Calgary has a new mayor. The incumbent did not run for re-election so it was a wide open race with fifteen candidates. The new mayor is Naheed Nenshi and he is young with obviously non-European ancestry. He goes by and campaigned under the single name Nenshi with a star dotting the i that ends his name on his campaign posters. I do a lot of walking and visited four of Calgary’s fourteen wards during the height of the campaign and he was easily out-postured by his two main rivals, and also by three or four of the also-rans, none of whom polled more than about one percent of the popular vote.
I know very little about Nenshi, especially at the time I voted but by serendipity, I was driving with Tamara to Saskatoon about ten days before the election and we listened to Nenshi being interviewed on a Calgary radio station. He was knowledgeable, articulate with a great voice, entertaining, a bit brash and when the interviewer asked his final question, a joke question, ‘How do they get the caramel in a Caramel chocolate bar, Nenshi answered confidently, like the straight man in a comedy routine, ‘Actually, I do know, but I’m not going to tell until after the election.’
When the interview ended, Tamara turned to me and said, ‘He’s got my vote.’ I was not planning to vote as I have not voted in any election for at least three years and do not ever remember voting in a civic election, having little interest in local affairs or in the people who campaign in them. They all seem cut from the same cloth, kind of greasy and self interested. A day or two later, I noticed Tamara’s boyfriend had a Nenshi poster as his Twitter photo, and a week later, I was visiting my middle daughter, Berdeen and talk of the election came up. She was also voting for Nenshi and quite by chance, had listened to the same interview and quoted it as her reason for her choice and her reason for voting.
Nenshi started the campaign as an also ran and when I first saw his picture on one of his campaign posters, I thought to myself, he has no chance with his youth and his Asian looks, but through the use of Facebook and Twitter he had galvanized the youth vote and vaulted into a three way race with the two front runners by the time of the interview. ‘I like my position’ he said during the interview, ‘and I think the support for my opponents is soft. They both have to convince people to change their mind and all I have to do is introduce myself and let people get to know me.’
By Election Day, it was clearly a three horse race and people went to the polls in unheard of numbers for a civic election. Something that does not normally make it onto my radar screen was now of great personal interest and I checked out what it would take to vote. I was eligible and had the required identification and the Voting Station was a place I often pass in my walks. I would vote in this civic election, for the first time, or at least the first time in my memory. Over fifty percent of eligible voters voted, up from less than twenty percent in the last civic election.
I went on line to follow the results and in the early going, Nenshi was a distant third. Too bad, I thought. ‘I guess Calgary is not yet ready for this kind of forward thinking change.’ The early returns had all the advanced polls and Nenshi was then not well know, but when the election day results started to come in, the tide shifted and Nenshi surged, looking to make a race of it. There was still hope. Then Nenshi took the lead with less than half the polls in and was clearly doing better than either of the front runners. By the half way point, Nenshi was the clear favourite, steadily inching up in the popular vote with his lead expanding with every update. In the end, he got forty percent of the vote and his total of over 140 thousand votes was more than twenty five thousand ahead of second place.
I have no idea what kind of mayor Nenshi will make, but he is not part of the status quo and is not beholden to their interests. My hopes are high and as Tamara said, ‘It happened just like the big shifts to come will happen. Led by the youth, galvanizing the general population and leading to shifts away from the status quo.’ All true.
Freedom for humanity…