BLOG | In his words: What Nenshi actually said about the media

At Tuesday's meeting of the Priorities and Finance Committee, Mayor Naheed Nenshi went off script and sarcastically tore into certain media types.

Calgary mayor teased some journalists for coverage of city's $52M tax room consultation

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi had a few choice words for some media who have written about the city asking for the public's input on what to do with the $52 million of extra tax revenue. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

At Tuesday's meeting of the Priorities and Finance Committee, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi went off script and sarcastically tore into certain media types.

At the media table, there was some mirth and merriment as, clearly, this would make news. And after watching the Twitterverse explode with another Mount Nenshi erupts theme, the mayor joined the fray.

There have been a number of stories written about his comments.

While he did take reporters' questions afterwards, here is what was actually said in the meeting as the mayor freely offered his opinions on this topic.

Transcribed from a recording:

Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart: Your Worship, my question to you is, the premier has been out there a fair amount saying that...

Nenshi: Oh, you're not are you? You're pulling my string.

Colley-Urquhart: I think it's important because the way it's being characterized is that this was tax room that they're giving back to us and the intention was it should be given directly back to Calgarians. So it's an issue that we're having to address with our residents and responding to this...

Nenshi: Oh, Ald. Colley-Urquhart, I've been so nice on this point. You know, let's talk about a few things.

I have found the discussion around this — not from the general public. I've been speaking to a lot of members of the general public who actually I think are welcoming the discussion and the conversation. I am finding the discussion from folks who can't get their heads around a new type of engagement with citizens fascinating. You know, there's the brilliant, brilliant columnist at the Calgary Sun, who I feel really bad for because he's written the same column six times now — he must be running out of adjectives — but with nothing new to add unfortunately because there is nothing new to add because actually talking to people is not a bad thing.

And asking people what they want is not a bad thing. It's interesting to note that three of the five options are tax reductions. Three out of five are tax reductions. Two in the present and one in the future, through cutting debt.

And yet, we're being told that our minds are already made up. That there's a secret plan on how to allocate this money. If anyone has that secret plan, I wish they'd show it to me — because I hate secret plans that I'm not part of — but there is no secret plan. And I found it fascinating that other politicians who are probably the last people anyone would seek out for budget advice would suggest that asking people what they want and what their priorities are is a bad thing. I find that fascinating.

That said, I don't let myself get too hung up on these folks because we've been hearing from hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of citizens who say "Hey, thanks for asking." It's the No. 1 thing we hear in fact... way ahead of anyone and their ideas on what the options are, the No. 1 thing we hear is "thanks for asking, thanks for engaging." "Thanks for trying to understand what our priorities are."

I think a lot of folks who have a real black and white, white hat-black hat kind of view of how politics should work have a lot of trouble understanding that actually asking people is a good thing. My one little bugbear — I will make a little more fun of our friends in the media — is we've had the same newspaper write two editorials in which they said 'Renters should have no voice because they don't pay property taxes,' which is of course absurd. I'm a landlord and if I didn't calculate property tax in my rent, I'd be a pretty stupid landlord. Then the same newspaper in an editorial two days later said 'Rich people should have no say because they're too rich.'

So, I think it would be extremely helpful if they were to just give us the income range and status of the only people who count as citizens that would make our lives so much easier. But in reality what's happening here is we're talking to people. We're talking to citizens at Sunridge Mall and Chinook Centre and downtown and through online surveys and I don't think that's a bad thing. And I'm looking forward to seeing the results of what people have had to say. And then this council, doing what we have to do, which is exercising our own judgment, making our own decision and wearing that decision because we are ultimately the ones who are accountable to citizens. So anyway, that is it. I stand by and I think all of us stand by the simple answer that talking to people is a good thing.