Naheed Nenshi

After Miracle Victory in 2010, Nenshi Almost Unbeatable in 2013

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Calgary Municipal Politics | 6 Comments
Nenshi could come out as an Argos fan and still win the next election in a cakewalk.

Nenshi could come out as an Argos fan and still win the next election in a cakewalk.

I expect this will be my only blog post on the 2013 Calgary Mayoral election. That’s because, despite recent rumblings about a bid by talk radio titan Dave Rutherford, Naheed Nenshi appears to be almost unbeatable.

I’ll admit to being wrong about Nenshi before – here’s what I wrote a month before he won one of Canada’s most exciting municipal elections of the past decade:

Naheed is brilliant and has, hands down, the best ideas of any candidate on how to run Calgary. So, of course, he will not win.

Oops.

If there’s ever a case study in not taking elections for granted, it’s Nenshi, who sat within the margin of error of 0% at the start of the campaign. So it’s understandable that the media and political strategists are taking Rutherford’s candidacy very seriously.

The thing is, the ground was far more fertile for an upset in 2010 than it is today. That was a wide open mayoral race with no incumbent and a pair of deeply flawed frontrunners. This time we’re dealing with a re-election campaign in a city which has not voted out a sitting Mayor since the Flames moved from Atlanta. Since then, incumbents have received 80%, 93%, 90%, 92%, 73%, 82%, and 61% of the vote. If there’s one thing Calgarians like more than the Rocky Mountains and ragging on Edmonton, it’s re-electing their mayors.

At this stage, all signs point towards Nenshi’s share of the vote in October falling within that historical range. A Leger poll last November found 88% of Calgarians approve of his performance and 87% agree he deserves to be re-elected. This includes 51% who strongly believe he should be re-elected.

While there has been some recent controversy over Nenshi’s decision to hold a referendum on how to use a $52 million property tax surplus which…zzzz….sorry, the sheer boredom and irrelevance of this issue put me to sleep for a second. Living in Toronto these days, it’s hard to believe something like that could even pass for “mildly controversial”.

Yes, Canadian politics has been full of upsets in recent years. But most of these have taken the form of unpopular incumbents holding on to power. I’m at a loss to find an example of a popular incumbent losing. Things can change in 4 months, but we’re dealing with a candidate who could alienate half his base and still win re-election.

I don’t doubt that Dave Rutherford is well liked, respected, and could mobilize much of conservative Calgary. But Rutherford should look to city hall journalist Rick Bell who tried to take out a sitting mayor in 1998, only to finish with 8% of the vote.

Naheed Nenshi from 3 years ago is the perfect example of why you should never take anything for granted in politics. But Naheed Nenshi from today is the perfect example of why sometimes you really can predict the outcome with 99% confidence before the election. Dave Rutherford would be wise to save himself the time, money, and potential humiliation of fighting a campaign he realistically has no chance of winning.

Liberal Heartland Calgary

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, by elections, Featured Posts, Federal Politics | 7 Comments

Like most Liberal campaigns launched in Calgary, Martha Hall Findlay’s leadership bid is a longshot.

Wednesday was not a typical day for Calgary Grits.

While leadership candidates must all fly into town, knowing the party’s weighted-by-riding leadership system makes a vote there far more valuable than a vote in Toronto, I have never seen a serious candidate launch their leadership campaign from the heart of Conservative country. But there was Martha Hall Findlay at the Stampede grounds, declaring her intentions to run for Liberal leader.

It’s tempting to write off the Calgary launch as a meaningless prop, but politics is all about symbolism and Hall Findlay may very well be the closest thing to a “Calgary candidate” to ever run for Liberal leader. She’s an executive fellow at the University of Calgary, once lived in the city for a few years, has family in the area, and employs a Calgary-centric campaign team. Yes, she might very well get steamrolled by Justin Trudeau, but what says you’re the Liberal Party’s “Calgary candidate” more than crushing defeat? Or having your hopes dashed by a Trudeau, for that matter?

