10.20.2010 08:53 AM

Nenshi and Ford thread

Why did the former win, why is the latter (seemingly) about to do so? I’m interested in your views. Comments are open.


  1. Still Anonymous says:

    Nenshi won for two reasons: one, he had a simple but clear message which he communicated effectively on all media platforms, including especially social media; and two, the vote on the right was split. There may be a third reason, which Iggy may be trying to tap into, and that is the trend of incumbents, especially career politicians, being tossed out by a restless public.

    Ford is not going to win. But, if he does, vote splitting on the left will be a big reason. He is also a charming demagogue.

    • DL says:

      How can there be a split on the left when Smitherman is a right-of centre Liberal who would probably sue for libel if anyone called him leftwing??

    • Namesake says:

      Ford “charming”? He’s like a cross between SNL’s Chris Farley & the 3 Stooges Curly. Them’s pretty unlucky charms.

      • Cath says:

        Give us a break namesake. Nenshi won because he’s not big, white, angry fellow. Ford will win because he is…guess what? A big, white, angry fellow, but so too is Furious George.

        The difference though is that Smitherman still hasn’t publicly worn the effects of his time as Health Mininster and the e-health scandal, and Rob Ford hasn’t changed his message from day one. That is what will win for Ford.

        What Ford will loose on is the optics of fear. If that’s the case then Toronto’s pretty much sunk.

    • Namesake says:

      Nemshi (sic)? “They all sound alike”?

      • James Curran says:

        It should be noted that the fiscal responsibility tide is definitely running in fords favour.

        You mean the type of fiscal Deficit Jim and Harpoon Harper have put forth Gord? Because that’s what Toronto’s in store for if Ford wins.

  2. Robbie says:

    Backlash and reactive politics. Calgary voters may be reacting to the fact Harper holds a seat there and the provincial Conservatives are losing their grip. Toronto may be reacting to the fact Mr Harper doesn’t hold a seat in Toronto and the provincial Liberals are unpopular in the polls. Or it could simply be the backlash against local policies property tax payers are fed up with. I know that Gregor is taking a pounding in Vancouver; but there is not enough opposition on council to stop his bizarre obsessin with bike lanes and the city’s chicken coop d’etat.

    • Brian says:

      Not that I`d complain if that was the case, but Calgary`s vote had absolutely nothing to do with Stephen Harper – even if it did make some of Harper`s local people look a little dry and overconfident in the process.

  3. Annie says:

    He has a very bright personality and is intelligent..also has charisma

  4. Congrats on the new gig with Sun.

    It is not over yet, but advance polling spike bodes well for Rob Ford. (Change and demographics)

    Media and opponents gave the spotlight to Rob Ford for weeks. Ford’s character was attacked by establishment, they ignored his simple message less spending and respect for taxpayers. Candidates than joined Rob Ford tax fighter message and calls for spending restraint. Media attacked public that shared view of shrinking spending at City Hall. David Miller agenda is on the ballot.

    Both Ford and rookie Calgary candidate used technology. Traditional media, special interest groups, experts can’t stop a wave or a movement. Taxpayers are at limits with new spending.

    Pretending to be a “tax fighter” after years of spending increases and taxes won’t wash. Preaching to the already converted won’t work.

    Did not find a single sign for Lib-Dem in Etobicoke-York Weston on route to visit family. Found 100 Rob Ford signs, 40 on front lawns. Organization.

    The media gave Rob Ford a substantial awareness boost in delivering his simple message. His message may have resonated.

  5. H Holmes says:

    Its the same reason B Obama was elected.

    Sometimes the hope of something radically different inspires people and if its the right time it can inspire a lot of people.
    Its hard to fight this type of momentum once it starts, but usually the wave doesn’t last and if it peaks too early it can lead to doom for the candidate.

    I lived in Minnesota when Jesse Venture won.

    People weren’t voting for him as much as they were voting against the establishment.

    The Tea party movement is the same.

    Almost every western democracy right has a large section of people looking for change, some places are real left and want to go back right and vice versa.

    Interesting times for political observer.

    • VH says:

      The billionaire funded Tea Party candidates have self chosen to run as part of the Republican party on the ballot.

      Who knew that a vote for the tax-cuts-for-billionaires Republican party is really a vote “against the establishment”?

      Simply ingenious.

      • H Holmes says:

        Its the other way around.

        What started as a grassroots movement was adopted by some in big business.

        Talk to middle class suburban voters in the USA and they will tell you that they want less intrusion in their life and less government in general.
        They are sick of their money being spent on helping those that refuse to help themselves and they don’t what legislators to tell them what to do.
        I also don’t think candidates like O’Donnell, Miller or Angle were people that the “establishment” wanted.

