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Photo by Daman Singh

Former city mayor Naheed Nenshi consults U of C students in light of announcing NDP leadership bid 

By Eula Mengullo and Nazeefa Ahmed, March 30 2024—

On Mar. 27, New Democratic Party (NDP) leadership candidate Naheed Nenshi participated in a rally at the University of Calgary. Approximately 150 students gathered in That Empty Space at 11:30 a.m. to hear Calgary’s former mayor discuss student issues such as tuition increases, housing and cost of living.

Photo by Daman Singh

In an interview with the Gauntlet, Nenshi elaborated on his motivations for running to become the party’s new leader. 

“I’ve been increasingly worried about this provincial government and what they’re doing, and the irreparable harm that they are doing to Albertans by not putting citizens at the center,” he said.

Photo by Daman Singh

Having served as the Students’ Union (SU) president in the 1993–94 academic year, Nenshi also highlighted his ability to be attuned to students’ concerns and their needs.

“I understand the economic, social and cultural importance of having two powerful universities and a powerful tech school all in the city of Calgary,” he said.

In terms of post-secondary funding, the U of C received money from the government through the Campus Alberta Grant. For the upcoming academic year, the budget of the U of C shows $388.9 million coming from the government while $410.8 million of the budget will come from tuition fees. Nenshi states that the problem is that the UCP government cut funding and deregulated tuition at the same time, which has increased costs for students overall.

“This government is so incompetent that they have cut the funding and deregulated the tuition. So the university’s easiest way to get more money is from the students rather than actually having to be innovative.”

Photo by Daman Singh

Furthermore, he addressed the lack of housing accommodation faced by students and remarked that a student-inclusive approach must be taken.

“I would propose that as part of an overhaul of housing strategy and creating much better housing strategy, we also need to think about student housing very specifically and very directly,” he said. “Because all the things we’re doing to increase housing supply will end up increasing the housing supply of unsustainable sprawling housing way out in the suburbs that doesn’t do much for students.” 

Nenshi also criticized the UCP government’s cancellation of the Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) in 2019, which used to incentivize employers to hire students by subsidizing their salaries. He states that the STEP program is cheap and could support students given the increasing cost of living.  

“One of the single worst things they’ve ever done,” said Nenshi. “We need to encourage employers to hire summer students but where the STEP grants [were] really helpful was for nonprofit organizations that could put aside some money but not the entire living salary. Certainly, that is a program that we would look at resurrecting if I become premier.” 

Looking ahead to the next provincial election, Nenshi encourages students to get involved and engaged to start a path in building a better Alberta.

“The more people we get involved now and the more we spread the word now, we are building the groundswell of the citizen movement that will remove this UCP government in three years,” said Nenshi. 

Alberta residents ages 14 and up, including citizens, permanent residents and international students are eligible for membership into the NDP for the leadership vote. Membership costs $10 and the deadline is Apr. 22.

More information about Nenshi’s campaign can be found on his website

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