Calgary, meet your new council

October 19, 2010 by
Filed under: Calgary, Politics 

The unofficial results are in and we have seen a mix of change and returning of the old guard happening. It’s a whole new ball game now; an entirly new dynamic. Here’s the list of who the fifteeen around the table will be:

Mayor – Naheed Nenshi
Ward 1 – Dale Hodges
Ward 2 – Gord Lowe
Ward 3 – Jim Stevenson
Ward 4 – Gael Macleod
Ward 5 – Ray Jones
Ward 6 – Richard Pootmans
Ward 7 – Druh Farrell
Ward 8 – John Mar
Ward 9 – Gian-Carlo Carra
Ward 10 – Andre Chabot
Ward 11 – Brian Pincott
Ward 12 – Shane Keating
Ward 13 – Diane Colley-Urquhart
Ward 14 – Peter Demong

The biggest question facing how this new council will work together is what kind of a chair will Naheed Nenshi be. Will he be a bullying mayor (not likely) or more laissez faire in his control of meetings? Or might he be more like Bronconnier and give alderman some leeway, but keep them on a short leash if they stray too far outside what is prescribed in the procedural bylaw. An alderman like Druh Farrell will live and die by the answer to this question. Nenshi could help focus her and turn her into one of the most productive aldermen on council. Diane Colley-Urquhart could be one to struggle if she doesn’t bring herself prepared to meetings with a plan on how to present her requests.

Of course the new faces on council will provide an interesting dynamic as well. How will Gian-Carlo Carra implement his vision? He’ll have to do the same as Colley-Urquhart and be prepared to have a plan too, otherwise he could find himself as the next Druh Farrell of council: someone with great ideas but struggling to get people to understand or enact them. It will all come down to clear communication with their colleagues for all three of these alderman. The same could be said of Shane Keating and Richard Pootmans as well. Both are strong aldermen, but could find themselves floundering if they don’t get into Nenshi’s good books or find a way to focus their asks into a clear, straightforward way. They could end up being at odds with the mayor and the majority of council and thereby getting themselves – and their voters – thoroughly frustrated if they don’t.

Gael Macleod is a bit of an unknown. I think she will probably fit well into this group and will be an effective alderman as Hawkesworth was before her. Look for her to do a lot of listening and learning in the early days before she proves to be one of this group’s steadiest members – provided she finds her niche.

Peter Demong is another big question mark. With McIver and Connelly gone he provides councils most conservative voice. Whether he ends up as the strong fiscal hawk on council or a “right wing nut job”-  as he has been painted by some – will entirely be up to him. I expect he will buddy up to Jim Stevenson and Dale Hodges to look for some wingman support. If he gets this, and stays consistent in his messaging, he could prove to be a very effective voice on council just as McIver was for 9 years. I hope it goes this way as the alternative is becoming a laughing stock, dragging Calgary down with him. And no one wins in that scenario.

Provided Nenshi (as mayor) and Brian Pincott (as the “elder statesman”) find a mutual respect for one another and each others talents, Pincott could prove to be council’s best member. If Nenshi figures out how to keep his campaign followers engaged, Pincott could be one of the biggest beneficiaries by following the new mayor’s example and engaging his constituents in a way he hasn’t up until now. If Pincott was more transparent and had a bit more of a following like Nenshi, he could do some amazing things that would surprise even the most steadfast ideologue. This will take a lot of work on Pincott’s part and a willingness from Nenshi to help him. Pride will need to be swallowed.

The same as Pincott holds true for John Mar. If Nenshi and Mar find common ground Mar could be a leader on council. If they don’t, he could very well become Nenshi’s biggest pain. Unfortunately this would rob Calgarians of much Mar has to offer. The exact same could be said of Chabot. Mar and Chabot have often been “swing votes”. It will be fascinating to watch what way they swing now.

The one thing that I think is probably a given is that – provided they agree on the budget – Gord Lowe could become a de facto “second in command”. I’m confident Nenshi will look to him for guidance and, for lack of a better term, fatherly advice. (Nenshi won’t need political advice. Not that he’d listen to it anyway.)

We won’t have to wait long to see whatever new dynamic emerges because being locked in a room together for organizational meetings in their first week together followed by the lengthy budget negotiating process will force them to get to know one another before we every really get a chance to know them ourselves.

PS – Did you see the 2007 Helene Larocque redux? Incumbent Linda Fox-Mellway took a beating and ended up placing forth in ward 14. Just like ward 3 in 2007, it looks like ward 14 REALLY wanted a change this time around.

Cross posted to CalgaryPolitics.com

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