2010 Calgary Municipal Election

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.

Stampede to the Polls: The Candidates Speak

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

UPDATE Joe Connelly and Naheed Nenshi have been added at the bottom

Even though I only had time to profile four of the candidates running for mayor in Calgary (McIver, Higgins, Nenshi, and the since withdrawn Kent Hehr), I don’t want to completely overlook the other candidates. Some of these men and women have good ideas and they deserve a chance to be heard.

So, in the interest of giving everyone a voice, I sent around a short 3 question survey to every candidate I could find an e-mail address for. I got 2 bites, which I’ll repost here verbatim:

John Lord

1. What is your number 1 priority as Mayor of Calgary?

Without Financial resources, the City has their hands tied on everything else. Clean up the financials 1st and foremost – stop wasteful spending, take stock, then get on with fixing the problems and finding the opportunities for Calgarians. Triple E City Hall – Efficient ( doing things right) Effective ( doing the right things) and Ethical ( for the right reasons). Of any Candidate, I have the best Financial credentials ( know what questions to ask) Entrepreneurial outlook ( turning lemons to lemonade -vision and troubleshooting skills), Political relations( good relations with the City as former Alderman, good relations with Province as former MLA) and Track Record of actual achievements that have transformed communities ( Marda Loop), accomplished what others could not ( Legalize secondary suites, solve 30 years battle over Stampede Park expansion, etc.) and transformed the culture at City Hall ( World Environmental Achievement Award for Calgary, of which my ISO14001 initiative was instrumental).

2. What is one smaller concrete change you would make as Mayor that Calgarians would notice in their day to day lives?

A kinder, gentler Parking Authority – or maybe more better snow removal.

3. I doubt you’ve had much time to relax during this campaign, but if you had the chance to take 1 restful politics-free day, how would you spend it?

Catching up with my family – have a BBQ or something.

Craig Burrows (since withdrawn)

1. What is your number 1 priority as Mayor of Calgary?
Transparency, accessibility and accountability at City Hall. See my policy attached.

2. What is one smaller concrete change you would make as mayor that Calgarians would notice in their day to day lives?

Smartcard technology to eliminate the $3 park n ride fee.

3. I doubt you’ve had much time to relax during this campaign, but if you had the chance to take 1 restful politics-free day, how would you spend it?

I would spend the day with my wife and my dog, Max, and then later take my wife to dinner and a movie, I owe her many such days and nights!

Joe Connelly

1. What is your number 1 priority as Mayor of Calgary?

To give all Calgarians a true voice at City Hall. I don’t believe Calgarians are heard. I would introduce a crowdsourcing process to have groups address issues that most affect them, discuss them openly, and provide solutions to City Hall. I believe Calgarians hold many answers to our challenges as a growing city.

2. What is one smaller concrete change you would make as Mayor that Calgarians would notice in their day to day lives?

Introduce a Community Liaison position such that communities have a direct ear to the Mayor. I believe communities are the backbone of neighborhoods and represent issues on behalf of their neighbours. But City Hall has never set a process in place that these issues can be heard by Council and particularly by the Mayor. By starting at these grass roots level discussions, I believe it will make a difference in people’s lives.

3. I doubt you’ve had much time to relax during this campaign, but if you had the chance to take 1 restful politics-free day, how would you spend it?

Rollerblading on our great pathway systems. And later when the snow flies and the campaign is over, skiing.

Naheed Nenshi

1. What is your number 1 priority as Mayor of Calgary?
a. Get work started on the Airport/96th Ave underpass (aka tunnel) as quickly as possible to provide vital East-West link to keep airport access and so we don’t lose the opportunity now to establish the foundation for LRT to airport in the future. While this may not be the overall #1 priority, it is most time-sensitive one and we will miss the opportunity to build it if we don’t start now.

b. Fix City Hall. We need a major structural shift at City Hall – we must shift the culture from one of regulator to that of facilitator. It will take time, it will be difficult, but we must start this immediately to get Calgary on track for the future.

2.What is one smaller concrete change you would make as Mayor that Calgarians would notice in their day to day lives?

I would get the express bus system to post secondary schools and major employment areas as quickly as possible – getting more people to school and places of employment faster to make Public Transit more a preferred choice is a big priority that will help many Calgarians.

3. I doubt you’ve had much time to relax during this campaign, but if you had the chance to take 1 restful politics-free day, how would you spend it?

