So, you woke up this morning, turned on the radio, and heard that Calgary had elected a new Mayor. How boring is that you figure as you anxiously await that first glorious sip of coffee? Other information trickles in, liberal…Muslim… large voter turnout, whoa, did you hear that right? Calgary, um, Calgary, Alberta?!? has elected a liberal Muslim mayor? It’s not a dream, folks, last night Calgary went the other way and Canada became the kind of exciting, super cool and relevant country that most of us always thought it was, but, really, it’s been kind of boring through these Harper years.
Naheed Nenshi has pulled off the seemingly impossible on a grass roots campaign defeating much heavier financed candidates which included one with Harper’s campaign team artillery. His platform included creating sustainable neighborhoods, curbing sprawl, and emphasizing public transportation. All that in the one part of the country that seemed like it was hopelessly addicted to a 20th century style burn and forget approach to life. Looks like we all had Calgary figured wrong.
If there is a lesson to be learned from this election it is that none of us should take the other for granted, especially along stereotypical lines, because those things can dangerously warp our perspectives. And another is that, yes, you can bring about change by getting involved! The most telling item about this election is the large voter turn out. Some Liberals in the US have been saying for years that if all Americans voted the Republican party would never win another election, anywhere. Perhaps we saw some of that in action last night in Calgary as voter turnout headed up towards 50%. In Montreal’s civic election last fall, Richard Bergeron, leader of Projet Montreal, stressed how the higher the voter turnout went the greater the chances of Projet Montreal getting a majority (turnout stayed around 37% with Union Montreal returned to power). This trend indicates that most people are tolerant, progressive, liberal, not totally in denial about all issues. The trick seems to be to get them worked up enough to get out and vote!
If Calgary is to be an indicator then Canadians are ready to move forward into the 21st century and be a world leader in sustainable practices and innovations. Under Harper we have somehow morphed from a country that was fairly respected worldwide to being “Tar Sands Nation”, a hypocritical collection of phonies pretending to still be something we never really were while lusting after potential Arctic resources. We are a wonderfully diverse country but most of us live in and near cities. Naheed Nenshi’s victory in Calgary is a victory for all Canadians.
On this day I am very, very proud to be a Canadian, because of this most unlikely event. Thanks, Calgary!