Naheed Nenshi

Alberta didn’t change – but its image will

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2015 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics | 8 Comments

alberta plate

The defeat of the PCs seemed unthinkable a few months ago. The notion they could lose to the NDP would have been laughable. But this is how politics in Alberta works. Every 30 or 40 years, a Chinook blows over the mountain and sweeps in a new government who has never before held power. So after a wild couple of years, we can probably all ignore Alberta politics until the middle of the Century (when Stephen Harper’s granddaughter runs for Premier).

Even though the polls foretold an NDP win, Albertans have rightly grown cynical of the polls, so there were still plenty of surprised faces on all sides of the spectrum tonight. Outside Alberta, it won’t just be surprise tomorrow, but consternation over how Alberta could turn orange. With the NDP floundering in Manitoba, it seems likely Alberta will be Canada’s lone socialist province this time next year. The province will stand out like an old man in an orange speedo at a formal ball.

Alberta is used to standing out, but for different reasons. For years, the province cultivated and cherished its reputation as the bad boy of confederation. There were the “Let the eastern bastards freeze in the dark!” bumper stickers. Ann Coulter called the province “the good Canadians”. It likely didn’t help that Ralph Klein was the face of Alberta for a decade.

The thing is, that bad boy reputation was always more bluster than reality. Everyone noticed when Calgarians elected a Harvard-educated Muslim as Mayor in 2010 – all the more, because those latte sipping pinkos in Toronto elected Rob Ford a week earlier. Three years later, Edmontonians elected 34-year Don Iveson – Canada’s first openly nerd mayor.

But Edmonton has always been dubbed “Redmonton” for its political leanings, and Nenshi is only the latest in a string of Liberal mayors from Calgary. If you look at the results from the last few provincial elections, you’ll quickly realize Alberta hasn’t been a Conservative monolith since before Calgary hosted the Olympics.

alberta vote

Yes, progressives flocked to the PCs last election, but only because Alison Redford looked and sounded like a progressive. In every other election from the past 30 years, over a third of Albertans have voted for parties on the left.

But that’s always been a more complicated story to tell than the caricature of crazy conservative Alberta which, admittedly, some of our politicians (*cough*Rob Anders*cough*) did not help to dispel.

Similarly, many will simplify the story of tonight to Albertans swinging wildly to the left. While it’s true the province has changed, those changes have been gradual. What really happened in 2015 was Rachel Notley looking like a safe option for change, at a time when voters wanted change. The fact that Notley made Thomas Mulcair feel as welcome in Alberta as a rat (or worse, a Canucks fan) in the dying days of this campaign tells you all you need to know about the strength of the NDP brand. So don’t expect “howdy” to be replaced with “welcome comrade” the next time you land in Calgary.

No, Alberta hasn’t changed. But the perception of Alberta will. Rachel Notley, Naheed Nenshi, and Don Iveson are now the face of the province. The myth of Alberta as a conservative wasteland is dead.

Don Iveson will stand the test of time

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics | Leave a comment
Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not a politician!

Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor not a politician!

Naheed Nenshi has built a reputation as Canada’s coolest mayor, at least among young progressives. He’s big on the Twitter. He’s hip (by politician standards). He’s funny (by politician standards). He shatters the (unfair) stereotype of Calgary as Canada’s redneck wasteland.

However, Nenshi may have competition from Calgary’s rival city.

While Calgary broke barriers by electing Canada’s first Muslim mayor, Edmonton broke barriers last fall with the election of Don Ivesion – Canada’s first openly Nerd mayor.