I’d start by sleeping in, having a great brunch and then spending some time with family and friends and then head out the theatre to see a performance.

What’s the matter with Calgary?

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in 2010 Calgary Municipal Election, 2010 Toronto Muncipal Election, Calgary Municipal Politics, Featured Posts, Humour, Toronto Municipal Politics | Leave a comment

Dear Calgary,

You used to be cool. You were the conservative rebel without a cause. You welcomed George Bush and Sarah Palin with open arms. You could always be counted on for a good pro-Iraq war rally. Ann Coulter called you “the good Canadians”.

The man who embodied this Calgary image was Ralph Klein. He was your mayor in the 80s. By voting for Ralph in 1993, you saved Alberta from a Liberal government. You stood by your man even after the drunken visits to homeless shelters, after the plagiarism, after he heckled the AISH recipients. The rest of the country laughed at Ralph, but you didn’t care. Because, like Ralph, you were too cool to care.

This all led to a good natured rivalry with Toronto. In 2004, Scott Reid famously said “Alberta can blow me” during the election campaign. A decade earlier, you’d pasted “Let the Eastern Bastards Freeze in the Dark” bumper stickers on your trucks. That was just the sort of relationship Calgary and Toronto have always had.

And you know what? The relationship worked. Calgarians hated the Toronto elites for their self-righteousness and their blind devotion to the Liberal Party, while the self righteous Toronto elites shook their heads and wondered what was wrong with those backwater Calgarians who would elect a donkey if you slapped a Tory logo on its behind.

But now, everything has gone topsy turvy. Here’s the Leger mayoral poll from yesterday’s Calgary Herald:

Nenshi has now rocketed to 30 per cent, tied with Higgins and just behind Ric McIver’s 33 per cent support, according to a Leger Marketing survey of 500 Calgarians conducted between Oct. 6 and 11.

Holy chinook?!? The “it” candidate in the Calgary election went to Harvard, ran a nonprofit, and blogs about the best ways to limit urban sprawl. Rosedale parents are going to have a hard time using that to turn their children against Calgary and scare them into voting Liberal.

Especially given what’s been going on in Toronto, where the front runner wants to limit immigration, says “oriental people work like dogs“, and has a record of DUI and assault charges so long it would make Ralph Klein blush.

I mean, seriously. Take a look at these two pictures and tell me which one of these guys looks like he should be mayor of Toronto and which one looks like he should be mayor of Calgary:

And it’s not just Naheed. The “conservative” candidate in Calgary’s mayoral election, Ric McIver, has staked out the conservative turf by…promising to raise taxes less than the other candidates. Hell, he’s been attacked by the NDP candidate in the race for wanting to spend too much on the airport tunnel. The guy isn’t exactly the president of Tea Party North.

The other front runner, Barb Higgins, is assumed to be progressive but, in fairness to her, that’s only because no one really knows what she stands for.

So Calgary, I’m writing you this letter as a friend. I feel someone has to let you know you’ve gone soft. Hell, you elected 5 Liberal MLAs in the last provincial election, more than “Redmonton”. Here’s an e-mail I got from a friend of mine in Calgary yesterday:

I for one, being a proud Western Canadian, welcome 4 years of insanity to the city of Toronto. I have always maintained that the real crazies in Canada live or reside in the city of Toronto, Mel Lastman proved that and may Mayor Ford continue that proud tradition.

All I know is that wack jobs like Lastman, Miller and Ford would never see the light of day in a sophisticated Canadian locale like Calgary, Alberta.

Is this how you want to be described Calgary? As “sophisticated“?

So I am begging you. To stop this insanity and preserve your reputation as Canada’s conservative bad boy, I am urging a massive “Rob Anders write in” campaign for mayor. You need to make this happen, simply to keep the natural order of the universe in balance.

Or else next thing you know they’ll be holding Pierre Trudeau parades down 17th Avenue and Stanley Cup parades down Yonge Street.

Stampede to the Polls: Barb Higgins

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

Previous Profiles:
Ric McIver
Kent Hehr
Naheed Nenshi

The general consensus in Calgary seems to be that the mayoral race sits as:

1. McIver
2. Higgins
3. Nenshi

Sure, guys like Bob Hawkesworth and Wayne Stewart are still in the mix but…well…life is too short to blog about Bob Hawkesworth. As such, this will be the fourth and final instalment of my 2,372 part series profiling mayoral candidates.