Even more surprising on Wednesday, was a poll showing Liberals on the cusp of history in the Calgary Centre by-election:

Joan Crockatt (CPC) 32%
Harvey Locke (Lib) 30%
Chris Turner (Green) 23%
Dan Meades (NDP) 12%

Now before we all get visions of Calgary’s first Liberal seat since Trudeaumania (the first Trudeaumania, that is), it’s worth considering Forum’s shaky reputation and the small sample size (n = 376). I don’t think anyone believes this poll is accurate, but the question is how inaccurate it actually is.

After all, parts of this riding are red provincially (or green now, thanks to the ALP’s rebranding), and Naheed Nenshi won over 50% of the votes in the riding during the last municipal election. It’s a downtown riding, and although they’d never admit it, downtown Calgarians have a lot more in common with downtown Torontonians than with Nanton ranchers.

So even though the Tories got 57% the last election, by-elections are strange animals and Crockatt is a divisive figure – I would not be surprised to see her at 40-45% on by-election night. And that puts us squarely in Linda Duncan territory, where a coalition of progressives could actually win.

Of course, Alberta progressives have a habit of tripping over their feet anytime they get remotely close to power. So we’ve got the Greens attacking the Liberal candidate for “just visiting”, and the Liberal candidate calling the Green candidate “a twerp”. While there are coalitions calling for strategic voting, this poll paints a picture of the Greens pulling away enough vote to let Crockatt hold on – even though the Liberal candidate is an environmentalist who founded the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

So, in all likelihood, it will still be a few years before the Liberals actually win a seat in Calgary. Or until we get a real Calgary leadership candidate. But Calgary Liberals were closer to both those accomplishments Wednesday than they’ve been in a long time. It was a good day to be a Calgary Grit.

The Race for Third

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in --- 2013 LPC Leadership Race, Federal Politics | Leave a comment

Back in February I asked readers of this blog who they thought would run for Liberal leader, and who they’d consider voting for. Admittedly, this is as far from a scientific poll as you’ll ever get, and I won’t pretend that the 500+ voters in this straw poll are all Liberals. But we’re not going to see anything resembling a credible Liberal leadership poll for close to a year, so let’s have a little fun with what we’ve got.

Before that, one other thing. It looks like a group of Borys Wrzesnewskyj supporters swarmed the poll late, so I’ve excluded Borys from my recap below. Mind you, the fact that he appears to be the only candidate with supporters dedicated enough to freep a web poll at this stage should likely tell you there are people out there who would like him to run. Which is more than can be said for a lot of the names I floated.

Likely to Run?
Bob Rae 52%
Dominic LeBlanc 42%
Marc Garneau 38%
David McGuinty 34%
Gerard Kennedy 24%
Martha Hall Findlay 24%
Martin Cauchon 21%
Denis Coderre 21%
Scott Brison 18%
Mark Holland 14%

Who Would Consider Supporting?
Bob Rae 31%
Dominic LeBlanc 26%
Justin Trudeau 19%
Gerard Kennedy 19%
Scott Brison 19%
Mark Carney 17%
Marc Garneau 17%
Martha Hall Findlay 16%
Dalton McGuinty 16%
Naheed Nenshi 15%

Rae is seen as the most likely to run and has the largest support base, which tells you all the talk about him being the frontrunner isn’t misplaced. My man from 2008, Dominic LeBlanc, is the only candidate within striking distance of Rae on the support poll, though 11 other names earned between 11% and 19% so there are plenty of viable candidates out there.

I’ve plotted the 16 candidates who scored at least 10% on either poll below. You can see that Trudeau, Carney, Dalton, Nenshi, Goodale, and Lang all have more people who like them than than expect them to run, leaving them as the most probable candidates for a genuine “Draft” movement.

The reverse is true for the other McGuinty, Cauchon, Garneau, and Coderre but, in fairness, I suspect that Quebecers are seriously under represented on this poll.

None of this means a heck of a lot when we don’t even have the rules yet. But it shows there’s nothing even remotely resembling a consensus on who will be running, never mind who will win.