I crossed paths with Iveson a few times when I was at the University of Alberta. I remember bumping into him on the bus shortly after he’d been elected to council so I asked him how the job was treating him. He deadpanned a two minute story to set up a West Wing punchline (“Crime. Boy, I don’t know”). That shouldn’t have surprised me from a guy who tweets West Wing quotes, borrows Bartlet campaign tactics, and even played episodes at his campaign office. While this undoubtedly makes him a political nerd, you don’t need Joey Lucas’ polling to tell you everyone who works in politics has given a “Let Bartlet Be Bartlet” speech, or taken a “which west wing character are you” quiz…over and over, until it gave you the answer you wanted (“Will Bailey? That can’t be right. I’m totally a Josh.”).

No, what sets Iveson apart is that he breaks free of political nerd culture, boldly going where few politicians have gone before – into full blown nerd culture. Case in point, from Edmonton’s Comic & Entertainment Expo:

Iveson

Iveson took the opportunity to deliver a speech about the future of the city to a room of people who I would imagine spend a lot more time watching Battlestar Galactica reruns than Power & Politics. By coming in costume and warming up the crowd, he caused ears to perk up on important municipal issues – and not just because many were dressed as vulcans. A few will roll their eyes when they see the pictures, but Iveson instantly connected with hundreds of voters. Consider this the final frontier of micro-targeting.

The lack of a starship on this public transit graph as a glaring omission.

The lack of a starship on this public transit graph was a glaring omission.

This past week, the Mayor was in fine form again, using an analogy from the Civilization computer game to express the need for infrastructure investment (no word on whether he felt this should take priority over defense spending to fend off barbarian uprisings). Once again, he used a little geek charm to liven up a dry topic, thereby winning the eternal devotion of anyone who has ever said “one more turn” until the wee hours of the morning.

I have no idea what’s next for Iveson. Tardis phone booths in Edmonton? An anti-zombie fence around City Hall? Subcontracting law enforcement services out to Batman?

Regardless, Don Iveson has injected some fun into Edmonton municipal politics, giving Ontario progressives (at least us nerdier ones) yet another Alberta Mayor to be envious of.

Politicians in Cowboy Hats

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics, Featured Posts, Humour, Politicians in Cowboy Hats | 2 Comments

For a brief history of Stampede fashion, you can read the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2013 round-ups – or “100 Years of Bad Photo-Ops

This week’s pilgrimage of politicians to the Stampede was met with less fanfare than some years gone by. This wasn’t the first rodeo for any of the party leaders, and ever since the leather vest incident, wardrobes are vetted by dozens of staffers and stylists. So there were few surprises and few opportunities to ridicule.

And, let’s be honest, everyone was there for the Shat.

Shatner montage

Which kind of makes me sad Jack Layton isn’t around anymore. Mulcair? He’s supposed to be in town this weekend (if Harper lets him), but I see him as more of a Picard than a Kirk fan. Or maybe Riker – post beard.

Layton trekkie

That left the spotlight squarely on Justin Trudeau, flanked by local Liberal candidates who are trying to go where no Calgary Liberals have gone before (at least in the last 40 years) – to Ottawa.

Trudeau with Calgary Skyview candidate Darshan Kang and Calgary Confederation candidate Matt Grant

Trudeau with Calgary Skyview candidate Darshan Kang and Calgary Confederation candidate Matt Grant

Fresh off a victory of sorts in Fort McMurray – the heart of the oilsands – there are high hopes for a Calgary breakthrough. Ironically, it may be a Trudeau who finally puts the ghost of the NEP to bed in Alberta.

In the gold old days, Calgary children were raised that a Trudeau was to be kicked in the shins, not high fived. Times have changed.

In the good old days, Calgary children were raised that a Trudeau was to be kicked in the shins, not high fived. Times have changed.

In a rare show of civility, Harper shakes Xavier Trudeau's hand, before turning to crowd and reminding them Trudeau is trying to push pot on their children.

In a rare show of civility, Harper shakes Xavier Trudeau’s hand, before turning to the crowd and reminding them Xavier’s dad is trying to push pot on their children.

Harper interviews candidates to fill the senate vacancies.

Harper interviews candidates to fill senate vacancies.