Today, the wild card.

Barb Higgins

About Barb

Barb was born in Edmonton – something which will no doubt form the basis of nasty attack ads should the campaign get dirty. At the age of 27, she took over as an anchor at CTV Calgary News. For the next 21 years, Higgins and her co-anchor, Darrel Janz, were among most recognizable Calgarians around.

Higgins was a latecomer to the mayoral race – she declared in early August to much fanfare, but her campaign has yet to take off. Early on, she was criticized for lacking substance and concrete plans. Last week she axed her campaign manager, Don Lovett, replacing him with Alan Hallman. Regardless of what you think of Lovett or Hallman, replacing your campaign manager mid contest is not the sign of a healthy campaign.

(Appearance: 7/10, Functionality 7/10, Content 7/10, Uniqueness 5/10, Overall 7/10)

Higgins’ site covers the bases. Candidate’s picture in front of Calgary skyline? Check. Easy to donate or tell a friend? Check. Visible link to her platform? Check. YouTube intro and social media links? Check.

Much like the candidate, there isn’t a lot to get excited about, but the site serves its purpose.

Social Media

Facebook: 1165 fans (well behind both Nenshi and McIver)
Twitter: 1348 followers (similar to McIver, but well behind Nenshi)
YouTube: 17 videos with 24,475 views

My Take

Barb says her motto is “be bold“, but she’s been anything but this campaign. After taking a beating in the press for a lack of ideas, she finally released her platform last week. Yes, there are some tangible things in there – an end to park and ride fees and extending recycling programs to apartments and condos. But you need to strain your eyes to find concrete ideas – most of the platform is as clear as mud. Among the highlights:

I would like to see business taxes reduced. I would not go so far as to eliminate business taxes because that would mean a drop in revenues to the City of $150 million, and I do not think the City has the capacity to do that at this time. I would add, however, that I have had good discussions with the Chamber of Commerce and as mayor would seek to develop an ongoing dialogue between the Mayor’s Office, City Council and small and medium-sized businesses to make the right decisions about business tax rates.


I believe Enmax should remain in the hands of Calgarians. That said; it is time to re-visit Enmax’s overall mandate. I will ensure that their activities in generating and transmitting electricity and other business ventures remain in the best interests of Calgarians, and that Calgarians are receiving a proper return on investment;


Almost all of our amateur sports and recreational facilities are at or over capacity. I am committed to working with our amateur sports community to expand these facilities, in particular for minor hockey and minor soccer.

Yes, it’s not any less bold than anything that has come out of the Ric McIver platitude machine. But it’s not any different. And therein lies the problem.

When you’re in second place behind a competent and well organized campaign, you need something to differentiate yourself. At this point, the only real area of disagreement between Higgins and McIver seems to be on property taxes, with Higgins wanting them to be slightly higher than McIver. Hardly the stuff that will encourage one of the most apathetic electorates in Canada to vote for you.

With two weeks to go, the smart money is on a strong second for Higgins. She’ll most likely need a game changer to pull this one out, especially if Nenshi continues to drain votes off the left.

Right Turn

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

Polls out today show fiscal conservatives ahead in Calgary and Toronto.

Calgary (Leger, n=500 phone)

Ric McIver 43% (profile)
Barb Higgins 28%
Naheed Nenshi 8% (profile)
Kent Hehr 4.1% (profile)
Bob Hawkesworth 3.9%
Craig Burrows 3.6%
Joe Connely 2.9%
Wayne Stewart 1.8%
Alnoor Kassam 1.4%
Oscar Fech 1.2%
Bonnie Devine 0.8%
Paul Hughes 0.8%
John Lord 0.4%

Kassam and Hughes are actually out of the race. Likely a wise move, because if you’re tied with Oscar Fech, it’s time to go (Oscar’s platform usually involves digging up gold buried under City Hall).

The results from this poll are hardly earth shattering. McIver has been the front runner for the past 5 years and Higgins is still finding her feet in this race. However, the news isn’t all bad for her – 15 points can be made up in month municipally, and she is clearly positioned as the “anybody but McIver” candidate. Nenshi is still far back, but can at least spin this as a sign he’s pulling away from the pack. For the rest of the field, there’s little joy in mudville.

