On October 21, 2013 Calgary will host its municipal elections once more. Calgary will elect a new Mayor, and, most likely, will change nothing at all. Apathetically opting for more of the same, Calgary seems predestined to re-elect an ineffectual, effeminate talking head. ‘Na-heed The Head’, as I have come to refer to him, will in all probability be re-elected. I, however, will not be among those who help to vote him in… and neither should you.
October 18, 2010 marked the Mayoral election of a “wonkish, even dorky, academic and visible minority”  Naheed Nenshi. Few could have predicted the outcome of the election, a three way donnybrook between Ric McIver, Barb Higgins and Naheed Nenshi. Starting his campaign with a paltry eight per cent support, Nenshi was an unlikely champion with his ‘Purple Revolution’ and hideous smile. And yet, with the assistance of a split vote, a barrage of social networking, and a strong appeal to ‘younger voters’, Nenshi went on to defy all odds to become the 36th Mayor of Calgary. Upon announcement of his victory at a local dive bar, Nenshi was quoted as saying “If you have never heard the sound of a city collectively losing its mind, you needed to be in that bar.”
This statement, I find, is aptly ironic.
Sworn in with a Quran for his Oath of office , Naheed Kurban Nenshi was a radical departure from past Albertan leaders and a testament to the power of populist politics their absolute worst. The first Muslim mayor of a major North American city, people seemed enamoured with his flamboyant style, his metrosexual flair, and his outspokenly cosmopolitan stances. Few seemed concerned that the man had little in the way of direction and almost nothing to show for practical experience. He and his supporters had made virtually no provision for victory, not believing they would win until it eventually happened.
But what was it that Calgary was actually voting for in the last election? Lacking substance in virtually every way, Nenshi was elected almost accidentally using a platform replete with vapid vagaries. He wished “to limit urban sprawl, make neighbourhoods more fun, safer and greener”  . He talked about bettering transit and libraries, about building an accountable, open government and cutting licensing and permit bureaucracies. He spoke of being a “fiscal conservative” working to “cut red tape, overhaul the clunky development and planning systems and scour department budgets for efficiencies” . He put forward a list of “12 Better Ideas”, a feel-good list of straw men improvements for Calgary, rather than any serious pledges or promises . Whether or not the ‘better ideas’ were ever actually realized (most were not) was less important than the progressive, universally acceptable, warm and cuddly presentation.
Essentially, in 2010, Nenshi had nothing to do with substance. Three years later he still stands for anything but tangible goals, in many cases touting the exact same indefinable ambitions he flogged in the 2010 election. It’s hard to be judged a success or failure when one makes no real resolutions. And the few declarations he did make, such as being fiscally conservative, he failed to fulfill. Examples include the approval of the 24.5 million dollar Peace Bridge, the payment of over $340,000 tax dollars to the anti-oil sands lobby The Pembina Institute, and the approval of new development levies that will increase the building costs of certain houses over $8000.
It’s interesting to look over his “Key Events of Mayoralty” , the things that Nenshi regarded as the highlights of his career to date. We see not a list of the positive changes made in Calgary, but rather a superficial list of his own altruistic, egocentric and liberal ‘accomplishments’. For example, the man was most proud of being the Grand Marshall of the Calgary Gay Pride Parade in 2011 and of his 2013 proclamation of “Trans Day of Visibility”. He thought it was a triumph when he greeted Craig Hardy, Calgary Transit’s 100,000,000th passenger (like anyone could even know this with certainty). And he was elated that he was able to preside over the 100th anniversaries of such institutions as the Calgary Public Library, the Calgary Stampede, and of Mount Royal University. In short, Nenshi was most proud of his nonsensical window dressing moments and fluffy PR stunts. He was proudest of all the opportunities that facilitated his photobombing (he seems to appear in every media photograph, regardless of his lack of involvement in the actual event ). He was delighted over the many occasions that made possible his showboating, and of course the numerous instances that allowed for his praise and support of diversity and politically correct dogma.
I suppose the best analogy for understanding Nenshi is the colour he himself selected to represent his mayorship and his ‘purple army’. One often sees his purple propaganda urging the weak-minded to ‘Take The Nenshi Pledge’, his purple political yard signs, and of course his oversized purple attire at homosexual gatherings . Surely the colour must have some special significance or deeper meaning for him.
“He looked into the political implications of purple. [He decided on it] for no other reason than he knew nobody else would pick purple. He learned that it had no political connotations either. And then it dawned on him. You make purple by mixing blue and red. The colours that traditionally represent the right and the left.”
And there we have it. The colour is meaningless save for its political neutrality. It’s neither the blue of the left, nor the red of the right. For Nenshi it is the colour of nihilism and therefore is perfectly in keeping with his ambiguous aims. Nenshi doesn’t do much of anything and would have us believe that he holds no extreme views (most especially on matters such as Islam.) He wants to appear to be ‘charismatic’, a ‘go-getter’ and a ‘guy who gets things done’. But he isn’t. He isn’t any of those things. In reality he is merely a narcissistic eccentric with a keen eye for Kodak moments.
So let us think twice before we ‘collectively lose our minds’ once again. Before blindly re-electing Na-heed the Head, ‘Crazy Eyes’ from Mr. Deeds , let’s ask ourselves who and what we are looking for to represent our fair and proud city. Let us look beyond the media driven hype, the superficial smoke of Facebook and Twitter, and let us select a Mayor worthy of the title.