Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi wins 2014 World Mayor Prize, first Canadian mayor to win award

Official photo
Official photo

IN December 2014, the City Mayors Foundation, a London-based international think tank, released a list of 10 mayors from across the globe who they say stand out in terms of public support. Citizens were then given the opportunity to share why their mayor is the best.

Thousands of testimonials were received, according to the City Mayors Foundation, and were considered by the World Mayor jury.

On Monday, the foundation declared Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi the winner followed by Daniël Termont, Mayor of Ghent, Belgium, and Mayor Tri Rismaharini of Surabaya, Indonesia, who was awarded the World Mayor Commendation.

“He (Nenshi) is an urban visionary who doesn’t neglect the nitty-gritty of local government,” said the City Mayors Foundation in a release. “For many in North America and indeed Europe, Mayor Nenshi is a role model for decisive management, inclusivity and forward thinking.”

The World Mayor Prize is awarded every two years. Mayor Nenshi is the first Canadian mayor to win the award.

Nenshi said: “This is a wonderful, unexpected honour from The World Mayor Project. Thank you to the many Calgarians and people from around the world who took the time to nominate me for this award. It speaks to their own engagement, as citizens, in making our city a great place of opportunity for all. Of course, the most important indicator of success for any politician is the improvement of the lives the people they represent. I continue to work hard to make Calgary an even better city, and that work is far from over.”

Nenshi is currently serving his second term and is Calgary’s 36th mayor.

According to the mayor’s website: “During his first term in office, Mayor Nenshi’s leadership resulted in many positive changes in Calgary to build better communities, keep Calgarians moving, and transform government to reinforce a culture of constant citizen-focused improvement at The City of Calgary.

“Prior to becoming mayor, he was Canada’s first tenured professor in the field of nonprofit management at Mount Royal University’s Bissett School of Business and a trusted business advisor to corporate leaders in Canada and the USA.

“His real passion is to make cities, especially Calgary, work better. He’s the lead author of Building Up: Making Canada’s Cities Magnets for Talent and Engines of Development and has long put his ideas to work in Calgary.

“Mayor Nenshi grew up in Calgary and has lived and worked in cities around the world before returning home. He holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree (with distinction) from the University of Calgary and a Master in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he studied as a Kennedy Fellow.”


NENSHI became Calgary’s first Muslim mayor – and the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city – in 2010 in spite of a smear campaign against him. Calgarians showed the racist and bigoted elements in their society that they were going to fight back. His two main rivals had more money and one of them even had the backing of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s campaign team, but volunteers of Nenshi’s grassroots campaign just blew away the competition.

Almost 54 per cent of eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots – the highest turnout in three decades.

He won with 39 per cent of the vote with alderman Ric McIver getting 32 per cent and former CTV anchor Barb Higgins receiving 26 per cent. McIver was supported by the city’s conservatives and was the frontrunner.

Analysts said that Nenshi’s win proved the vital role that the Internet now plays in politics. Nenshi had more Facebook friends than the other two main candidates.

As for being a Muslim, Calgary’s first visible minority mayor told CTV back then: “I don’t shy away from anything – I can’t. It is who I am. The colour of my skin, my faith, the neighbourhood I grew up in, my education, my experiences and ideas are all part of the crazy package that makes up Naheed and part of the crazy package that makes up Calgary.

“My hope is that every kid waking up this morning in (Calgary) when their parents showed them the newspaper or turned on the TV . . . regardless of background, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of income or faith, said, ‘Wow, in Canada and Calgary, I can do anything.'”

But some racists just couldn’t hide their feelings. Calgary-North Hill Tory MLA Kyle Fawcett, a supporter of Higgins, responded to Nenshi’s win by sending the following Tweet: “Nenshi . . . BIG mistake Calgary!”

Alberta’s then Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach said that his MLA was remorseful.

Of course, now all the racists must be feeling S-T-U-P-I-D!