Canada's First Muslim Mayor
October 20, 2010 2:30 AM   Subscribe

Calgary elects Canada's first Muslim mayor.

Ostensibly he won by mobilzing the youth vote, and his platform includes limiting urban sprawl, and expanding transit and green space.

Christopher Hume enviously compares the situation to Toronto's.
posted by Alex404 (84 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
But the real question is, how likely is it that the new mayor of Calgary will kill you in the next 60 seconds?
posted by IvoShandor at 3:03 AM on October 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Good for Calgary.

Shows that Canada is indeed a fairly open-minded country.
posted by bwg at 3:15 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


No IvoShandor, the real question is "how will he compare to previous mayors?"
posted by BurN_ at 3:36 AM on October 20, 2010


Meanwhile, Winnipeg's first Jewish mayor likes to kick immigrant and refugee children in the head.
posted by gman at 3:42 AM on October 20, 2010


No IvoShandor, the real question is "how will he compare to previous mayors?"

I guess the sarcasm didn't translate well. Considering the "It's Logical to Be 'Islamophobic'" post two down, I figured it would.

I. was. not. serious. Lighten up Francis.
posted by IvoShandor at 3:53 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not to be picky but it would been nice to see Naheed Nenshi's name somewhere in this thread. Ah, there it is...
posted by i_cola at 4:04 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Amazing not only that a Muslim is mayor, but that a professor beat a TV anchor. Substance defeats the cosmetic in the North American heartland ... I hope it catches on a bit further south.
posted by Azaadistani at 4:11 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I hope it catches on a bit further south.

The American Midwest isn't all looney toons, ya know? It was Minnesota that elected the first Muslim Congressman in U.S. history. And Illinois is always a solid blue, thanks to Chicago. There are other smatterings of intelligence here and there too.
posted by IvoShandor at 4:14 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Substance defeats the cosmetic in the North American heartland ... I hope it catches on a bit further south.

Hell, I hope it catches on in Toronto. Seriously, if Rob Ford becomes mayor here... yeesh!
posted by spoobnooble at 4:17 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Silly canada. I dont know what the hell you're celebrating. Just like thousands of otherwise good people who have formally associated themselves with muslims, it will take you a bit longer to get through the airport.

Get there early.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:50 AM on October 20, 2010


Nicely done, Calgary!

Pantalone is setting himself up to be as reviled as Ross Perot. I wonder if he will sleep soundly with "mayor ford" ringing in his ears. (Did you know that Thunder Bay would have been called Lakehead if "The Lakehead" hadn't also been on the name change ballot?)
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:52 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooes! It's the end of Western Civilization! Sharia Stampede!
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:54 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Here's a couple of related articles from the National Post:
  • Calgary's underdog mayoral candidate Naheed Nenshi defies categories

  • Why race doesn't matter in Calgary

  • Nenshi's victory puts Calgary's Cowtown image to rest.


  • And if you're curious about Calgary, it's a city of about a million people.
    posted by blue_beetle at 5:05 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Americans, you need to understand: this is Calgary, the capital of right-wing Canada. Calgary is the chosen home of our current conservative bastard of a prime minister. It's the home of the oil industry of Canada. These people wear cowboy hats and host a yearly rodeo. They are not widely known for open-mindedness.

    And they went ahead and voted for Canada's first Muslim mayor. Calgarians, mea culpa, perhaps the rest of us have misjudged you...
    posted by Hildegarde at 5:08 AM on October 20, 2010 [12 favorites]


    How could they elect a Muslim where Jesus died? They've been islamificated and the don't even know it.
    posted by biffa at 5:19 AM on October 20, 2010 [13 favorites]


    These people wear cowboy hats and host a yearly rodeo. They are not widely known for open-mindedness.

    I like cowboy hats and rodeos, and I'm a liberal. Let's not drag irrelevancies into this. Also, good for Calgary.
    posted by jonmc at 5:50 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


    How about the first Harvard-educated mayor instead.

    While this made me very proud of my city, this wasn't about Calgary being progressive about race at all. The media made much of it, but it wasn't on the minds of most voters. The bigots are still bigots and they're fortunately in the vast minority these days.

    As an aside, two friends were in the line to vote and one said to the other 'This is great - we're voting and we don't have to fear for our lives like people do in [I forget which muslim country he said]. A woman ahead of them turned around and said that Nenshi will all make us wear burkhas if he gets in.' Ahh Calgary.

    This was a combination of sevaral factors - the typical 'throw the bums out' sentiment combined with the incredible (and underutilised by other candidates) power of social media and youth vote mobilisation. This wasn't about a changing demographic, necessarily. This was about getting usually apathetic people out to vote for you, and vote hard.

    The campaign will be remembered in poli-sci circles for its masterful use of social media and networking.
    posted by jimmythefish at 6:00 AM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


    These people wear cowboy hats and host a yearly rodeo. They are not widely known for open-mindedness.

