National Post (2017-10-13) Canada
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi came to power as a reformer, but has done very little achieving, writes Jen Gerson:
Lauded abroad and beloved across the country, Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi is facing the unthinkable: he may be about to lose an election.
At first Calgary’s Oct. 16 municipal election promised to be a predictable affair, with the guy once proclaimed Canada’s most popular mayor facing off against an unpromising slate of low-profile challengers.
Yet several Mainstreet Research poll have shown mayoral contender Bill Smith with a double-digit lead. And while some have questioned the polls’ methodology, there is evidence to suggest that this race is far tighter than anyone anticipated, least of all Nenshi.
So as the campaign entered its final week, Nenshi delivered a message to Calgary’s Pakistani community via Facebook suggesting that nefarious “forces” in league with his opponents were opposing a city “inclusive of everyone.” They want Calgary to “go backwards,” he said, a theme reiterated in his campaign’s messaging. And Nenshi also called out racist Twitter bots and other social media accounts that have been peppering the campaign with nasty comments.
While this attempt to recast the campaign as a fight against racism may have shift the narrative ahead of election day, it feels like a last-ditch strategy that risks alienating as many voters as it motivates.
There is nothing novel here. Race has always been a factor, both in Nenshi’s campaigns and in how Calgarians responded to his tenure as mayor. Over the past decade, North America’s first big-city Muslim mayor has suffered no shortage of bile and bigotry online - a fact that should embarrass our city.
When Nenshi ran, and lost, his bid for city councillor in 2004, he said afterwards Calgary would need to face “very stark truths” if it hoped to see more diversity in its council chambers.
When he was first elected mayor from a crowded field in 2010, Nenshi - then a long-shot candidate - was the subject of media attention when some ne’er-dowell threw a concrete block through his campaign window and vandalized his campaign signs.
But after Nenshi won, Calgarians revelled in the Obama-like post-racialism their new mayor evoked, all the sweeter for the parallel success of the late Rob Ford in Toronto.
There may not be enough committed, organized racist voters in Calgary to win an election outright - if there were, Nenshi’s previous two wins would be difficult to explain. And racism doesn’t explain why this race seems to be so close in the first place.
When Nenshi was first elected, Calgary was an economically vibrant metropolis busting at the seams. Nenshi’s come-from-behind campaign vaulted him past two prominent conservative establishment figures and gave him instant national prominence as an urban progressive in a country still ruled by a stodgy conservative prime minister and a province run by an even stodgier Progressive Conservative premier. Nenshi had a vision to cope with Calgary’s biggest problem at the time: its unmitigated growth.
The situation couldn’t be more different today. The oil bust meant a dramatic reversal in Calgary’s fortunes. Only a few years ago, ever-taller towers redrew the city’s skyline. Now, the city faces a 30 per cent office vacancy rate. In 2017, Canada has a left-of-centre Liberal prime minister and Alberta an NDP premier. Nenshi is no longer the outsider - he’s the establishment.
He’s overseen year-overyear tax hikes. The city’s residential property taxes have increased 55 per cent since 2010. Meanwhile, Calgary’s biggest problem is no longer growth but unemployment, at 9.3 per cent is the highest rate of any major city in Canada.
Seven years ago, Calgary was overrun with a group of Nenshi volunteers dubbed the Purple Army, eager young people in their 20s and 30s who painted buildings in his signature shade. On election day, they wrote messages on sidewalks encouraging voters to go to the polls. Those people are now in their 30s and 40s, facing layoffs, feeding children of their own, living in houses they can no longer sell and watching their tax bills climb.
Where’s Nenshi been? Picking fights with developers, Uber, Twitter trolls, MPs and premiers.
Nenshi is often accused of being arrogant. I don’t think Nenshi’s problem is his arrogance - I think it’s his lack of empathy. It alienates councillors, the media and other critics. He defends the city’s tax rates with talking points about how taxes are worse elsewhere - as if that matters to the people who pay them here.