        Its easy to down play the other side, but you do so at your own expense.

        In the future all parties should realize taxing seniors or changing their perceived benefits will lead to your ruin.
        They are only one group of people that have time to mobilize, the unemployed.

        The difference between the right and left is that the unemployed leftist don’t have jobs in general and won’t vote.
        The unemployed person on the right is retired in general, with money and will vote.

        • VH says:

          Even assuming what you state is true, which it’s not and I don’t have the time nor inclination to uneducate you, you’re saying the “anti-establishment” movement has already been co-opted by the party of the rich, before they’ve even had to face the electorate.

          Knock me over with a feather but that’s some really strong anti-establishment types you must have there.
          res ipsa loquitur.

  6. Tim says:

    Mr. Nenshi won because he was a strong candidate who was able to communicate effectively. Rick McIver has never been regarded as a real force in Calgary politics by anyone I know. Barb Higgins figured people were ready for a fresh face in the mayor’s chair; she was right, she just wasn’t a strong enough candidate to trade on her name recognition. To suggest that Mr. Nenshi is some kind of left wing progressive is just a skewed narrative or an indicator of how out of whack political descriptions in this country have become. He’s a business professor and his website is called cutredtape.ca for crying out loud. So I don’t think he represents any kind of seismic shift in Calgarians’ political attitudes.

    I don’t live in Toronto but if Rob Ford wins I suspect it’s from weakness on George Smitherman’s part. The other question I’d ask is if there are lessons for a guy like Rocco Rossi to learn from the success of the Nenshi campaign, or if there’s a difference in the political cultures of Toronto and Calgary that prevented him from gaining a foothold?

    Calgary Grit has an excellent analysis of what went right for Naheed Nenshi and my guess would be that a lot of it came down to timing and luck.

    • Crocker Jarmon says:

      I think the main difference between Rocco and Nenshi is the municipal political culture. In Toronto money is much more powerful than it is in Calgary, the campaigns here are slicker and larger due to the vast population they have to reach. As a result, the air can get sucked out of the room a lot faster and quicker than it would anywhere else.

      • ed says:

        Nenshi had clear message from the beginning and stuck to it. Rossi had a knee-jerk opinion on everything and changed it several times in his campaign.

  7. CaligulaJones says:

    Personally, I’m just sick and tired of being talked down to by politicians, particularly of the caliber of the Bussins of this world. Or the McGuintys, Harpers or Obamas, for that matter.

    Any politician that gives any sort of vibe of gut-level honesty will get interest now. Maybe not votes, but ignoring why people are mad is just dumb. The Dems in the States will learn, and so will the Republicans when they realize they’ve sent a bunch of morons to Washington and given them power.

    We’re a bit different here being a parliamentary democracy, but that does leave municipal politics, doesn’t it?

  8. Steven says:

    Ford is better able than Smitherman to shine a light on the Miller / Pantalone / NDP culture of institutional sloth and entitlement and their “s–t doesn’t smell” attitude.

  9. Here’s a thought: Perhaps the deeply ingrained “west = rednecks; east = progressives” is really a self-serving myth. It’s possible that all the regional rhetoric we hear is overblown and exaggerated. And maybe, just maybe, people vote for reasons other than the relative location of a point on a line.

  10. Jason Hickman says:

    Leaving value judgments aside, I think it’s a 2-part answer, which I’m sure you know very well:

    You need a message/theme that plays. And you have to be comfortable in your own skin.

    For most of the campaign, Ford has been in front of the public with a clear, direct message that resonated. He also didn’t try to pretend to be anything other than what he is. Many people may hate that. Lots of others obviously don’t, and sometimes people will go for someone they may not otherwise agree with or even like, if that person is being genuine. In that respect, Ford reminds me of a certain p’tit gars who did likewise federally back in ’93. Obviously he and Chretien are like chalk and cheese in a LOT of ways, but in those repsects at least, Ford ’10 reminds me of Chretien ’93.

    Not living in Calgary, I’m on less certain ground when it comes to Nenshi, but it looks like he had his own message/theme: he was the Man with the Plan, who had a set of policies to address Calgarians’ concerns. He also seemed quite comfortable with who he is; just like Ford didn’t pretend to be a latte-lovin’ downtowner, Nenshi didn’t – as far as I know – pretend to be a good ol’ boy, or anything other than who he is: a young, smart, urbane guy with some good ideas who was willing to try new methods of getting those ideas, and himself, out there to the public.

