‘Off your meds’ comment lands Calgary mayor in hot water

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi has enjoyed an extended honeymoon since his surprise election a year ago, especially compared with his Toronto counterpart Rob Ford. But he may have lost a little shine for a snarky tweet responding to a critic.

Nenshi, a university academic and business consultant, harnessed social media to help him come from behind and become the first Muslim mayor of a major Canadian city. Calgarians and other Albertans embraced his victory as a symbol the province had shed its cowboy/oilman stereotype for a more diversified image.

Now he's being assailed for telling a blogger that "you're off your meds."

According to the Calgary Herald, the exchange was with blogger Werner Patels over the Occupy Calgary protest.

Patels accused Nenshi of lying about police enforcement issues at the protest site at the downtown Olympic Plaza, suggesting Nenshi held extreme leftist views.

"I know I should not bother when you're off your meds, but I love how freedom of speech is now an extreme lefty issue," the mayor tweeted back.

Patels was upset by Nenshi's personal attack.

"So basically he said that calling for bylaw enforcement makes me mentally deranged," Patels told the Herald. "What kind of city are we living in when the mayor tells a citizen - that 'you're off your meds' for calling for bylaw enforcement?"

Advocates for the mentally ill quickly latched on to the politically incorrect jab.

"Saying that is such an insult and such a demeaning comment to people suffering from mental illnesses," said Phil Upshall, executive director for the Mood Disorders Society of Canada. "The mayor of Calgary, who has proven himself to be excellent in so many other areas, needs to take some time to start to understand mental health issues and the stigma that surrounds them."

Nenshi had no direct comment on the flap, but Patels launched a couple more volleys via Twitter.

"Nice comment Nenshi," he said Monday. "Us righties see your true colours and how you cannot actually lead with your 'softie' approach."

He also called the mayor's response "unprofessional and inappropriate," then jumped on Charles Adler's open-line radio show to slam the mayor some more.

But if history's any guide, the mini-controversy will likely slide off the popular Nenshi. Calgary has a tradition of mayors who shoot from the lip.

Perhaps the most famous was Ralph Klein, the ex-TV reporter who served two terms as mayor before governing Alberta as premier for almost 14 years.

At a business dinner in January 1982, Klein blamed a rising rate of convenience store and bank holdups on an influx to his prosperous city of "creeps and bums" from elsewhere in recession-plagued Canada.

Klein later denied he'd used the word bum but said he'd when it came to troublemakers he would "kick ass and get them out of town."

"If some bank robber from someplace else complains that maybe he was roughed up by a police officer, I'm not going to get too worked up," he later told CBC News.