Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi thrills Toronto to chagrin of council colleague

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi was counted among the pioneering Canadian politicians to embrace social media during his triumphant campaign last fall.

But that hasn't stopped his opponents from using more traditional channels to criticize him after he left his city behind for four days in Toronto.

At least one alderman who wasn't invited along for the ride, Gord Lowe, called reporters to relay displeasure that Nenshi's $721.50 round-trip economy ticket was paid by architecture firm Kasian.

The company had invited Nenshi to speak at one function during his visit. The also mayor spent his first 36 hours in Toronto giving four speeches and seven interviews.

While the majority of the junket was paid from his office's budget, Nenshi said he wanted to limit the cost to taxpayers, and disclosed that a flight to speak in Vancouver event next week was similarly purchased by the organization that booked him.

Could fellow Calgary politicians just be jealous Nenshi has been received with unbridled appreciation in the nation's media capital?

Nenshi's speech to the Canadian Club luncheon at the Fairmont Royal York on Wednesday was enthusiastically tweeted about by political observers who have failed to develop any parallel fervor for the relatively lethargic messages of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

It didn't seem to matter Nenshi wasn't saying anything original, let alone controversial: "Calgary mayor wants all cities to succeed," read the Toronto Star's headline, just in case you thought he only wished this for his own.

After all, Nenshi only had praise for the message sent to the rest of Canada by Rob Ford's landslide victory last October, even if it was predominantly fuelled by suburban annoyance with downtown Toronto.

"You have a great opportunity with someone new at the helm," said Nenshi, "to really start to rebuild he city that you want, and you should really grab that opportunity."

Nenshi might have gotten his message to the smart phones of every urbanite in Calgary, but it's not like he was recognized by Toronto's midday subway riders, photographed wondering why this floppy-haired fellow in the trenchcoat was being photographed.

But, shortly after waking up for another day of speeches and interviews on Thursday morning, he felt vindicated by the attention being paid to the effort.

"At a fancy breakfast at a Toronto Timmies; recognized by two strangers with questions about Calgary," tweeted Nenshi. "Media blitz working, it seems."

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