Culture

Come Hell or High Water: Calgary Stampede Goes On Despite Disaster

calgary mayor

Flood relief fundraising t-shirt lauds Calgary’s mayor Naheed Nenshi as a hero. (Courtesy: CowboysCalgary on Instagram)


“It’s way worse than we thought it would be,” says my mom.

When my parents, my sister and her fiancé enter the house, they find the basement ceiling on the floor. The deep freezer is tipped over and there is rotting meat everywhere. Mud and sewage coats everything. On the veranda—the same one where I took some wedding pictures two years ago—the mud is so thick that there are green things growing out of it. (…)

The upstairs, the only place that looks like the home I remember, is caked with muddy footprints from the emergency responders who searched for anyone in distress a week ago. “I don’t even know where to begin,” my mom says.

Those same comments will echo through the town in the days to come, as thousands more open their front doors and step into their own disaster zone.

So far, only one death has been directly attributed to the state-of-emergency floods that swept the Calgary, Alberta area in late June.

However, the material losses are devastating.

And the timing of the flood couldn’t have been worse.

As pretty much all Canadians immediately wondered when reports first came in (of the Saddledome stadium supposedly flooded up to its roof, for one thing):

“What will happen to the Calgary Stampede?”

Now in its 101st year, the Stampede calls itself “the greatest outdoor show on earth” and is the province’s most important event in terms of economics, tourism, community pride — and politics.

An Israeli friend asked me about a tweet he’d spotted, sent by former singing (and not-really-tweeting — he used government ghostwriters) Canadian astronaut (and this year’s Grand Marshal) Commander Chris Hadfield, inviting folks to join him at the 17th annual Ismaili Muslim Community Stampede Breakfast.

I explained that, despite its reputation as Canada’s redneck central, Calgary’s mayor is actually Ismaili Muslim Naheed Nenshi, currently being hailed far and wide as the Giuliani of the flood; if Hadfield wants his possible career in politics to go better than that of the last former Canadian astronaut, I added, he’d best attend such an event.

(And as those minority immigrant Ismaili Muslims wisely noted seventeen years ago, they’d better darn well sponsor one…)

As Alberta-born and based columnist Colby Cosh explains:

Calgary can rightly take pride in a miracle executed largely through volunteer effort—but, then, that describes every Stampede. The Stampede’s place in Calgary life is brutally practical, so much so that annual schedules for most businesses are effectively constructed around it. (…)

The Stampede is where much of Alberta’s political and economic networking takes place, and has indeed started to extrude tendrils of influence into national affairs: the federal Liberals cancelled their Stampede breakfast so that [would-be future Prime Minister, Liberal MP] Justin Trudeau could be photographed helping with cleanup, and [Leader of the Opposition, socialist] Thomas Mulcair dared not follow suit.

When talking about Alberta to foreigners, we call it “the Texas of Canada.”

That’s why Calgary’s resilient response to the flood hasn’t surprised me, or many other Canadians.

Neither has the fact that some morbid, opportunistic eco-loons are blaming the floods on “climate change”.

Here, Calgary native Ezra Levant cleverly compares them to the tiny band of dingdongs associated with (Democratic Party supporter) Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps’ Westboro “Baptist” Church:

The Calgary Stampede committee actually unveiled “Come Hell or High Water” as this year’s defiant slogan shortly after the flood — a sort of “Boston Strong” reaction designed to reassure the world that this city of rugged pioneers wouldn’t be bowed.

Sure enough, while some events had to be cancelled, folks from all over the world have been overheard at Calgary airport, asking for directions in a Babel of languages and grabbing an obligatory Stetson as they make their way to the fairgrounds, just as they have for decades.

At a time when you tend to think of first responders as heroes, however, the RCMP has once again revealed its systemic corruption.

Unlike what happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there were very few reports of looting after the Calgary flood.

Except by… the cops.

Many Canadians, not just Calgarians and not even just conservatives, were shocked to learn that some Mounties had broken into flooded (and even not-flooded!) homes and stolen confiscated legally owned firearms under the flimsiest of excuses.

As political consultant Gerry Nichols quipped, the cops were “protecting public safety, one smashed door at a time.”

The Calgary Stampede will be winding down soon.

However, an investigation into the RCMP’s fascist “rescue efforts” will, we hope, begin shortly.