POLITICS
04/11/2012 05:27 EDT | Updated 06/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi says urban issues key in Alberta election campaign

CALGARY - The mayor of Alberta's biggest city says whichever party wins over Calgary has the provincial election sewn up, but Naheed Nenshi shied away from making any endorsements, saying each of the five parties has good ideas.

"The City of Calgary is the entire ball of wax in this election in a way that it probably has not been in previous elections in my memory," Nenshi told reporters on Wednesday.

"We've got 25 seats, and whoever can figure out what the people of Calgary need from their provincial government is going to win this election."

The city asked each of the five parties to fill out a survey on 10 major urban issues, including infrastructure, financing and governance.

In a news conference, Nenshi provided an analysis on each party's position, making sure not to betray any particular preference.

"I think it's difficult to assign an overall grade to everyone. Every party has really good ideas. Some parties have ideas that need a little more clarification... But I'm mostly happy that every one of them is talking about cities."

He said it's all about the details.

For instance, an up to $3-billion project to extend Calgary's light rail transit would be most likely to come to fruition under the Wildrose Party's plans — if a little later than hoped. But Nenshi listed off a host of caveats, like a lack of predictability and stability in the financing.

Nenshi scored an unlikely victory in October 2010 civic election, rapidly ascending from the back of the pack to the mayor's seat. The manager of Nenshi's social media-savvy campaign, Stephen Carter, went on to help underdog Premier Alison Redford win the Progressive Conservative leadership last fall and is now her campaign strategist.

When the election writ was dropped on March 25, it was evident Calgary would be a key battleground.

Redford's Tories had already launched radio attack ads on Smith that aired in the Calgary market weeks before the April 23 vote was called.

Calgary, with its streams of oil money and its downtown head offices, is the key cheque-signer and influence-maker of the campaign.

Two of the Tories' most successful premiers — Peter Lougheed and Ralph Klein — hailed from Cowtown.

Edmonton voters have bounced around in recent decades, supporting a range of Liberal, Tory and NDP candidates, but Calgary has been steadily Conservative for 11 consecutive majorities.

Those crushing victories always came against forces from the left-centre.

The time around, there is a new suitor, one that is even further right than the Tories on the political spectrum. The Wildrose has made gains promising no new taxes, a balanced budget, cutting waste under the legislature dome in Edmonton, and, most importantly, no tinkering with oilsands royalties.