Why I’m Supporting Naheed Nenshi.

Wait… what?

No, don’t do a double take.

Yes; I’m supporting Naheed Nenshi this time around in the municipal election.

No, I haven’t lost my marbles.  They’re right where I left them – in The Kid’s Hungry Hippos game upstairs.

No, I haven’t turned my back on my ideology.  I’m still a conservative, and I still believe in conservative principles.

Naheed Nenshi is far from perfect.  Just like everyone else.  He gets tired like you and me, he gets grumpy at times, just like you and me, and, just like you, he makes mistakes.  He is also, as far as I can tell, quite, shall we say, “Liberal” on may of his personal beliefs.  He hasn’t confirmed this to me, but I’m making that assessment of his ideological slant based on some of the things I’ve heard him say.

Ideology does, as many of you are likely to argue, matter.  It matters because in our legislators, their ideology guides the way they vote and how they debate.  It guides their thinking and conscience.  I, for example, if I were to be a legislator, would look at every proposed law through a filter of three questions:  1:  How much does it cost to implement?  2:  Does it increase personal freedom?  3:  Does it actually benefit people if implemented?  I expect Mr. Nenshi uses slightly different filters.  Many of his talks surround “community building” and the like.  I’m an individualist, so “community” doesn’t resonate with me as much.  I’m certainly part of communities, but that’s through personal choice of association, not out of any sense of duty.  I also believe that the individual, rather than the community, is responsible for themselves.  The family is society’s basic building block, and so on.

When it comes to selecting a Mayor, however, while that’s important stuff, it’s not critically important.  Disagreement on ideology is not a deal-breaker for me.

You see, Mr. Nenshi does not have the same kind of power that our City’s Aldermen have.  Mr. Nenshi chairs Council meetings.  Which means that he is responsible for ensuring that the rules of parliamentary debate are followed.  He’s therefore not allowed to debate without giving up the position of Chair.  He votes, but he votes last in recorded votes, meaning that his vote only counts if there’s a tie on City Council.  That’s important, because it means that, overall, while he has power, he has a different kind of power.  Mr. Nenshi is Calgary’s administrative CEO.  He’s not a legislator.  He implements policy that City Council has set forth, but he does not create policy.

What this means is I’m looking at the job Mr. Nenshi has done as a CEO, not a lawmaker.  And he’s done a decent one.  He’s made some mistakes along the way, and I’ve been sure to tell him what I’m unhappy with.  And he’s responded; not always to my liking, but the fact that he engages in discussion is a far cry from other well-known people I could mention.

There are indeed issues in this election besides Mr. Nenshi’s abilities as a CEO.  I think the primary issue, which Mr. Nenshi has succeeded in bringing to the forefront (and thus driving the agenda) is that of what he calls a “subsidy” to developers.

When a new neighbourhood is built, a bunch of infrastructure needs to put in place.  Sewers, water mains, traffic lights, roads, and so on.  There is a cost associated with building all this supporting infrastructure, a portion of which is covered by the City of Calgary, to the tune of about $4800 per home.

In reality, it’s an effective, or de facto subsidy, because no money actually changes hands.  In the truest sense of the word, it’s a discount.  But, either way, this is taxpayer money going to support new development.  I’m certainly a capitalist, so I definitely support development and activities to support economic growth, but I also firmly believe that the government should not be in the business of doing business.  So as far as I’m concerned, my tax dollars should not be going to support private business building houses.

The solution is therefore twofold – the city should stop partially covering the cost of infrastructure development in new communities; but with that, the city also loses their say in the planning and development of those communities as well.  So therefore, developers should be free to lay out and put the required infrastructure into those communities in whatever way they see fit.  Obviously they’ll have to maintain the City of Calgary’s standards, but if the developer can put the infrastructure in for less than the what the city would charge, then all the more power to them.

The developer could also, of course, contract the City of Calgary to do the work, at the standard City rate, but the point is the choice should be entirely up to them.

People have been criticizing Mr. Nenshi for “raising taxes”.  I did some some checking.  In 2003, the municipal portion of our property taxes were 0.413%  of the assessed property value.  In 2013, they’re 0.380%.  That’s a decrease of 0.034%!

When Mr. Nenshi took office in 2010, we were paying 0.314% in taxes, and they’ve gone up by 0.066% to 0.380%.

Comparing this tax increase to inflation, the Calgary’s annual inflation rate was 1.4% in August 2011, 1.8% in August 2012, and  1.7% in August 2013.  The point is inflation has outpaced any tax increases!

Now, there’s also a provincial component in our property taxes, which I haven’t included here, but the City of Calgary has no say in that part of our property taxes. That rate is set by the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Separate School District in conjunction with the provincial government.

So, to Mr. Nenshi’s detractors, you have every right to vote how you choose, and certainly, I understand how ideology could be a factor in your decision; but remember — Mr. Nenshi is mainly an administrator, not an legislator.  He certainly has influence, but Council, not Naheed Nenshi sets the budget and passes bylaws.

So this time, I think of all the candidates, Naheed Nenshi is the best person for the job.

About Steven Britton

Steve is a freelance programmer, partial billionaire, dad, Recovering Atheist, Conservative, and occasionally prolific blogger.