Nenshi for the win
Mayor Naheed Nenshi was elected for a third term in Calgary, after a hard-fought municipal election race.
“It felt great. It was kind of an ugly election, very divisive, very angry. But in the end, I love the fact that there was such a huge voter turnout,” said Nenshi.
The Calgary municipal election faced difficulties through ideological debates, corporate meddling and complaints of partisanship dividing candidates.
“People were excited to vote for something rather than against something. In the end, it [winning the election] was very sweet,” said Nenshi.
Nenshi was sworn in as Calgary’s mayor on Monday, Oct. 22 in the atrium of City Hall with 14 other members of city council.
Nenshi was able to defeat lawyer Bill Smith by seven per cent, almost 30,000 votes, securing his place as Calgary’s mayor for a third term.
“A friend of mine texted me and said, ‘the hard won ones are always sweeter,’ and I said, ‘no, the easy ones are better’”
The mayor will be working with the 14 members of council to create a more unified city hall driven to look out for the needs of Calgarians.
Nenshi’s campaign centered on financial reform, creating a better economy through investment in community infrastructure. This includes improvements to transit and road networks. Along with investment in cultural, recreational and entertainment districts. He also committed to maintaining low taxes, addressing safety, addiction, the environment, housing and poverty in the city.
“For the last seven years, I really tried to use this platform that I have to speak out for everyone’s opportunity in this place. For pluralism, diversity and multiculturalism.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a gigantic increase in the amount of vitriol and racist, Islamophobic, sexist and homophobic dialogue in the public discourse,” said Nenshi.
Pluralism is the political belief that society needs diverse centres of power and political beliefs.
The mayor described the municipal election as having “more downs than ups” after facing political meddling by the NHL and Flames, and veiled accusations of racism driving votes in the community.
During the election, an online video was released, featuring Nenshi calling out the vitriol and racist undertones marring the election.
“They don’t want a city that is so inclusive of everyone, and it is absolutely incumbent on us, to hold on to the city we’re proud of, to make sure that we vote,” said Nenshi in the video. The mayor said that he thinks it is important to address and name these issues when one sees them.
The video has since been removed.
“We know that they are using a lot of technology to get people who don’t believe in diversity, to get people who might be racist, or haters, out to vote. So we have to make sure we vote in even greater numbers,” said Nenshi in the video.
Nenshi spoke out online against the bots and online trolls that spread racist and hateful comments along with false information on social media during the municipal election.
Following the mayor’s viral video, he was accused by fellow mayoral candidate Jason Achtymichuk (GoGo) of calling people who did not vote for him, racist.
“I was a bit surprised frankly that my opponents didn’t immediately condemn it. It’s an easy thing to do to say, ‘I condemn hatred,’” said Nenshi, describing his shock at the accusation that he played the race card during the election.
“What you’re actually saying is we will tolerate you in our presence, as long as you don’t ever remind us of who and what you are.
“To me that is a deeply offensive thing to say, to actually get angry with someone for calling out hatred. [It’s] something that we have to have a very serious conversation about,” said Nenshi.
The mayor said he plans to lead through example to unite Calgary after the divisive election. Nenshi cited the honour of serving on the international jury for the Global Pluralism Prize that honours people working on pluralism across the globe.
The mayor cited Calgary’s special place as a Canadian city in maintaining pluralism.
“These are the things that we need to remember. We as Canadians are uniquely qualified to really discuss pluralism, and I hope that I will get the opportunity to continue to do that in this role.
“It’s been my honour to do it, but I also think that it’s my duty to do it.”