No, Liberals and progressives alike, Nenshi isn’t throwing his hat into the provincial or federal arenas as either an MP or a leadership candidate.
He’s happiest where he is right now. Twenty years of schooling, networking, and focus has brought him to the mayoralty of Calgary. His efforts at the Kennedy School of government, his scholarship, and his efforts through consulting over the past dozen years, all have lead up to being the mayor. His founding of community associations, his efforts with communities, and his many roles as leader throughout his life has been finally accumulated to the point of the mayorship. City and community building is his passion.
The only way he’d be happier is if he was given trillions dollars and told to “have at it” at a patch of earth to build his perfect city. But this is inside the realm of fantasy and not what we have to deal with today in Calgary-Centre or for the leadership of the Liberals. Nenshi is happy where he is, has no plans on either Calgary-Centre or the leadership of a party. He’s focused on being the best mayor he can be and he is some 65 weeks from the next municipal election.
So he’s not going to run for the Liberals. Or push himself out of municipal politics.
This also forgets some fundamental problems with parties in Canadian politics. Nenshi has perfected the style of politics of communicating expertise coupled with slick and professional campaigning that creates at once meaning and a fundamental connection with voters. Attaching his name to a party would undermine that, along with the non-partisan coalition that pushed him to his successes in 2010. It would be a short and brutal entrance into another sphere of politics, and wouldn’t help either Calgarians or Nenshi.
This isn’t to say that any party wouldn’t want him. Or that he wouldn’t make a good MLA or MP. It’s just that the way that the current system is set up either this leader will either have to have the system change around him or for him to change himself–both options being difficult as he’s principled and the system stubborn. This is a problem. If parties cannot access the next generation of leaders there is going to be less and less effective government at the highest levels. Nenshi is only one example of this trend. There are many others who are engaged in their communities and cannot break into the party politics that dominate both the provincial and federal political arenas.
Two days ago Lee Richardson resigned to work with the Progressive Conservatives and Ms. Redford in Edmonton. The first thing that is apparent is that a federal Tory joined the Progressive Conservatives, and not the Wildrose. That should but a substantial damper on those who equate Ms. Smith’s Wildrose and the Conservative Party of Canada as being different faces of the same coin.
Secondly, a few predictions.
There will not be a Conservative on Conservative bloodbath. Anyone who is going to rely on that media line or whisper campaign will not have their efforts rewarded. The central party and Stephen Harper have ample control over their partisans and the candidate selection process. This was effectively seen in 2011 with the selection of Michelle Rempel, a long time Conservative partisan and fundraising bureaucrat at the University of Calgary, who was acclaimed to the nomination in Jim Prentice’s old riding, Calgary-Centre North, even though some very powerful candidates were in the wings gathering support and memberships for a nomination run. Rumours of Ric McIver and Barb Higgins were both individuals interested in running for the nomination, amongst others, and their efforts were squashed. So a Conservative on Conservative bloodbath wont happen.
Will it be a competed nomination battle? Again, this is very unlikely. As showcased with the Michelle Rempel example there is a focus on setting up a candidate who is reliable and script-able. Nothing else will matter for the Harper Conservatives. There will be no star candidate or massive media personality put into the riding as it would both be a risk for the party and a unstable situation for post-election politics for Harper. The election is going to draw a fair amount of attention to Calgary and to the constituency so any risks for the Tories will be stamped out.
This is why the suggestion of Ezra Levant running is such a joke. Mr. Levant cannot be controlled. He is a media personality and a stubborn debater, who will go toe to toe with people about any issue of the day rather than stay the course in a strategic, highly scripted environment. He’s more of a liability to the Conservatives than anything else. There are mature people in the Conservative party who recognize that Mr. Levant is uncontrollable and is a giant liability, and they’ll kibosh any effort to draft Levant.
The timing of the by-election has to be called sometime in the next six months. The most opportune time would be in the fall, as both the Conservative constituency association needs more time to fundraise after the expenditures of the 2011 election and avoid the summer lull that leaves volunteers, organizers, and supporters caring more about BBQs than polling queues. So the announcement or the actual by-election is going to be delayed by at least four months. Continue reading