Toronto’s Rob Ford and Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi: A tale of two mayors

Andy Radia
Canada Politics

Canada's two most high-profile mayors are proving this week they couldn't be any more different in their approach to politics.

One day after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford skipped out on Toronto's massive Pride parade, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi revealed he will serve as his city's parade grand marshal.

While Ford was widely criticized for not participating, Nenshi is being lauded for his involvement.

"The participation of Naheed Nenshi, the mayor of calgary, as grand marshal for his city's Gay Pride celebrations this coming September is a model of the kind of acceptance that Pride events are meant to exemplify," wrote the Globe and Mail editorial board.

"It is an expression of leadership and inclusion that Mr. Nenshi, to his great credit, understands fully."

Calgary voters elected Nenshi just days before Toronto voters swept Ford into power, and since then the comparisons have been stark.

Both mayors are young - Ford is 42 and Nenshi is 39 - and both campaigned on fiscal responsibility. That is where the similarities end.

As described by Marcus Gee in a Globe and Mail column, the two mayors are very different people.

With regards to style, Ford is chippy and combative, while Nenshi consistently strives to reach out to potential opponents and get beyond partisan bickering.

"Despite his image as a down-to-earth everyman, Mr. Ford is rather reserved and withdrawn in person," wrote Gee. "Mr. Nenshi, by contrast, has a boyish, almost impish air."

With regards to substance, Gee says Nenshi is more progressive.

"Both mayors cut their office budgets when they took office as a symbol of restraint but unlike Mr. Ford, Mr. Nenshi has steered away from cutting or freezing taxes," he noted.

Nenshi, for example, has raised property taxes and allocated one per cent of all spending toward capital projects for public arts. Ford, on the other hand, has threatened to fire city managers who fail to cut spending

The Pride parade issue further solidifies the public perceptions of both men.

It also provides fodder for journalists who still wonder how Calgary, traditionally one of Canada's most conservative cities, can have a progressive mayor, while Toronto, historically one of Canada's most liberal cities, elected a very conservative mayor.

Maybe Christopher Hume of the Toronto Star was on to something when he wrote, "The rednecks have all moved east."

(CBC Photos)