Toronto (Nanos, n = 1221 phone)

Ford 45.8%
Smitherman 21.3%
Pantalone 16.8%
Rossi 9.7%
Thompson 6.4%

This poll will come as more of a shock for anyone living outside of Toronto. Yes, those “Liberal elites” John Baird rails against are lining up behind a man who could become Canada’s first Tea Party mayor.

For those in Toronto, it’s not as big a shock. Ford has become the torch bearer for every suburban voter fed up with waste at City Hall and has forged a Ralph Klein common man connection to voters, to the point where voters will forgive his many deficiencies.

Luckily, as is the case in Calgary, there’s still a lot of baseball to be played and many voters are just now tuning in this episode already in progress. Right now, the “Stop Ford” vote is being split – by Election Day it will congeal, presumably around Smitherman.

Still, the early returns are strikingly similar in both Calgary in Toronto – in both cities, voters have clicked their right turn signal, looking to the candidate who talks the loudest about cleaning up waste at City Hall.

Stampede to the Polls: Naheed Nenshi

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

Previous Profiles:
Ric McIver
Kent Hehr

In the third instalment of my 484 part series profiling Calgary mayoral candidates, I look at a man who has been writing about how Calgary should be run for many years. And he’s finally decided to do something about it.

Naheed Nenshi

About Naheed: Naheed is a professor, a Harvard graduate, and a writer. Elitist.

He’s best known for his work with the Better Calgary Campaign and his op-eds about how the City of Calgary should be run.

(Appearance: 3/10, Functionality 8/10, Content 8/10, Uniqueness 6/10, Overall 7/10)

Although I wonder how many grimaces had to die to get enough purple for the website, it remains a solid campaign site, rich in content and policy. Of particular interest are the 8 “better Calgary” ideas – each one easily explained in a line then elaborated on in pdf and podcast formats.

While the site has everything you’d expect from a political website, it doesn’t have the polished look or feel of most campaign sites. Rather than being greeted by a picture of the candidate and the Calgary skyline, you get a slogan and homemade Youtube video on the welcome page. And, you know what, that’s fine by me. Nenshi doesn’t look or sound like a polished politician and he’s not trying to be one – why should his website?

Social Media

Ahh…if only elections were held on Twitter, Nenshi would soon adding mayoral hashtags to his name.

Twitter: 1,549 followers and over 3,000 tweets.
Facebook: 2,053 fans
Youtube: Around 7,500 views of his home page video
Blog: A campaign blog that includes attacks on the front runners.
He also has an iPhone ap (pictured to the right) for those times when hourly Twitter updates won’t provide you with the Naheed fix you need

My Take: 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.

That said, Naheed has done everything an outsider with low name recognition can do to break free of the pack. He’s released ideas, he’s gone hard at social media, he’s gotten his name into as many news articles as possible.

Even though a lot of the candidates for mayor aren’t doing much more than taking up space, having a policy wizzard like Naheed out there talking about ideas is good for this mayoral race and it’s good for Calgary.

Let’s Get Municipal

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

Calgary: Calgary is still buzzing over Barb Higgins’ entry into the Mayoral race, and there are reports she has hired Liberal strategist Don Lovett as her campaign manager.

On the policy side, frontrunner Ric McIver has released his vision for Calgary, and Higgins has responded with her “policy framework“. Both are bland, unoriginal, and short on specifics (the platforms, not the candidates, both of whom I find intriguing). Fellow candidate Naheed Nenshi offers a strong critique of these policy “announcements” on his site.

The airport tunnel is emerging as a big issue. True to the bizarre nature of Calgary politics, the right wing candidate wants to spend and the NDP proxy in this race thinks it’s a waste of money. Go figure.

Toronto: With John Tory out of the race, it’s now very much a Smitherman versus Ford affair.

And the Smitherman campaign is starting to turn up the heat, launching an attack “FordonFord” website.

Edmonton: Edmonton Politics is the must see source for this one. Also, Alex Abboud runs down the hotly contested ward races.

Montreal: Speculation is now rampant about the next mayoral election…in 2013. Good grief, we’ll probably have 2 or 3 federal elections before then.

Regardless, the latest rumour has Denis Coderre making the jump to municipal politics. My anonymous Liberal sources have also confided to me that Martin Cauchon is now considering a run for Montreal mayor in 2013.

Dauphin: Tory MLA Inky Marr is running for mayor. Which means, in Inky’s opinion, being a backbencher in Stephen Harper’s caucus is a less glamourous position than being mayor of a town of 8,000 people.

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