Tomorrow, I’ll speculate a bit about who might be running, so if you’re hearing any rumours, by all means float names my way.

Did the left blow it in Alberta?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2012 Alberta Election, Alberta Politics | Leave a comment

Even though the end result was a Stephen Harper majority government, the NDP took a giant leap forward last May. In one election, the party may very well have taken the first step in killing off Canada’s natural governing party, positioning the Dippers to one day form government.

Although last Monday’s Alberta election was a battle between two conservative parties, it’s not far flung to imagine how a similar scenario could have unfolded there.

Let’s close our eyes and go back in time to the spring of 2008 – Leona Lewis topped the billboard charts, and Ed Stelmach had just stumbled his way to a crushing 70-seat majority. In our scenario, perhaps the Liberals and NDP finally decide that 50 years of fighting each other for second place has been counterproductive. They talk to some disaffected PCs and non-partisans and decide to start a new progressive party from scratch – let’s call it the “Alberta Party” for lack of a more creative name.

Since there’s general displeasure with Stelmach and no viable alternative on the right (remember, this is pre-Danielle), a few polls show this party is popular at the conceptual level. Maybe Dave Bronconnier finally has enough guts to jump to provincial politics. Or maybe the leadership goes to a little known Mount Royal professor by the name of Nenshi.

In either event, this new party is seen as credible by voters, setting up a real three-way election battle. Maybe the Alberta Party follows the federal NDP’s path and winds up as the official opposition to a Wildrose government. Maybe we get Alberta’s first minority government. Hell, maybe the PCs choose Gary Mar or Ted Morton as their leader, and all those “Redford Liberals” find a home in the new Alberta Party, sweeping them into power.

Yes, it’s all fantasy, but fantasyland is the only place the left ever comes close to power in Alberta so there’s no harm in closing our eyes and imagining it.

Now, let’s try another scenario, grounded slightly more in reality – what would have happened had the “strategic voters” been less strategic? Could progressives have made a breakthrough on Monday night?

It’s important to remember that despite being the punchline of Canadian politics, the left in Alberta is not nonexistent. Since the Liberals’ near-victory in 1993, the Liberals and NDP have combined for between 35% and 42% of the vote in each election, falling victim to the unforgiving nature of first past the post.

The Liberals’ did not bled to the Wildrose Party this election, but to Allison Redford. The final Abacus poll showed around 10% of 2008 Liberal and NDP voters jumping to the Wildrose Party, but this is off-set by the 5% of past PC voters who planned to follow Raj Sherman to the grits. Toss in the departure of the Alberta Greens from the ballot, and it’s not unreasonable to assume the Liberals and NDP could have held their 2008 vote, had things broken a little differently.

So what if they had?

To find out, I moved PC voters “back” to the Liberals, until the 2012 regional totals matched the 2008 numbers. As an example, to get the Liberals back to 33% in Calgary, I needed to shift 11% of the total vote from the PCs to the Liberals in each riding. I recognize this is an inexact science but, once again, this is perfectly legitimate math for fantasyland.

Here’s what that legislature would have looked like:

WR 42
PC 26
Lib 14
NDP 5

That may not be an overly appealing outcome, but it does leave the Liberals and NDP as players in a minority government. Moreover, if you shift to 2004 levels of support, suddenly we get 23 Liberal MLAs and 13 for the PCs, with the Wildrose holding a slim majority. That’s a scenario similar to last May, and one that could eventually lead to the Liberals squeezing the PCs out of existence.

Again, we’re playing with hypotheticals in the land of make believe, but it does show that the landscape isn’t so completely barren for progressives that the only option left is assimilation by the PCs. Situations can change – even in Alberta.

Sixth Annual Politicians in Cowboy Hats

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2011 Alberta PC Leadership Race, Alberta Politics, Featured Posts, Humour, Politicians in Cowboy Hats | Leave a comment

For a brief history of Stampede fashion, you can read the 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010 round-ups.