With what now seems like a yearly tradition – an Alberta PC leadership race – in full swing, I’ve taken the opportunity to rank the would-be-Premiers by their Stampede wardrobes. After all, the PC constitution forbids them from talking about policy, so what else are Albertans going to base their decision on?

Finishing third, and the winner of “worst dressed” this year, is Tom Lukaszuk. I recognize he spends 30 minutes on his hair every morning, but surely he could have donned a cowboy hat just this once? All I’m asking for is the bare minimum effort.

luzakuk

In second, Ric McIver gives it the bare minimum effort, wearing jeans and at least carrying a hat around.

mciver

Like the leadership race itself, there was never any doubt about who would win this fashion round-up. Jim Prentice has been a Stampede All-Star over the years – he rides a horse, throws a breakfast, and makes a wide range of outfits work.

Prentice

And, finally, there is Naheed Nenshi, who this week passed the Calgary Tower as the city’s most photographed landmark.

nenshi

10 Years of Blogging

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Federal Politics | 8 Comments
Happy Trails

Happy Trails

Back when I first sat down to rant about politics on May 15th 2004, I never expected I’d still be doing this over 3,000 posts later. The blog has outlasted 3 Liberal leaders, been through 4 federal elections, and documented my involvement on a handful of losing leadership campaigns. During that time, Bart Ramson turned into Dan Arnold, I moved to Edmonton, finished school, and became a “Toronto Grit”. Shortly thereafter, Naheed Nenshi became mayor of Calgary and Rob Ford became mayor of Toronto. Go figure.

Nenshi and Ford have provided me with bountiful amounts of blogging material, but they have not been alone. There was the Michael Ignatieff experiment, on which so much virtual ink was spilled. There was the coalition crisis, which gripped the nation. There was the rise of the Wildrose Party, which led to the rarest of things – an exciting Alberta election. There was the orange wave. And, through it all, there was still time to poke fun at Politicians in Cowboy hatsand leather vests.

Another source for much blog content has been Justin Trudeau, but he is also the reason content has been, and will continue to be, scarce here. I’ve recently started working for the Liberal Party which, needless to say, limits what I’m able to write about. And really, what’s the point of blogging if I don’t have Rob Anders to kick around anymore.

You may still find the occasional retrospective or Pierre Poilievre rant, but this site will be taking a breather from deeper political analysis, at least until after the next election.

So a big thank you to everyone for reading over the years. I’ve always been in awe of the high caliber of discussion in the comments section of this site, and have appreciated the e-mails. As vain as it is to count clicks, the fact that I knew people were reading certainly motivated me to keep at it for a decade. So, to everyone, thank you.

I leave you with a list of 10 of my favourite posts from over the years. These aren’t necessarily the most viewed or the best posts – just 10 that I had a lot of fun writing.

1. Follow the Leader: I only include this post as a humbling reminder about how unpredictable politics can be, and how wrong I’ve been on many occasions. Just one year before Paul Martin’s resignation I provided odds on 13 possible Liberal leadership contenders without listing Stephane Dion, Bob Rae, or Gerard Kennedy. I do mention Michael Ignatieff, but only in what may have been the most awesomely off-the-mark sentence in the history of this blog – and I quote – “This week, we saw Peter C. Newman toot Michael Ignatieff’s name which is interesting because that’s about as serious a suggestion as Justin Trudeau”. Heh.

2. Greatest Prime Minister: In a March Madness style contest, blog readers voted for Wilfrid Laurier as Canada’s Greatest Prime Minister. This begat a series of other contests including “Best Premier”, “Best Prime Minister We Never Had”, “Biggest Election”, and, coming this summer, “Best Minister of Natural Resources”.

3. The Race for Stornoway: 2006 was really the heyday for political blogging. From the “Draft Paul Hellyer” movement, to candidate interviews, to the blogging room at the convention itself, blogging was as close to “cool” as it would ever be.

