Naheed Nenshi, the first Muslim to ever serve as mayor of a major North Amerian city, is stepping away from politics.
Nenshi said Tuesday he won’t run for a fourth term in Calgary, the city where he grew up–the son of Ismaili Muslim immigrants of Indian/Pakistani Gujarati origin who came to Canada from Tanzania in 1971, the year before Nenshi was born.
After winning 39 per cent of the vote in that initial election, Nenshi was reelected in 2013 with 74 per cent of the vote before eeking out a victory in 2017 with just 51 per cent of the vote, as Alberta felt the sting of tough times brought on by falling oil prices.
In a story published Tuesday evening, the CBC’s Drew Anderson reported that Nenshi came to his decision last Thursday.
He made the announcement during a Facebook Live session on Tuesday.
Perhaps it was the incongruity of it all that helped make Nenshi, arguably, the best-known mayor of Canada.
His was an image many had problems processing, at least at first: a sometimes disheveled, somewhat geeky, ofttimes exuberant guy who happened to be a Muslim.
A guy who looked about as much like a cowboy as The Cat in the Hat was now the mayor of Canada’s oil capital, a city that many believed (at least in their imaginations) was the closest thing to Texas outside Texas.
Toting a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, Nenshi, possessor of charm, wit and a fierce intelligence, soon became a familiar figure on national television discussing a wide range of political and social issues, becoming best known nationally for his handling of the 2013 flood that devastated Calgary.
Among other things, he became the first mayor to serve as grand marshal of Calgary’s Gay Pride Parade, in 2011.
But he faced criticism for the city’s handling of redistributing property taxes as the value of office towers in downtown Calgary plunged and his support to bring the Winter Olympics to Calgary in 2026 was not enough to win the day in a 2018 plebiscite.
As times grew tough in Alberta, his popularity tumbled.
He spoke of his legacy on Tuesday
“It was a tough decision to make but, ultimately, I think the right decision for me and I really hope the right decision for Calgary,” Nenshi said on Tuesday.
A CBC News report by Drew Anderson on the Nenshi era is available HERE.
With files from CBC News (Drew Anderson), The Canadian Press