MRU’s Naheed Nenshi elected mayor
by Zoey Duncan
“Today Calgary is a different place than it was yesterday,” he says. There is a pause for cheers, during which a toothy grin splits across his face. “It’s a better place.” For a city gripped with election fever, Naheed Nenshi’s victory to become Calgary’s 36th mayor on Oct. 18 was an emotional capstone to a heated campaign that brought out a record 53.24 per cent of eligible voters. Barely two hours after the polls closed, CTV News projected Nenshi victorious. Election addicts on Twitter responded with a mixture of disbelief and surprise at the early declaration. Half an hour later, as the last notes of the Black Eyed Peas’ hit “I Gotta Feeling” faded away at her headquarters, an emotional Barb Higgins stood before her supporters to thank them for helping her run a strong campaign. “I won the satisfaction of knowing that I jumped into the game,” Higgins said, voice cracking. At the same time, Ric McIver’s camp said that they would wait 45 minutes for more results before conceding. “(Nenshi) didn’t look like he expected to win,” said Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams. “And McIver looked like he expected to win.”
At McIver’s campaign headquarters the mood shifted as media- reported polls rolled in results: from jubilant enthusiasm to disbelief, and even anger from some supporters. “This is certainly not the result we anticipated,” said the veteran alderman, his heartbreak evident. “We all need to pat (Nenshi) on the back when he does a good job. And we all need to let him know when he doesn’t. But we need to wish him well.” A sea of purple-clad volunteers and supporters filled Nenshi’s downtown headquarters on election night. Erin Delamont, an MRU student in the final year of her BBA, was Nenshi’s youth engagement coordinator. “He’s just such a wonderful man and such an inspiration,” said Delamont, who took four classes with Nenshi as part of her minor in non-profit studies.
Delamont said that early numbers – which showed Barb Higgins in the lead, after a few hundred votes had been counted – were “terrifying.” “I didn’t really want to believe the numbers that they were telling us,” she said. “I just was glued to the TV. It was scary, but exciting.” When CTV News declared Nenshi winner, the reaction was “raw excitement,” said a breathless Delamont, still reeling from an emotional night. Nenshi’s campaign was notable for its innovative use of social media, and though pundits were hesitant to link his cyber-popularity – he has 12,870 “Likes” on Facebook to McIver’s 4,278 – to real-life votes, his campaign clearly got people talking. Williams said online access voters had to information such as videos of debates made it easy for them to form their own opinions. The City of Calgary’s unofficial election results tallied 140,263 votes (40 per cent) for Nenshi, 112, 386 (32 per cent) for McIver, and 91,359 (26 per cent) for Higgins. With files from Kevin Rushworth.