    They also wear wrangler jeans instead of levis because they are longer in the crotch.
    posted by srboisvert at 6:07 AM on October 20, 2010


    Watching Little Mosque on the Prairie seems to have educated people. Who knew.

    Seriously though, this is awesome.
    posted by orange swan at 6:15 AM on October 20, 2010


    Good for Calgary! An educated, optimistic and from what I can guess a charismatic guy was elected to lead. It beats the heck out of the people running Toronto. Why can't we get what Cowtown got?
    posted by phyrewerx at 6:34 AM on October 20, 2010


    Congratulations to Calgary & Mayor Nenshi.

    But the sweetest victory will be when people can hear that Some Person won an election, without any need to mention their gender, race or religion at all.
    posted by UbuRoivas at 6:34 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


    As a southern-Albertan (boy my folks in Edmonton won't like me saying that) I think what is lost so far in the post and discussion is that that Naheed Nenshi's religion was not much of an item in the run-up to the election. His qualifications (early on) and his ability to mobilize a grass roots youth movement (later on) were the main topics of discussion.

    This man is not only a graduate of Harvard's JFK School of Government who consults for the likes of Gap and the United Nations, he's also an academic and Canada’s first tenured professor in the field of nonprofit management. Heck, he even wrote the book on making Canada's cities magnets for talent and engines of development, appropriately titled Building Up: Making Canada's Cities Magnets for Talent and Engines of Development.

    Sure this is a victory for equality, race and religion, and yes Calgary is a bastion of conservatives, although I don't know if I'd really call it right wing, but the most salient fact is that the city of Calgary (with a 59% participation rate!) voted for someone who is best qualified for the job. How many times have I discussed politics with someone and said "are you telling me your party couldn't find anyone better than so-and-so to lead them?

    Also, seriously, it may be fun in the US to make tongue in cheek jokes about Islam and sharia and what not, but it's in bad taste and I expect better of MetaFilter.
    posted by furtive at 6:35 AM on October 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


    P.S. In your face Toronto.
    posted by furtive at 6:36 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


    (with a 59% participation rate!)

    I take it that's meant to be good?
    posted by UbuRoivas at 6:42 AM on October 20, 2010


    As a Calgarian, this was a pleasant surprise to say the least. This is the center of conservative movement in Canada, and as was said above, is the home of our bastard of a PM.

    I was most pleasantly surprised that his race and religion were never a point of discussion in the media, with the usually right-wing tabloid the Sun even endorsing him. I didn't even know he was a Muslim until the articles about his election the following day.

    Hopefully this will kickstart a new era of responsible city governance and less of a reliance on developers and sprawl. The guy he just barely beat was pretty much all about roads roads roads and reducing taxes. Which of course are 2 diametrically opposed attitudes.

    We'll see how this goes with council changing pretty significantly as well.
    posted by sauril at 6:50 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


    oh yeah.

    P.S. Enjoy Rob Ford, Toronto

    P.P.S It hasn't been mentioned that he's also a bachelor, which really shouldn't be a big deal, but for some reason it usually is.
    posted by sauril at 6:52 AM on October 20, 2010


    (with a 59% participation rate!)

    I take it that's meant to be good?


    For city elections? Yeah it's huge. I think it hasn't gone above 35% in years and actually approaches the national average
    posted by sauril at 6:54 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


    By comparison, my town of Banff had a 24% participation rate.
    posted by furtive at 7:06 AM on October 20, 2010


    How about the first Harvard-educated mayor instead

    It's unclear whether you mean first in Calgary or first in Canada here, but Toronto's out-going Mayor David Miller has a Harvard degree in Economics.
    posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:09 AM on October 20, 2010


    I believe that Mayor Nenshi is the first Muslim mayor in North America.

    Bravo Calgary. Sorry about the jokes. We good?
    posted by Artful Codger at 7:23 AM on October 20, 2010


    Not the first muslim mayor in North America: the major of Teaneck is muslim, Prospect Park has had a muslim mayor, and so on.

    The first I am aware of was Charles Bilal, elected mayor of Kountze Texas in 1994.

    Nenshi may, however, be the first muslim mayor of a large city.
    posted by aramaic at 7:42 AM on October 20, 2010


    Yep. First Muslim mayor, at least of a major city, in North America.

    My partner was on Naheed's executive team. The only person who was paid, and it was a relative pittance, was the communications director. My partner contributed $5000 worth of services. Naheed's CAMPAIGN MANAGER, the gorgeous and articulate and amazing Chima Nkemdirim, was a volunteer. Meantime, Barb Higgins paid however many tens of thousands of dollars for Lod Rove, sorry, I mean Rod Love, to sink her ship; Ric McIver (the anointed one who used the word "COMMON SENSE, CONSERVATIVE" on ALL his campaign literature, billboards, everything- he was absolutely about the pseudo-Tea-Party vote) had CPC strategists on his team and fucking Jason Fucking Kenney, the Con's most adorable closet case, making robo-calls on his behalf.

