Driving Nenshi’s glaciers

February 24th, 2013
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Despite the best efforts of a warming, that is “changing” climate, snowcat tours of the Rocky Mountains’ Columbia Ice Fields are still very popular.  Calgarians will know that they can enjoy a little bit of that adventure every winter day, just by driving the city’s residential streets.

You see, as hard as it is for outsiders to believe, there is no ploughing of snow on residential streets in Calgary. I described the whole seasonal fiasco in this quite inspirational post a couple of years ago. This winter has been fairly mild in Calgary but, because of the aforementioned lack of ploughing and an uncooperative climate/latitude, ice doesn’t actually melt off many Calgary streets until well into March.

Despite the renowned Chinooks, Calgary doesn’t get the balmy mid-winter rains of central Canada, that melt snow and ice and wash away salt and sand. Areas not actually exposed to the sun are particularly prone to pernicious snow and ice buildup. Hence the glacial terrain on city roads. None of this any comfort to the beleaguered Calgary motorist or pedestrian.

Adding insult to injury are the proclivities of our outspoken mayor, Naheed Nenshi. His Worship is known as an intelligent man, of firm opinions, readily and endlessly expressed. The Germans have a word that might best describe this, namely that he has a “Mundwerk“. That translates into 21st century parlance as, roughly, a “mouth that walks like a man”.

The mayor is remarkable in many ways, having emerged, fully formed, from the academic ether a few years ago. I first saw him in person acting as a commentator at the Calgary convention centre the night of the 2008 federal election. His deep-throated anti-Conservative invective echoed loudly around one corner of the room. Having just returned from 19 months in Ottawa, and never having seen the impassioned gentleman before in my life, I asked a passerby who he was. “Oh, that’s Naheed Nenshi, an instructor from Mt. Royal College” I was told. “Ah”, I said. It was then that I knew Keith Brownsey had met his match.

In more ways than the obvious, Nenshi is no champion of Calgary’s silent majority. He has the usual fixations of post-modern municipal government, namely anything but the basic services that average people actually care about. A stark example of this was his recent attendance of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Traveling on the taxpayers’ ticket, the mayor took the opportunity to grandstand on the issue of pipelines, claiming that the province and feds had bungled the Keystone pipeline file and that he had successfully lobbied “senior U.S. officials” at Davos. Given that it might have taken some time for him to explain to the Americans who he was, the purported lobbying was quite a feat indeed. Good thing he had everything back home taken care of – road construction and repair, waste removal, budget tightening, program analysis and reductions; oh yes, snow removal too – that he had time to devote to higher matters like pipelines.

While it is easy to scorn Mr. Nenshi’s activities, his opponents would be ill-advised to underestimate him. Besides the necessary intellect, there is the aforementioned “Mundwerk” and the fact that his persona will compel the media to give him a pass. His interests and inclinations will almost certainly cause him to run provincially or federally in due course – as some of his leftish predecessors did.

If his effectiveness baring winter pavement is any indication, taxpayers should remain vigilant. And once he has the mayoralty gig engraved on his resume, they should beware an inevitable political reincarnation.

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By John Weissenberger