4. A Beginner’s Guide to Alberta Politics: For some reason, I seemed to blog a lot more about Alberta politics after I left Alberta.

5. Christmas LettersElizabeth May, Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff, Stephen Harper. People, myself included, take politics way too seriously sometimes. So it’s good to have some fun with it.

PS. Ed Broadbent.

6. Leadership Power Rankings (here, here, and here). The wonderful thing about politics is how unpredictable, complicated, and human it is. That’s why I love the challenge of trying to quantify it.

7. Moments of Decade: Hopefully I’m blogging again by 2020, because this is an exercise I’d dearly love to repeat. Readers nominated and voted on the top political moments of the decade, with the Alliance-PC merger topping the list. It wasn’t as exciting as the coalition crisis or the Belinda Stronach Chuck Cadman confidence vote insanity, but it set the stage for the rise of Stephen Harper.

8. On October 6th vote for proper scaling of the Y-Axis. Vote Liberal. Tim Hudak math burn!

9. What’s the Matter with Calgary? Having lived in both Calgary and Toronto, I’ve always been absolutely fascinated by the Nenshi-Ford dichotomy. Elected a week apart, these men are opposites with so much in common, who both shattered their cities’ stereotypes. When I first moved to Toronto, a lot of lefties would shake their head and “tsk tsk” when I said I was from Calgary. Not any more.

10. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Census (But Were Afraid to Ask): I’ve never been of the opinion that Stephen Harper is a monster who has destroyed Canada beyond recognition. Even on issues where we disagree – the gun registry, climate change, Quebec as a nation – I understand where he’s coming from. However, of everything Harper has done, his decision to scrap the long form census remains the thing that boils my blood. Here was the party who sends Happy Hanukkah cards to swing voters calling the census too “intrusive”. It wasn’t an assault on the welfare state or big government, it was an assault on reason. It showed that Harper offered nothing more than government by truthiness.

And that, is why I’ll be taking a break from blogging for the next bit to help defeat him.

2013: Year in Review

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Humour | 1 Comment

January: SunTV applies for corporate welfare, arguing that they cannot survive unless the government forces people to watch them.

Later this year, they would give Rob and Doug Ford their own show…before cancelling it faster than Lucky 7.

Whoever could have guessed this fine young man would find himself at the centre of so much controversy

Whoever could have guessed this fine young man would find himself at the centre of so much controversy?

February: Patrick Brazeau is knocked out of the Tory caucus. While the Senate has yet to change rules around travel expenses, they were quick to pass a “no pictures of senators in thongs” bill.

March: In what was really the only victory for Toronto’s Mayor this year, he rallies council together…to get a burger joint built near City Hall.

Trudeau: Too sexy for his shirt? Too sexy for Canada?

Trudeau: Too sexy for his shirt? Too sexy for Canada?

April: After David Bertschi drops out, Justin Trudeau is crowned Liberal Leader.

Building on the success of “Not a leader” and “Just Visiting“, the Tories set out to define Justin as…too sexy?

May: The Liberals retrieve Labrador, winning Peter Penashue’s old riding by 16 points. Always the optimists, the Tory war room sends out a press release claiming this shows Justin Trudeau is “in over his head”.

super nenshi

June: When Calgary is hit with a once-in-a-century flood, Mayor Nenshi earns praise for his leadership, that includes 43 consecutive hours without sleep. Not to be outdone, when Toronto is hit with a flash flood a few weeks later, Rob Ford vows to go 43 hours without crack.

July: Stephen Harper shuffles his Cabinet, promoting his most talented MPs, and Pierre Poilievre. Poilievre winds up in charge of democratic reform, a clever move to show that Stephen Harper actually does have a sense of humour.

