MAKICHUK: Spectre of Nenshi hangs over Alberta like a dark cloud

Former Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi.
Former Calgary mayor, Naheed Nenshi.CBC Image

I’m not saying Naheed Nenshi, the former mayor of Calgary, is a bad guy.

He’s not. In fact, by everything I’ve heard, he’s a good guy. A capable civic leader, trustworthy and honest to a fault. And a cagey and clever politician to boot.

A civic activist and Mount Royal business professor and the first Muslim elected to lead a major Canadian city.

His name now looms large, as a possible leader of the Alberta NDP party — to take over for Rachel Notley.

Talk about big shoes to fill. Say what you want about Notley, she was the real deal, and she believed in everything she said or did.

My one big beef with her, aside from her politics, is that she did not help Premier Jason Kenney during the challenging days of COVID-19. To me, that diminished my respect for her. Here was a common cause, and instead, she used it as a way to bash Kenney.

In any case, what about this Nenshi character? What looms large, in Alberta’s future, should he make a successful run for premier?

Let me tell you … one word, which is based on a Latin expression, that means, “the death of a star.” That word is, “dis-aster.”

I will admit, I voted for Nenshi during his 2010 campaign for mayor, dubbed the "Purple Revolution" — a viral campaign which relied heavily on using social media to promote his platform and hyper-engage voters.

It was a refreshing change from Dave Bronconnier, a mayor who was largely a disappointment. Although, I am starting to like the Calatrava “Peace Bridge.”

Nenshi’s reign would last for 11 long years, overseeing massive changes in Calgary. Some policies I agreed with, some I would not.

His leadership during the great flood of 2013 was impeccable, and the city rallied together, like never before.

UCP Leader Danielle Smith.
UCP Leader Danielle Smith.CBC Image

The Globe and Mail even wrote that Nenshi’s management of the flood “should be studied in courses on leadership.”

He was also the champion of the new Central Library, one of Calgary’s greatest buildings. But he also pushed for yet another Winter Olympics in 2026, an idiotic idea that never should have been put forth.

I fought it tooth and nail because of cost and the effect on Banff — have you tried to visit Banff or Lake Louise lately? — and thank God Calgarians spoke up and voted it down in a plebiscite.

His Purpleness was losing his connection with the common man, and the slide continued.

Nenshi, who seemed to think Calgarians had an endless supply of cash, saw it as a way to fast-track infrastructure projects and boost tourism.

Calgarians saw it as a total waste of money, which it was. A circus that would only make rich people on the inside, richer.

The Purple Revolution, had turned into Purple Rain.

Nenshi no longer had the common touch that initially propelled him, and some, including me, saw him as a goofy, over-educated elitist.

Worse, civic spending became out of control and taxes soared — earning him the nickname “Spendshi.”

In response, he simply shrugged off any criticism of himself and city hall. The sign of a politician who had overstayed his welcome. He became arrogant and stopped listening — as he pushed forth mega-projects such as the Greenline, the largest in Calgary’s history.

The thought of making cuts to city hall did not even enter his mind, at a time when other mayors of major cities, such as Doug Ford, were doing the exact opposite.

And so, you ask … why was I absolutely horrified, when Mr. Nenshi officially announced he was running to be the leader of the Alberta NDP, crowing that he knew how to handle Premier Danielle Smith.

"I've known Danielle Smith for 30 years," Nenshi openly bragged.

"The woman who is the premier now is not the woman I grew up with. She's something else. She is devoid of doing what is right for the people of Alberta. I know how to get under her skin."

No vision, as to how Alberta should proceed against the federal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but cliches and Liberal platitudes.

"Albertans deserve a smart, capable government that focuses on the values and priorities we all share,” Nenshi said.

"We need a government that focuses on prosperity and opportunity. On affordability and fairness. On our healthcare and education. On working to prevent the impacts of fire, flood and drought."

What values was he talking about? Prosperity and opportunity? Ask a Calgary small business owner about that!

This weekend, during an NDP debate in Calgary, his arrogance showed through when he labelled UCP members the "monkeys on the other side."

Cheap shot insults, instead of arguments. If you don't have any ideas, beat up your opposition. Marginalize them, make fun of them.

Nenshi will only take us in the wrong direction, at a time when we need to stay the course and battle the coming storms.

Should Nenshi take the helm of the province, it would likely mark the biggest political setback in Alberta’s history.

Why? For starters, he would erase everything that UCP leader Danielle Smith has achieved during her term.

We would no longer have anyone to stand up for us in Ottawa. No one to launch a provincial police force, a provincial pension and the usage of the notwithstanding clause in our defence.

No one to tell Ottawa to take a hike, when they try to take over our home building industry, our oil industry or our agriculture industry.

Trudeau simply can’t be trusted, and Smith knows this. So far, she has brilliantly fended off the PMO in a way we should all be proud of.

We must grit our teeth and move forward on provincial autonomy while echoing Smith’s refrain to Ottawa — “stay out of our business.”

Meanwhile, a union-hugging NDP premier Nenshi would be nothing but a doormat for the feds, much like federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

Alberta needs a tough cop at the top, not an elitist egghead. Saskatchewan’s Scott Moe is another example of a premier leading the charge for provincial autonomy.

We need someone to fight Ottawa every step of the way, not to play footsies with them.

To counter Trudeau’s disrespect for provincial jurisdiction and imposing his ideological perspectives, especially when it comes to climate change.

What is even more frightening, is that Nenshi has a strong following … left-wing types that are filled with hate for Smith, and everything she touches.

That includes mainstream talking heads and so-called experts who systematically take aim.

No matter what she says or does, without thinking, they bash her.

If only they knew, they were cutting their own throats.

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