In a string of tweets Wednesday commenting on Calgary’s Green Line LRT expansion, Calgary businessman and philanthropist Brett Wilson criticized Nenshi and the rest of city council’s handling of the project, saying it should be delayed.
In a back-and-forth, a Twitter user replied to Wilson saying the Green Line was a central issue in the 2017 municipal election, and the “Green Line won.” The user went on to say candidate Bill Smith, who strongly opposed the LRT expansion, lost and that “new urbanists won a majority in council.”
“No,” Wilson replied on Twitter. “The NE voting block that rose up when Nenshi play (sic) the race card was what won the day.”
Responding to Wilson’s tweet, Nenshi tweeted, “I generally ignore hateful people, but wasn’t I just saying yesterday about how the cheapest insult is ‘playing the race card?'”
“I also won 12 of 14 wards and biggest margin was in Mr. Wilson’s neighbourhood if memory serves,” the mayor tweeted.
When asked about Wednesday’s massive anti-police violence and anti-racism rally during a Thursday news conference, Nenshi said one of the community’s greatest challenges is the “ease with which many of us go to a place of casual racism.”
“Last night, we had a very prominent Calgarian — someone who has been supported and coddled by the establishment for so very long despite a history of incredibly hateful comments — basically say I don’t deserve to be the mayor because only ethnic people voted for me. Which is so wrong on so many levels.
“A. It’s factually wrong. B. It implies even if it were wrong, that people who are not white’s vote should count less — maybe it should count three-fifths as much, if you catch that reference. Or that they shouldn’t vote at all, that they don’t deserve to vote, that they’re not real Canadians.”
Nenshi went on to say certain Thursday news coverage of the tweet focused more on Wilson’s charitable financial contributions than on the nature of the tweet, which he also called “casual racism.”
“We have to figure out how we get that out of our system so it doesn’t infect our system even more,” the mayor said.
Speaking on Global News Morning Calgary on Thursday, Nenshi said recent events, rallies and protests — both in Calgary and around the world — should serve as a reminder that systemic racism exists in Canadian society.
“I am subject, in my own life, to pretty relentless racism every single day,” Nenshi said.
“Yesterday, Calgary business person and philanthropist Brett Wilson posted on Twitter that I’m only the mayor because only ethnic people voted for me. … But that’s the kind of thing that we get all the time – and I’m a public figure, that’s what you deal with all the time.”
“What really matters here is the fact that we now have to use this as an opportunity to acknowledge the fact that there truly is systemic racism in our system.”
In an emailed statement, the Nashville Predators — of which Wilson is an investor in the owners group — said Wilson’s “views, comments and social media posts do not reflect or represent the views of the organization or the National Hockey League.”
“The Nashville Predators stand against racism and discrimination in all forms,” the team said.
Wilson took to Twitter Thursday evening, posting an apology for the tweet, which he called “thoughtless and inflammatory.”
“Yesterday I posted a thoughtless and inflammatory message about the 2017 Calgary municipal election that upset Mayor [Naheed] Nenshi and many others,” Wilson wrote.
“I apologize without reservation.”
Wilson’s statement said he has a strong track record of standing up for diversity in Canada.
“I look forward to future thoughtful and respectful debates with the mayor and council over the future of Calgary,” Wilson said.