It is with a certain chill that one wonders how Toronto Mayor Rob Ford might have handled flood-ravaged Calgary had he been the burgermeister of that fair, if water-logged, city.
Would he have blamed the heavy rains and bursting riverbanks on left-wing conspirators determined to prove that climate change is real? Would he have taken the opportunity to sweep the streets clean of the homeless and disenfranchised, relocating them by means of bus and pick-up truck to the ex-urban hinterland? Would he have headed for the high country to wait out the storm with nary a peep of support for his fellow citizens, the ones he left behind?
However he might have managed the emergency – which is, by no means, over – one suspects his response would not have come close to matching the gold standard set by Calgary’s actual Mayor Naheed Nenshi, whose status as hero seems secure for all time. The Twitterverse loves the guy, and for good reason.
No finer example of leadership in action currently exists at any level of government, anywhere in Canada. Mr. Nenshi’s instincts have been razor sharp: He’s been selfless, cogent, organized and, perhaps most importantly, available.
His advice to his community has fairly flowed with common sense.
On national television he said, “We live in this urban, cutting edge city but like everyone else we live in nature; we live in this world. I am very familiar with this river (the Bow). It is part of my heartbeat the way it is a part of the heartbeat of every Calgarian, and no Calgarian has ever seen it this high and this fast. . .We can fix stuff, we can replace stuff; we can’t fix people.”
In one of his innumerable public updates, he declared, “I can’t believe I actually have to say this, but I’m going to say it: The river is closed. You cannot boat on the river. I have a large number of nouns that I could use to describe the people I saw in a canoe on the Bow River today. . .I am not allowed to use any of them.”
CBC News reports his Twitter feed as a litany of useful minutia:
“Latest update: water cresting, lots and soon. Stay away from riverbanks, stay tuned for further instruction.”
“Getting a first-hand look across the city. I’ve never seen levels this high and fast. Worst is yet to come.”
“And with that, a day that started 43 hours ago comes to a close. It included one plane, two helicopters and 3:45 am and 8:30 pm press briefings.”
“Did you lose precious family photos? Local photog @gabemcclintock offers to help make new memories.”
“Donate your grad dresses to young women in High River who lost theirs.”
“South line C-train service to downtown will be a while yet. We still recommend staying away from downtown if you at all can.”
“Big news: C-train service back in downtown tomorrow! Blue line back except city hall and centre street, NW line to 8th street.”
It’s often true that adversity brings out the best in people. But not always. Consider the sorry example Mr. Ford now sets in Hog Town, where his administration sits under a cloud laden with controversies, both minor and distinctively otherwise.
Did he or did he not smoke crack with known drug dealers? He refuses to sufficiently clarify the alleged circumstances as police continue to probe the matter. Meanwhile, his reputation stinks like burnt toast.
“Uh oh,” begins the blurb for a new Android gaming app called Stay Mayor. “Looks like the Mayor’s in a buttload of friggin’ trouble with that alleged video of him smoking crack! And who knows if it even exists, amiright? But juuust in case, why don’t you help him collect a heap of cash to buy it before The Gawker does. Only your twinkle toes can out-maneuver the Blood Thirsty Media to help him collect more than they did in that damn ‘Crackstarter’ campaign. $201,255 to be exact. And hey, everyone needs a little boost now and then, so make sure you collect power up buckets of deep-fried courage for more footballs to throw at life’s problems. . .but make sure you avoid those pesky crackpipes!”
If all mayors are equal, then, some are more equal than others.