Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi is on an Eastern Canadian tour, trying to persuade graduating university students to launch their careers in his city. He made his pitch to Montrealers on Friday afternoon.

He faced a standing-room only audience at Concordia University, where students from McGill, Concordia, Université de Montréal and École Polytechnique came to hear the popular mayor speak.

“I am not used to Friday afternoon lectures with people standing in the aisles with nowhere to sit. It was pretty cool,” said Nenshi, hearkening back to his days as a university professor.

The mayor said one in every ten jobs created in Canada was created in Calgary last year and that, when students graduate, many face one of three choices.

“One is to work below their potential,” said Nenshi. “And I think we all lose if that happens."

The second is to create opportunities – something that usually requires some work experience.

The third choice, Nenshi says, is to go somewhere else, and he would prefer to keep bright young graduates in Canada.

Calgary has culture, too, Nenshi argues

As part of his plan to woo Montrealers away from the city, Nenshi highlights the burgeoning theatre scene and good restaurants in Calgary. He points out that the New York Times has profiled both this year.

“I’m a huge theatre fan, a huge theatre buff, and I enjoy theatre around the world. And I will tell you the stuff we put on the stages in Calgary is as good as anywhere, and artists are increasingly moving to Calgary to further their careers.”

He says Calgary has managed to build a true meritocracy, where no one cares about your background, race, or family lineage. He says if you show up, work hard and have good ideas, you’ll do well in the Alberta city.

He does concede housing prices are high, but counters by saying wages are also better than in other parts of Canada, and he’s working on bringing housing prices down so everyone can have a “safe, decent place to live.”

Nenshi says everyone is welcome in his city – not just university students.

“I don’t just want the children. I’ll take the parents too.”

Naheed Nenshi spoke with CBC Homerun's host, Sue Smith.

  • Listen here
Sue Smith and Naheed Nenshi take a selfie

Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi takes a selfie with Homerun host Sue Smith (CBC)