From running coffee to running for NDP leader: Nenshi offers advice to high schoolers at SAIT

Former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks to a mix of journalism students and high school students at a news conference at SAIT on April 11. The SAIT journalism program hosted the press conference to allow students to ask the NDP provincial leadership candidate questions. (Photo by Kevin Udahl/The Press)

NDP leadership candidate Naheed Nenshi met virtually with a group of students at SAIT on Thursday to share stories and answer questions about his campaign.

The event was part of a Youth Initiative program, which saw a group of students from Nelson Mandela High School in northeast Calgary visit SAIT to get an idea of post-secondary programs available to them.

Students studying in SAIT’s journalism program were also on hand.

“Fundamentally what I believe is that we are at a pivotal point in human history, also a pivotal point in the history of this province” Nenshi told the group. 

“With climate change, and the climate emergency changing the demand for our major product which is oil and gas, with so many more people moving to this province — Calgary and Edmonton are the two fastest growing cities in Canada — and with some very significant concerns about the delivery of public services, I feel this is really the time to jump in.”

Nenshi touched on a number of topics during the 30-minute conversation, including the increasing cost of housing, a need for public investment, and what he sees as missteps taken by the current provincial government.

Nenshi also touched on lighter topics, such as receiving public criticism, the biggest mistakes he made as a teenager, and finding his own first job.

“You just got to hit the ground. Go to the mall and go to every single store with a good resume and say, ‘Are you hiring?’” he said when asked for advice on job hunting. “And even if they’re not hiring at that moment, if you impress them, they will call you back.”

That is how Nenshi found his own first job.

Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi is running for leader of the provincial NDP. (Photo: Courtesy of Nenshi campaign)

“My first job was at the Bingo Palace, which is still there on 32nd Avenue and Barlow Trail, serving coffee, and I did it for three years before I got a job at Marlborough Mall,” he said.

“But those early formative experiences were really important to me and to this day I’m still pretty good at counting back change.”

Nenshi was Calgary’s 36th mayor and is now a candidate to lead Alberta’s NDP.  He served three terms as mayor, from 2010 to 2021, when he decided not to run and was succeeded by current Mayor Jyoti Gondek.

Nenshi launched his leadership bid on March 11 after current leader Rachel Notley announced she would be stepping down.

Alberta’s NDP will have a new leader by June of this year and four other people are running for the top position, including current MLAs Kathleen Ganley, Sarah Hoffman and Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse and union leader Gil McGowan.

MLA Rakhi Pancholi announced her candidacy and was seen as an early contender but dropped out and endorsed Nenshi after Pancholi revealed the number of party memberships had more than doubled after he entered the race.

Nenshi was elected mayor of Calgary in 2010 at 38 years old. He campaigned on a non-partisan, ‘purple’ political identity and earned 40 per cent of votes cast in that election. In 2013 Nenshi ran for his second term, and he was elected once again in 2017, this time with 51 per cent of the vote.

Nenshi is perhaps best known for his leadership during the 2013 floods, one of the worst natural disasters in the province’s history – an event that cost over $400 million in damages to city infrastructure alone. 

During his talk Nenshi encouraged students to take an active role in their province and their futures.

“The Alberta NDP is very interested in a broader view of democracy,” he said.  

“So, you don’t have to be 18 to be a member of the party and vote, you only have to be 14. And you don’t have to be a Canadian citizen, you can be a permanent resident, or a refugee, or an immigrant or an international student.”

Voting for NDP leadership concludes at noon on June 22. Results are expected to be announced later that day. 

— with files from Sasha Sanderson

About Carolina Avendano Duque 2 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Carolina Avendano Duque is working as a writer for The Press in 2024.