Kids Corner


What Makes A Good Politician?
What Makes Naheed Nenshi The Best Mayor In The World?
Roundtable Open Forum # 142





Indeed, what constitutes a good politician in today’s topsy turvy world? What are the necessary ingredients?

What are the challenges? What’re the odds?

More poignantly, we often ask, don’t we, whether it is possible to have a good man or woman go into politics, and remain ’good’.

What do we mean when we say a politician is ’good’?

What makes him or her good?

And, most importantly, good for whom?

Yesterday, news headlines around the world proclaimed that a world-wide biennial search for The World’s Best Mayor for 2014 has finally been completed.

It’s Naheed Nenshi, the Mayor of The City of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Here’s how Michelle Butterfield has reported the story on The Huffington Post.

*   *   *   *   *

It's official: Calgary has the most outstanding mayor in the world.

Naheed Nenshi has been awarded the 2014
World Mayor Prize, beating out 29 other mayors worldwide -- and news of the win comes on his birthday, no less.

The award makes Nenshi the "most admired mayor of any large Canadian city," according to the
World Mayor Contest website.

"He is an urban visionary who doesn’t neglect the nitty-gritty of local government. For many in North America and indeed Europe, Mayor Nenshi is a role model for decisive management, inclusivity and forward planning."

The website also acknowledges Nenshi's leadership during the 2013 Alberta floods, and his impressive ability to rally voters in both of his mayoral campaigns.

The honour, first handed out in 2004, is awarded every two years by the
City Mayors Foundation.

City Mayors Foundation and the World Mayor Project were established in 2003 to promote, encourage and facilitate good local government," the Foundation's website reads.

Daniël Termont, Mayor of Ghent, Belgium, was awarded first runner-up and winner or the World Mayor Commendation for Services prize. Second runner-up and winner of the World Mayor Commendation for Services to Surabaya, Indonesia, Mayor Tri Rismaharini.

Iñaki Azkuna, Mayor of Bilbao, Spain, won the award in 2012.

Mayor Nenshi will be presented with the World Mayor Prize trophy later in the year.

Congratulations and Happy Birthday, Mr. Mayor!  

*   *   *   *   *

Municipal politics, they say, is the closest one can get to the grass-roots. It deals with the nitty gritty of day-to-day governance and it has a direct and actual impact
on the lives of its citizens.

There’s no escape from reality. You can’t fly off on a foreign junket when the going gets tough at home, as federal and provincial politicians are wont to do. Or start a war to distract the citizens from the mess you’ve created or neglected.

On the other hand, the citizens of a city, town or village are more tolerant of a buffoon, provided the work is being done. And they’re more patient; they’ll give a scoundrel a lot of leeway, before they’ll dump him.

Here in Canada, the good Lord knows we’ve had our fair share of nincompoops. The two most spectacular ones in recent history are Toronto’s Mel Lastman and yes, you’re correct, another Toronto luminary of recent notoriety: Rob Ford.

All it proves is that it is as difficult for the people of Canada to find good politicians, as it is anywhere else in the world.

So, how did Calgarians manage to strike gold?

What makes Nenshi tick? How can we clone him? Or, even better, identify his strengths and go around with a candle and try and find more like him.

Nenshi wasn’t born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth. In a post 9/11 world, even in a country where its federal politicians are behaving as boorishly as the worst in the world on issues around global terrorism, Nenshi was elected despite being a Muslim. Not that it should’ve mattered. And it didn’t.

Many believe that Nenshi is gay. Not that it should matter, whether it is true or not. But it is remarkable that he was elected, and hailed as the people's champion, in a province which has had the reputation of being the most bigoted in the country … against anyone who doesn’t conform to “Hee Haw” norms.

I for one take great solace that a man such as Naheed Nenshi, with all his faults, exists today and that others, so many others, also recognize and honour what he brings to the table.

There is hope.

*   *   *   *   *

Here are the facts on Nenshi:

Naheed Kurban Nenshi is a Canadian politician who is the 36th and current mayor of Calgary, Alberta. He was first elected in the 2010 municipal election, becoming the first Muslim mayor of a major North American city.