August: The PQ announces plans for a controversial “Values Charter”. Justin Trudeau immediately denounces it, while Tom Mulcair announces he will wait and see if it’s “very intolerant” or “extremely intolerant” before deciding where the NDP stands.

duffy wrecking ball

September: The Senate sandal explodes, with accusations that members of Stephen Harper’s staff conspired to repay Mike Duffy’s expenses. The good news for Harper is that it’s perfectly plausible he was in the dark, given his reputation as a “hands off” type of leader.

October: Michael Ignatieff releases a book subtitled “Success (and Failure) in Politics”. Suffice to say, the section about the latter is significantly longer than the section about the former.

In a coincidence, Stephen Harper’s hockey book is also released this month. In it, Harper describes how Wilfrid Laurier’s “tax on everything” nearly killed the infant NHL.

ford macleans cover

November: Toronto’s desire to be the centre of the universe is actualized, as the city dominates the international news and US talk shows. Toronto parents are forced to explain to their children what “crack” is. Me? I have to explain to my cat that, no, the Mayor of Toronto is not coming to eat him.

December: Conservative MP Brian Jean sends out a 50-question crossword puzzle in his taxpayer funded newsletter…about Brian Jean!

Quick. What’s a 9-letter word for obsessive preoccupation with ones self? 8th letter is “a”.

(answer: We will accept either “BrianJean” or “Egomaniac”)

The Year in Photos

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | 6 Comments
You know what they say: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

You know what they say: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have

Those left-wing media elites at the Toronto Sun have always had it in for Ford.

Those left-wing media elites at the Toronto Sun have always had it in for Ford.

Tim Hortons provides the ultimate pick-me-up for a normally subdued Rob Ford

Tim Hortons provides the ultimate pick-me-up for a normally subdued Rob Ford

Harper deals with the Senate scandal.

Harper deals with the Senate scandal.

Even at 79, he still looks better than Stockwell Day in a wetsuit

Even at 79, he still looks better than Stockwell Day in a wetsuit

$20 says they're telling Paul Martin jokes

$20 says they’re telling Paul Martin jokes

Mulcair's "pro-lettuce" stance is the kind of populist policy sure to excite voters

Mulcair’s “pro-lettuce” stance is the kind of populist policy sure to excite voters

While Harper's help with flood relief was appreciated, I can't help but think the owners of this flood damaged house would have preferred a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright.

While Harper’s help with flood relief was appreciated, I can’t help but think the owners of this flood damaged house would have preferred a $90,000 cheque from Nigel Wright.

Not only did the media attack Tom Flanagan. over his ill-advised child pornography comments...so did this animal.

Not only did the media attack Tom Flanagan. over his ill-advised child pornography comments…so did this animal.

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children's entertainer.

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children’s entertainer.

Naheed Nenshi - Canada's most huggable politician

Naheed Nenshi – Canada’s most huggable politician

...and...sexiest?

…and…sexiest?

We get it already. You're hip. You're cool. We're not. No need to rub it in.

We get it already. You’re hip. You’re cool. We’re not. No need to rub it in.

Liberal fundraising numbers were up this summer, but mainly because Justin Trudeau took out a part time job with Student Painters

The Liberals’ fundraising efforts were helped by Justin Trudeau taking a summer job with Student Painters

Trudeau was so confident in the wake of the Forum poll, that he started waving "Vote PC" signs on the campaign trail in Brandon-Souris.

Trudeau was so confident in the wake of the Forum poll, that he started waving “Vote PC” signs on the campaign trail in Brandon-Souris.

Also banned - Maple Leafs jerseys.

Also banned – Maple Leafs jerseys.

Quotes of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Federal Politics | 7 Comments

Scroll to the bottom to vote on your favourite quote…

ford plenty to eat

“I am Conservative. I am a traditionalist. I wish I left Cabinet in the traditional way – with a sex scandal!”
Stephen Fletcher, after being removed from Cabinet

“When I stand back and look at the cast of candidates, even I would pick me. I have to be plain about that.”
Sandra Pupatello

“You know, there’s a level of of admiration I actually have for China because their basic dictatorship is allowing them to actually turn their economy around on a dime and say ‘we need to go green fastest.”
-Justin Trudeau

“I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.”
Rob Ford

“I don’t even remember. Probably in one of my drunken stupors.”
Rob Ford, on his cocaine use

“You’ve just attacked Kuwait.”
Rob Ford

“I’m happily married, I have more than enough to eat at home.”
Rob Ford on, uhh…umm….