    We had, in the end, a half a million dollars less for our campaign than did McIver. AND WE WON. We won by leveraging an absolutely brilliant candidate with absolutely brilliant ideas and a completely absolutely brilliant outreach effort.

    I remember marching with Team Nenshi on a cold Labour Day, at Calgary's Gay Pride Parade, thinking that this would be as good as it gets; McIver would turn back the clock to Duerr's reign and refuse to even fly the rainbow flag at city hall, but I was, for the umpteenth time in Alberta, supporting a candidate I felt good about and, well, that would just have to do.

    It didn't have to do. HE WON. HE WON.

    I am still riding a high from Monday.
    posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:47 AM on October 20, 2010 [27 favorites]


    It's the home of the oil industry of Canada. These people wear cowboy hats and host a yearly rodeo. They are not widely known for open-mindedness.

    When you live in Alberta, you're constantly fighting against perceptions that you're all about a big mall, a big rodeo and a big tar sand. Other Canadians try to explain you as "like Texas" to Americans and it's simply not true. Alberta has historically low voter turnouts from municipal to federal elections, which is why this election turnout was so important. We all don't vote conservative, but not enough of Alberta shows up the polls to prove this otherwise.

    When the redneck perception is enforced, even Albertans come to believe it, sadly. Alberta is a vibrant, multicultural province. Edmonton is actually home to North America's first mosque. We have more than rodeos, we have some pretty awesome cultural and music festivals all year long. We're not a cheap souvenir from Banff. I could go on and on, but I can only sincerely implore people to see all 3.7 million Albertans as more than a stereotype. It serves neither Alberta or Canada well.
    posted by Calzephyr at 7:51 AM on October 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


    Canada's first Muslim mayor, North America's first openly gay mayor of a large city... why can't you be cool like us hicks, Central Canada?

    Meanwhile, Winnipeg's first Jewish mayor likes to kick immigrant and refugee children in the head.

    And 'Red Card' Katz takes the lead!1 Gooooooalllllllllllllll!2

    1 I know, taking the margin of error into account, they're basically tied.

    2 I don't approve of kicking immigrant and refugee children in the head. Non-immigrant and refugee children, on the other hand...
    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 7:56 AM on October 20, 2010


    further to Calzephyr- in 2009, the Calgary CMA had the second highest rate (not number, rate) of international immigration than any CMA/SMA (no, not "city" per se but still) in North America. Only Vancouver's was higher and not by much. We took in more immigrants per capita than did Toronto, and more than any US metro.
    posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:04 AM on October 20, 2010


    It's the home of the oil industry of Canada. These people wear cowboy hats and host a yearly rodeo. They are not widely known for open-mindedness.

    And they went ahead and voted for Canada's first Muslim mayor. Calgarians, mea culpa, perhaps the rest of us have misjudged you...


    Yeah, speaking as a progressive Calgarian (and friend/colleague of Naheed's who worked a bit on his campaign and is actually on his way to hear him give a speech at the Petroleum Club today), there are all kinds of great reasons to be ecstatic about our new municipal government, not least that the descriptor I associate most strongly with Naheed is not Muslim but transit geek, and the mood downtown on Monday night was just electric, and so it's really just a cherry on top of the sundae that maybe, just maybe, pretty please maybe, people who clearly don't know the city at all will no longer say these people wear cowboy hats when they try to describe Calgary in shorthand.

    Don't mean to pick on you specifically, Hildegarde, but the grand Canadian sport of long-distance Calgary snark based on an antiquated stereotype renewed every other year when some Toronto-based national media outlet's editor gets the big idea of sending a reporter to Cowboys nightclub during Stampede and pretending that's the pulse of the city - that shit is over, I hope. While it's true more Calgarians might own cowboy hats than the national average - I've got two somewhere or other in my house - they sit at the back of the top shelf in the closet for 364 days and then maybe you wear one to the office Stampede party and lend the other to your friend visiting from Ontario who's always wanted an excuse to wear a cowboy hat.

    Calgary's demographically the youngest and best educated city in Canada. It's got the highest per capita arts event attendance. If you measure it versus the entire metro areas of Toronto and Vancouver - instead of comparing say the City of Vancouver, which is just that little spit of land around False Creek, to the City of Calgary, which is the entire metro area - then Calgary scores pretty close on per capita transit ridership and stuff like that.

    And it's as open-minded as cities come in some regards, particularly - as Naheed said in his victory speech - on the topic of who your daddy is. There's not much in the way of old money and old guards here, no gated social communities, no reason at all why an egghead Muslim immigrant's son can't walk into any room in town and own it if his ideas resonate well enough.

    Do we have jackass neocon asshole politicians like Rob "Nelson Mandela was a terrorist" Anders representing us federally? Well, yes, but the electoral success of the Reform/Alliance/Conservative movement in Calgary is more nuanced than just buncha-oil-barons-and-hicks redneckism, and blowhard know-nothing political hacks manage to find constituencies just as easy in every other city in this country - sadly possibly including the mayor's office in Toronto in a couple of weeks.

