By Emma McIntosh
Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi came to Ryerson to speak about the future of Canadian cities in front of a full theatre.
The event, the third annual Jack Layton Lecture, took place on Oct. 22. It is held annually to honor the legacy of the famed NDP leader. Before entering politics, Layton was a political science professor at Ryerson.
Nenshi spoke about stories of strangers helping strangers and workers rebuilding a road in a single day. He described the volunteer efforts to restore Calgary after the 2013 Alberta floods.
“How do we take that — that power of everyday people using their everyday hands to do extraordinary things?” Nenshi asked. “How do we apply that power to poverty, to homelessness, to public transit, to environmental degradation, to economic prosperity, to business success, to all of those issues?”
Nenshi said that figuring out how to incite that kind of response under ordinary circumstances could be the key to improving cities across Canada.
“How do we use that power to make our communities even better?”
Nenshi encouraged the audience to do three things per year to help their community, which is the leading idea that created the Three Things for Calgary program. He invited other cities to use the concept and said that it creates a lifetime habit of service.
Nenshi’s speech was peppered with humour and political statements. At one point, he said, “None of us can afford a city that isn’t healthy.” An audience member commented that Nenshi should probably be given more money for that. “You should give me more money for a lot of things,” he responded, laughing with the rest of the room.
The Calgary mayor also offered advice on key issues for students.
“I think the number one thing that we can do for students is ensure that they have safe, decent places to live,” Nenshi said. “And that’s one thing I continue to work on that I have not succeeded on.”
He said that student issues are everyone’s issues.
“If we’ve got good transit, if we’ve got an affordable city, a place that attracts young talent — that helps students, but it also helps everyone.”
With voting day next week, Nenshi encouraged the crowd to vote in the Toronto elections.
“Torontonians have been through enough in terms of talking about politics over the past four years, and it is time to actually vote,” Nenshi said. “Figure out what you love about the city, what you want to see with your city.”
When Nenshi’s speech was over, a few audience members rose out of their seats in a standing ovation.
The rest of the theatre quickly joined them.