Re-elected for this third straight term as Calgary’s mayor in Monday’s 2017 municipal election, Naheed Nenshi said his main focus is strengthening Calgary’s economy following a turbulent year of high unemployment.
“Our number one issue, of course, is economic recovery, it is job creation and attraction, it is ensuring that we’re filling up those downtown vacancies because ultimately that is the thing that is driving everything in terms of taxes, in terms of businesses — and being able to support them,” Nenshi told Global News in a Tuesday morning interview. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Nenshi also noted that in just over a month, councillors will be faced with budget debates.
“We’ve got a number of very difficult choices to make in terms of passing that budget. That one shouldn’t be too much drama, but then we have to get into our new budget cycle as we’re working on this very fragile economic recovery.”
WATCH: Incumbent Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi won his third straight term as mayor of Calgary in Monday night’s municipal election. Doug Vaessen has details.
Nenshi ‘thrilled’ with high voter turnout
According to the City of Calgary, the 2017 Calgary election had a total voter turnout of 387,306 or 58.1 per cent, the highest voter turnout in over 40 years.
“When I was elected in 2010 we had the highest voter turnout in 40 years,” Nenshi said. “Last night’s numbers surpassed that, which is great. I actually got more votes – way more votes – than I did in 2013.”
“I was thrilled with the high voter turnout.”
Speaking to Global Calgary on Tuesday, Mount Royal University political analyst Lori Williams said she thinks the high voter turnout isn’t necessarily a good sign for returning council members – including Nenshi.
“I think there’s a lot of dissatisfaction, obviously, in Calgary right now,” she said. “High voter turnout because people – some because they supported their candidate, some because they wanted to see something a little bit different. I think they’re going to have to listen pretty carefully to that.”
Nenshi said he was worried a low voter turnout might lead to results that didn’t reflect “what Calgarians wanted.”
He admitted that council would have to address long lines and ballot shortages that plagued some polling stations on election night.
“Certainly, we’re going to have some questions about how the city managed the whole process but we’ll have plenty of time to discuss those.”
WATCH: City of Calgary Returning Officer Laura Kennedy wants voters who had issues on election night to come forward with any concerns.
Nenshi ‘excited’ to work with 4 new Calgary councillors
Four new councillors were elected to Calgary city council in Monday’s civic election, and Nenshi said he is eager work with them.
“I’m excited about the four new faces; certainly all four of them are people who have worked incredibly hard to get there,” he said.
“All 10 of the incumbents returned, which is interesting because the narrative in this election is that it was about change: ‘throw the bums out.’ Well, no bums got thrown out at all. All 10 of them returned.”
Nenshi said it’s time for everyone to get back to business, and start taking on the tasks at hand.
“I always remind people, the reason I wear purple is because it’s a combination between red and blue, and we park our partisanship at the door at city council and we roll up our sleeves and we get the work done.”
WATCH: Four new faces have joined Calgary’s city council following Monday’s 2017 municipal election. Dallas Flexhaug has details.
Nenshi responds to negative election-night tweet from Calgary Flames staffer
A Monday night tweet from Calgary Flames communications and media relations director Sean Kelso suggested that the re-election of Nenshi as Calgary’s mayor is “worse” than Donald Trump being U.S. president.
The tweet from Sean Kelso was posted at 11:20 p.m. on election night, but has since been deleted.
When asked about it by Global News on Tuesday morning, Nenshi said he doesn’t know Kelso personally.
“I have no idea who he is. I’ve never met him. But obviously, he’s a senior executive. We have had a very senior executive at the Flames regularly tweeting nasty things about me throughout the campaign, retweeting weird right-wing websites,” he said. “So they really have to determine are they a political body, or are they a community body. I think they’ll figure that out pretty quick.”
In an email to Global News, VP of communications for the Calgary Flames, Peter Hanlon, said the organization feels “very strongly” that their staff are “entitled to their own personal opinions on political issues,” adding it is their “democratic right.”
“Notwithstanding the above, those individuals and opinions are not to be misinterpreted as representing the corporate position of the Calgary Sports & Entertainment Corporation.”
Nenshi says City of Calgary still open to discussing arena funding with Calgary Flames
Nenshi said the ongoing debate between the Calgary Flames and the City of Calgary about the funding of a possible new arena has been “ridiculously dramatic.”
“It’s very, very clear that the voters said they don’t like this kind of messy politicking. It’s very clear that this was injected into the race in the hopes of getting a different outcome.
“I said from the very beginning that the city remains at the table … and we will stay at the table, and whenever Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation (CSEC) is ready to come back to the table we will be there.”
“I don’t expect anything happening any time soon,” he added. “I don’t expect that I’ll get a call today. But I think over the weeks and months that come, when we figure out what makes sense for the city and for the team, we’ll continue that conversation.”
Williams pointed out that 10 councillors who supported the city’s funding proposal for a new arena are returning to their positions, and said they’re unlikely to change their minds.
“The incoming ones are unlikely to be different if they’re wanting to use taxpayer dollars wisely,” Lori Williams said.
“I think this does give a pretty strong position to council to basically say ‘we’re willing to negotiate but we need to be reasonable, we need to respect the taxpayers of Calgary in tough economic times.’”
Nenshi remains ‘confident’ Calgary could win 2026 Olympic bid
In August, Calgary city council agreed more information was needed before deciding whether to proceed with a bid for the 2016 Winter Olympic Games.
“Council has made it very clear – and I agree — that we will not proceed with the bid unless we see significant changes in what the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is willing to do,” Nenshi said.
“I think that there’s a good possibility that they’ll make the changes we’re looking for, but we won’t know that until after the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. So next spring, once we have a sense of what the IOC is looking for, then we’ll come back to the community and we’ll say look, ‘does this make sense for us now? Does it make sense for us today?’”
“If we do end up bidding I’m very confident we would win,” he added.
Would Nenshi run for a fourth term? Political analyst doesn’t think so
Lori Williams doesn’t think it’s likely Nenshi would run for a fourth term as mayor once he finishes his next four years.
“I doubt he’s going to run in another election, especially after this experience,” she said.
“It was a pretty close election,” Williams added. “A lot of Calgarians voted against him. He’s got to, somehow or another, not just reach out to them in a general way – but reach out to the councillors that were elected by the people of Calgary.”
“Even if he disagrees with people he’s got to be more respectful, less arrogant, more willing to listen – and he’s got those skills in spades, he just needs to use them more.”
Williams suggests Nenshi could act as a mentor for councillors potentially looking to run for mayor down the road.
LISTEN: Naheed Nenshi speaks with News Talk 770 following his 2017 re-election.