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Given that the two travellers in the mayor’s office both sought his counsel before embarking on their Hawaiian holidays, it might indeed be unfair to punish them. They didn’t do anything illegal and, clearly, they weren’t totally sure that they were doing the right thing. Where was the mayor’s leadership?
If one was looking to be charitable to the mayor, we could split hairs and note the differences in responsibility between provincial and municipal governments. We could split hairs and note the different responsibilities between the two chiefs of staff or the differences in travelling to the U.K. versus Hawaii.
The problem for the mayor is that splitting hairs isn’t exactly in keeping with the political brand he’s been trying to build for himself.
While the city has obviously had a lesser role in the response to the pandemic, the mayor has portrayed himself as the leader who is more understanding of the threat. With the provincial government having often been accused of not taking COVID-19 seriously enough, there have been very deliberate attempts to emphasize this contrast.
Most recently, for example, was the mayor’s warning on Dec. 8, just ahead of the province’s announcement of stricter new health restrictions. Nenshi was vowing to take matters into his own hands, declaring, “I won’t hesitate to take further action to protect the citizens of Calgary if the province does not.”
That’s quite a different tone from what we heard last week, where the mayor was blaming, deflecting and making excuses. There’s been very little in the way of contrition or accountability. Mere regret seems rather insufficient here.