    I'm delighted with my new mayor because he understands sustainability and enlightened urban design and the hidden subsidies to sprawl better than any politician in town. And it speaks well of Calgary that no one referred to him as "Calgary's Muslim mayor" until the national and international press latched onto the story. Much as no one pats themselves on the back for their enlightened support of the NHL's first half-Nigerian captain - they just pray Iggy rediscovers his goal-scoring groove before long this season - the vast majority of Calgarians simply did not care where Naheed's grandparents came from or which god he does or doesn't pray to or why his name was a bit tricky to pronounce (rhymes with ahead, not indeed).

    So yeah, damn proud of my city and my friend Naheed, whose ethnicity has only ever mattered to me because he knows where to find the best samosas in Northeast Calgary.

    And on preview, what enthnomethodologist and Calzephyr said more succinctly. Especially the part about Chima Nkemdirim, who is a flat-out brilliant political strategist.
    posted by gompa at 8:15 AM on October 20, 2010 [16 favorites]


    P.S. In your face Toronto.
    P.S. Enjoy Rob Ford, Toronto


    Why the gloaty Toronto hate?
    posted by chococat at 8:21 AM on October 20, 2010


    chococat: I think it's because the East Coast has traditionally looked down upon the West...
    posted by bardophile at 8:32 AM on October 20, 2010


    the descriptor I associate most strongly with Naheed is not Muslim but transit geek,

    Yeah, a transit geek.

    It took a lot of posts cheering the Muslim before someone said something about his politics - which is the only thing that should matter in politics.

    Sad and pitiful that race and creed are still such a focus for "progressives." First Muslim mayor? So what? What's he gonna do about traffic and garbage collection?

    Here is to hoping (in vain, I know) that he should be judged as a mayor and not as "the first Muslim mayor."
    posted by three blind mice at 8:34 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Canada's first Muslim mayor, North America's first openly gay mayor of a large city... why can't you be cool like us hicks, Central Canada?

    Calgary and Winnipeg are in Western Canada. Central Canada = Ontario and Quebec.

    posted by twirlip at 8:36 AM on October 20, 2010


    While I found Ric to be horrible, I was open to both Nenshi + Barb - what finally swayed my vote over to Nenshi was that he took time on Friday to give a speech to my kids at their school on the final day of campaigning... He could have been elsewhere, pimping for votes, but there he was, promoting the importance of education and democracy to people who couldn't even vote for him.
    posted by jkaczor at 8:38 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Point taken, Calzephyr; however, it would help Alberta's image in the rest of Canada a great deal if a bunch of oil-soaked rednecks from Alberta (via Ontario *cough*), weren't currently running the country into the ground.

    Also, Alberta, now that it is pissing away another oil boom, has to forgive the East for the NEP. After all, most easterners have long forgotten Alberta's rallying cry of "Let the Eastern bastards freeze in the dark!"

    Don't even get me started on climate change.

    Still, congrats Calgary, it sounds like you elected pretty much the perfect mayor for any large city. Here's to hoping he can implement his agenda.
    posted by [citation needed] at 8:40 AM on October 20, 2010


    You know, it would be really great to live in a world where someone's race/creed/gender/ethnicity was irrelevant to their electability. But we have to recognize that we really aren't there yet. And while representation of any minority remains disproportionately small, people are going to celebrate when one more ceiling shatters.

    When Obama was elected, it wasn't just great because he had the better policies. Being the first black president of the US IS a big deal. Similarly, the first Muslim mayor of a major city in North America IS a big deal. And may the time when it isn't come soon, but I'm not holding my breath for that. I'm cheering for this one.
    posted by bardophile at 8:40 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


    ...they just pray Iggy rediscovers his goal-scoring groove before long this season

    That works on a couple of levels, in Canada.

    Why the gloaty Toronto hate?

    Tradition. also this.
    posted by Artful Codger at 8:40 AM on October 20, 2010


    Why the gloaty Toronto hate?

    At a guess: Because if you're a progressive Calgarian, you've spent years and years listening to your Toronto friends gush about how world-class enlightened their city is and making snarky comments about cowboy hats and rednecks and that ugly sprawl out by the airport when they bounced through on their way to Banff. In my case, it's because every time I'm back in Toronto for work, I'll run into at least one of my old colleagues in the smug circles of Toronto's media industry who will ask, "Are you still living in Calgary?" Roughly in the tone you would use to say, "Have you still not wiped that shit off your shoe?"

