By: Stephen Clare
Speaking at TwelvEighty last Thursday, Oct. 23, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi quipped that he was here to “steal our children.” Though the comment was paired with a hearty chuckle and Nenshi’s trademark smile, the sales pitch that followed was no joke.
The popular mayor, ranked last year by Maclean’s as the second most powerful person in Canada, first reminisced about his Mac campus tour as a prospective student and journey to public office before launching into his presentation. There was no doubt about the purpose of the talk. Nenshi was here to sell Calgary to the young, soon-to-be-job-hunters of McMaster.
Speaking casually and confidently, Nenshi sang the praises of his city, which ranged from healthy job prospects to a thriving culture scene. He was particularly proud of Calgary’s recent ranking by the New York Times as one of the 52 places you “need to see.”
It was clear that his pitch fell on eager ears. In the Q-and-A session following the talk, students jumped at the chance to ask about the city’s transportation infrastructure, recreational opportunities, and, of course, property taxes.
“The lowest in Canada,” Nenshi said, beaming.
The mayor himself lived up to his reputation as honest, friendly, and sharp. He made reference to Hamilton’s municipal election, light-rail transit debate, and relationship with Toronto. An off-hand comment about his less-than-favourable view of Prime Minister Harper drew laughter and perhaps a few raised eyebrows from the audience. The fact that the catering tables, laden with a feast of fried food, remained largely untouched speaks to Nenshi’s ability to engage an audience.