Naheed Nenshi, former three-time mayor of Calgary, jumped into the final weekend election fray with an endorsement of Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley, and her party.
Speaking at a gathering of NDP supporters at a whistle-tour stop in Calgary-Foothills alongside Notley, and NDP candidates Court Ellingson and Rajesh Angral, he said he was lending—not giving—his vote to the party alongside his endorsement.
A decision he said was so hard to make, given his infamously non-partisan stance of being purple before a party.
“I’m standing here next to Rachel Notley saying this, but I’m not shy, and so I will say to you that when Rachel was the premier and when I was the mayor, we agreed on a lot of things. We disagreed on a few things, and we had three very big fights, but we were able to do that,” Nenshi said.
“When I look at the platforms, certainly I believe on the balance of probabilities the platform for the NDP is better than the platforms from the UCP, but that’s not the critical thing to make a decision on. When I really thought about it, I said this is about leadership, It’s about competence, and it’s about trust.”
Nenshi in his speech to NDP supporters took a scathing stance against UCP leader Danielle Smith, and against that party.
“It really occurred to me that there’s an enormous risk in returning Danielle Smith. You know, she is someone that cannot be trusted, and I hate saying that I’ve known her for 30 years. We’ve been friends,” Nenshi said.
“And yet, when she said ‘don’t look at what I say, look at what I do.’ You can’t say that. You can’t say that as a politician, and in my life in politics, it’s actually been extremely rare. I can probably count on one hand, the number of times that a politician said something in front of me, or to me that I knew was a lie.”
Trust the biggest reason for his choice of endorsement, said Nenshi
That issue of asking the public to ignore her previous statements, said Nenshi, was his biggest issue around trust.
“The biggest challenge that I have is that she said recently that you can’t look at everything I’ve said over 27 years, because none of it has any impact on who I am today. And somebody told her that that was a good line. Somebody told her that if you say that, then we’ll erase the past,” he said.
“But to me, it’s even worse, because it says I’ve got no core. I’ve got no ethics. I’ll blow with the wind and do what people are telling me to do.”
Nenshi took particular ire with Smith’s performance at the leaders’ debate, saying that while politicians spin and obfuscate, outright lying to the public was wrong.
“Danielle Smith pointed out a verifiable lie every 90 seconds on average and told me that I just can’t have that kind of faith in my government. And I need that faith.
“I don’t care—I really am purple—I don’t care if it’s a conservative or a liberal or an NDP government as long as they’re competent, as long as they’re trustworthy, and as long as I know they have the best interests of everybody at heart, and I do not feel that way about Danielle Smith today.”
Post-debate fact checkers took issue with Smith for the number of inaccurate claims made, including those made over job losses between 2015 and 2019. and Alberta being bankrupted during that period, neither of which were true.
Nenshi said that Albertans deserve to know what kind of decisions a premier would make in office, and who were influencing those decisions.
“I have never seen someone pushing the boundaries of what is appropriate, like Danielle Smith, I believe that Danielle Smith is an existential threat to the future of Alberta, and I believe that we don’t know which Danielle Smith is going to show up for work,” he said.
“The premier, we know who she listens to, and let’s remember that the United Conservative Party is not a Progressive Conservative Party, that it has been taken over by a group of people who want to take back Alberta.
“And I think it’s fair to ask the question take back Alberta from whom exactly? From us.”
Umbrage with UCP candidates comparing transgender children to shit
In regards to the party itself, Nenshi pointed to now infamous comments made by a UCP candidate, derisively called the poop-cookie comments on social media, comparing transgender children in schools to putting feces into cookie dough.
“Ultimately, the more I thought about it, and in particular the conversations that I had with my colleague, Jeromy Farkas around being a principled conservative, and what does that mean? And his reaction to the horrible-anti children comments that we heard from the candidate in Lacombe-Ponoka really made me think,” Nenshi said.
UCP leader Danielle Smith has said that candidate will not be part of the UCP’s caucus if they are elected on Monday.
In a recent interview with Calgary Sun columnist Rick Bell, he said that there was a credibility gap around Smith calling herself a caring conservative.
“You can’t be a caring conservative when you take three days, and you have to pull in a focus group on whether you should be protecting kids who have a high rate of suicide already from being abused by your candidates. How do you say you’re caring after that?” Nenshi said.
“How do you say you’re caring when you put together an affordability plan, where the Minister of Affordability with his four kids will get $2,400, and the woman that he buys his coffee from Tim Hortons in the morning gets nothing? You have to show it, and she says it herself, it’s not what I say, it’s what I do.”
Smith gets strong endorsements from Stephen Harper and Pierre Pollievre
UCP leader Danielle Smith received an endorsement from Conservative Party of Canada leader Pierre Poiiievre on May 25 as well.
Speaking in a one-minute video, he said that a vote for Smith and the UCP was a “vote for Alberta.”
“Vote early, vote conservative,” he said.
Echoing many of the arguments that Smith had made during her brief tenure as premier, and during the campaign, Pollievre claimed that Notley was working for her “NDP-Liberal collation bosses” in Ottawa.
“She’ll support higher carbon tax on your gas and groceries. She’ll help Trudeau attack the energy sector, putting you out of a job. And speaking of jobs, she’ll raise taxes on job creators pushing you onto the unemployment lines. That’ll mean a weaker economy with less money for schools and hospitals,” Poilievre said.
“On the other hand, conservatives will fight the carbon tax and stand up for Alberta and its energy sector and unleash the full potential of our Alberta economy, in order to grow and prosper in the future. That means more money for schools and hospitals.”
The UCP has previously said they plan on fighting prices on carbon emissions in the country, although have not provided any details on the measures they could take to that effect. A then UCP government under Jason Kenney lost their bid to have the carbon tax ruled unconstitutional after the Supreme Court of Canada found it to be constitutional in 2021.
Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper re-issued an endorsement of the UCP, after asking voters to vote for conservatives in the election previously without naming Smith in that video.
“After some tough years, our province has finally recovered from the last NDP term, But Rachel Notley is promising to undo all that progress,” Harper said.
“The NDP is promising to hike taxes on job creators by 38 per cent, a massive hike that would kill tens of thousands of jobs. Rachel Notley tried a similar tax hike the last time she was premier. Investment fled our province and mass layoffs ensued.”
The Alberta NDP has promised to raise the corporate tax rate from eight per cent to 11 per cent—a 38 per cent increase in numerical terms from eight to 11—but a three per cent increase in absolute terms of how much companies would pay on net-income.
Harper also echoed the anti-Ottawa sentiment of Poilievre.
“Rachel Notley doesn’t want to talk about the fact that the Trudeau liberals are voting NDP in this election. Rachel Notley and Justin Trudeau are a combination that puts Alberta’s economy at great risk in this election,” he said.
“There’s only one option to protect the economic livelihoods of you and your family; that’s Danielle Smith and the United Conservative Party.”
Notley called the endorsements by former and current federal politicians ironic.
“I think the conservatives have sometimes said this in the past, and in this I agree with them, I don’t think Albertans need people from Ottawa to tell them how to vote,” she said.
“I think that Albertans are looking for their community leaders who are focused on the issues of Alberta, and to the extent that people are listening to endorsements, then that’s that’s who they’re going to be listening.”