    So, yeah, not to excuse it, but the fact that Calgary's doing what it's doing municipally at the exact same moment a massively ignorant reactionary blowhard is polling at 40 percent in sainted Toronto is a little too juicy a piece of schadenfreude pie for some to resist. Me, I love Toronto too much to want to see it pissed all over by that braying jackass - tear up the streetcar tracks? the iconic red-and-white vital-transit-infrastructural Toronto streetcar tracks? fucking seriously? - but I can understand the temptation.
    posted by gompa at 8:43 AM on October 20, 2010 [6 favorites]


    What's he gonna do about traffic and garbage collection?</em

    Wasn't aware we had a garbage collection problem - love the newly introduced recycling program (that was ten years late at least).

    As per traffic, he is a strong supporter of better infrastructure and hopefully will re-focus councils' eye on the North East - airport tunnel maybe?

    posted by jkaczor at 8:46 AM on October 20, 2010


    Lets bemoan the islamafication of Canada, and soon Amerika
    posted by ReWayne at 8:51 AM on October 20, 2010


    Why the gloaty Toronto hate? (part two)

    At my West-bashing peak, I used to note that the most pissed, vocal anti-East westerners were Torontonians about 36 months ago. That's still the case, right? There is no zealot like a convert...

    (I almost moved to Alberta about 30 years ago... the lack of big lakes was about the biggest impediment. )
    posted by Artful Codger at 8:56 AM on October 20, 2010


    @IvoShandor my bad.
    posted by BurN_ at 8:56 AM on October 20, 2010


    the fact that Calgary's doing what it's doing municipally at the exact same moment a massively ignorant reactionary blowhard is polling at 40 percent in sainted Toronto is a little too juicy a piece of schadenfreude pie for some to resist

    I guess I can see that. I've got no ill-will towards Calgary nor do I think the sun rises and sets on Toronto so I wasn't really aware there was a Toronto/Calgary thing.
    But when Rob Ford (hopefully) loses next week, I doubt my first reaction will be to say "suck it" to another town.
    And I'd hope that if I was a Calgarian I'd feel happy about putting in the Mayor that I wanted, without looking out the corner of my eye at what Toronto thinks. But that's easy for me to say because I'm not from Calgary, so I take your point.
    Anyway, congratulations, sorry for the derail.
    posted by chococat at 9:02 AM on October 20, 2010


    It took a lot of posts cheering the Muslim before someone said something about his politics - which is the only thing that should matter in politics.

    In politics, yes, but it also represents something about the society and community. Winnipeg's first gay pride parade was held in 1986. Around 250 people showed up, some wearing paper bags over their heads for fear of being recognized by family, friends, colleagues. Twelve years later, Glen Murray, an openly gay man, was elected Mayor. While some of Murray's policies weren't to my liking and his legacy as Mayor is still undetermined, and while hopefully a day will come when such things don't matter, his election was an important achievement.
    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:02 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Why the gloaty Toronto hate?

    It is petty, but Toronto dominates the English Canadian discourse - all the "National" newspapers are from there - and often dismisses the rest of English Canada as not worth worrying about.

    Plus all my in-laws are there, and ask me things like when I'm moving back to civilization, which I know is a joke, but it gets a bit old after a while.
    posted by sauril at 9:06 AM on October 20, 2010


    on post, gompa (as usual) says it way better than I did.
    posted by sauril at 9:11 AM on October 20, 2010


    Whoa! Calgary is the last place (outside of Quebec) where I would expect this to happen. Well, okay, actually, maybe Red Deer was a little further down the list.

    I would love to see Harper's face when he heard the news.

    And Rob Ford can just go away already. Jesus.
    posted by Sys Rq at 9:12 AM on October 20, 2010


    Just to echo what Gompa, Calzephyr, and ethnomethodologist have said, while its kind of disappointing that the national media have seized on Nenshi's religion as being the newsworthy item, perhaps this might help people dilute the stereotypes they hold about Calgary (and Alberta) just a touch.

    Calgary doesn't get a lot of love, and is derided as a redneck, money-hungry sprawling pit of unsustainability built on a ocean of oil. (Not least on the West Coast, where everyone was shocked that I would leave the "Best Place on Earth" for what might as well have been Mordor). Calgary, in my experience, turns out to be a very down to Earth, unpretentious place that is extremely open to newcomers and outsiders. Perhaps its lack of dense neighbourhoods makes this harder to notice, but it is turning into one of the most cosmopolitan and diverse towns in Canada (and therefore the world). It is indeed the corporate home of the Canadian oil industry, but also has an incredibly engaged and dynamic non-profit sector. The oil industry itself, while certainly not above reproach, is unrecognizably different from the facile and lazy moralizing one hears outside the province. And political opinion is far more diverse than you would expect just from casually examining the apparently Communist Mao - style voting patterns at the Provincial and Federal levels.