Although Rick Hansen served as Stampede Parade Grand Marshal, all eyes were on Will and Kate this year. I do find it somewhat perplexing how many of the same people who lambasted Ignatieff for his time outside of the country went absolutely ga-ga over our future head of state visiting us for the first time in years. If a 6-day cross-country tour isn’t the definition of “Just Visiting“, I don’t know what is. That said…

OH MY GOD! Will and Kate looked absolutely dashing!!! So young! So thin! So beautiful! And they pulled off Western wear more perfectly than most people who have lived in Calgary their entire lives! Their outfits were, like, so simple, and yet so perfectly perfect. I hereby crown them “best dressed” of the 2011 Stampede – the king and queen of fashion.

This was Naheed Nenshi’s first stampede as mayor, and I know many were worried how the man would look in western wear. After all, Dave Bronconnier left big cowboy boots to fill – the man looked the part of the Mayor of Calgary every Stampede, riding ‘ol leroy down 9th Avenue. Nenshi meanwhile, went to Harvard, is a University Professor, and spends his spare time blogging about population density rates in new housing developments. And let’s be honest, the man doesn’t really look like John Wayne (neither the actor nor the serial killer).

However, Naheed hit it out of the park this year. His outfit is irrelevant – the man rode a horse in the parade, thereby making him a Stampede All-Star.

With Stampede a success, the big question now turns to what he’ll wear for pride.

FEDERAL POLITICIANS

Usually it’s the federal politicians who make the biggest splash at the Stampede – for better or worse. After all, Liberal academics, socialists from Toronto, and environmental crusaders don’t tend to have a large collection of denim in their closets. Heck, even the “Alberta boy” himself, Stephen Harper, committed the biggest gaffe in Stampede history.

But this year? Everyone’s tired out from the election. Jack Layton needs to spend time with Quebec. The Liberal leadership contest hasn’t reached the point where candidates need to parade in cowboy hats to court Calgary Liberals.

Stephen Harper did give a speech about how invincible he is (which always ends well in westerns...), but his stylist really earns her money come the second week of July every year, so the PM once again looked fine.

Here’s a pancake. You’ll get your eggs once Canada is out of deficit in 2015.”

PROVINCIAL POLITICS

In comparison, provincial politics are rockin’ this summer with an election on the horizon, and the PCs and Liberals both in the midst of leadership contests. As always, the media was all abuzz about the chosen one, Wildrose Alliance leader Danielle Smith.

And 5,000 came to the Stampede breakfast, but there were only 5 pancakes and 2 sausages. So Danielle Smith said “bring them to me” and she placed her hands over them. She broke the pancakes and gave them to Prime Minister Harper, telling him to distribute them to the multitudes. Lo and behold, they were all fed, with stacks of pancakes left over. And so the legend of Danielle Smith grew.
PC LEADERSHIP CANDIDATES

The Stampede may be the most important event of the entire PC leadership race. After all, it gives candidates a dozen socials a day to press the flesh in Alberta’s largest city. As such, the contenders have all no doubt held countless strategy meetings and focus groups to find that outfit that says “I’m an Albertan, I enjoy a good rodeo, but I don’t look like a member of the Village People when wearing a cowboy hat“.

So as a public service, I’ve taken it upon myself to rank the PC leadership contenders choice of western wear.

1. Rick Orman

Winning the “Calgary Grit Best Dressed” trophy will likely be the highlight of the leadership race for Orman, so I hope he savours this. While Orman’s outfit isn’t Jim Prentice-good by any means, it’s the best of a rather uninspiring field. And he gets bonus marks for the 3 cute children in western wear. After all, in politics, nothing beats cute children.

2. Alison Redford

Redford has a bit of a “female Harry Chase” look going on. I know that doesn’t sound like a compliment, but it really is, since I consider Chase a stampede fashion superstar.

3. Ted “The Man” Morton

Here’s what I said about Ted when I voted him “worst dressed” last year:

Once again, Ted is just trying to hard. When he ran for leadership, he drafted a catchy little country music jingle. He holds “golf and gun” fundraisers. But, really, he’s just a university professor from the big city trying to pass himself off as a good ‘ol country boy. And, in this case, it shows.