None of this is to suggest that Bill Smith deserves the anti-Nenshi vote. A former firefighter and lawyer who was persuaded to run against a mayor once thought to be unbeatable, he’s a former Progressive Conservative party president who was unknown outside political circles. And he’s adopted the PC trick of saying as little as necessary to get elected. He stands for lower taxes and safer cities and everybody getting along, and has demonstrated baffling ignorance on key issues.
The thing that makes Smith most electable is that he’s not Nenshi; he’s plodding where the incumbent mayor is frenetic; he offers bromides in place of policy; he is nice where the mayor is cutting.
If Nenshi loses on Monday, it will be a sad end for a mayor who came to power on a promise to do politics differently. All the things that made Nenshi great - his outspoken nature, his fine grasp of municipal policy, and his broad civic ambitions - may prove to be his undoing. Calgary may just be tired of different.
TO WHICH CANADIAN WALLACE KLINCK RESPONDED:
Not So Generous When They Gain Power!
I suspect that Naheed Nenshi has come to the end of his career as Mayor of Calgary. When the tide turns it turns. From appearances, he has appealed to ethnic politics and stressed the desirability of encouraging “diversity” while failing to deliver on practical policies. Ethnic politics is an issue which Marxists historically have played upon as one of their key tactics to divide and destroy existing cultures. Unfortunately, the prime advocates of “diversity”, especially their shadowy backers, tend to be the most rabid proponents of suppression of speech, opinion and association. In other words “diversity” is in reality a ploy to enhance the power of the State and of those who control it. They are actually seeking a monopoly of power. This is consonant with the Marxist dialectic which seeks to advance its fortunes from contrived conflict. Thesis vs anti-thesis = synthesis. This “diversity” strategy, nurtured in the universities, was being introduced into industry back in the 1970s.
It is unfortunate that many basically empathetic people of good-will are so susceptible to being deceived, both intellectually and emotionally, and taken advantage of by idealistic, abstract and Utopian ideas, to the advantage of other aggressive groups which are anxious to advance their positions through deliberate policies of diversification but are not so generous when they gain a controlling group influence. A classic example of this exists in Britain where the electorate has actually incomprehensibly and mindlessly installed an Islamic Mayor in the capitol city of London—as if this were to advance British cultural and economic interests! This is what happens when the educational system and State bureaucracy, assisted by a seditious media and increasingly infiltrated and compromised clergy, is deliberately degraded to instil widespread guilt and regret for the accomplishments of the past—rendering the larger population into a state of pervasive remorse and demoralization and a willingness literally to surrender the achievements of centuries as though they represented nothing but exploitation of the defenceless and vulnerable. A destructive classic Marxist strategic ploy—based essentially on appeal to ignorance, envy and malice.
I don’t know much about Bill Smith but he seems to be a typical establishment businessman, reasonably practical and educated, in a fatal traditional and conventional sense. As a leading Conservative he was obviously involved in policies which led to electoral disenchantment with the previous “Conservative” Alberta Government. I have seen no evidence that he understands the fundamental nature and purpose of economics or the technical nature of our defective and dysfunctional financial system, so he will undoubtedly be compromised by this blindness (reinforced by his formal university “indoctrination”) and his policies will not deliver sustained desirable results. It’s more or less a question of being “shot or boiled in oil” so far as the general public is concerned. Only yesterday Premier Notley more or less advised that Alberta has been enduring “difficult times” (as though this were quite “normal”, or inevitable) and that the future holds the false alternatives of either increasing taxation just to maintain, much less expand, existing government services or, alternately, to continue the policy of debt expansion. She appears to see the world in purely financial terms and to have no concept of the real credit of a given nation or polity. This is typical of Fabian Socialist Keynesian economics and its policy of gradually and surreptitiously enhancing the power of the State. Her comments are hardly surprising inasmuch as her socialist Government called in a former Governor of the Bank of Canada, a representative of financial orthodoxy, for fiscal and financial advice. Historically, there has existed a continuing symbiotic relationship of mutual support between communism/socialism/fascism and orthodox finance. Their common policy objective is the centralization of wealth and power—ultimately on a world scale.