Bell: NDP now decide if they want to be the Nenshi Democratic Party

The former Calgary mayor is the odds-on favourite to become leader of the NDP without actually being at heart an NDP soul

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The initials will remain the same if Naheed Nenshi becomes leader.


They will be called the New Democratic Party in news stories if Nenshi wins the party leadership vote and succeeds Rachel Notley on Saturday.

But make no mistake.

It will be the Nenshi Democratic Party.

Unless Nenshi undergoes a personal transformation it will be all about him and he isn’t really NDP.

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Let’s not play games here.

Nenshi is not a guy who wasn’t in the NDP and then somehow one day saw the light and converted to the cause.

Nenshi is not a guy who was kind of a secret NDP supporter who just didn’t want the news to get out because he wanted to be the mayor of Calgary and then was the mayor of Calgary and thought the association might hurt him.

Nenshi is not orange. He made a career about insisting he is non-partisan. Purple is red and blue and we know what those colours stand for.

Nenshi is the guy who everybody said, if he was anything, was more Alberta party or a federal Liberal.

Many of his supporters would have choked on their avocado toast if you suggested they or their fearless leader were NDP.

No, they’re self-styled progressives, which can mean pretty well mean whatever you want it to mean. Everything and nothing.

Nenshi is Nenshi.

I have nothing personal against the man.

He speaks well.

He can just say the words “building community” or talk about how dreams can’t be small if the sky is so big and his supporters swoon.

He talks about how he’s all for politics in full sentences and his supporters treat the comment as if the man is outlining Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

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He once led a Purple Revolution as mayor, except there was no revolution unless food trucks and bike lanes are what you see as the victory of the working class.

My complaint with Nenshi wasn’t he did too much. No, the beef is he did too little.

He didn’t shake things up enough.

As for being kind of NDP, he never sounded like that to this scribbler.

For heaven’s sake, he was all word salad when asked about the $15-an-hour minimum wage.

Nenshi told Calgarians he was a real fiscal conservative.

Then, in the last election Nenshi endorsed the NDP, sort of, while writing how the Notley years in government were ones of lost opportunity.

For Nenshi, Notley was not particularly great at being premier.

When he backed Notley he believed having the NDP back in government meant you could work to reform the UCP back to its Progressive Conservative roots.

I figure he doesn’t know the words to Solidarity Forever.

Yes, it is a most curious situation.

Where does Nenshi really stand? Who is he?

Nenshi is the odds-on favourite to become leader of the NDP without actually being at heart an NDP soul.

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But that isn’t a problem because he has signed up all sorts of other people who aren’t at heart NDP either.

They just don’t like Premier Danielle Smith. Hardly the makings of a party manifesto.

If Nenshi is crowned leader — and yes, it will be seen as a coronation — this is a takeover done in the name of creating a big tent.

A big tent with Nenshi leading the parade, the man who can win everywhere, the man with the magic formula, the man with the overpowering charisma to win hearts and minds.

We shall see.

In battleground Calgary we are told he will win more seats than the Notley NDP.

He will win outside the two big cities, and easily in places such as the NDP seat in Lethbridge.

What Nenshi stands for in black-and-white terms is still unclear on many issues.

But that’s called hugging the middle of the road. That’s considered a good thing.

Still, he must hold on to the party faithful.

These are the people who fought in the trenches when the NDP had few or any seats in the legislature or battled it out in 2015 when the party had a shot to really improve their showing, not thinking they would topple the crony-infested PC Toryland dynasty.

Anyone out there with a Raj Against the Machine T-shirt? Or a Notley Crue Ready For Rachel one?

These are the people who have been in trenches, their blood, sweat and tears worth it all because they were fighting for their principles.

They are the people who know the NDP must reach out to this province’s workers if they hope to win.

It is not enough to play the smart aleck on social media and seem so clever at a trendy Sunday brunch.

If Nenshi wins on Saturday we will see how much the man can change his tune.

By the way, I would bet two weeks’ salary Notley did not vote for Nenshi.

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