Calgary Naheed Nenshi is looking forward to a few things in 2021, but there’s one thing in particular for which he’s downright excited.
In the third and final part of our year-end interview series, we talked with the mayor about some of the things he’s looking most forward to in the new year.
First and foremost, Mayor Nenshi is eager to get the pandemic in the rearview mirror. Though, he said he doesn’t anticipate everything to end immediately.
YEAR END PART ONE: Looking back at how the city, province handled COVID-19
“Things will get worse for a while until Christmas or New Year’s,” Mayor Nenshi said.
“Things will start to get better and feel better in January. I imagine we’ll be in a position to slowly start easing restrictions throughout the first quarter.”
COVID-19 case counts remain in the 1,000 – 1,500 per day range, though the rate of infection is down overall in the past week. Because the cases will continue to linger until there’s mass vaccination, the mayor said Calgarians should expect to stick with wearing masks throughout much of the year.
Ease out of the restrictions and into the economy
Mayor Nenshi said at the same time as we ease out of restrictions the city will be working on post-pandemic economic strategy.
One big key to that: The Green Line.
“That’s 12,000 jobs in the first phase,” he said.
YEAR END PART TWO: The perfect storm for Calgary’s struggling economy
In a development after our interview, the Green Line procurement was delayed for three months pending an ongoing provincial review. The city had talked about potential delays before that point, and the mayor commented on those.
“Ultimately, I think the province needs to determine how much they’re on board,” Mayor Nenshi said.
“They’ve said many, many times that they’re in favour of building the Green Line, and it’s important to them. They need to actually back that up with a cheque now.”
Shovel ready projects
The mayor said the provincial stimulus money received to help jumpstart shovel ready projects will breathe much-needed energy into the city.
Mayor Nenshi said upcoming work to complete restoration work on a handful of projects, including the Jack Singer Concert Hall will be welcome.
Another one that is important to the mayor is $15 million for maintenance to the city’s affordable housing stock.
“We’re the largest landlord in the city, and too many of our tenants are living in undignified conditions,” the mayor said.
“People will be able to really get a positive trajectory to change in their lives when we do that work.”
2021 municipal election
Mayor Nenshi said he’s as interested as anyone in hearing some of the visions others have for Calgary.
Next year is a municipal election year at a critical point in Calgary’s history. Economic change, social change and fiscal change at the City of Calgary make it an interesting time to lead in this city.
But what’s his future?
“I don’t know. I’m not actually being cute, I’m just really, really busy,” he said.
“I’m not interested in being focused on politics right now.”
OK, but Mayor Nenshi, are you running again?
“I have to ask myself some tough questions. I ask myself every day the simple question: What’s right for Calgarians?” The Mayor said. Then, there’s a question he’s not used to asking himself.
“But, I have to ask myself the tougher question: What’s right for me?”
He said he’d decide early in the new year.
“I also have to be fair, whether I’m running or not, I have to be fair to everyone else who wants to run, and they need time to build their campaigns.”
Will Calgary’s challenges get lost in what could be a divisive election?
“I’d be lying if I said that’s not on my mind,” Mayor Nenshi said.
He said for a while they lost the big picture in the 2017 election. He doesn’t want that to happen again in 2021.
“I’m really looking forward to people bringing forth these visions. That’s why I love elections,” he said.