Naheed Nenshi Wins Mayor’s Race in Calgary

Funny enough, it was a thread on the off-topic forum of a site dedicated to the Calgary Flames where I first heard about the current mayoralty race in Calgary. The current mayor wasn’t running again so a wide field had come forward (something like 15 in total?  Why can’t Regina have that?) with the main contenders being a long time city councilor known as “Dr. No”, a longtime supper hour news anchor and a fresh new face who was a Harvard grad with a special interest in municipal government.

From our years in Calgary (where I got to shake the outgoing mayor’s hand on an annual basis as part of the declaration of Freedom to Read Week in council chambers), I knew both the councilor and the news anchor but that thread was the first time I heard of the Harvard grad, Naheed Nenshi, who seemed to be a favourite of many of the board’s posters.  Although the politics of that board tend to be a bit more conservative than mine (er, more than a bit actually!), I often feel an affinity for the educated, young, tech-savvy folks who comprise the majority of the board’s contributors.

I looked into Nenshi and was pretty impressed with what I saw – many of the same characteristics that had attracted me to Ryan Meili and later, Jaime Garcia in Regina – young candidates, fresh faces, savvy users of technology, impressive and unique credentials and backgrounds.

I didn’t follow the race very seriously – occasionally doing a quick Google search to see how the race was developing and a longish talk with a Calgary-based colleague at CLA in Edmonton this spring but that was about it.  But lately, as the race got into its final stages, I started paying a lot more attention (not enough to avoid being suckered by a “SaveOurLibrary” Facebook group which claimed that the news anchor was the only pro-library person in the race and that Nenshi was proposing major cuts to city services including libraries.)  🙁

Anyhow, I watched the returns come in last night and was happy to see that Nenshi eventually pulled ahead and became the winner.  I’m not a huge fan of focusing on the identity politics stuff – would Barb Higgins be the first female Calgary mayor? – but I do think it’s a pretty significant message that Nenshi has become the first Muslim mayor of a major Canadian city, doubly so that it happened in Calgary which, for all of its redneck conservative reputation, is actually a very dynamic, exciting city with tons of young people, immigrants, entrepreneurs and all sorts of “creative city” type stuff happening.  (I know I had some of my stereotypes blown out of the water when I moved there.  It’s almost like Calgarians embrace the stereotype to mock it if that makes sense.)

Another joke flying around the Twitterverse and elsewhere online was that Calgary and Toronto were switching places – Calgary gets a dynamic, progressive, accomplished multicultural mayor.  Toronto gets Rob Ford.

(Lots more links and analysis on MetaFilter.)

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