Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Mayor's Debate in Calgary

Last night, Calgary's Civic Camp organization put together an all-candidates debate for the Mayoralty.

The format of the forum was excellent, and the effort to crowdsource the questions to be debated produced far better results than other political debates I have seen.  I must admit to being disappointed with the Live Stream facilitated by LiveStreamCalgary.com.  The video feed for the first half of the debate was extremely choppy, with almost incomprehensible audio as a result.

However, between the video feed and following #yycvote on twitter, it was possible to follow the debate reasonably well.

There were a few moments that I thought were of interest.  As expected, most of the candidates running for the Mayor's chair are really not terribly credible.  Larry Heather (the unofficial CHP candidate) started things off with what amounted to a sermon about how Calgary has broken its "covenant with God", Milan Papez read from a rambling prepared statement that made slightly less sense than his campaign website.  Jon Lord is playing the "angry old white guy" card - I'll come back to him.  Norm Perrault is a perennial candidate in this arena - I'd have to say that he acquitted himself fairly well, but he continues to be somewhat naive about what the Mayor's job entails.  Bruce Jackman thinks he's in the race to "provoke discussion" - I suppose that's a realistic approach, since he's not likely to get many votes.  Carter Thomson demonstrated a surprising level of cluelessness, claiming that "urban sprawl" is not a problem - clearly he has not been paying attention to the discussion around infrastructure costs.  Naheed Nenshi sounds much more polished and politically aware than he did in the 2010 campaign.  Sandra Hunter didn't show up.

Ever since Jon Lord showed up as a candidate, I have suspected that he is the "chosen" candidate of the conservative power structure in Calgary.  Last week, when he was attending this BBQ competition in the US, he was interviewed on CBC Calgary's "The Eyeopener", and it was fairly clear that he was planning to skip yesterday's debate.  So, when he jumped on a plane to get back for last night's debate at the last minute, I started to suspect that whoever is behind him had spent a lot of time on the phone arm twisting Lord.

Lord spent most of his time whinging on about reducing taxes.  This is a standard right-wing trope - moan about how taxes are too high, and then when in power and have reduced the taxes, they start moaning about the cost of running the services that the city has to provide.  He was playing the classic "angry old man" routine for the most part.

On Twitter, it was interesting to watch the debate.  Reporters from the Sun were busy boosting everything Lord said, and sniping at Nenshi at every turn.  No surprise - the Sun has been the unofficial outlet for the outrage that the conservative powerbase had when Nenshi won in 2010.  Perhaps more amusing was the attempt to manufacture outrage on the livestream website's discussion forum.  There were a small handful of Lord's backers trying to shout overtop of everyone else in a sloppy attempt to manufacture outrage directed at Nenshi.

As for Nenshi, he's running a much different campaign this time.  He's much clearer on policy issues, and seems to have a better understanding of the big picture that the Mayor has to deal with.  He knows that while he has ideas, his job is to facilitate finding solutions rather than to formulate and impose.  As much as I would love to see more of the "I've got great ideas" Nenshi of the last campaign, I have to admire the degree of growth that he has shown since 2010.  His points in the debate were clear and direct - exactly what you would expect from a mature, seasoned politician.

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