Photo: Diana McQueen, Don Iveson, Jim Prentice and Naheed Nenshi sign the Framework Agreement that paved the way for the development of city charters on Oct. 7, 2014 (Photo source: Government of Alberta on Flickr)

Nenshi in a tight race while Iveson coasts to victory

Photo: Diana McQueen, Don Iveson, Jim Prentice and Naheed Nenshi sign the Framework Agreement that paved the way for the development of city charters on Oct. 7, 2014 (Photo source: Government of Alberta on Flickr)

With six days left until municipal election day in Alberta, the mayors in the province’s two largest cities are facing very different election campaigns.

In Edmonton, Mayor Don Iveson is expected to coast to victory, with none of his twelve challenger mounting the kind of campaign needed to unseat a popular incumbent mayor.

As I told Global News, “the two most high-profile competitors have been one candidate who talked about bringing back smoking in public places and another candidate who became notable for simply not showing up to election forums.”

The lack of challengers is not a surprise when considering Iveson’s high approval ratings through most of his first term as mayor. Not taking the lack of competition for granted, Iveson has kept up a healthy pace of campaigning and policy announcements, and has been spotted lending his support to a handful of incumbent City Councillors running for re-election – Andrew Knack in Ward 1, Dave Loken in Ward 3, Michael Walters in Ward 10 and Moe Banga in Ward 12.

Meanwhile, looking south to Alberta’s largest city, incumbent Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi appears to be in the fight of his political life. The campaign began with a showdown between Nenshi and Calgary Flames President and CEO Ken King over funding for a new hockey arena (sound familiar, Edmonton?), but the narrative shifted into a referendum on Nenshi himself.

Nenshi, who took pride in winning two previous elections by campaigning “in full sentences,” now faces a conservative establishment candidate who has forgone any deep policy proposals. Bill Smith appears to be running almost purely on an “I’m not Nenshi” platform, which appears to be satisfactory for a significant portion of the electorate unhappy with the current Mayor.

He can sometimes be brash and over-confiendent, but Nenshi has done a lot over the past seven years to help reshape more than a few preconceived notions about Calgary and Alberta into a more modern, progressive and urban place.

While I am told by Calgarians that the race is expected be close, I am very skeptical of a recent poll showing Smith with a huge lead over Nenshi. Recent news that bailiffs were recently poised to seize the property of Smith’s law firm over a defaulted loan worth nearly $25,000 could dampen the challenger’s momentum in the final week of the campaign.

Unlike Iveson, who is expected to coast to victory on October 16, Nenshi and his team will need to work overtime for the next six days to secure his third term in office.


Nenshi and Iveson shared the stage to deliver the 10th Annual Hurtig Lecture on the Future of Canada held at the University of Alberta in 2015.

6 thoughts on “Nenshi in a tight race while Iveson coasts to victory

  1. Jerrymacgp

    Not being all that familiar with Calgary municipal politics, I wade into this somewhat hesitantly, but there are some things happening down there that are concerning for anyone. Bill Smith, Mr Nenshi’s most prominent challenger for Mayor, has apparently been openly endorsed by a major developer who has even stooped to sending his employees an email advising them who they should vote for. While the secret ballot means that this démarche may have less impact than he intended, the optics of this move are alarming. If Mr Smith wins the election, he will be clearly in the pocket of the property development industry, not a prospect that is necessarily in the greater public’s best interest.

    With federal and provincial politics being more intensely scrutinized for hints of malfeasance, and financing and lobbying rules and ethical standards being ever more tightened, the last remaining opportunity for graft and corruption has become civic politics. I hope the voters of Calgary don’t reward this behaviour by electing Mr Smith and his ilk.

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  2. Burt

    It’s ok to try and turn Calgary into a “a more modern, progressive and urban place” on the back of higher taxes and increased regulations.

    When times are tough people turn to pro-business candidates. Smith has the backing of the business community and will be expected to help turn the municipal economy around.

    Kudos to you for not blaming Nenshi’s loss on racism. Say what you will about the size of Smith’s lead, but Nenshi only releases that video if he thinks he is losing and needs to take dramatic action. It will likely backfire on him as people are sick of the appeals to identity politics.

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  3. TrueEdmontonian

    Gosh, I hope Iveson does not “coast to victory.” He’s ruined our streets, all for some bikes that only get used (for the most part) about half the year. All he’s done is DIScourage me from going downtown (and I live in Oliver). He ruined 102 and 100 Ave, Jasper Ave looks awful and runs poorly. He clearly doesn’t understand Edmonton, its weather, or common sense. What’s happening with Blatchford? He clearly believes the lie that fossil fuels are the devil – idiot. They’re proven to be actually less damaging that all these pie in the sky modern energy ideas. Maybe he should read more. Infill is a mess, and unfortunately just anyone can move into these nice old, established neighbourhoods, bringing down their value and charm. He screwed up on the LRT. Need I go on? He’s a terrible mayor, and clearly more about liberal ideals than actually serving the people of Edmonton. I vote Shewchuk.

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    1. David

      I think Iveson will win this one fairly easily. Perhaps the percentage result may influence him – a land side may make him resistant to making any changes, a lower percentage may cause him to rethink some things. There are several council seats open (ie. without incumbents), so who wins there may influence the direction of council considerably too. I am not anti bike lane per say, but yes it is a bit of an obstacle course downtown these days. Having fewer lanes and the restriction on right turns creates a lot of congestion and delays at busy times. I am sure many others share the frustration. I am not against his vision (and unlike most other candidates he does have a vision), but so far implementation has not been his strong suit and that does concern me.

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