    During the campaign, as far as I noticed there was no mention at all of race or religion. It simply wasn't an issue. For what it's worth, I had assumed that he was Hindu for the quarter second I might have thought about it before turning to the things that I cared about, and that matter to the city. Densification of the inner city, improving transit, curtailing sprawl, promoting walkable, urban neighbourhoods and so on. I was surprised at the end of the summer when Nenshi was one of the top three candidates, up against a fellow who could reasonably describe as being in the pockets of suburban developers (and who appeared ready to gut one of the most progressive pieces of city planning in any Canadian city in a long time) and a former TV anchor who appeared to want to become mayor in order to be mayor. I was thrilled that, for the first time since 1995, the people I voted for, actually got in.
    posted by bumpkin at 9:13 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


    I wasn't really aware there was a Toronto/Calgary thing.

    FWIW, it's a Toronto/everywhere-else-in-Canada thing. Calgary mostly just gets special tweaks for the cowboy hats.
    posted by Sys Rq at 9:14 AM on October 20, 2010


    To echo the other Calgarians in this thread: in this city, Nenshi's race and religion were barely on the radar during the campaign. I recall them coming up once - when his campaign HQ was vandalized.

    Nenshi, who I have had the prevliege to meet a few times well before the campaign, ran an intelligent, articulate, well thought out campaign. It was his ideas and willingness to engage with Calgarians everywhere that got him elected. Transit geek? He spent entire campaign days moving from event to event solely on public transit - just to show it could be done, that it was viable, and that it was important.

    Nenshi also has a wonderful personal touch - he took time during the campaign to drop me a personal note about a hot button issue in our community in order to make sure my wife, who he knew was involved in that issue, had a chance to respond to some media interest. While I had been strongly leaning towards him at that point, it was that moment that tipped me over to his side. Our own city council member, who was also running for Mayor, couldn't/wouldn't take the time to do that, even though he had worked with my wife much longer on that issue.

    McIver and Higgins ran the "traditional" campaigns long on platitude and short on policy and idea. Nenshi ran as something different, and I think that made all the difference.
    posted by never used baby shoes at 9:20 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Bumpkin, I've been living here for 16 years now, and this is the first time anyone I've ever voted for has actually won.
    posted by sauril at 9:31 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


    The reason I made this post largely about his religion was because, for the most part, your average mefite isn't going to care about the particulars of municipal politics in a mid sized Canadian city, but the fact of his religion is quite interesting to everyone.

    The fact that it wasn't an issue in the actual election is exactly the point. Congratulations guys.

    But sniping Toronto causes some of you to lose, maybe, like a quarter of a point. Realize that for all the shit you think you get from snooty Torontonians, Torontonians get from everyone in Canada with a lot more severity. And if you feel that Toronto is too often in the news, just try to remember that the city itself has nearly the population of Alberta. I'm sure it's still somewhat biased, but try to maintain a sense of proportion.

    I think many Torontonians do likely look somewhat down on Calgary as the seat of conservative power in this country, and to be honest, I don't think that's unfair. But this election shows the rest of the country that politics in Calgary is as complex and nuanced as anywhere, and can be at least, if not more progressive than other parts of the country.

    So one more time, congratulations.
    posted by Alex404 at 9:47 AM on October 20, 2010


    I think what is lost so far in the post and discussion is that that Naheed Nenshi's religion was not much of an item in the run-up to the election. His qualifications (early on) and his ability to mobilize a grass roots youth movement (later on) were the main topics of discussion.

    That's just what I'm happy about.
    posted by orange swan at 10:01 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


    What's really cool is not just the participation rate, up 20% points, but WHO participated. He had the highest young voter turn out ever, traditionally the most apathetic voter block there is.

    The important, crucial thing here is that Mr. Naheed has shown that skin colour, sexual preference (didn't know he was openly gay too!), religion and being first-generation don't matter a damn to a large part of the electorate. And his team has shown everyone the roadmap for connecting to to those non-traditional voters: good ideas, a strong candidate and a great team.

    This is potentially earth-shattering, particularly in Alberta. Alberta is quite young demographically, and getting younger. Edmonton is exactly in the same situation. Alberta has been a no-brainer lock for the most conservative of conservatives, but I think this result shows how thin and uncertain the 70+ year conservative freeze really is. Just as Edmonton has flipped a few centre ridings Liberal in the past few elections, I think Alberta is on the edge of a real revolution in representation.
    posted by bonehead at 10:14 AM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


    sexual preference (didn't know he was openly gay too!)

    If it was my comment that suggested that, apologies, I was referring to Glen Murray of Winnipeg. I know nothing about Nenshi's sexuality.
    posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:38 AM on October 20, 2010


    Naheed is utterly gay friendly, but he's not gay; he is a NERDY GENIUS, a closely-related species.
    posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:47 AM on October 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


    There were rumours flitting around twittersphere about nenshi being gay a day or so prior to the election - mainly because he hosted a forum at a location identified with the gay community. But, I put no stock in rumours and frankly wouldn't give a darn one way or the other and am pretty sure most of his voter-base feel the same.
    posted by jkaczor at 10:56 AM on October 20, 2010


    Considering that Naheed once expressed his disappointment that my wife was already taken, I don't put a huge amount of stock in the rumours he is gay. Not that it matters, and not that I think a lot of this city would care (the same way we didn't about his religion).

