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Why Andre Chabot presents a real challenge for Nenshi

The Ward 10 councillor could be the only true challenger in the 2017 mayoral race

Andre Chabot is the only established politician challenging Mayor Naheed Nenshi for his seat in the 2017 election.

Metro File

Andre Chabot is the only established politician challenging Mayor Naheed Nenshi for his seat in the 2017 election.

The 2017 mayoral race got very real on Wednesday when Andre Chabot’s worst-kept secret was officially let out of the bag.

Short of a high-profile celebrity stepping forward, Chabot is now the official underdog in this race (sorry Larry). Unfortunately, most people have no idea who he is and if he’s the real deal.

After watching him for countless hours in council, I can tell you that he poses a bigger challenge than many people might think.

First off, he’s a details guy. When a point of order is raised at a Calgary council meeting, chances are it’s coming from Chabot.

It’s tempting to gloss over the details when you’re facing thousands of pages of reports and secondary suite applications. He clearly doesn’t, based on the questions he regularly asks.

Unlike councillors who vote strictly on ideological lines, Chabot has shown that he’s willing to bend a bit. While he probably won’t pitch a city-wide solution for secondary suites anytime soon, he was able to partner with Gian-Carlo Carra on a motion to reduce the red tape on them in certain cases.

In the early days of the bike lane pilot, his was probably the deciding vote. You look at the 8-7 split and his name stands out, voting in favor with Druh Farrell and Evan Woolley.

What Chabot lacks is that instant charm that comes across well through the television. Even he admits it. But that’s not to say he can’t turn on the charm when he wants to.

In January of 2016, I watched him at a meeting regarding airport noise in Marlborough. He was greeting a steady stream of residents, chatting them up, and he definitely had that one-on-one connection with those who approached him.

When things at the meeting got heated, it was Chabot who took to the stage, cracked a few dry jokes and calmed everyone down with a promise to request a new meeting with a better format.

When you call up Chabot he answers in a monotone, detached voice. It’s a tone that says, “I’m answering my phone, but don’t waste my time.”

However, ask him a fiscal question, and you’re off to the races. If there’s one thing he likes more than details, it’s numbers.

In this fragile economy that may be turning a corner, and with the NDP in power for two more years, Chabot could easily harness the growing sentiment against the left.

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