With Calgarians electing a new mayor less than a week away, Calgary’s outgoing mayor Naheed Nenshi looks back on his 11 years in office and how the city has changed over the past decade .
Four local states of emergency have been declared in 136 years. Nenshi was mayor for each of them.
“I’m lucky,” Nenshi says, adding that floods, windstorms, hailstorms, economic downturns and the COVID-19 pandemic have had one constant – people are coming together.
“The flood, of course, is the best example. Thousands and thousands of people coming into the flooded areas and just cleaning the basements of strangers. But through the pandemic, through all the other crises that we have. have had, the number one thing that we have been able to count on is the kindness of people who take care of each other, ”said Nenshi.
“It also meant that we were able to build a very flexible government. And for me, it’s very exciting because people know they can count on their government to be there in times of crisis.”
Periods of change
Nenshi said Calgary is a very different city from where he was first elected in 2010, when the city’s population had just grown to one million.
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Since then, he said the city has achieved many victories in infrastructure, public transport and housing, shaping the city for what it is today.
“We were going through a transition from what I call a big, little town to a little, big town. And we were really trying to find our way on the national and international stages. And I think we really made progress on that point in the over the past decade, “he said.
He also worked with six provincial premiers while he was mayor.
“There have been ups and downs,” he said.
Next municipal elections
Calgarians will go to the polls on October 18.
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Nenshi said he would help Calgary’s next mayor at his first council meeting and keep his phone number until the end of the year.
“Then I’m going to lose their phone number. They’ll have mine if they need me, but I’m definitely not going to fit into their world,” he said.
He said the main thing he noticed about the recent elections was the increasing levels of division among voters.
“The only thing I really noticed is that there are very few people who seem to go to the polls with a sense of joy and a sense of optimism. People seem to vote against something rather than to vote for a better future, ”Nenshi said.
He says he criticized this year’s mayoral candidates for failing to present an inspiring vision for the future, but said they were responding to a tired electorate.
“A lot of people just asked me, just tell me who to vote for. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to go through it all,” he said.
“Of course, I’m not going to do that.”
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But the only advice he will give Calgarians is to think about who can best represent the city nationally and internationally.
Nenshi said that looking back 20 years from now, there are a lot of things he could highlight and be proud of.
“I can point my finger at this library, which I hope will last for many generations. I can point my finger at all the roads, the biggest investment in mobility in our history. I can point the finger at [MAX Purple] and the biggest investment in public transit in our history. I can point out these four new recreation centers. There are a lot of things that we have built as the city has grown, ”he said.
But what he’s most proud of is deeper than that, says Nenshi.
In 2010, politics in the city were much more rigid, but this election had a huge turnout, he says.
“I hope this is just a symbol of people taking a risk for the future of their community, with me continuing to be deeply involved in the future of their community… and I really hope it is. something that continues. ”
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“This is a really pivotal time for the future of the city. And I have been saying this for a long time,” said Nenshi.
He says the city is facing five crises simultaneously – public health, mental health and addiction, economy, environment and equity.
“It is very difficult to leave at this really critical crossroads,” he said.
But looking at the big picture, he says it’s about time.
“When I have a long-term view, when I have an 11-year view of the city, it’s infinitely better in many ways,” he said.
As mayor, you live, eat, sleep and dream of work. Nenshi said it had taken its toll, but it was expected.
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“In the end, this is something I signed up for and I was happy to do it. I look forward to focusing a little more on physical and mental health and family in the future. ”