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City teens get a crash course in Calgary’s mayoralty

Mayor Naheed Nenshi got a one-day reprieve as he had two young Calgarians filling in for him Wednesday.

It was Mayor Nenshi’s final Mayor-for-a-Day contest with this being the final year of his mandate as Calgary’s mayor. This year’s winners were Grade 9 student Kennedy Berger of William D. Pratt School, and Tanisha Dosani, a Grade 10 student from John G. Diefenbaker High School.

It’s the first time there’s been two mayors of the day.

“They’re doing a great job,” Mayor Nenshi said.

“They get to spend the day taking over my job, I get to sit back and relax.”

The students had to enter an essay contest where they shared their three ideas to make Calgary a better place to live.

Dosani’s three things were addressing street harassment, xenophobia in Calgary, particularly around COVID-19, and improving walking and wheeled accessibility in the city.

“I decided to talk about street harassment, because the first time I got cat-called, I was with my 10-year-old sister,” Dosani said.

“And she obviously didn’t know what was going on, because she’s only 10. And I just I found that a really bad situation to be in, especially since we were both so young.”

Berger, a long-time dancer, wanted to create more accessibility to the arts. But, she also had a focus on the downtown. Berger wanted more creative outlets in the downtown, with some of the downtown office space converted.

Along with that, Berger wanted to see more downtown office space converted into affordable housing. 

“We are all people, and we all need opportunities to be safe and have a loving home,” she said.

Finally, she said there should be better access to recycling in the core because of a build-up of trash in the downtown.

Political aspirations

Both of the young Calgary women aspire to be local leaders.

Dosani said she’s always dreamed of becoming a politician.

“First of all, being Indian, you don’t really see that many people who look like you in, in Canadian politics,” she said.

“I’ve always wanted to make a difference. And I want I want other Indian kids to know that you can do anything everybody else does.”

Dosani said she’s a talkative and opinionated person and being a politician is probably a good career choice.

Berger said she’s also interested in politics because it’s a good opportunity to be a voice for change.

“That’s what we need to do,” she said.

“We just need to be kind enough to treat others with kindness. I think that I can really make people understand that we’re all human. We all make mistakes, and we all just need to come together.”

One of the biggest lessons the duo learned in their political crash course is that the mayor doesn’t run everything.

“The mayor explained that he doesn’t exactly run the city. There’s a lot of people behind the scenes. I didn’t realize that,” Dosani said.

And how do we get youth involved in building a future Calgary? Get them involved, said Berger.

“I think just having an open mind,” she said.

“I think sometimes, the younger generations, we kind of get counted out a little bit because we’re just portrayed as younger people.”

The city worked with Youth Central and the Mayor’s Youth Council on the Mayors for a Day program.