“I have not tweeted for an hour, it’s hard,” joked the young mayor of Calgary, Nenshi Naheed, who heads the fourth Canadian city for a year, with wide use of social media.
Seeking contact with his constituents through Facebook or Twitter, the son of immigrants has managed to win thanks to his charisma, his humor, his words easy and its projects in a city renowned conservative.
With her brown curls, tiny glasses and big smile, the Nenshi Naheed told AFP: “In Canada and particularly in Calgary, you can do and be what you want, regardless of ‘where we come from. “
Born in Toronto, while her parents of Indian origin had just arrived from Tanzania, grew up in Calgary.
Muslim from a modest background, he obtained a Bachelor of Commerce at the University of Calgary and an MA in Public Policy at Harvard University before being an entrepreneur, writer, management consultant, professor and finally Mayor Calgary, City of West known for its cowboys, its stampede (rodeo festival) and its thriving oil industry. He’s only 39 years.
“Growing up, I never thought for a moment that because of my religion or my background, there is anything I can do,” he starts, alternating between French and English during a meeting with investors in Montreal and he is trying to attract families to his town.
After living in New York, Amsterdam, Toronto or Boston, he naturally returned to Calgary and surrounding area of 1.2 million. Many media headline when he was elected in October 2010: “The first Muslim mayor of a major Canadian city.”
“When I won the election (…) I suddenly became known nationally and internationally. I saw my story on CNN, Al Jazeera, in Time magazine.” No fool, he knows that’s because it represents what is called a “visible minority” and his religion. But, he insists, in Calgary “it was never a problem during the elections.”
He campaigned by denouncing the excessive spending of the previous administration and by focusing on improving everyday life, a better city management and the fight against poverty.
He who has many hats cowboy continues to sell the city as a place “remarkably open-minded and welcoming.” “The cowboy hat does not mean a narrow-minded,” he quips.
He wears a striped tie purple color, a mixture of red (color of the Liberals) and blue (the Conservatives) that it is “neither right nor left”.
Petit, he never dreamed of the town hall. But he recounts, laughing, he was a true “nerd”, a loner obsessed with his studies.
However, its citizens can easily talk to him. He does not let her phone rarely. The Facebook social network and microblogging site Twitter has no secrets for him. Social media has been its powerful allies in the election.
“If you want to succeed, we must go to people where they live (…) many also live online. Twitter is a medium that allows direct communication. It is not without irony because the messages are only 140 characters but it allows a more in-depth conversation when I’m doing a speech to a thousand people. “
And he assures, it will not fall on an employee: he alone answers, no password.