Morton has improved this year, though I’d probably only give the prof a “C-” grade, and the vest above leaves a lot to be desired. However, in browsing the 7 Stampede Breakfast photo-albums on his Facebook page, I did notice he mixed it up and owns at least 2 different cowboy hats, so I’ll give him marks for effort.

4. Gary Mar

Here, PC leadership candidate Gary Mar poses with the winner of the Gary Mar lookalike contest.

While I recognize orange is a hot colour politically these days, I’m just not feeling it. I mean, seriously, have you ever seen Clint Eastwood wearing orange?

5. Doug Griffiths

Mercifully, Ed Stelmach no longer wears suit jackets to the Alberta Stampede, but his habit appears to have rubbed off on a few of his MLAs. Quite simply, it’s just something you don’t do.

6. Doug Horner

Like Griffiths, Horner dons the suit. What knocks him down to the “worst dressed” spot on this list is the cup of Starbucks in his left hand. Quite simply, cowboys do not drink Starbucks.

It appears Yvonne Fritz is equally aghast.

A Tale of Two Cities

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Calgary Municipal Politics, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment


I had some fun last fall comparing the elections of Naheed Nenshi in Calgary and Rob Ford in Toronto. Fairly or unfairly, it appears the two will be forever linked. We got yet another example of that this week with the news that Nenshi will become the first Mayor to lead Calgary’s pride parade, after Ford became the first Mayor in over 20 years to skip Toronto’s.

Now, I don’t think anyone should be surprised by Ford’s decision. A lot of Ford’s supporters likely feel he has his priorities straight by choosing the cottage over pride. Still, there were plenty of other Pride Week events Ford could have attended, to show his support for an event which is important to his city and many of the people who live there.

Ford missed an opportunity to expand his base – instead, all he’s done is needlessly fire up his opponents.

2010 Person of the Year

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Person of the Year, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

As 2010 winds down, it’s time to pick a Calgary Grit Person of the Year for the 7th consecutive year. The criteria is simple – a person who made an impact on the Canadian political scene in 2010 (ruling out obvious choices like the PM, or lame picks like “you“).

But this was a tough year, with no obvious choice once it became clear that I couldn’t contort the criteria to give the award to Sidney Crosby.

Federally, 2010 was about as dull, meaningless, and mundane as it gets. No election. No crisis. No bold policies. No leadership races. Wake me up when it’s 2011. If I had to pick a federal politician, I’d have to go with my buddy, Tony Clement. He was, after all, at the centre of the largest stories of the year – the Census, Potash, the G20 Summit. So convinced was I that Tony should be the Man of the Year that I sent him an application form – alas, he never filed it out, so I had to look elsewhere.

Now, the “political person of the year” doesn’t have to be a politician. Ivan Fellegi and Munir Sheikh could have been joint winners for turning the Census into the unlikeliest of issues. A wild card pick might have been the kids who set up the “anti-prorogation” Facebook group. But in both cases, Harper seems to have recovered and the probability of long term damage is low.

As always, interesting candidates can be found in the provincial arena. Shawn Graham signed then unsigned the NB Hydro deal and, in the process, signed away a promising career. Danny Williams called it a night. So did Gordon Campbell, though he would have been a more deserving candidate in 2008 for his carbon tax, or in 2009 for his re-election victory and subsequent HST announcement.

All good candidates, but none really define the year that was.

In my mind, 2010 was all about municipal politics. Some people think municipal politics don’t matter, but they must if people like Jim Watson, George Smitherman, Judy Wasylycia-Leis, Maurizio Bevilacqua, and Inky Mark leave provincial and federal politics for a chance to run (and in some cases, lose) municipally.

