I think we always knew Naheed Nenshi couldn’t stay out of the spotlight forever. I figured he would pursue federal politics with the Liberal Party as only the Prime Minister’s chair could truly satisfy Nenshi’s outsized ego. Nenshi is also a pragmatist too though and he can see that whoever replaces Justin Trudeau will likely be a placeholder leader sitting in opposition. Naheed doesn’t want to be the next Michael Ignatieff.
With the resignation of Rachel Notley as Alberta’s NDP leader, Nenshi sees an opportunity to strike for the premier’s throne and he is preparing to go for it. While he is a familiar name to most Albertans, not everybody may know him as well as they should.
Nenshi will say or do whatever it takes to win. He presented himself as a conservative when running to be the mayor of Calgary though he was anything but. With some clever campaigning, a split vote, and some push-polling, Nenshi managed to pull off a win. Thanks to the apathy of Calgarian voters, he managed to remain in office for several terms despite bloating the bureaucracy, wasting millions on pet projects, constant tax increases, a dysfunctional city council and pressuring business owners to the point of having them come out to protest at city hall.
Let’s talk about Nenshi’s campaign techniques as he will surely use some of them again.
I used the term “push-polling” because it describes an unprincipled campaign method heavily used in Nenshi’s first campaign. Nenshi’s Weasel in Chief Stephen Carter (pictured below) would always get upset when push-polling was called out for what it was.
Mass dialing systems called Calgarians for weeks with a “poll”. Folks would be prompted to answer a series of questions on several issues using their touch-tone dials. Then, it seemed no matter how people answered those questions, the automated call would finish with a voice telling them that due to their answers, Naheed Nenshi was the best-suited candidate for them. Yes, all roads lead to Nenshi. In a race where people didn’t really know who was who, the dialing was effective in establishing Nenshi as the candidate of their choice.
Not an illegal means of campaigning, but hardly an ethical one.
Political parties don’t officially exist in municipal politics in Alberta. Unofficial parties exist though in the form of unions and activist groups.
One such group that appeared when Nenshi popped up on the political scene was called CivicCamp. The group modeled itself as being a non-biased volunteer group that wanted to help people become engaged in politics. Somehow, every action of the group appeared focused on engaging people to get out to vote for Nenshi.
After the election, CivicCamp continued to “engage” by providing budget presentations to council that amazingly fit into every one of Nenshi’s policy goals. The group then took responsibility for the debates in the next election. Rather than having a conventional mayoral debate where audience members may present questions, CivicCamp provided 12 questions, all of which may as well have been written by Nenshi’s mother. Nenshi had a ready and well-prepared answer for every one of them of course. It was as if he already knew what they would be.
While CivicCamp made presentation to Calgary’s city council and even somehow got a grant from the Calgary Foundation, as far as any records go, the group didn’t exist. It wasn’t registered in any way and not a single person’s name was attached to it. No leader, president, treasurer, founder or anything. It was very odd.
Due the group not actually existing, I took it upon myself to register CivicCamp as a non-profit society with myself as the president. Nenshi and his allies in legacy media were outraged. I was called every name in the book and accused of maliciously breaking up a volunteer group. I had to keep asking, “Who are the volunteers?” Who did I take the group from? Give me a name!
They never provided a name of course. I told media, I would hand over the reins of the entire group if they would just tell me who the president of it actually was.
They never did of course because if the people behind the group were named, the list would look a lot like Nenshi’s campaign team. The group faded away under my leadership I am afraid. Nenshi’s allies would rather let it die than admit they ran the group.
We can expect some groups to suddenly spring up as Nenshi enters provincial politics. I suspect they will be wise enough to register them in some way this time.
Nenshi’s ego and his mouth are his own worst enemies. He will never hesitate to viciously attack rivals and has gotten himself into legal soup multiple times due to it.
The worst was with Calgary philanthropist Cal Wenzel. Nenshi implied that Wenzel was an organized crime figure. That led to Nenshi getting his ass sued and he was eventually forced to apologize to Wenzel, retract his remarks, and pay Wenzel’s legal bills. Taxpayers sat on the legal bill until Nenshi managed to find enough donors to pick it up for him.
Nenshi also went on a bizarre tirade where he lied about sex offenders being placed as Uber drivers while he was riding in a car in Boston. It was recorded and led to fury on the part of Uber of course. Uber didn’t sue Nenshi, but the ride-share company was suddenly fully approved to operate in Calgary after Nenshi had worked hard on behalf of taxi companies to keep them out. I suspect a deal was reached and Nenshi couldn’t afford to lose another lawsuit.
Now, Nenshi is back. He is going provincial.
Look forward to more less than savoury campaign practices, torqued rhetoric, deceptive policy stances and attacks upon opponents from Team Nenshi. That leopard won’t change its spots.
Hopefully, Albertans know what Nenshi is about this time and won’t fall for his empty campaign promises.
Just imagine what he could do with his hands on the provincial leadership. He made enough of a mess as a simple mayor.