    Obviously there are other factors at play; in Toronto, we have MillerFatigue, and Ford’s opponents – including, I’m sorry to say, Rocco, who I was going to vote for – had their own issues to deal with. I’m sure there were other factors in Calgary, too.

    But at the end of the day, what Ford & Nenshi seem to have in common is (a) an agenda that they were able to own, represent and stick with, and (b) an ability to be themselves.

    My $0.02. I’d be interested if you & the other folks here agree.

  11. TK says:

    Calgary isn’t the city it was 10 or 15 years ago. I’ve just moved from Ottawa – being originally from SW Ontario – and if I had believed everything anyone ever told me about Calgary, I would have come with bigger belt buckles. But Calgary is young, it’s swamped with people raising little kids and they’re looking for ways to make their lives easier. Combine that with a serious ‘cut the crap’ attitude and Calgarians went for the candidate who kept to the point and didn’t beat around the bush. On their websites, Nenshi delivered a short-but-relevant synopsis of his platform, McIver had a photo gallery and Higgins’ video was a series of outtakes from different events. Only Nenshi spoke directly to his viewer and only Nenshi took the time to lay out his reasons for running beyond “It’s time for a change”. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve learned this about the people here – they don’t really give a rat’s a** what you look like. If you can back up your words with actions, they’re very happy to give you a shot. Pragmatic to the core. Welcome to Calgary.

    • Namesake says:

      Nice analysis. ANd you raise, or rather embody, another important point, which is that with it’s sustained boom, Calgary’s pop. has increased so much over the past 20 years, mostly with provincial in-migration, of, by their very movement, less provincial, younger, more diverse people than they used to have: so in a sense, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile.” (While in TO., they’re about to get a Used, gas-guzzling & emitting Ford.)

      • H Holmes says:

        Calgary and Alberta have almost always lead the nation in diversity in their politics.
        All the way from the person’s case in 1930 to the First Muslim legislator in 1979.
        You can be whatever you want in Calgary as long as you are will to work hard and help your neighbour.
        I think that there is a lot of assimilation when people move to Calgary.
        The very western values of small government and strong social values hold true with most people that move there..
        For example Alberta has some of the best benefits for the disabled in the country.
        This is province of Social Credit and Preston Manning.
        Even many people that eventually leave the city still Identify themselves with Calgary and Alberta.

        These values are the reason way it is hard for traditional eastern liberals to understand Alberta.
        However there is lots to learn from the inclusiveness that Calgary brings to the table.

  12. matt says:

    Nenshi won because he said smart things and, more importantly, made his pitch in the right way – more on that below.

    The right-wing vote splitting suggestion as a reason for his win is, with respect, incorrect. I have a lot of difficulty believing that Higgins was a “right wing” candidate relative to Nenshi. McIver used Tory colours and had the tightwad “Dr. No” rep, but that rep played into credible accusations that he didn’t play nice with others. Higgins had little more than the catchphrase “fiscal conservative with a social conscience.” That describes pretty much every candidate for office in a western democracy since Clinton/Blair and, at an intuitive level, voters now know that.

    Nenshi leaned heavily on social media to steer people to his website – facebook ads, google ads, and twitter. The website was fantastic: loaded with policy, but policy that was clearly presented and straightforward. He made a huge effort to emphasize that in doing things smarter he wouldn’t necessarily spend more. His direct mail materials played up his U. Calgary commerce degree and McKinsey experience, and he had “cutredtape.ca” as one of his campaign sites. And, as many commenters have noted, the man oozes charisma and credibility. To that end his website is loaded with video chats, and in the last week of the campaign he bought 30 min of primetime TV to have himself interviewed in a townhall format. The TV media were also pretty friendly, depicting him as “the guy who literally wrote the book about how to fix city hall”. And the Calgary Sun of all places endorsed him the day before (the Herald went with McIver, which is something I will tell them the next time I decline their telemarketers).

    The reason his pitch was done right is because a) it excited otherwise apathetic/cyncial voters with a constructive and credible message, b) he was careful not to scare wary voters by leaning on his business background in a business-friendly town, c) he was able to create a sense of momentum. On c), there is a similarity to the recent provincial election, in that the undecided vote was huge until the final days (~20%) and in the absence of momentum people went with the default incumbent option. The release of the “three-way race” poll a week before the vote is personally what brought me over. I was dreading voting for Higgins as the only option to avoid McIver and as soon as Nenshi was solidly in the mix my vote was locked down. The timing of the release of those numbers (deliberately or not) was perfect: Nenshi got momentum, but (as McIver noted) noone realized it in sufficient time to target him with negative advertising. One wonders what the text of the poll questions was and whether their phrasing (deliberately or not) served to increase Nenshi’s share of the intented votes.

