Nenshi talks Calgary

Albertan mayor pays visit to Queen’s to promote city to students

Naheed Nenshi spoke to a crowd of approximately 100 people yesterday.
Naheed Nenshi spoke to a crowd of approximately 100 people yesterday.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi came to campus yesterday to promote Calgary as a place for Queen’s students to live and work after graduation.

The event, which was held in the Biosciences Complex, was attended by approximately 100 Queen’s students and faculty.

AIESEC Queen’s coordinated the event with the mayor. He visited Kingston between his visits to Ottawa and Toronto as part of a tour of Ontario.

During the talk, Nenshi focused on the sense of community in Calgary as well as the city’s strong economy and growing arts scene.

He displayed photographs of the floods that struck Calgary last year at the start of the presentation.

“It was the costliest natural disaster in Canadian history,” he said.

The human cost was also enormous, he added, as thousands of people lost their belongings and were displaced from their homes.

However, the volunteer response was also huge. Thousands of people responded to calls for volunteers, and organized themselves to help in any way they could.

He said that unlike most Canadian cities, Calgary actually suffers a chronic labour shortage, and needs more young workers to move into the city to fill jobs.

“I’m lucky to be a mayor whose biggest problem is not youth unemployment,” Nenshi said.

Additionally, Calgary has the largest number of technology startups per capita in Canada, he said, and is a major centre for finance in the energy industry.

“People interested in finance have huge opportunities there,” he said.

Nenshi added that Calgary is a tolerant and accepting community. He was surprised to find himself featured in major media outlets as the first Muslim mayor of a major city in North America since it hadn’t been important for his election.

“Nobody in Calgary cared about those things,” he said. “It says a lot about Canada.” He also said the theatre and music scenes in Calgary have grown in the last few years, and provided examples of arts organizations in the city, such as the One Yellow Rabbit theatre company.

After the talk, he ran a question session, where he spoke about the Albertan provincial government the Parti Quebecois’ proposed Charter of Values and his views on municipal politics.

The Charter of Values is a proposed bill that will forbid the wearing of religious items and garments for most public sector workers.

He said the Charter of Values could be called “the Charter of Racism” and that it clashes with the ideal of pluralism upheld by the rest of Canada.

The Charter is a “crass political maneuver” by the Quebec premier and it was meant to create division between Quebec and the rest of Canada, Nenshi said.

He added that he opposes party politics in municipal elections, and although he could have run a slate of like-minded councillors, he decided against it.

“I like the thought that my ideas get stress tested,” he said.

In response to a question on cuts to education in Alberta, Nenshi said the Albertan government’s treatment of education has been short-sighted. However, he added, universities are also somewhat at fault.

“We have made it much too easy to pick on universities,” he said.

Nenshi said universities should do a better job in explaining the value they provide to their communities.

He also spoke on building culture in a city like Calgary, and said the focus should be on investing in improving the quality of life.

“It needs to be somewhere people want to live. Culture begets culture.”


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