UPDATED: Nenshi crowned new Alberta NDP leader

Naheed Nenshi became the new Alberta NDP leader.
Naheed Nenshi became the new Alberta NDP leader. Courtesy Alberta NDP/YouTube

It looks like former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi will have to become more comfortable with orange than purple.

Nenshi won the Alberta NDP leadership race on the first ballot with 62,746 out of 72,930 votes (86%), demolishing his competition. 

Alberta NDP MLA Kathleen Ganley (Calgary-Mountain View) came in second place with 5,890 votes (8.1%), MLA Sarah Hoffman (Edmonton-Glenora) finished third with 3,063 (4.2%), and MLA Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse (Edmonton-Rutherford) came fourth with 1,222 (1.7%). 

Nenshi said he was living a great life five months ago. 

“But I like all of you, I was increasingly troubled by the direction of our government, by the direction of our province, by the direction of our home,” said Nenshi in a Saturday speech at the Alberta NDP Leadership Premiere in Calgary.

“The stories I was hearing from our premier and our government, the place they were describing, didn’t feel like our home.” 

When Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and the government spoke about the province, he accused them of describing a place he did not recognize. They were describing a small Alberta.

While Alberta is many qualities, he said it is not small. As people know, he pointed out it “is impossible to think small under a sky that big.” 

He said Smith and the Alberta government want people to think the province is small. This is because they think small. 

Nenshi said they believe Alberta is a fortress that has to be defended. 

“But what Alberta has always been is a wide open door with a welcome mat, inviting the best people and the best ideas from every corner of this broken Earth to live a great Alberta life right here,” he said. 

Prior to the NDP leadership race, it had 16,224 members. At the end, it stood at 85,277 members.

The 72,930 votes were all of the members who had cast ballots by the deadline on Saturday at noon.

In the NDP leadership race, Nenshi campaigned on protecting and expanding Alberta’s economic and social development by spending more money on renewable energy to reach net zero by 2050. He said he would work with the energy sector to lead the transition. 

He vowed to support businesses by encouraging innovation and investment across multiple sectors. Although he cared about businesses, he said he would protect the rights of workers to organize and engage in collective bargaining. 

To improve affordability in Alberta, he said he would ensure utility rates are manageable and affordable. On the housing file, he said he would build the right homes at the right price in the right place and address labour shortages in the skilled trades. 

He would help newcomers by creating a better foreign credential recognition system to enable them to fill gaps in the labour market. His government would expand $10 per day childcare and train more early childhood educators. 

When it comes to healthcare, he said he would treat all workers with the respect and dignity they deserve. He added he would ensure public healthcare is there for people with more family doctors and nurses and better approaches to deal with bottlenecks. 

He would fix the home care system to ensure patients have better service delivery. His government would expand the long-term care system to free up hospital spaces.

Nenshi was born on Feb. 2, 1972 in Toronto. He grew up in northeastern Calgary and attended Queen Elizabeth High School. 

He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in commerce from the University of Calgary in 1993. To expand his knowledge, he earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University in 1998. 

After university, he worked as an engagement manager at McKinsey and Company. At McKinsey and Company, he advised large telecommunications companies, banks, retail stores, and oil and gas companies with corporate strategies. 

After working at McKinsey and Company, he started his own consulting company called the Ascend Group in 2001. Some of the entities the Ascend Group took on as clients included the United Nations, the Alberta government, and clothing stores. 

He became Canada’s first tenured non-profit management professor at Mount Royal University (MRU) in 2004. He spent six years at MRU before deciding to run for office. 

In 2010, Nenshi entered the Calgary mayoral race. He said he was running to show young people that voters “can elect good people into government.”

His main rivals were former Calgary city councillor Ric McIver and former CTV News Calgary anchor Barb Higgins. His campaign was nicknamed the Purple Revolution, as it reached out to Liberals and Conservatives equally. 

While he had a lower profile than McIver and Higgins at first, he was able gain more attention through creative campaigning. He was elected Calgary mayor with 40% of the vote. 

He was re-elected in 2013, garnering 74% of the vote. While less successful in his third bid, he was re-elected in 2017 with 51.4% of the vote. 

His leadership saw Calgary engage in massive spending in areas such as public transit, roads, recreation centres, and libraries. Although Calgary’s property taxes were among the lowest in Canada, he did enact significant hikes to pay for this spending. 

On the transportation file, he expanded the Calgary LRT and built an access tunnel at Calgary International Airport. He introduced a new auditing structure at the City of Calgary. 

He expanded racial and gender diversity among the City of Calgary’s senior staff. To improve quality of life, he spent money on building the National Music Centre, creating the Central Library, and revitalizing the Downtown East Village. 

His time as mayor saw him navigate Calgary through four states of emergency. Because of his leadership, he was awarded the World Mayor Prize by the City Mayors Foundation in 2014. 

In 2021, he decided not to seek re-election. While he was done being mayor, he acknowledged he continued to care about politics. 

After leaving office, he returned to the Ascend Group and did various speaking engagements. He hosted Canada Reads on CBC Radio One in February. 

Nenshi decided in March he was out with the purple and in with the orange. 

READ MORE: UPDATED: Nenshi to run for Alberta NDP leader 

He confirmed he would enter the NDP leadership race. 

“We need a government that we can trust,” he said.

Nenshi’s momentum after announcing his campaign led to the NDP leadership race losing a candidate in March. 

READ MORE: UPDATED: Pancholi drops out of Alberta NDP leadership race, endorses Nenshi

NDP MLA Rakhi Pancholi (Edmonton-Whitemud) said she would be ending her campaign. 

“We must move forward to find a positive alternative to the UCP (United Conservative Party) that Albertans can enthusiastically support in the next election, and I believe this means uniting behind the next leader Naheed Nenshi,” said Pancholi. 

Nenshi came out swinging at the Vote Leadership 2024 Debate in Lethbridge in April, saying he was surprised to be back in politics. 

READ MORE: Nenshi says he came out of political retirement to save Alberta 

While he was enjoying his retirement, he said he is an Albertan. 

“I grew up here, I chose to make my life here after living and working all over the world in my 20s, and like all of you, I’m deeply troubled by the direction of our province and and the direction of our government,” he said. 

Nenshi admitted at the Vote Leadership 2024 Debate in Edmonton on June 2 he made many mistakes when he served as Calgary mayor for 11 years. 

READ MORE: Nenshi apologizes for mistakes he made as Calgary mayor at Alberta NDP debate 

Since he issues public apologies, he said it makes him different than Alberta Premier Danielle Smith. 

“I’ll give you three, because I think those three kind of reflect some kind of things that have taught me about leadership,” he said. 

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