The problem is, I can’t very well pick 100 mayors as my people of the year. And selecting Rob Ford is a bit too Toronto-centric for a blog with “Calgary” in the name. So, after much thought, here are my Men of the Year:

Rob Ford and Naheed Nenshi

Of all the mayoral races in 2010, none were more fascinating, surprising, or memorable than these two. In a city overrun with “pinko cyclists”, a loud Ralph Klein clone from the suburbs drove away with it. In “redneck” Calgary, a Muslim Harvard graduate who teaches University and blogs about urban sprawl was the come from behind winner. Ford and Nenshi shattered stereotypes, prompting many to scratch their heads and wonder if we’d entered the world of bizarro politics.

Though the differences between Ford and Nenshi are obvious, their campaigns were quite similar when you get down it it. They both ran as anti-establishment outsiders. They both defined themselves early with a clear message and understandable policies. They both filled a void left open by overly cautious front runners. 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.

Beyond the immediate impact Ford and Nenshi will have on the 3.5 million Canadians they now represent is the effect their wins will have on the rest of the country. Is Ford’s win a dark omen for Dalton McGuinty or an opportunity? What does Nenshi’s victory in Calgary do to the already rocky world of Alberta provincial politics? What does this anti-establishment wave sweeping the country mean for Stephen Harper?

In addition to these questions, the lessons learned from these campaigns will last…well, at least until the next memorable election. There isn’t a politician in Canada who isn’t thinking about “the gravy train” right now. And there isn’t a campaign manager in Canada who hasn’t looked at Nenshi’s use of social media.

But above all else, in a dreary year for politics, Calgary and Toronto gave us mayoral elections worth watching and worth talking about. Which is more than can be said about just about everything else that happened politically in 2010.

2009: Jim Flaherty
2008: Stephane Dion
2007: Jean Charest
2006: Michael Ignatieff
2005: Belinda Stronach
2004: Ralph Klein

Lessons from Naheed

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

Generally speaking, the rest of Canada treats Alberta politics as nothing more than a punch line:

Calgary: If you don’t like the weather, wait 40 minutes. If you don’t like the government, wait 40 years“.

The Alberta government is considering adding ‘Liberals’ to the endangered species list“.

That sort of stuff.

Because of that, no one in Ontario would dare use an Alberta election as a case study of anything other than political silliness. And you won’t see many gushing articles on “the genius of Naheed Nenshi” the same way you will about “the genius of Rob Ford” (Ford has promised lower taxes and played to the suburbs, where all the voters live. It’s genius! What political mastermind could ever have thought of that!).

But there’s a lot the rest of Canada can learn from last night’s stunner in Calgary.

1. Social media matters: I’ve always had my doubts about the usefulness of social media in general elections. Yeah, yeah, you need to do it so the media includes you in their story about what the kids these days are blogging on the Tweeter and the Facebooks, but I’ve always been skeptical about how many votes it actually moves.

In this case, I would argue it made all the difference. Intentionally or not, the Nenshi campaign has become the best example I’ve seen of Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point theory applied to politics. The simple version of Gladwell’s argument is this:

A. For an epidemic, attitude or idea to take off, it must first gain traction among mavens, the “information brokers” of society. Obviously enough, most Calgarians weren’t following mayoral candidates on Twitter this July – especially ones as obscure as Naheed Nenshi. But information brokers – the media and politicos – were. Because of this, Nenshi was able to use social media to solidify himself as the de facto “third” candidate in this race, over more recognizable faces like Kent Hehr, Wayne Stewart or Bob Hawkesworth.

B. Once an idea sets in, the connectors need to spread it. Ten thousand supporters on Facebook is impressive, but it’s just 1% of the City of Calgary. However, when those 10,000 supporters start posting stories about Naheed on their Facebook page to be seen by their hundreds of friends…you start to reach a critical mass. That’s why things tipped so suddenly in Nenshi’s favour over the course of two or three weeks.

The real success of Nenshi’s social media campaign was that it broke free of the political echo chamber. To have a tangible impact, you need to reach the non-political crowd…the kind of people who will actually change their mind based on a news story or video they see online. So the Nenshi campaign reached out to the non-political, spreading their message to places like hockey forums and online discussion boards.

The proof that Nenshi broke free of the political bubble are those 10,000 Facebook supporters – an impressive figure when you consider that Harper and Ignatieff only have 3 times that number despite having 30 times the electorate to work with.

