Mayor Nenshi and Prime Minister Trudeau 'hugged it out' during Calgary meeting
Mayor says he once again made the case for federal infrastructure dollars coming to the city
Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says he "hugged it out" with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when the two met Thursday, days after Nenshi issued a stern rebuke of his provincial and federal counterparts over their handling of the city's potential Olympic bid.
"We both talked about the regret we felt in terms of where we are at with this but ultimately both agreed that there was a plebiscite and it was the will of the people on how to move forward," Nenshi told reporters.
"We had a very frank conversation about lessons learned through the whole thing and sometimes it's important to get all this stuff out in the open."
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Days after Calgarians voted 56 per cent against pursuing a bid for the 2026 Games, Nenshi took aim at the two higher orders of government, saying political support was virtually non-existent in the lead-up to the failed plebiscite.
There was no apology forthcoming from Trudeau on Thursday, however.
"I didn't ask for it and it wasn't received because really, it wasn't our place to lay blame or have it out on what happened," said Nenshi. "It was really our place to say, 'Alright, as we work together for Calgary, as we work together to figure out what's right for Calgary, what did we learn and how are we moving forward together?'"
The bulk of their time together, said Nenshi, was spent discussing economics and pipelines.
"I think he really understands the economic situation Calgary is in. Our unemployment rate is two points higher than Edmonton or Toronto, it's double that of Quebec City," said Nenshi.
"Our downtown vacancy rate means there is more vacant office space in downtown Calgary than there is office space in downtown Winnipeg."
No commitments made
No commitments were made during the 30-minute sit-down, but Nenshi said he again made the case for an increase in federal investment in Calgary.
"You don't get commitments in a two armchairs in a quiet room meeting, but I really laid out for him that certainly with the demise of the Olympic bid, we still need that fieldhouse, we still need a plan on those legacy, high-performance sports facilities," he said.
"But more important than that, we need expanded convention space, investments in our travel and tourism sector, we need infrastructure that creates jobs, we can finish that Green Line.
"There are many, many, many options for infrastructure that is directly related to economic growth, but there are also ways that we can row the boat together on bringing in foreign investment and helping small businesses grow, as well as making better connections with our post secondary institutions.
"So this is all about real, bare knuckle economic development work and I laid out a number of options for their consideration."
Asked about the large protests that greeted Trudeau when he spoke at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, Nenshi said it shows how much the city needs some economic relief.
"It really highlights that this is an issue that is impacting Calgarians of every stripe and every background, it is not an issue for one group," he said.
"Really it is about the fundamental economy of Calgary, which is the economy of Canada."
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With files from Scott Dippel