    Which feels really good to say about my city. I am a born and raised Calgarian (a rare breed indeed) and this city feels very different to me since Monday.
    posted by never used baby shoes at 11:05 AM on October 20, 2010


    Congrats Calgary! The election in Lethbridge was just more of the same, and after trumpeting on how much we wanted change, the city voted in the same ole people and new people who were just more of the same. Oh yeah, and a creationist, climate-change denier on council. Damn vote splitting on the left is such a big downfall.

    Anyway, nice that Calgary voted in the right person. I've really grown to love Alberta and I am happy to see Calgary just getting better and better.
    posted by arcticwoman at 11:37 AM on October 20, 2010


    Reading comprehension fail on my part. Sorry AA. I've been living in a town on the Ontario-Quebec border with too many closeted pols for too long. It's just refereshing to hear of one who's being honest with the voters about who they are.

    In any case, could someone send some of those folks our way? Ottawa is not quite a bad off as TO (this time) but we've got a choice on Monday between Mr. Professionally Innofensive, Mr Still Not Bitter! veteran of losing every political battle since 2006, Mr. Evil (light)---still not convicted of vote fraud for four years running!---and ancient sins returned from prehistory (too chthonic to have a proper website I guess). Ugh.
    posted by bonehead at 12:21 PM on October 20, 2010


    There were rumours flitting around twittersphere about nenshi being gay a day or so prior to the election - mainly because he hosted a forum at a location identified with the gay community.

    I think it's also due to the purple colour choice - often associated with the LGBT community.
    posted by jimmythefish at 1:08 PM on October 20, 2010


    It's unclear whether you mean first in Calgary or first in Canada here, but Toronto's out-going Mayor David Miller has a Harvard degree in Economics.

    Yeah I meant first Calgary mayor - sorry I wrote that before I had my first coffee, but after I changed my first diaper. Not much sleep!
    posted by jimmythefish at 1:09 PM on October 20, 2010


    I think it's also due to the purple colour choice

    Ah - I didn't know that purple was associative in that way - the way I have heard him explain the choice was that he wanted something that wouldn't associate him with the "C"onservative or "L"iberal groups, but instead to be outsite of those elements.
    posted by jkaczor at 1:20 PM on October 20, 2010


    As someone who uses Calgary Transit frequently, I'm really, really excited about this. And yeah, it's nice to finally vote for someone and have them actually win.
    posted by threetoed at 1:23 PM on October 20, 2010


    Read about this on Tuesday, and didn't know what to think. There's no doubt that Nenshi's election is a huge deal in terms of what it says about Calgary politics, and the possibilities that have now opened up in that city. But the mayor is just one vote out of fifteen, so I hope he can wrangle enough support from the aldermen to implement his policies. There are certain (wealthy) segments of the city that are probably shitting bricks right now, and what they do (or refrain from doing) may be a big factor in whether or not Nenshi can muster enough support to get anything substantial done. Good luck to him, anyway.
    posted by Kevin Street at 2:45 PM on October 20, 2010


    Kevin Street- the wealthiest parts of town (wards 8, the near NW and W sides) were the wards where Naheed's support was highest. It's the far SE wards and, bizarrely, the NE (this is Calgary ethnoburb, our version of Brampton) where his support was lowest and whose aldermen are the most conservative.
    posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:23 PM on October 20, 2010


    That's really surprising and hopeful, ethnomethodologist. Maybe this is the beginning of a wonderful, progressive new chapter for Calgary. As an Edmontonian, I'm biologically programmed to be skeptical of trends in your city, but the evidence is pretty overwhelming that something good happened on Monday, and I'm glad for you. Maybe your city is the harbinger of a change that will affect all of us soon.
    posted by Kevin Street at 3:42 PM on October 20, 2010


    Kevin Street...I spent half my life in Edmonton :-) I remember when Edmonton elected its first woman mayor, Jan Reimer, it was so exciting! I didn't realize there were so many Calgarians on the Blue...maybe a meetup is in order?

    Gompa, thanks for the lengthier response...I didn't have enough time to be more verbose. But what's true of Calgary's stereotype is true of anywhere - when you don't define yourself, others do the defining for you. And when you don't vote, you let others do the talking for you too.
    posted by Calzephyr at 4:35 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


    ...I used to note that the most pissed, vocal anti-East westerners were Torontonians about 36 months ago. That's still the case, right? There is no zealot like a convert...

    Nah it's simpler than that, I lived in Quebec for 20 years.

    And it's too bad that Naheed won't be able to do much about the sprawl since it's already so pervasive. So many houses, so few trees to hide their shame ;-)
    posted by furtive at 5:31 PM on October 20, 2010


    Like so many people my age who were born and raised in Saskatchewan, my wife and I moved to the promised land of Alberta for a few years in the early 2000's in search of better opportunities and wider experiences.