“It was kind of like what they did to Jesus.”
Doug Ford, on council’s treatment of his brother

“Then there is this evil Liberal name that haunts us still and wants to hand out drugs to our kids. This ghost of the NDP wants to acquire heroin with taxpayer money and inject it into the veins of Canada’s children.”
Rob Anders

“Canada will never be a safe haven for zombies!”
John Baird

“So the question is, is the money just in the wrong filing cabinet, is it hidden in the minister’s gazebo, is the money in the banana stand?”
Tom Mulcair

“I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology.”
Stephen Harper

“Realizing I may have made a major mistake in my openness and transparency: vicious attacks coming because I don’t drink coffee.”
Justin Trudeau

“I can’t believe I actually have to say this, but I’m going to say it. The river is closed. You cannot boat on the river. I have a large number of nouns that I can use to describe the people I saw in a canoe on the Bow river today. I am not allowed to use any of them. I can tell you, however, that I have been told that despite the state of local emergency, I’m not allowed to invoke the Darwin law.”
Naheed Nenshi

“Happy holidays to all you infidel atheists out there”
Brian Pallister

“There was a time not long ago that most of us in this leadership race would not have been deemed suitable. A Portuguese Canadian, an Indo-Canadian, an Italian Canadian, female, gay, Catholic. We would not have been able to stand on this stage. But this province has changed. Our party has changed. I do not believe the people of Ontario judge their leader on the basis of race, sexual orientation, colour or religion. I don’t believe it. They judge us on our merit, on our expertise, on our ideas, because that’s how everyone deserves to be judged.”
Kathleen Wynne

Persons of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Person of the Year, Toronto Municipal Politics | Comments Off on Persons of the Year

Every December, I like to name a “Person of the Year” – the individual who left their mark on Canadian politics over the past year. The only rules are that the PM is too obvious a choice, and that lame picks (“You!”) are strictly verboten. The Person of the Year doesn’t need to be someone who used the force for the powers of good, or someone I like – just someone who made a difference. So, yeah, crack smoking mayors and disgraced senators are certainly eligible. Below is a list of recent choices:

2012: Allison Redford
2011: Jack Layton
2010: Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi
2009: Jim Flaherty
2008: Stephane Dion
2007: Jean Charest
2006: Michael Ignatieff
2005: Belinda Stronach
2004: Ralph Klein

2013 was not a banner year for Canadian politics. There were some positives, including an overdue free trade deal with the EU, and an overdue debate on Prime Ministerial influence. But for every good news story there was Rob Anders being Rob Anders, Dean Del Mastro and Peter Penashue breaking election laws, and Paul Calandra turning Question Period into a joke.

However all stories, good and bad, were overshadowed by a year-long senate scandal (with a little Robocon thrown in for seasoning). This certainly leaves Nigel Wright and Mike Duffy as candidates for “person of the year”, but I’m less convinced than some about the long-term damage this controversy will inflict on Harper.

As is often the case in the midst of majority mandates in Ottawa, the was more action at the provincial level – but it was equally depressing. In Ontario, Kathleen Wynne’s win was inspiring, but she spent the year answering questions about the gas plant cancelation. Christy Clark pulled off a small miracle in BC, but the moral of that story was that going negative works. The most repugnant development of the year was Pauline Marois’ Values Charter which took direct aim at minorities. More troubling than the Charter is that Marois sees it as a path to re-election.

