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Corbella: Nenshi’s purple rule over Calgary was mixed but powerful

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Author of the article:

Licia Corbella

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April 07, 2021 • • 17 minutes ago • • Read for 5 minutes • • Join the conversation Naheed Nenshi poses for pictures with supporters as they watch the election results on October 18, 2010 at a local bar in Calgary, Alberta. Photo by Mike Drew / Postmedia

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When Naheed Nenshi became Calgary’s 36th mayor on October 18, 2010, he quickly became an international phenomenon.

Although his ethnicity and religion were never an issue in Calgary during the campaign to replace outgoing Mayor Dave Bronconnier, Nenshi catapulted a political star as the first Muslim mayor of a major Canadian city. That Nenshi – the urban Harvard-trained author of a book on building better cities – was compared to Toronto’s election as mayor, the controversial and sometimes rude (and since deceased) Rob Ford, who was elected just days later, only reinforced Nenshis Attraction.

Calgary was the recipient of considerable mayor envy from across the country and around the world as Nenshi’s Purple Revolution rolled out full of energy and great plans.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford flipped some pancakes after swapping shirts when they got together to place their friendly bet on Sunday's Gray Cup on November 24, 2012 Place Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford flipped some pancakes after swapping shirts when they got together to place their friendly bet on Sunday’s Gray Cup on November 24, 2012 Place Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto. Photo by Colleen De Neve / Postmedia

When the once-in-a-century flood plunged Calgary into crisis in June 2013, Nenshi accommodated the occasion to a large extent and helped bring this city goose-bumped together.

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In fact, he won the World Mayor Award for Best Mayor in the World in 2014. He was and is a great ambassador for this city.

On Tuesday evening, during a Facebook Live event from his dining room in northeast Calgary, Nenshi officially revealed what many suspected he would not run for a fourth term as mayor, a decision he made just last Thursday.

He has achieved quite a lot. He led the construction of the new central library, which is truly an architectural marvel, continued the work of his predecessor Bronconnier on the construction of the East Village, introduced cycle paths, improved public transport considerably and improved snow clearance.

Some of it is glamorous and some of it is mundane – as the role of mayor is often.

Calgay Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks to fellow dignitaries during a ceremony at the new Central Calgary Public Library in downtown Calgary on Friday, September 14, 2018 to mark the completion of the project. Calgay Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks to fellow dignitaries during a ceremony at the new Central Calgary Public Library in downtown Calgary on Friday, September 14, 2018 to mark the completion of the project. Photo by Jim Wells / Postmedia

However, in the 2017 election, in which Seinfeld candidate Bill Smith campaigned over nothing, Nenshi received just 51 percent of the population’s vote. This time he would have been in trouble with stronger candidates for the city’s top position – namely advisers Jeromy Farkas and Jyoti Gondek and a handful of Calgary business people. It’s best to leave instead of being pushed out.

When Nenshi won the mayoral election more than 10 years ago, he was only 38 years old – a young man who playfully named His purple for his campaign color, which represents both the blue and red of the political spectrum.

This former Mount Royal University economics professor campaigned as a financial conservative and social liberal who wanted to cut red tape and limit tax increases to inflation and population growth only, even if he was building.

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He’s built a ton of stuff – including completing the West LRT (started by Bronconnier), the airport tunnel, and the express bus service – but it’s safe to say that most Calgarians wouldn’t believe him if he called himself fiscal conservative today would.

According to Franco Terrazzano, director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in Alberta, spending in the city of Calgary rose 35 percent, or a whopping $ 1 billion, between 2010 and 2019 as thousands of Calgary homes and businesses saw efficiency gains and trimming costs.

According to Terrazzano, the total residential property tax for the city rose 81 percent over the same period. (Note that this does not count for the additional population, only for the total increase in sales.)

According to the report by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Alberta’s finances, “Provincial revenue per capita increased two percent between 2007/08 and 2017/18. Over the same period, local governments saw significant revenue growth of 48 percent per person, including 29 percent per person for Edmonton and 41 percent per person for Calgary, largely due to the increase in local property tax. During the same period, municipal expenditure also increased. . . . Per capita investments in Calgary and Edmonton are among the highest for any comparable city in Canada. “

When tens of thousands of Calgarians and Albertans lost their jobs, the town hall’s workforce increased significantly, as did their wages. There was a complete separation between the reality of what the citizens of this city went through and what was going on in their chambers of power.

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks to spectators at the National in Calgary during Election Night on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks to spectators at the National in Calgary during Election Night on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. Photo by Leah Hennel / Postmedia

In his Facebook chat, Nenshi said he campaigned in 2017 and every day since then “the racism, the personal attacks, the shame – even the physical embarrassment – are relentless and that’s not okay,” which was so different from that what happened in During the 2010 election campaign, he says, his ethnicity and religion were never an issue.

“For 10 years I have had the same line in almost every one of my speeches. I said that here in Calgary it doesn’t matter how you look, where you are from, how you adore or who you love. It is crucial that you are here and belong here. . . and you deserve to live a great Canadian life. “He has always boasted that Calgary is a true meritocracy – a place where people don’t ask you,” Who’s your daddy? “

Even so, he’s always proud to speak of his father, as he did on Tuesday night, who passed away two years after his first election as mayor, and of his mother and the many sacrifices she made when she was out Tanzania immigrated to Canada. Nenshi is the embodiment of the Canadian dream.

Fluent in French, Nenshi says he has no plans to vote in the expected parliamentary elections for the federal minority liberals, and that it is only for the second time in his life that he has no firm plan for the future. He joked that he might catch up on any TV shows he missed while working around the clock.

Nenshi’s purple reign started briskly and faded to purple. Even so, he has left his mark on this city, which he obviously loves, and has helped draw global attention to it.

He will forever be an important part of our history.

Licia Corbella is a post-media columnist based in Calgary

lcorbella@postmedia.com

Twitter: @LiciaCorbella

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