This Monday Calgary voters will elect their mayor.
The winner will be expected to lead Calgary out of one of the worst economic downturns it has experienced in decades. So, who is it going to be: Naheed Nenshi, the confident qualified candidate or Bill Smith, the congenial but underqualified candidate?
When Calgarians are asked why they’d choose Smith over Nenshi they say two things: property taxes are out of control and Nenshi is arrogant.
The first criticism is factually incorrect. The second is naïve.
Smith says residential property taxes rose by 51% under Nenshi. He provides no evidence to back this inflammatory allegation.
I know math is hard but the first rule in math is “show your work”, so who are you going to trust: the candidate who makes unfounded allegations or the one who’s willing to demonstrate how he came up with his numbers?
When Nenshi refuses to fold like a cheap tent he’s called “arrogant”; when a businessman refuses to back down he’s a “strong leader”.
Case in point: On July 31 the Calgary Flames met with the Mayor and city council to review their respective positions in the negotiations for a new hockey arena. The meeting got “testy” as the Mayor and Murray Edwards, one of the Flames’ owners, interrupted each other and traded shots. An observer said they were both “snappy”.
And yet when Nenshi is “snappy” he’s accused of being disrespectful but when Edwards is “snappy” he’s lauded as a shrewd businessman.
It’s time for Calgarians to wake up. Nenshi is leading a high stakes negotiation with a group of sophisticated businessmen who want tax breaks and sweeteners before they sign on the dotted line. We need a savvy negotiator not a milquetoast to ensure we don’t give away the farm.
The 5th Best City in the World
We’ve reached that point in the campaign where we need to focus on the big picture: how do we ensure Calgary comes out of the recession even stronger than before?
The Economist ranked Calgary the 5th best city in the world.* Pause for a moment and let that sink in.
It rated 140 cities on livability by assessing relative comfort across five broad categories: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure.
The provincial government gets a share of the credit for Calgary’s high ranking in healthcare and education, however Calgary’s outstanding rating in stability (crime/terrorism), culture and environment, and infrastructure belongs to Calgary alone.
It is worth noting that Calgary maintained its high ranking notwithstanding burgeoning population growth (The Economist says the “big city buzz” can damage livability by increasing crime and overburdening infrastructure) and the lingering effects of the 2013 flood and the 2014 economic recession.
Nenshi’s policies will continue to support livability by investing in stability (community services, police and fire), culture and environment (rec centres, parks and libraries) and infrastructure (the Green Line and BRT). This will attract business and investment to Calgary.
Smith’s campaign is remarkably light on policy, but the few specifics he has shared would damage Calgary’s livability by suspending planned infrastructure (the Green Line and the BRT) and cutting spending on culture (public art), which will make Calgary a less attractive place to live and work for Calgarians and newcomers.
I went to an advance poll and checked the box for Nenshi, the highly qualified visionary candidate, I hope you’ll do the same.
*The top five cities were Melbourne, Vienna, Toronto, Vancouver. Calgary tied with Adelaide for 5th place.