2. Polls matter: More than ever before, polls are driving the narrative. The early buzz was all about McIver and Higgins, with Nenshi an afterthought, caught in a pack of 10 legitimate candidates grasping for air.

Then one poll showed him at 8%. Factor in the margin of error on a small sample poll where most respondents are undecided, and he was basically in Oscar Fech territory. But suddenly, Mr. 8% was seen as a the “leader of the pack” and began getting attention accordingly. With each new poll, words like “momentum” and “surging” were used to describe him.

Then, we had the real election game changer: A Leger poll with a week to go showing McIver at 32%, Higgins at 30%, and Nenshi at 30%.

Maybe those numbers were accurate, maybe Nenshi was already in first, maybe he was stuck in the mid-20s. We don’t know. We do know that if the poll had shown him in the low-to-mid 20s, say 8 or 10 points back of Barb Higgins, it’s a whole different ballgame, with Nenshi voters jumping to Higgins instead of the reverse.

3. Policy Matters: Not so much the policies themselves, but the perception of having policies.

Though Naheed might disagree with me, I’m willing to bet if you stopped Calgarians as they exited the voting booths, most of them couldn’t name you a single one of Nenshi’s policies. Sure, they’d tell you he was going to improve transit, they’d tell you he had a great vision for an inclusive city, they’d tell you he had lots of ideas about accountability. But press them for specifics and they’d be grasping for answers like Barb Higgins on a breakfast TV interview.

Yet at the same time, if you asked voters which candidate had the best policies, they’d all say Nenshi. After all, he’s the guy who memorizes neighbourhood density statistics the way sports junkies know how many goals their favourite hockey players scored last year. Nenshi was releasing policies and his image was of “the policy guy”, so everyone assumed he had a plan.

That was the idea behind the Liberal red book in 1993. No one ever read the red book, but knowing it was there projected the imagine that there was a plan and a vision.

Talking to non-political Calgarians I know, their biggest complaint with Higgins was that they didn’t know what she stood for. These same people didn’t really know what exactly Nenshi stood for but they knew he stood for something.

Which was more than could be said about his opponents.

4. Release your platform early to define yourself: Nenshi jumped out of the gate, releasing policy throughout the summer, when only the “mavens” were paying attention. When you lack name recognition, you need to do this to define yourself – and even when you have name recognition, it’s not a bad idea.

Everyone knew about the common sense revolution before the 1995 Ontario election. In 2005, Stephen Harper released his platform before Christmas, while the Liberals were off caroling. In the current Toronto election, Rob Ford defined himself early on by repeating the words “gravy train” twenty times a day.

Even if the general public isn’t paying attention, it’s important to define yourself early, so that when they do tune in, they know what you’re all about.


5. Front runners cannot afford to be complacent. We’ve seen this happen time and time again – in leadership races and general elections. This race had two complacent front runners, trying to out complacency each other. So the electorate found someone else to vote for.

6. Religion doesn’t matter in Canada: Did you know Nenshi was Muslim? You probably didn’t until today. It wasn’t an issue.

7. Political affiliation doesn’t matter municipally: As the saying goes, snow removal isn’t a right wing or left wing issue. After 20 years of openly Liberal mayors, Calgarians picked the progressive option over the conservative or the Rod Love approved candidate.

8. Be Yourself: Naheed’s a geeky policy wonk. He didn’t pretend to be anything else.

9. Present a positive vision, but attack when necessary. Nenshi released scathing editorials on his opponents throughout the campaign, but he always attacked them on policy by explaining why their ideas were wrong…and followed it up with what he’d do better. It’s a simple way to construct an attack, and it’s almost always the most effective.

Unless, of course, your opponent kicks children in the face. Then you can have at them!

