And so it is Nenshi for Mayor - but what looks like a very conservative council. Should be an interesting few years, Calgary.
Ironically, for all the talk about technology and change, the Nenshi campaign won because they ran the best old-fashioned political campaign. They presented the best-developed message, and did a great job of layering it from the sound bite all the way through to clear policy plans. Mr. Nenshi showed good groundwork as a candidate, building profile the old-fashioned way by appearing everywhere, all the time. The campaign made good use of volunteers, and got their best work out of them by building a really energized team environment. They also figured out how to identify and motivate their supporters, a process complicated by the fact that they didn't have any (or at least not many) a year ago, and there was no obvious political constituency of support. I found it encouraging that I know people supporting Mr. Nenshi who in provincial politics support the Greens, the NDP, the Liberals, the PCs and the Wild Rose. An advantage yes, but one that greatly complicates the process of getting out your vote!
As for Mr. Nenshi's competitors; Ms. Higgins found her rhythm too late in the campaign to carry it to a successful conclusion, but looking at the process in retrospect I am sure she will be proud that she received over 91,000 votes. I would be very surprised at this point if we have seen the last of Ms. Higgins. Mr. McIvor, the prohibitive front runner at the beginning of the race, made the mistake of running too conservative a campaign. (I assure you that the pun wasn't deliberate!) In spending most of the campaign running not to lose he missed out on the opportunity to define the process, and Ms. Higgins' entry and Mr. Nenshi's rise defined it for him. In the new dialogue Mr. McIvor found himself with multiple threats, and while this appears to have galvanized his campaign he was unable to make up for earlier complacency.
With regard to council, and the potential dynamics thereon, I recommend reading DJ Kelly's post here: http://calgarypolitics.com/2010/10/19/calgary-meet-your-new-council/ Mr. Nenshi and the Aldermen will have to develop a modus vivendi that enables them to develop into a team. Calgarians turned out in record numbers, over 53% of eligible voters casting ballots, which shatters the previous record of 48.6% in 1989. Also remember that the last provincial election saw a turnout of a little over 40%. In short Calgarians took this election very seriously, and I think it is fair to say that we, as a city, are expecting results from out representatives. They in turn will now have to figure out how to deliver.
Personally I would like to thank all of the people who sacrificed their time, privacy, peace and quiet and energies to run for office. You all deserve recognition for stepping forward - our system relies on people doing what you did. For those whose hopes were disappointed last night, it is important to remember that not only the winner is important. Stepping forward to advance the issues that are important to you helps shape the conversation, and you all did that. Thank you all.
Going forward the question is whether the scale of Calgarians' involvement with this election, whether in the number and variety of candidates, the voter turnout, the volunteerism or the number of conversations it engendered, indicates that people are going to be more engaged after the election. It is my belief that it does, and that Calgarians, and Albertans more generally, are once again becoming energized about their beliefs and concerns in the public arena. I look forward to what promises to be a most interesting few years!