However it was municipal politicians than rose to the top of the cesspool than was Canadian politics in 2013. London Mayor Joe Fontana is going to trial on fraud charges. Somehow, both Montreal and Laval saw their interim mayors resign, both appointed after corruption scandals destroyed their predecessors. And the mayor of Huntingdon Quebec told a radio station he enjoyed killing cats. You can’t make this stuff up.

Of course, one man became the face of controversy, not just in Canada – but around the world. That doesn’t neccesarily make him the person of the year. While many Torontonians will disagree, Toronto is just a city, and it’s not like Ford’s Prime Ministerial ambitions were ever going to materialize, scandal or not. But people spent so much time talking about “Toronto’s crack smoking mayor” this year that it would be foolish to assume the entire fiasco won’t have some impact, however subtle, on the way voters look at politicians.

So, yes, Rob Ford is once again my Person of the Year, as the politician who came to represent all that is wrong with Canadian politics. However, after being visited by the ghost of elections past last night, I’ve realized there is still some good in the world, so Ford will only share the title:

2013 Persons of the Year: Rob Ford & Naheed Nenshi

ford nenshi

Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi will always be linked. They were elected within a week of each other, both running as anti-establishment outsiders against more polished, but overly cautious opponents. Yes, the kinds of people who voted for them may have been different, but a vote for Nenshi or a vote for Ford was a vote for change regardless of whether you were a commuter from Etobicoke or a student in downtown Calgary.

What made their elections so remarkable was that it looked like they had been body switched as some sort of Canadian Freaky Friday rip-off. Here were the liberal elites in Toronto voting for a foul mouthed football coach with a DUI who had been kicked out of a Leafs game for unruly behaviour. Meanwhile, the redneck yokels in Calgary were going with the Harvard-educated Muslim professor, who blogged about urban sprawl in his spare time. Never have two politicians been so similar and yet so different.

Since then, the caricatures have only grown more pronounced. There’s no need to recap Ford’s hijinx here, because I know you’ve had more than enough Rob Ford news to eat this year – he has been the subject of daily Daily Show coverage, viral parodies, and an entire gag gift industry. The man is now so well known in the US that he is not just the joke on late night talk shows, but the punch line. He tackles councillors, calls reporter pedophiles, and gives children the finger. And that’s just a typical Tuesday.

While not as infamous, Nenshi has built a reputation of his own. He is a Twitter sensation, has his face glued on “superman” posters, makes it onto Ontarians’ Christmas lists, and, somehow, was named the sexiest Calgarian. His leadership in the wake of the Alberta floods was textbook, at one point staying awake for 43 hours in a row, prompting a #nap4nenshi campaign. Even in the midst of the turmoil, Nenshi landed zingers, most memorably invoking Darwin’s Law as he warned Calgarians not to raft on the crested Bow river. When Toronto was hit with a flash flood a few weeks later, it’s no wonder Torontonians asked if they could borrow Nenshi.

Indeed, one of the most remarkable side-effects of the Ford and Nenshi phenomena is a genuine sense of “Calgary envy” in downtown Toronto. No longer can Torontonians look down on Calgary as an uncouth conservative outpost. If they do, Calgarians have the ultimate comeback – the equivalent of pointing out the Leafs’ 46-year Stanley Cup drought to win hockey arguments.

In fairness, both Nenshi and Ford can point to legislative victories and defeats. Nenshi has had trouble moving much of his agenda through City Council, and raised taxes by as much as 30%, depending how you do the math. While he was handily re-elected this fall, many of the developer-friendly councillors he anti-endorsed will be joining him at City Hall.

But image is everything in politics and, in 2013, Nenshi was the angel of Canadian politics and Ford was the demon. For that, they once again share the title of Persons of the Year.

Alberta Envy

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Alberta Politics, Calgary Municipal Politics | 3 Comments

From my view in downtown Toronto, things aren’t looking so bad in “redneck” Alberta these days…

Don Iveson is 34, supports public transit and the arts - and is Edmonton's new mayor.

