BRAID COL­UMN

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - DON BRAID Don Braid’s col­umn ap­pears reg­u­larly in the Her­ald dbraid@post­media.com Twit­ter: @DonBraid

This crazy civic elec­tion cam­paign has been about many things, most of them di­vi­sive.

We’ve had al­le­ga­tions of race­bait­ing aimed at Mayor Na­heed Nen­shi, which is frankly ab­surd, since he was talk­ing about vi­cious in­ter­net ha­tred and is him­self a daily tar­get of racial slurs.

On Thurs­day came Coun. Ward Suther­land’s ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to “Johnny Jew from New York,” when he was talk­ing con­temp­tu­ously about pub­lic art dur­ing a Ward 1 fo­rum.

Suther­land in­sists he was talk­ing about a fa­mous New York de­signer with the last name of “Choo,” who does not ap­pear to ex­ist, al­though there is a Bri­tish fash­ion house named Jimmy Choo.

Suther­land in­vites peo­ple to watch the video clip on­line. Re­ally, you should. Suther­land is blessed with very clear dic­tion.

Thurs­day af­ter­noon, Nen­shi called out op­po­nent Bill Smith for his in­con­sis­ten­cies over the Green Line LRT project.

Smith has said, for in­stance, that he wouldn’t do any­thing to jeop­ar­dize fund­ing, but also in­sists the line should go ei­ther north or south, even though that would can­cel pro­vin­cial fund­ing.

Over­all, there’s a bit­ter con­ser­va­tive-pro­gres­sive di­vide that trick­les down from the Nen­shi-Smith bat­tle even to the school board elec­tion.

United Con­ser­va­tive Party lead­er­ship can­di­date Ja­son Ken­ney tweeted sup­port for a so­cially con­ser­va­tive slate run­ning for the Calgary Board of Ed­u­ca­tion.

The temp­ta­tion is to in­vite him to run for trustee him­self, since he’s run for just about every­thing else in the past year.

NDP In­fra­struc­ture Min­is­ter Brian Ma­son stuck his nose in too, tak­ing Nen­shi’s side on the Green Line fund­ing. He’s no more wel­come in a civic cam­paign.

The UCP-type con­ser­va­tives long to take con­trol of the city, both in ed­u­ca­tion and civic gov­ern­ment. Smith is their man for mayor.

That would be a re­mark­able coup, be­cause no true con­ser­va­tive has oc­cu­pied the mayor’s of­fice in decades. Even Ralph Klein, when he won in 1980, wasn’t yet a con­ser­va­tive.

Cal­gar­i­ans have gen­er­ally turned up their noses at party di­vi­sions on city coun­cil. They’ve al­ways fo­cused on the city’s real busi­ness — roads, pot­holes, snow clear­ing and ser­vices.

Nen­shi is the first mayor since Al Duerr to speak more broadly of a tol­er­ant, in­clu­sive and wel­com­ing so­ci­ety with an ex­cit­ing down­town.

That at­ti­tude, and Nen­shi’s iden­tity as a non-white Mus­lim, for a time, made him world fa­mous.

But the lat­est Main­street Re­search poll for Post­media shows that taxes are by far the big­gest is­sue of the cam­paign.

Fully 27 per cent of Smith back­ers say they like his prom­ise to hold the line on taxes, which have risen 51 per cent since Nen­shi was first elected in 2010.

An ear­lier Main­street poll showed taxes are the main is­sue for fully 38 per cent of all vot­ers. Next came pub­lic tran­sit, at only eight per cent.

Peo­ple do have other rea­sons for sup­port­ing Smith. Thir­teen per cent say it’s time for a change. Seven­teen per cent find he re­flects their val­ues.

Twenty-two per cent of Nen­shi sup­port­ers like his abil­ity to rep­re­sent Calgary to the prov­ince and the out­side world.

Sur­pris­ingly, only 10 per cent back him be­cause of his sup­port for di­ver­sity.

Nen­shi’s sup­port is on such “soft” is­sues. The prop­erty tax prob­lem, by con­trast, makes many peo­ple fu­ri­ous. Smith ap­pears to own that base.

Coun­cil froze res­i­den­tial taxes in June, but home­own­ers are still on the hook for all the hikes since 2010. And busi­nesses re­main vul­ner­a­ble to big, er­ratic hikes.

There was deep un­fair­ness in this. Af­ter the re­ces­sion evis­cer­ated big busi­ness, sur­viv­ing small busi­nesses had to fill the same tax pot.

Al­though Nen­shi voiced con­cern, he never seemed to sense the full power of the tax is­sue.

The race ap­pears to be tight­en­ing. Smith’s lead has de­clined, ac­cord­ing to Main­street. Many minds could change over the week­end.

Nen­shi’s big corps of vol­un­teers is now highly mo­ti­vated. They’re very good at get­ting out the vote. Nen­shi has a data­base of sup­port­ers that Smith can’t be­gin to match.

But there’s still a chance that on Mon­day, the most lo­cal of wor­ries could bring down the most in­ter­na­tional of may­ors.

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