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Metro column: 2010’s Top Newsmakers, The Sequel

By DJ Kelly December 26, 2010

Last week I began my list of newsmakers and the top city hall political mistakes of 2010. As the year comes to a close, we reflect back on the year that was by finishing the countdown. (Visit metronews.ca to see part one.) [Or here.]

No. 2 on the list also doesn’t belong to a politician. To call Tracy McTaggart an “embattled auditor” does not do justice to what the former city financial double-checker had to endure throughout 2010. Not only did the City of Calgary have big questions needing investigating by her department — such as the Louise Station land deal, missing funds, projects going over budget and the Calatrava bridge, along with other sole-sourced projects — but her department kept getting further and further behind in the projects they were assigned last year. Eventually an external review found she didn’t even meet the bare minimum of auditing standards, and she was fired.

But the reason McTaggart is the not-so-proud owner of the second-biggest city hall mistake of 2010 is the one little sentence she uttered to the audit committee on May 20, when she said she could “pretty much guarantee there is some procurement fraud going on.” The problem was she had no proof — a big no-no in the land of auditing — and so began rolling the ball down a path leading to her dismissal and tarring.

And No. 1 on the list of 2010 city hall mistakes: Barb Higgins’ Thursday, Oct. 14. As good as the week the police chief criticized Naheed Nenshi was for him, this one day was as bad for Higgins. It started with the now-infamous Mike McCourt Citytv interview, during which Higgins responded poorly to overly harsh questions from the cantankerous interviewer, and then, after walking off camera, she gave a verbal lashing to volunteers who asked her questions about her arts policy on air. Her bad day continued with another two poor interviews courtesy of some tough questions at X92.9 and a caller to AM770 inquiring as to why she would not do a televised debate with Nenshi and Ric McIver. The headlines just two days before the election were suddenly about Higgins not being tough enough to be mayor and having a short fuse. This gave many Calgarians enough reason to vote another way. One day undid weeks of hard work and led to a thirdplace finish.

Aside from the odd new councillor’s, the only campaign that can really claim to have gone off as planned was that of Naheed Nenshi. Mayor Nenshi is the undisputed newsmaker of 2010 for Calgary City Hall. His “politics in full sentences” was the right campaign at the right time for Calgary. They took advantage of the opportunities presented to them and they rode a wave of momentum to victory. His election made national and international headlines and, unlike past years, hundreds showed up to see him sworn in. However, more impressive has to be how Nenshi is governing since taking over. In stark contrast to our expectations of politicians, Nenshi is proving to be an Everyman so far, and is actually accomplishing what he said he would do during the campaign.

2010 was perhaps the most exciting year in Calgary city hall political history, with lots of newsmakers and lots of mistakes. As I toast the new year this weekend, my wish will be for 2011 to be a little less dramatic. Cheers to that!