  13. smelter rat says:

    Because Calgarians are “elitist” and Torontoians aren’t? Who knew?

  14. Riley says:

    Nenshi and Obama won because they activated young voters. Young voters tend to vote less conservative. Ford has the support he does because of older people. If the hong show up to vote Ford will lose. Harper will lose too if the folks wh dislike him show up to vote. Conservatives get more power and attention than they warrant. If we had mandatory — preferential — voting the cons wouldn’t form a government for the next 100 years. Young people hardly ever vote —

  15. d. andy jette says:

    My understanding of the Calgary debate was that there really wasn’t a clear left-right spectrum at play. Nor was incumbency. I’d interpret Nenshi’s win as reflecting the anti-establishment movement that’s sweeping across North America. This is fundamentally an undefined movement in terms of political spectrum: the same movement that gace us Obama gave us Palin and the Tea Party. In Calgary, given a choice of a CTV personality and a long-standing politician with high-profile organizational support, voters said none of the above.

    Based on that, it’s not surprising that in TO, given a choice between a former provincial Cabinet minister, a federal Liberal organizer, and Miller’s handpicked successor, a critical mass of voters are perparing to choose none of the above as well.

  16. TK says:

    Further to my above comment – voter turnout was A-mazing to watch. As an outsider, I wasn’t able to vote in this election. And having just escaped the Big Federal Machine in Ottawa, I had a really interesting vantage point. In my neighbourhood which is just south of the fastest growing quadrant in Calgary, the line ups were literally out the door and down the sidewalk. I can’t remember ever waiting in line to vote in any election in Ontario. In some areas I’m told the wait was an hour-and-a-half to two hours!! After work with kids!! Incredible. Given the population growth, I’m guessing this was a first-time experience for a lot of folks who missed the last go-round.

    Interestingly (to me) Nenshi drew a lot of support from the NE – an area that white bread Calgarians tend to avoid – while still holding on to those folks too. With Calgary growing at such a rate (and the city is a mess of construction and cranes – truly. Stay off the Glenmore!! And the Deerfoot has been a nightmare for months!) and for such a long time now, many of the people who supported Nenshi have lived in other cities, other provinces and other countries. That’s a lot of diversity of perspective. Calgary isn’t as multicultural as T.O. but people here seem to feel connected to government in a way I didn’t see in Ottawa. When Chiarelli was mayor there, folks didn’t like him and just shrugged their shoulders. When O’Brien was voted in and then subsequently investigated and convicted, same again. There wasn’t any sense of . . . anything. Here, I get the feeling these folks would beat down some doors and there’s no appetite for ‘cutting him some slack’. You get one shot at this. If you can’t cut it, you’re out. Think that’s what happened to McIver. But without the voter turnout (a lot higher this time around than in previous municipal elections), it would have been a different story.

    Muscular politics around here!

  17. allegra fortissima says:

    Rocco Rossi didn’t have enough time to run his campaign successfully. And maybe, just maybe, he quit the race too early.
    Unfortunately, the auto-brand had enough time to pollute the atmosphere – which kind of stinks. What a little “charmer”…

    “There are four priority areas that we will not be cutting: affordable housing, the environment, public safety and arts and culture” – Gregor is one of the best mayors Vancouver ever had. Keep the good work up, Mr. Robertson.

    And Congratulations Naheed Nenshi, I wish you the very best! Canada needs more mayors like you.

  18. James Bow says:

    Here’s my theory:

    Calgary 2010 = Toronto 2003.

    In voters’ minds, Nenshi 2010 = Miller 2003.

    He ran a good campaign and appealed to the hearts and minds of Calgarians by asking what they aspired to be. Time will tell if he lives up to what voters hope he’ll achieve. And it will be interesting to see what happens in 2014 or 2018 when Nenshi has a record that he has to defend.

  19. J. Coates says:

    Love or hate Rob Ford, he isn’t a dull Mayoral candidate. I saw a You Tube clip showing someone calling him a “fat f–k” in Council chambers. When a politician goes this low, Rob Ford must be doing something right.

    Mr. Ford wasted no time in taking him to task. Good for him!

    As a former fat f–k, I applaud him.

    • allegra fortissima says:

      Since you like him so much, why don’t you enroll him and pay for his Weight Watchers membership, J.Coates? Includes food list, recipes, points, and even a calculator. The latter he needs most!

