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This Rich Guy Is Going to Donate $100K to Calgary Libraries—if the City Allows Uber

It's certainly an interesting take on the concept of charity.

by Tannara Yelland
Nov 10 2015, 6:06pm

If he becomes famous in the States, Wilson is just waiting to be satirized by Jon Daly. Photo via Facebook/W. Brett Wilson

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Calgary's city council is voting today on whether or not to allow Uber to operate in the city. Hinging on that vote is the promise of a $100,000 donation to Calgary's libraries, which entrepreneur, philanthropist, and former Dragon's Den "dragon" W. Brett Wilson has promised if Uber is allowed into the city.

The name "W. Brett Wilson" is synonymous in Calgary (and much of Saskatchewan, from whence he hails) with outlandish acts of largesse, like donations to create the University of Saskatchewan's Wilson Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence and to the Southern Alberta Institute of Urology.

Philanthropy is usually a good and in an economic system like ours that leaves public institutions perpetually starved for cash, arguably necessary thing. But to tie charitable donations to political demands gives the obscenely wealthy members of society an unfair advantage over the rest of us. Or, rather, it adds to their many existing advantages. In making this demand, Wilson is showing his hand—he doesn't really give a shit about the library, even though it's an invaluable resource, especially for low-income people.

Wilson says he has no ties to Uber and isn't receiving any money from them, and he's probably telling the truth. As a successful Silicon Valley start-up and embodiment of the new "sharing economy," Uber probably carries enormous appeal for a man who has been called an "ultra-preneur" and will drop a million dollars to encourage university students to follow in his hyper-capitalist footsteps. He probably didn't need any nudging to support Uber's bid for access to Calgary.

Calgary's city council votes today on whether or not to approve Uber's bid to operate in the city, so we'll see soon enough if Wilson gets his wish.

Follow Tannara Yelland on Twitter.