Calgary’s mayor speaks of the importance of key factors to building a poverty-free city

Mayor Naheed Nenshi suggested ways to build better communities during a speech at the Ranchmen’s Club in Calgary during an event hosted by the Canadian Club of Calgary on Wednesday.

“Thanks that I grew up in Calgary I had access to many opportunities,” Nenshi said. “In Calgary, every single person in every single corner has the opportunity to have a great Canadian life.”

 Nenshi said that what makes Calgary great isn’t oil wealth, but the promise that anyone can succeed regardless of their background, and everyone has great opportunities to advance. However, he said it is important to maintain public advantages to help maintain this promise.

Access to public education, transportation, and recreation facilities made a difference in Nenshi’s childhood. The mayor shared some intimate memories with the crowd of about 120 people about how growing up his family faced the challenges that many poor Calgarians are facing today. Still today, he said, “There are so many holes in our system, in our social fabric.”

The popular mayor of Calgary also spoke about many of his successes during his five years in office. 

Photo by Daniel Leon Rodriguez

The mayor said although poverty isn’t an issue that traditionally falls within the responsibility of municipalities, he still thinks it is important for the city to tackle the issue.

Nenshi said that what keeps him up awake at night is that despite Calgary being an economic engine of Canada and how it has grown exponentially, “many in our community are being left behind.” According to the mayor, poverty levels in Calgary have remained constant in the past few decades.

Despite poverty not typically being an issue that falls into the responsibility of municipalities, Nenshi still thinks it is important for the city to tackle the issues.

“Our neighbor’s successes are our successes, and their failures are our failures … That is enough reason to take action.”

“We need to think about poverty in new ways,” said the mayor. Ideas like a guaranteed income and first-housing strategies need to be explored.

He also said poverty is about where people live and whether you breadwinners can provide for their family. The mayor said the demographics of poverty in this city challenge stereotypes people usually have usually about those who have to make due with less.

The demographics, he said, show local poverty encompasses young adults, single parents and families, people with disabilities, new Canadians, parents who struggle to find childcare, families that have children taking care of siblings while parents work, and parents working multiple jobs.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaking with members of the public before his speech at the Ranchers Club at Calgary.

Photo Daniel Leon Rodriguez

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To contact the editor responsible for this story; Ali Hardstaff-Gajda at ahardstaff-gajda@cjournal.ca