Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks to reporters during the handover of YYC Matters. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he wasn’t looking forward to finding parking, but looking forward to immersing himself in this hot new hit TV, Game of Thrones.
However, he will miss riding a horse before the Calgary Stampede Parade.
Nenshi, Calgary’s three-time mayor, will not seek a fourth in the October local elections. The mayor withheld the decision, but made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon.
“After 11 years, I really feel that this is the right time for me. And I also think it’s the right time for the city, ”Nenshi told LiveWire Calgary in a pre-announcement interview.
“If we’ve learned anything in the last year, we’ve learned that there are so many voices – new voices, different voices, different voices – that don’t always feel heard. It is probably time to make some space to make room for us to hear these new voices and these new perspectives. “
The decision ends Calgary’s third-longest term as mayor after Andrew Davison (15+ years) and Al Duerr (12 years). Upon completion, Nenshi’s term will be a week eleven years ago.
In the end it was a personal choice. It was one he’d been thinking about for months.
“It’s hard. But I think I ended up asking myself a few questions,” said Mayor Nenshi.
- Am i leaving better than i found it?
- Can I still find a way to be part of the history of Calgary’s future?
“It’s not about the mayor; It’s about a community that envisions and builds its future, ”he said.
Nenshi’s decision leaves the door open for a new leadership on the city council and a full mayor’s race that is already developing.
Couns. Jyoti Gondek and Jeromy Farkas are the perceived front runners in the campaign to replace Nenshi. They join Brad Field, Zane Novak, Grace Yan, Teddy Ogbonna, and others in the race.
First elected in 2010
Naheed Nenshi was not a household name when he took office as mayor in 2010. Then-Councilor Ric McIver challenged the mayor’s seat along with popular CTV Calgary evening newscaster Barb Higgins.
Nenshi was a professor at Mount Royal University’s Bissett School of Business, a founding member of the grassroots Civic Camp group, and helped build the Better Calgary Campaign before his run.
At the start of this race, Nenshi only had eight percent of the vote. He reminded us that it used to be closer to one percent. He went on to win that election with 39 percent of the vote.
“Who the hell did I think I was,” said Nenshi.
“This concept of politics in full sentences, the trust of the people, the trust of the citizens that they can make the right decision, is the philosophy that I’ve tried to adhere to for eleven years, through the ups and downs, and tried to bring some fun in this mood and excitement about the future back to a world where our political discourse is so angry and bitterly divided. “
Nenshi was the first Muslim mayor elected in a major Canadian city. It was how many in the media defined his first term as Calgary’s mayor.
At the beginning he said it was irritating.
“Nobody wanted to talk about my ideas on how cities can work better for everyone,” he said.
“In fact, I remember being the first non-white mayor of a major city in Canada as well. Nobody wanted to talk about the color of my skin. They just wanted to talk about my beliefs. “
It was then that he decided to tell a story about a Calgary that included pluralism and multiculturalism.
Will Mayor Nenshi run again in 2021? This question has now been answered. FILE PHOTO
Flood, fire, oil and COVID
Mayor Nenshi led one of the most difficult post-war decades in Calgary’s history. The 2008 financial collapse, the 2013 Southern Alberta floods, the 2014 oil spill and subsequent economic fate, as well as COVID-19 today.
He often cites the fact that Calgary has declared a state of emergency three times in its 136-year history. Nenshi mentioned it again in the interview: All three were during his tenure as mayor.
The mayor said there was no way of knowing how the story would play out.
“My fellow councilors, and especially the people of Calgary, were just adamant. We never let anything slow us down, ”he said.
“It’s because people just put their shoulders on the grindstone and go to work.”
Despite the turmoil, the mayor insists that the opportunities were not missed. He believes the city will keep moving forward.
When asked about significant annual tax increases, city hall spending and other city hall challenges, Mayor Nenshi reiterated that Calgary continues to have the lowest taxes in the country.
In Calgary’s annual survey, he pointed to a billion dollar savings made by the city council over the past few years and the continued high level of satisfaction among its citizens.
“The vast majority of Calgarians, despite the roasting on social media, actually appear to be very happy with the value for what they get,” Mayor Nenshi said.
“It’s not about how I’ll be remembered.”
While many would have viewed the year-long struggle to build the $ 5 billion Calgary Green Line as a legacy builder, Nenshi doesn’t see it that way.
He rattled off a list of accomplishments – from new recreation centers to renovating city libraries and building a new one, the BRT system, to working on affordable housing – but the mayor said he won’t be particularly proud of that.
“I really thought about how I would answer that because I don’t see it that way,” said the mayor.
“It’s not about me, it’s not about how I’ll be remembered.”
He said he checked off a lot of things on the list he made when it first ran in 2010.
One of the things he’s most proud of is increased civic engagement. He said Alberta politics were rigid a decade ago; People did not take an active role in community issues because the future would just happen and politics would manage it.
“Probably what excites me the most is the incredible increase in civic engagement. Even if it’s bad. Even if it’s mean, ”he said.
“People really feel that they are part of the future of their city. And if that can go on for me, then that is probably the greatest legacy. “
Mayor Nenshi celebrates Neighborhood Day with a community in Calgary. PHOTO COURTESY FEDERATION OF CALGARIAN COMMUNITIES
195 days to go
The mayor said you can ask Siri how many days are left before the local elections on October 18th.
It’s 195 days.
There is still a lot to be done, said the mayor. But a city is always unfinished.
“I think there is still a lot of work to be done because in a city that is growing like this, there will be more and more dragons to be killed,” said Mayor Nenshi.
“There will always be more ideas and investments to move forward.”
In retrospect, however, there is regret. One thing in particular: Calgary’s second Olympic offering.
“I think we could have done it, I could have done it, and the provincial and federal governments could have done a lot better at helping people understand the benefits of it,” he said.
A referendum was held in the city and the Calgarians voted against hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics.
He said the city had so much to gain from hosting the international event. It was the will of the Calgarians, he said, and he respected it.
Of course he will miss the people
Mayor Naheed Nenshi and City Councilor Gian-Carlo Carra speak with some Calgarians during a break during the City Council’s public hearing on systematic racism. OMAR SHERIF / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
On days that he had 30 community events, Mayor Nenshi saw 30 opportunities to meet more Calgarians. It was an opportunity to see the cool things in Calgary. He said he believed he had been to every ward in town for 11 years.
“I was just so happy about it and I will miss it very much,” he said.
And yes, he will miss riding a horse before the Calgary Stampede Parade.
How for the future? Undecided to some extent.
He said he had 10 good years of television to catch up. Then he is open to discussions.
“I know I am not going anywhere,” said Mayor Nenshi.
“I know I want to continue helping Calgary grow, and I would love to see what service opportunities are available outside of politics.”