that declining it will save over one million dollars is fundamentally false. We as Council cannot allow this misinformation, which becomes weaponized when it is willfully and knowingly distributed because of the reaction it will incite from some people. Council members absolutely need to do their due diligence when sending information out to the public and make sure any facts and figures are coming from a reputable source.

I was just quoted in an article published by 660 News letting it be known that I want more authority for Council members and Administration to call out false information if and when it is presented. We have Council members stating items as fact and then claiming their source was random information received from social media. That absolutely cannot be the standard set for checking sources. We are elected representatives, and what we say can and will end up forming the narrative in the media. This problem has gotten worse over the past year and it needs to be put to a halt quickly. The article captured a quote from me that I will repeat again: If we see something that is incorrect, “I believe administration and council has the absolute responsibility to get a detailed correction out.”

As always, please let me know what you think here.