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By electing Naheed Nenshi, Calgarians deliver a slap to the grim Harperite vision of Alberta

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Naheed Nenshi

Calgarians, denizens of what is supposedly the country's most conservative major city, will awake this morning to the news they have elected a liberal mayor who is a member of both a visible minority and a religious minority.

The election of Naheed Nenshi as mayor in yesterday's civic election tells a very positive and inclusive story about Cowtown, and establishes a clear trend of Calgarians electing the most liberal candidate available to the top job in what is supposedly the heartland of the mean-spirited Harper regime and the rabidly market fundamentalist Wildrose Alliance.

As regular readers surely know, your blogger thought about the best that could be hoped for was the election of the nicer conservative candidate, and so this morning I must eat a little crow. This kind of thinking must be the result of too many ice-cold post-election mornings over the years out here in the New West. Well, it really is the New West now, and … and … and Leger Marketing called it right!

Thankfully, notwithstanding the need to choke out that phrase, I won't have to eat as much crow as the supporters of Ric McIver, "the toast of Conservative Calgary," the man so far to the right he gave up the K in his first name to the Tories' bean counters. What a slap in the face to the Calgary Herald editorial board, Jason Kenney, the political prognosticators at the Globe and Mail, Tom Flanagan and all their ilk among the Harperite spear carriers who boosted the angry and divisive McIver throughout the campaign.

What's more, Nenshi got Calgarians to say No to "Dr. No" with a campaign war chest less than half the size of McIver's!

Nenshi's success at the polls should be a reminder to the good people of Toronto that they too can do better in a week's time than they once had thought. We'll have to see about that, I suppose, but it's something to ponder.

It can also serve as a reminder to those of us in the rest of Alberta that we can do better too -- and that one of these days we just might.

In Edmonton, meanwhile, Mayor Stephen Mandel romped to an easy and decisive victory over his Wildrose-Alliance-backed rival.

Fact is, the popular Mandel would certainly have won no matter what, but it surely did not hurt his prospects for a two-to-one victory that his chief opponent's campaign was tarnished by the sleazy tactics of a supporter who pretended to be a freelance journalist from the United States to smear the mayor.

The decisive defeat of candidate David Dorward, who had hung his hat on the fight to keep Edmonton's City Centre Airport open in the face of Mandel's plan to convert the site into a upscale inner-city development, also may have interesting implications for Alberta politics in the long run.

Premier Ed Stelmach's Conservatives, not to mention many New Democrats and Alberta Liberals, are all sure to take comfort in the fact the candidate openly backed by the Wildrose Alliance of Danielle Smith was so thoroughly trounced by the moderate Mandel.

It will take some time -- and possibly some beer -- to puzzle out the rest of the implications for the Alliance of this civic race in Edmonton.

Only one thing can be said for certain about that at this hour: for throwing her support behind the fight to keep the city airport open, Smith will have a free plane ride anywhere in the province that she wants to go once a provincial election campaign begins.

But surely it is a hopeful sign here in Canada's supposedly narrow-minded Bible Belt that the citizens of its two principal cities have elected mayors distinguished by their moderate and inclusive views who happen to be members of religions not practiced by the majority.

It's not exactly springtime in Alberta -- it's October, after all, and the snow will soon be flying. But there may be hints of a warming trend among big city voters nonetheless.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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