    Living in the province next door and having spent much time in Calgary visiting relatives growing up in the 80's and 90's, I admit that I'd bought into the stereotypes myself even though I should've known better.

    Part of this is because Saskies are often jealous of our western neighbours, in much the same way that I think Canadians put down Americans so we can feel better about (aboot) ourselves.

    I often make the analogy that Alberta is like the richer, flashier, more successful brother to Saskatchewan's quieter, humbler sibling. (Interesting side note - in the days before provincehood, there was talk of Saskatchewan and Alberta being a single province called Buffalo. This was squashed by power players in central Canada so western resentment has some *deep* roots.)

    I am happy to report that my stereotype of Alberta was quickly blown out of the water. after I moved there Although it has a conservative surface (and sometimes I think Albertans revels in that reputation just to mess with people), you don't have to dig very deep to find highly educated, highly progressive people - many young, many involved in very innovative arts & cultural work, in green energy work, in creative and entrepreneurial, in general activism.

    It's an exciting, dynamic city. The election of Nenshi confirms this. I am very jealous of my former city today.

    (They do need to work on one very misguided aspect of their public library services though!)
    posted by Jaybo at 9:15 PM on October 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Jaybo, I think it would have been awesome if Saskatchewan and Alberta could have been combined. There is a lot of opportunity there that people don't realize...our friends left Calgary a few years ago to buy a bowling alley in Shaunavon and have been quite happy since.

    I used to work for the public library, and I wish the cards were free as well. $12 seems cheap, but it's still out of reach for a lot of people. People always complain that libraries don't make money, so why should we spend money on them...they can't rationalize just how costly ignorance is :S I keep hoping Calgary will get the new landmark library that CPL wants to build. The central branch is really aging and it's hard to find a seat there almost any day of the week.
    posted by Calzephyr at 7:26 AM on October 21, 2010


    Calzephyr, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't CPL have a program for free cards to low income people? I used to work fairly closely with a local branch in my last job (fairly grassroots community work) and they constantly came to events for low income families prepared to give away library cards for free.

    Also, our last attempt at a meetup fizzled out at the last minute when a bunch of us had family/work obligations crop up. Still might be worth another attempt.
    posted by never used baby shoes at 7:55 AM on October 21, 2010


    Yeah - as someone who doesn't have to worry about the library fee, I don't mind paying the $12 a year or whatever it is for our card that we use as a family. As far as I'm concerned, it should be free, but if my fee helps keep the library open for those who really need it for research, or because they simply can't afford to buy books, I can't really argue too hard against it.

    But sorry if you're looking for Franklin books. Apparently we need all of them - every time we go...
    posted by sauril at 9:23 PM on October 21, 2010


    Dear Calgary,

    Yes, it hurts when people think they know all about you because of your reputation. Don't be outraged! People work with broad strokes, and most people need first-hand experience to move into details. It helps to just laugh and carry on. You are not alone! I could tell you some horror stories, trust me.

    Love,

    Toronto
    posted by Hildegarde at 7:44 AM on October 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Saturday's Globe and Mail has an article on Nenshi and the election. Cowtown no more: Why Calgary chose Naheed Nenshi. By Chris Turner, aka gompa.
    posted by russilwvong at 7:30 PM on October 25, 2010


    Rob Ford elected mayor of Toronto.

    Fucking hell. Why not just rename the place Wasilla while you're at it?
    posted by Sys Rq at 11:09 PM on October 25, 2010


    CPL does have policies where staff are allowed to waive the fee for people who can't afford it. But the wording they use is "may be waived" which isn't a guarantee by any stretch.

    There are a couple other immediate problems with charging for library cards:

    First, different staff don't apply this policy equally (one librarian quoted in the essay I linked to says she's sure she probably doesn't even give exemptions equally from day to day herself.)

    The other problem is that it forces people to have the indignity of *proving* they're poor - either by bringing in their AISH documentation or whatever. (Never Used Baby Shoes, I would imagine this is a much different experience than when the library comes out to a community event and offers free cards to a large group of people all at once.)

    It's easy to show the importance of these fees to the library's bottom line; it's much more difficult to show the impact of not having them.

    But a line in the article by Gompa stands out: "In Mr. Nenshi’s stump-speech shorthand, the signature moment of his childhood was convincing the local librarians to let him take out more books than the official limit."

    You can't put it on a balance sheet but right there is a proven, identifiable direct line between the public library and the most newsworthy, hottest Canadian mayor of recent times. Nenshi seems like the kind of guy who wouldn't let the fees be a hurdle.

    But it's not hard to imagine that coming up with a few bucks from a library card might be enough to keep other kids who have an equal potential away. So instead of going to the library, these kids hang out in a basement playing video games or at the local mall watching the world go by or whatever. And that same potential might be lost of squandered.
    posted by Jaybo at 9:24 AM on November 14, 2010


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