Nenshi donated 10% of his 2012 salary, amounting to Cdn $ 20,000 to a Calgary charity in response to a 6% pay raise that the city councillors gave themselves that year.

He was re-elected in 2013 with 74% of the votes.

Born: February 2, 1972 (age 43), Toronto

Nationality: Canadian

Education: Master of Public Policy from The John F. Kennedy School of Government (1998), Harvard University; Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Calgary.

*   *   *   *   *


We invite our readers to ponder on the questions posed at the beginning of this article, and share your thoughts with us by posting them hereunder. There’s lots about Naheed Nenshi on the internet, if you want to check him out first. Trust me, he’s the genuine article.

February 3, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: Sharan Kaur (Chandigarh, Punjab), February 03, 2015, 9:05 AM.

I'll start by listing two fundamental criteria: a) the person should not have come to power by murdering people; and b) the person should not be hanging on to power by murdering people. Once we get past these two requirements, the other stuff comes easy. With either of these two things on his or resume, the person is useless to humanity. Actually, he/she should be declared Public Enemy #1.

2: Beant Singh (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada), February 03, 2015, 9:33 AM.

Nenshi is an extraordinary man, not just a good politician. He speaks his mind. He is articulate. He is unafraid. He is attentive. He's there when you need him. He always delivers. He is honest. He has integrity. I agree: seeing him, one cannot help but think, there've got be more like him. Why can't we find them? Or are we in the habit of always rewarding the crooks and refusing to support the ones with integrity? Nenshi has proved that it is to OUR benefit to get behind the best, not the mediocre or the bad!

3: Ajit Singh Batra (Pennsville, New Jersey, USA), February 03, 2015, 11:23 AM.

Nenshi realizes that he has to stay away from selfhood to serve the public in the city. It's only a question of self-realization, whatever one does in his/her life. Personal traits, good or bad, do not overcome the divine potential inherent in a person.

4: R.S. Minhas (Millburn, New Jersey, USA), February 03, 2015, 1:24 PM.

A good politician finds his own replacement quickly!

5: Mangat Singh (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), February 03, 2015, 11:04 PM.

With all due respect to the comments posted above about selfhood, service, divine potential and corruption in India, it is S. Beant Singh who's the one to hit the nail on the head. Mayor Nenshi has a vision, he is honest, and he is hard working. These are the three criteria any politician should meet before holding office. The comments about Alberta being the most bigoted part of the country along with a mention of the Mayor's sexuality: you are doing all Albertans a giant disservice. If you look at the number of young Sikhs and other visible minorities in the work place, you will notice that Alberta is in actuality the most open and accepting of provinces. The mayor's sexual preferences are not ever mentioned, or opinionated on. Alberta is what the rest of Canada should aspire to be, and the Sikh-Canadian youth should look at their counterparts in Alberta and learn from them. Ask yourselves in Ontario, why have so many youth forgone social advancement in exchange for jobs that most first generation immigrants work out of necessity. Jasmeet Singh aside, what other politicians in our community meet the criteria I have outlined above?

6: Himmat Singh (Dublin, Ireland), February 04, 2015, 4:21 AM.

It's strange, isn't it. Every 'good' person I know -- 'good' I define for myself as one who I admire for qualities I like in him or her -- who has contemplated a run in the political arena, they've always hesitated when it comes to crossing the line. And sadly or fortunately -- I guess, both -- they've all turned around and, after a lot of soul searching, rejected the idea. And then there are those I know who are obnoxious to the core, some even who make the George W's and Cheney's of this world look like moral giants, somehow these good souls jump into the fray and instantly seem to be right at home ... with the ease and glee of pigs in a trough. Does it have to be like this? Why does politics bring out the worst in us? Or the worst amongst us? But hey, you tell us that this Nenshi bucks the trend. I believe you. (And they said pigs couldn't fly!)

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What Makes Naheed Nenshi The Best Mayor In The World?
Roundtable Open Forum # 142"

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