Talking Redford, Nenshi indicts system that 'chews them up and spits them out'
Daniel Bitonti, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, March 20, 2014 10:43AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, March 20, 2014 11:37AM EDT
When a high-profile politician resigns, other elected officials usually release a carefully crafted statement marking their public service. Sometimes, for good measure, they’ll even include a summary of the retiring politician’s biggest accomplishments.
Then there’s Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
Talking to reporters about the resignation of Alberta Premier Alison Redford Wednesday, Nenshi was true to his reputation of going against the grain.
Instead of reiterating platitudes, Nenshi offered a lengthy indictment of the current political system -- one that he says allows for someone like Redford, "a good person who has tried to do great things for this province,” to be pushed out because of party politics.
Redford had been courting controversy for months, ever since it was revealed that she expensed approximately $45,000 for her trip to Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa.
Although Redford initially ignored calls to refund the money, she recently relented. Despite her repaying the funds, the long-brewing backlash had apparently grown too large to contain. "Obviously what has happened tonight will be covered as a political story, and it is a political story. But I also want to remind everyone that this is also a human story,” Nenshi said in front of Calgary City Hall. "It’s about a real person, a good person, a person who loves this province and has worked and made incredible sacrifices for this place… And it’s the story of a system that takes someone like that and chews them up and spits them out.”
Nenshi then took aim at the party system, specifically members of Redford’s own Progressive Conservative party.
"Why is it that we live in a province where we talk about ‘the party’ as though there were only one party? Why is it that decisions are made behind closed doors in caucus, or that unelected directors of a party -- unelected by the people -- make decisions on who gets to be our leader,” he said. "Some of this is longstanding practice, but some of this is just habit. And how do we break out of that habit?”
Nenshi said that every politician in the province needs to think about how the system currently operates, and they should look to municipal governments -- free of the party system -- as a good example of how it can be done right.
"Take a lesson from municipal government. We have people sitting around our city council table of every possible political strip,” he said. "But we’ve got to sit together, the 15 of us… The good ideas can come from either end of the spectrum. Sometimes people are so off the spectrum they meet at the other side. But we still got to sit together and come up with the right thing to do for the majority of Calgarians.”
Nenshi didn’t absolve Redford, saying "there were a lot of errors of judgment, there were a lot of things I wouldn’t have done had I been in that role.
"But at the same time, today is a good day for us to take a step back and actually look at why we do this work and look at how we as citizens support people in doing this kind of work,” he added.
When asked about his own political future -- specifically whether he would be running for the leadership of the Alberta PC Party -- Nenshi didn't say he was going to. But he didn't say he wasn't going to either.
"There will be lots and lots and lots of opportunities to talk about lots and lots and lots of different people," he said. "I can tell you, regardless of whatever role I'm in personally, I will take a very serious part in this next election, always fighting for the interests of Calgarians and Albertans.”