After Miracle Victory in 2010, Nenshi Almost Unbeatable in 2013

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.


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.

Posted on by CalgaryGrit in Calgary Municipal Politics

About CalgaryGrit

A former Calgary Liberal, now living in Toronto. My writings on politics can be found at and online at the National Post.

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6 Responses to After Miracle Victory in 2010, Nenshi Almost Unbeatable in 2013

  1. Orval Bratrud

    It is indeed one of the most marvelous things about Calgary, home of Reform/Wild Rose yaddayaddayadda, has elected and LOVES our short, fat, sweaty, ethnic, muslim, lefty, gay mayor. Also intellectual, wouldn’t know which end of a football is up, and not crack smoking…

    Especially that last part, about not crack smoking…

    • Robert V

      He skipped important budget meetings to attend the Grey Cup so he does know which end of a football is up.

      I don’t like Nenshi. Spends WAY too much. Like, WAY WAY too much. Seriously. To the point that some day important programs will be in jeopardy (but by then someone else will be blamed).

      But yes, he will be easily re-elected.

      • CalgaryGrit

        I haven’t followed the day-to-day of Calgary politics of late. Out of curiosity, what are the big spending projects he’s put forward you’d axe?

    • jared

      Nenshi isn’t gay. where did that come from??

  2. Paul O

    I expect a large number of national pollsters to descend on the Calgary mayoral election, if only so they can say they got one right!

    • CalgaryGrit

      Ha! Of course, we’ll probably get a Forum poll showing Oscar Fech in front…

Reply to Orval Bratrud

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