Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

It’s the end of an era. On October 18, Calgary and Edmonton will both elect new mayors for the first time in years.

Neither Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi nor Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson are running for re-election.

They reflected on their careers with West of Center host Kathleen Petty.

Leadership during a global pandemic

Both mayors are ending their terms as Alberta battles the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With double-digit deaths reported daily, more than a year and a half into the pandemic, both Iveson and Nenshi say, “it could have been avoided.”

Nenshi did not hold back on what it was like to work with the provincial government while the pandemic raged.

He said early communication with Alberta Premier Jason Kenney was frequent, but over the summer that changed.

“You know, in June, I really said yes [Kenney], I think you’re going a little too fast. I sit on the board of Calgary Stampede, so I expressed some of the concerns Calgary Stampede had about holding a safe event, ”he said.

“It was not Stampede who pressured the province to have Stampede, by the way, but it was Stampede who would be very responsible and figure out a way to bring the spirit back to the city in a safe way.”

Both Calgary and Edmonton independently introduced mask mandates early in the pandemic, and in September, Calgary also independently introduced a bypass for vaccine passes to ensure consistent use of the province’s restriction exemption program throughout the city.

Both mayors say they wanted more action from the provincial government ahead of the fourth wave.

“If this was a flood or a fire that we had no idea was going on, then we could really focus on keeping people safe and solving the problem. But the downstream here is that it’s so much worse in Alberta, and we could have avoided it, “said Nenshi.

Nurses get ready before going to a COVID-19 patient at the ICU at the Peter Lougheed Center in Calgary on November 14, 2020. (Submitted by AHS / Leah Hennel)

Modeling showed there would be a fourth wave in the fall, and it came faster than expected, Nenshi said, as he told Kenney, “basically told people if you do not have your vaccine, do not worry, we have already hit our vaccine targets.

“This was very, very foolish.”

Iveson said he reached out to express concerns in August, which is the last time he was in contact with the prime minister.

He said he wanted the province to intervene so as not to place the burden on the municipalities.

“We have always wanted the province to bend its authority, because then it is consistent and clear across jurisdictional boundaries,” Iveson said.

“The people in the leadership of Alberta Health Services … are in a devastating position to have to pick up the pieces of the abolition of the leadership on the political side. So despite that, there has been a massive and further erosion of public confidence in public institutions, specifically this provincial government. “

Colliding management methods

Nenshi said UCP cabinet ministers have contacted him during meetings via calls or texts in frustrating moments.

“I know that even those cabinet ministers who are just trying to do a good job are frustrated that they are not able to make decisions or move matters forward because small party policies get in the way,” Nenshi said.

“People come to me and say, ‘how can I move this project forward? You know how we get this done?’ “It indicates to me that we have a real problem here and the challenge is not so much ideology. I can handle any ideology.”

‘Enemies Mode’

In 2019 became provincial government planned to repeal the city charters for Edmonton and Calgary, reducing their base expenses by $ 45 million a year.

Iveson was about to board a plane for a business trip to Holland when the news fell.

“After we kicked our teeth, we had taken the conversion of the city charter … of course it was moved out from under us with our heads up, and I actually got off a plane and came back to the law to respond to the loss of the city charter, said Iveson.

“Those kinds of enemies started up after that, not just with Edmonton and Calgary, but ultimately kind of lighting up municipal leaders from one end of the province to the other about subsidies and police issues – and kind of differenting us as if we were the problem,” said Iveson.

Biggest regret

Both mayors spoke of their greatest regrets from their time in office.

“The council made a number of mistakes in terms of our budget and business support. That is the biggest regret in the council,” Nenshi said, referring to a period of 18 months in 2018 and early 2019.

In 2019, Calgary City Council looked to see if it could ease the tax burden on businesses by raising taxes on homeowners.

On a personal level, Nenshi says his biggest regret was not pushing the Olympics across the line.

The Calgars arrive to vote in a referendum on whether the city should proceed with a bid for the Winter Olympics 2026 on Tuesday. (Jeff McIntosh / The Canadian Press)

In 2018, Calgarians voted against a bid to host the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2026. The “No” side won with 56.4 percent of the vote.

For Iveson, it was unable to close a deal to end homelessness in the city, even though he said the city has housed more than 13,000 people using Housing First.

“I’m very much connected to this issue and passionate about it and am unable to get the kind of partnership we need from Alberta’s government to do a glorious and economical thing, and a fair thing, has been incredibly heartbreaking. “And then to slide backwards on it during the pandemic, despite our best efforts, it’s been sad,” Iveson said.

Biggest highlight

There were good times too.

“Your face is a password to everything. So you get to meet Shania Twain behind the scenes, you get to fly a fighter. You get to hold the gray cup over your head a few times – sorry Don,” Nenshi said.

“But for me, the most fun was the super long Saturdays where I had 25 or 30 events and I just got to meet people in town, volunteers who did things to build community.”

“I was allowed to lift the Gray Cup once and I saw the Stanley Cup hoisted in my town, albeit at Tampa Bay,” Iveson said.

But he reiterated Nenshi – that a highlight for him was meeting the citizens he works for.

“It’s absolutely nourishing and inspiring.”

Quarterback Mike Reilly lifts Gray Cup after Edmonton’s victory over Ottawa in 2015. (CFL)

The stretch of the home

Despite having a little over a week left, none of the mayors say it will be a cruise to the end.

Nenshi is not done packing his files and writing transitional volumes for the next mayor.

Iveson says he has been slowly packing up for a few months.

“In fact, I started making a habit of just taking something home with me every time, just so it wouldn’t take it all at once. And there are many more things than I realize have accumulated over eight years. ,” he said .

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