Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi won’t seek re-election in October vote

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi will not seek re-election in the October municipal vote.

The now 49-year-old has held office for the last decade, first being elected in 2010 after starting as a largely unknown figure, he defeated then-city alderman Ric McIver and former CTV Calgary News anchor Barb Higgins in a close race. He then won easily in 2013 and again in 2017.

Nenshi made the announcement he won't run for re-election in 2021 during a Facebook Live session on Tuesday.

After being swept into office on a wave of support dubbed the Purple Revolution — which was one of the earliest to adopt social media as a central strategy and use it to engage younger voters — Nenshi became best known for his handling of the 2013 flood, where he was seen as a calm, stable voice during what was then the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history.

He's had several other notable accomplishments, including being the first mayor to serve as grand marshal of the Calgary Pride Parade in 2011, and being awarded the 2014 World Mayor Prize by the City Mayors Foundation — becoming the first Canadian to earn the distinction.

He is also the first Muslim to serve as mayor of a large North American city.

Nenshi's time in office also coincided with several major infrastructure projects, including redevelopment of the East Village area, construction of the $295-million Airport Tunnel and construction of the new $245-million Central Public Library.

There have been some challenges during his time in office, too.

In December 2015 Nenshi and developer Cal Wenzel agreed to an out-of-court settlement after Wenzel launched a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the mayor for comments he made during a radio interview, where Nenshi likened Wenzel to the fictional Godfather mafia character.

And in 2016, Nenshi was recorded while riding in a Lyft vehicle in Boston disparaging the then CEO of Uber, which had recently launched in the city.

Nenshi has also been criticized for a number of residential tax increases during his time on council, and he has had to bring in an industrial psychologist to deal with dysfunction and infighting among councillors.

Marc Henry, who served as chief of staff to former Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier and now runs the polling firm ThinkHQ, said he was "a little surprised then not" when he heard the news.

The fact Nenshi's popularity waned in recent years, said Henry, was a natural progression most politicians experience at some point.

"It's just a function of shelf life, any politician, you don't get to stay in those high numbers forever," he said.

"It's just a function of time."

Henry also called Nenshi a "darling" of the national press.

"He certainly is an excellent communicator and he still is to this today," he said. "There's very few people who can sort of stand up extemporaneously and just give a speech that is a very good speech and he does that very well. He is a very fine speaker."

As of Tuesday morning, 10 people are registered to run for mayor in the October vote, including:

  • Ian Chiang
  • Jeromy Farkas
  • Brad Field
  • Jyoti Gondek
  • Larry Heather
  • Kevin J. Johnston
  • Zane Novak
  • Teddy Ogbonna
  • Shaoli Wang
  • Grace Yan

Today, I'm sharing my decision about the 2021 election.

I will not be running for Mayor this October.

Calgary, thank you, for everything. It's been the honour of my life. pic.twitter.com/CT2xFGbbPA

— Naheed Nenshi (@nenshi) April 6, 2021