Don Iveson is 34, supports public transit and the arts, loves Star Trek – and is Edmonton’s new mayor.

...and this guy just got re-elected with over 75% of the vote.

…and this guy just got re-elected with over 75% of the vote.

Politicians in Cowboy Hats: Come Hell or High Water

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Featured Posts, Humour, Politicians in Cowboy Hats | 7 Comments

For a brief history of Stampede fashion, you can read the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 round-ups – or last year’s “100 Years of Bad Photo-Ops

Flood waters cannot stop the Stampede and flood waters cannot stop politicians from the annual ritual of self humiliation known as the cowboy hat photo-op. Indeed, if there’s one photo op even more irresistible than the Stampede, it’s a post-disaster zone tour.



The Flood Aftermath

Stephen Harper was the first on the scene, playing dress-up in a Canadian Forces flight jacket, complete with pilot wings. Harper defended his wardrobe choice by saying he was honouring the military – I tend to think a better way to honour them would have been allowing Afghanistan troops to keep their danger pay.

Stephen Harper, Naheed Nenshi, Alison Reford

Next up would be Thomas Mulcair, sporting the official Stampede “hell or high water” t-shirt – four words that in southern Alberta usually follow “I’m never voting NDP come…”.

Mulcair stampede

Justin Trudeau put on his coveralls, got his hands dirty, and made history becoming the first aspiring Prime Minister to ever sport a backwards baseball cap:

trudeau work

While I have no doubts the Tory war room was dreaming up attack ads to use this picture in, at least Justin didn’t ruin a perfectly good pair of jeans:

harper relief 2 - wish he'd worn coveralls



Stampede Round-Up

But we were told come hell or high water the show must go on, so it was time for the politicians to pick up a cowboy hat and flip some pancakes. Alberta Premier Alison Redford proved to be a bit over eager on this front, sending her pancake into orbit, in what I can only assume was an attempt to out-flip Danielle Smith.

redford flips pancake

Although Chris Hadfield was the Stampede grand marshal this year, it appears that Justin Trudeau once again managed to overshadow an astronaut. Because everywhere you looked this weekend, there was Justin. At one point yesterday the Calgary Herald had three separate Trudeau stories on their website – this likely isn’t the first time that’s ever happened, but I suspect it’s the first time none of the stories involved effigies.

trudeau stampede headlines

Mercifully, Justin decided to forego cargo shorts in favour of jeans and belt buckle. It remains to be seen if he’s a big thinker, but the “XL” tag on his hat at least shows he’s got a big head.

trudeau stampede

And here’s Justin – again – with Calgary’s mayor and international Twitter superstar Naheed Nenshi. I’m not sure I agree with the FastForward survey which named Nenshi the “sexiest Calgarian“, but he’s certainly the most huggable.

trudeau nenshi hug



Also Pictured

Devinder Shory, Joe Oliver, Michelle Rempel, and Danielle Smith. (Thanks to MC for the photo)

Devinder Shory, Joe Oliver, Michelle Rempel, and Danielle Smith. (Thanks to MC for the tip on this one)

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children's entertainer.

If recent scandals take down Alison Redford, she will at least have a fruitful career as a children’s entertainer.

Kidding aside, Redford actually gets my vote for "Best Dressed" this year. Not only did she cycle through a series of outfits, she is the first politician I've seen pull off a "Stampede skirt".

Kidding aside, Redford actually gets my vote for “Best Dressed” this year. Not only did she cycle through a series of outfits, she is the first politician I’ve seen pull off a “Stampede skirt”.

There were no disasters this year, but Jean Charest take home the "Worst Dressed" honours - it's a nice hat, but he looks completely out of place in the suit jacket.

There were no disasters this year, but Jean Charest take home the “Worst Dressed” honours – it’s a nice hat, but he looks completely out of place in the suit jacket.

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