If Mayors Rules the World: Event Review

Last Wednesday, October 15th, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce brought the brightest political, scholarly and business minds together and hosted an outstanding world-class event in the panoramic setting afforded by the 54th floor of Calgary’s newest and tallest building – The Bow. With an audience populated by notable Calgary business persons from EnCana Corporation, Brookfield Residential Properties and Nexen to name a few; dignitaries; local business owners, and some nervous students, the floor was set for an evening of noteworthy speakers sharing their ideas and engaging in the promising conversations.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi began the evening by introducing the concept of humanity and togetherness in communities post crises. He referenced his experiences with the recent problems that have affected Calgary in the last year: the 2013 flood, recent fallen trees and power outages; these he says, represent demonstrate the remarkable humanitarian effort by Calgary citizens and local government during the cleanup after the disasters. He spotlighted the tight bonds created in our city and how those unaffected by the calamitous events came to assist those who lost homes and belongings and had to stop businesses operations due to the power of nature. Moreover, Mayor Nenshi highlighted the key role of a mayor that is to be in touch with everyone in order to truly represent the interests of the city. ‘God bless the garbage men’ he emphatically stated, emphasising the fact that regardless of place in society,  a city cannot function without all its necessary parts, and that his role as Mayor of Calgary is to represent the voice of every member of our city.

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Following on from Mayor Nenshi, the key note speaker Dr. Benjamin Barber took the floor. Dr Barber, a political theorist at the Graduate Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society of City University of New York, as well as president and founder of the Interdependence Movement, and author of seventeen books, set forth his philosophy of poly-cultural cities and their municipal pragmatic governments. His concepts centre around pragmatic municipal governments which are empowered by the central government to look over its citizens, not countries built on impaired institutions, rigid ideologies and sovereignty practices.

Citing research from America that suggests an increase in confidence in the roles of local governments that falls in line with figures for US Congress, Dr. Barber highlighted that the mayor of the city has a greater opportunity to maintain a role of both figurehead and part of the community, thus increasing the togetherness of the city. Dr. Barber followed on with a discussion of his philosophies by stating that democracy, interdependence and sustainability are the key elements to achieve success in problem solving on an international arena, providing the highlights of the first “The Parliament of Majors” meeting in London, 2015. This meeting  will represent the perfect future opportunity for an intercity collaborative discussion helping to combat universal problems of pandemics, terrorism, disease, and environmental issues. According to Dr. B. Barber, it is global democracy that combats these fundamental issues and challenges. ‘Tearing down” 17th century Nation State walls will allow room for discussion between city mayors. The creation of leaders who are conscious of their city’s life, would lead to cross-country collaboration, creativity and prosperity of multiculturalism.

After the formal talks had finished and the backdrop of the glorious Calgary night vista of The Bow kept the participants breathless, all speakers were amenable to further enquiry by the thoroughly engaged and compelled audience members. The event achieved its purpose to not only discuss the role of mayors and the importance of their engagement in the city life, but also went beyond picturing Calgary’s future as a leading city one day aligning with Paris, Brussels, Washington and New York.

This event is part of the “Great Cities” series by the Chamber of Commerce. The next event “Open Data” is to be held on November 13th. More information can be found at the link below:

Next time, we hope to see you there!

Helga Packeviciute


Helga Packeviciute is an Urban Studies major in University of Calgary. Her interests in architecture, sustainable urban planning and public engagement have drawn her to join UrbanCSA this Fall, 2014. When seeking for the break from her studies, she can be found running trails or skiing slopes in the Rockies.

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One comment

  1. Brett Walsh · November 16, 2014

    Great article. Municipalities, for historic reasons, have less money and power than they ought to have given the size of the population who live in cities and the effectiveness of government that is closest to the people. Our federal ridings are based on 1875 thinking when the country was heavily rural in its population. Cities are the engines of growth –read ‘A Country of Cities’ for a rational argument on this – but suffer form beeing heavily underfunded leading to loss of efficiency and the mostly unaddressed affordability issues.These kinds of discussions hopefully will change this.

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