    • Namesake says:

      Hold your applause: that clip was of a REPORTER allegedly saying that to Ford, for misleading the journo about what Ford allegedly knew about another councillor’s secret vote. (i.e., Ford had not only attempted to violate a confidence, but misrepresented the fact that he didn’t actually have knowledge of it at all, but had only made an assumption &/or inference about it, which pissed the reporter off for his wasting his time & attempting to sling mud at another pol w/o foundation)

      this was all discussed here a week or two ago: http://warrenkinsella.com/2010/10/now-imagine-what-it-would-be-like-if-he-has-power/

  20. Rome says:

    I think that when a good portion of the public get mad at sitting politicians, they don’t stop and think about what they want out of the next person. They just react. Which usually means to run screaming in the opposite direction.

    I know lots of people who support Ford. And, I can poke big gaping holes in every one of his promises. But, they don’t care. They are so wrapped up in their anger, they don’t realize they’ve made a bad decision. Once a decision has been made, it’s hard to get a person to switch……..no matter how much sense you make…..they think they are right and you are wrong. It’s why they ignore Ford’s drunk driving conviction, his piss-poor transit plan, his outbursts. And, at the same time voraciously slamming everyone else.

    I bet the same thing happened in Calgary. I visited there for the first time this year. If I was a Calgarian, I’d be pissed, too. For all it’s wealth, and all it’s resources, it’s kind of pathetic. It should be on it’s way to becoming Canada’s Dubai. And, it’s nowhere close.

    I bet that Calgarians got sick & tired of the old, white, no-energy, no-vision, corporate shill. And, they went screaming in the opposite direction…….to the young, single, idea-filled, brown, Muslim.

    There’s one more thing, though, for Calgary. So many people moving there from the rest of the country, the eventually the hard-right base would be diluted. Could this mean the Grits will have a chance one day?

  21. TK says:

    Not. A. Snowball’s. Chance. In. Hell.

    ‘Cause the one topic guaranteed to make their heads explode in a conversation is funding Quebec’s social programs. And the Liberals will never distance themselves from Quebec. And so Calgary will never vote Liberal federally.

  22. AL says:

    Nenshi was the only candidate brave enough to take on the chief of police over the ever growing police budget. Too bad no candidate in Toronto is courageous enough to do that.

    • bagkitty says:

      Finally, someone identifies the turning point in the election – when Nenshi as candidate had the gall to quote the publicly available information about the police budge and provoke the powers that be (the Chief of Police in the particular interest, but it could have been the City Hall Managers) to froth at the mouth and interfere in the campaign itself. It was at that point that a lot of us started paying more attention to him… and paying attention to the fact that the nay-saying by the non-elected figures in authority weren’t refuting him, just attacking him.

      I am sure that the fact his “purple revolution” was using the same tonal range as the NDs used until a few years ago had nothing at all to do with his win. *wink*

  23. Greg says:

    It must feel like Bizzaro World for Torontonians. Calgary elects a visable minority mayor who is progressive and well educated. Toronto is looking like it may elect angry intolerent Rob Ford.

    Warren, your latte sipping Volvo driving ways are welcome back in your home town.

  24. Ken says:

    Nenshi won because he motivated people who hadn’t voted in a long time, or had never voted before. I think it shows that anyone can win in Calgary (Liberals included), provided they get out the vote.

    • Crocker Jarmon says:

      But Nenshi was running an independent campaign, without having to defend a national platform or party structure/history. Not sure you can assume that anyone could win.

  25. HonestB says:

    Nenshi won because he ran a good campaign. A better campaign than most people run in mayoral elections. He talked to people like they weren’t idiots and suggested actual solutions to problems facing the city.

    Ford’s the front-runner because nobody’s running a good campaign in Toronto. He’s got a base that’s at least excited.

  26. FDRomanoski says:

    The many who seem to b certain there are *differences* between Ford and Nenshi are not looking past skin shades and religious affiliations.
    What will be shocking to many is that they are extremely similar with a different method of presentation and look but the progressive policies and fiscal conservatism are quite similar.

    • HonestB says:

      Nenshi isn’t really a fiscal conservative. I mean, he’s not leftist, but his campaign was about promising more money for a whole host of city services, but with more accountability attached to that spending. If you looked at his campaign videos and came out with the impression he’s a “fiscal conservative,” I’d be fascinated to hear what made you think that.

      McIver ran on fiscal conservatism in a way that’s more comparable to Ford (and more typical of Calgary politics), actually promising to cut spending and against raising taxes. Certainly the narrative the media had going into the election was the Calgarians were fed up with the city spending so much money and wanted fiscal restraint, but the election didn’t actually go that way. McIver was one of the longest serving aldermen in Calgary so he couldn’t really pretend to be outside of the establishment, which I think has worked in Ford’s favour.

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