Approval ratings plummet for Mayor Naheed Nenshi and council, poll suggests
A new poll suggests the approval rate for Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi and city council has plummeted.
Compiled by ThinkHQ, the survey queried 1,253 Calgarians between June 20 to June 25 and suggests only 39 per cent of respondents approve of Nenshi.
Comparatively, 55 per cent of those surveyed disapprove (37 per cent strongly) of Calgary's mayor. The numbers represent a 22 point drop in approval year-over-year.
Calgarians were also quite sour on city council members, but not to such a great effect. Nearly half (49 per cent) said they approve of “their councillor,” versus 34 per cent who disapprove and 17 per cent who are unsure.
The overall margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 2.8 per cent with 95 per cent confidence.
The author of the report, Marc Henry, suggests the falling approval ratings are the result of a number of challenges council has faced over the last year.
In the report, Henry says, “a failed Olympic plebiscite, serious budget challenges, a small business tax revolt and senior business leaders calling into question the financial viability of the current Green Line LRT expansion are just a few of the trouble spots over the past 12 months.”
Despite that, Henry called the drop, "breathtaking" and said it has been several decades since a sitting mayor saw such a low approval rating.
"You’d probably have to go back to Ross Alger in 1980," he said.
"Regaining approval is much tougher than getting it in the first place."
Henry adds Calgarians are clearly not happy with how city hall is operating today and most of the ire is aimed at Nenshi, who, under the current approval climate, likely wouldn’t be successful in the next municipal election scheduled for October 2021.
“The irony is that if these numbers were to hold, most members of Council could likely be re- elected, but that’s not the case for Mayor Nenshi,” Henry said in the report.
“It would be very unlikely for the mayor to contest and win re-election with approval this low.”
Asked about the numbers at the First Flip Pancake Breakfast on Thursday morning, Nenshi pointed to a CD Howe Institute study of 10 of the largest urban municipalities done in 2018, which he ssys showed Calgary had the lowest tax rate and lowest cost of doing business.
"We beat ourselves up over issues that are solvable," he said.
"And I think that my colleagues on city council and myself really need to change the channel on this, because ultimately, beating one another up over stuff that we are fixing is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we can see that resulting in what people's attitudes are."
Coun. Ward Sutherland, who represents the northwest corner of the city, said some of the consternation should be directed at other levels of government.
“Everyone is frustrated with this economic environment so a lot of times council is held accountable for all three levels of government,” he said.
“We wear three hats, we represent our ward and the community within the ward and we’ve gone through a number of challenges.”
Sutherland added some of the criticism directed toward Nenshi and the rest of council is warranted, but not all.
“I’ve questioned his leadership at times where it came to taxation, I’m not going to hide from that,” he said.
“Sometimes we have a leadership issue but that’s up for people to decide and they really have to pay attention to what their councillors do and do their research.
“We get a lot of distribution that’s not accurate and they start believing it, so they have to do their homework too.”