What others are saying…
DJ Kelly looks at the new City Council
The Commons recaps the day that was
Don Martin on Cowtown’s new image
Kevin Libin on how Nenshi won
Labrador shows us the electoral map – Nenshi cleans up downtown and did quite well in the west and north

Calgary Votes Live Blog

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

10:35 pm: We’re ready to call it. Calgary’s next mayor:

Yes, that’s right. Canada’s conservative heartland just elected a mayor who is a visible minority, practicing muslim, Harvard graduate, university professor, and a policy wonk. And he wears purple.

Nenshi’s rise is truly astonishing when you consider that he was polling in single digits, 35 points back of first, just four weeks ago. Sure, he had a bunch of Twitter followers and had released more policy than anyone else in the race, but the election was all about McIver versus Higgins. The problem was, neither McIver nor Higgins were saying much of anything.

So, poll after poll, Nenshi kept rising. He kept offering solutions to the problems facing the city, while McIver and Higgins argued over the proper amount to increase property taxes by. In the end, Calgary voters showed they weren’t hung up on image, on name recognition, or on political affiliation. They voted for the best candidate, and the best candidate won.

This was a good day for democracy.

10:03 pm: Bad sign for Ric McIver. The volunteer they send out to speak on his behalf calls him “MacGyver”. At this point, it may take MacGyver to get Ric out of the mess he’s in, because Nenshi keeps pulling away.

9:59 pm: In the more interesting race, for last:

Oscar Fech 25
Gary F. Johnson 30
Amanda Liu 32

And Wayne Stewart (380) leads among the candidates who aren’t actually in the race any more…

9:58 pm: The Nenshi HQ numbers have him up around 13,000 to 9,000 (McIver) to 8,000 (Higgins) based on their scrutineer numbers.

9:48 pm: Well that didn’t take long. Higgins falls down to third as McIver’s home ward (12) and downtown north (ward 7) come in.

Nenshi 7681
McIver 7513
Higgins 6239

9:39 pm: The results to date –

Higgins 3860
McIver 3661
Nenshi 3267

But the far south wards (McIver country) and the city centre/NE/campus wards (Nenshi country) are still to come. I still think Higgins might wind up in third when all is said and done.

8:59 pm: …and CTV is going to “Dancing with the Stars”. Because, yeah, it’s been an exciting election and all but, at the end of the day, we all really want to know how Bristol Palin is doing.

8:49 pm: Steve Mandel projected to be re-elected as mayor of Edmonton.

8:46 pm: CTV shows us the race in Pincher Creek – Rob Buckner is wearing a ballcap in his official campaign picture. The Calgary Grit decision desk is going to call that race for Bucker right now, with 0% of polls reporting.

8:21 pm: We have results! The first poll is in…presumably from Barb Higgins’ street. Barb has 26 votes, giving her a 20 vote lead on Naheed.

8:09 pm: Darrel Janz is wearing a purple tie on the CTV broadcast. Is this a slight to his old co-host?

7:45 pm (mountain time!): I’m coming to you live from the Calgary ex-pat election night party in Toronto, surrounded by purple t-shirts, Barb Higgins haircuts, and Ric McIver action figures (pull the string and he says…nothing – just like Ric!).

I’ll be updating the results and adding commentary as it comes in, while dishing out the numbers on aldermanic races and maybe even some Edmonton results. Hell, you might even get some hockey scores and weather forecasts while I’m at it!

While you wait, you can read my profiles of the candidates (here, here, and here), my endorsement of Nenshi, and my consternation at how Rob Ford could be the next mayor of Toronto and Naheed Nenshi could be next mayor of Calgary.

What’s the matter with the Calgary Sun?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Sun endorses a Harvard elitist for Mayor of Calgary:

The Sun has never shied away from taking a bold stand when we believe it will benefit Calgarians.

We believe Naheed Nenshi should be Calgary’s next mayor.

Luckily, they explain their decision:

He’s a prof at Mount Royal University, but doesn’t engage in the egghead bafflegab we’ve come to expect from some academics.

On Thursday, I warned Calgarians their city was going soft. I won’t issue the Sun a similar warning, but endorsing professors in political races is the first step on a slippery slope…if they’re not careful, the sunshine girl may soon be replaced with a page of book reviews or some other elitist nonsense.

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