The NDP are Ready for Rachel… are Albertans?

Rachel Notley NDP MLA Leadership Candidate Alberta

Rachel Notley

With 70% of the 3,589 votes cast, Edmonton-Strathcona MLA Rachel Notley was selected as the next leader of Alberta’s New Democratic Party. Ms. Notley defeated Edmonton-Calder MLA David Eggen, who earned 28% of the vote, and union activist Rod Loyola, with 2%.

David Eggen

David Eggen

Ms. Notley is an articulate and passionate advocate for social issues in Alberta and I have little doubt that the NDP will continue punching above their weight as an opposition party with her at the helm.

There are no shortage of challenges facing Ms. Notley’s NDP, and perhaps the largest is the task of convincing Albertans that the NDP is a viable alternative to the two dominant conservative parties.

The NDP needs to build the case that they are the more viable progressive alternative to not only the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose, but also the Liberal Party. The NDP has already surpassed the Liberals in total votes and seats in Edmonton. And with two Calgary Liberal MLAs running in the next federal election, the NDP will soon become the third largest party in the Assembly.

But can the NDP translate their latest bump in the polls in Edmonton into actual elected candidates in the next election? The NDP currently have four MLAs in the Assembly and a handful of candidates performed well in the last election in constituencies such as Edmonton-Gold Bar, Edmonton-Manning, Edmonton-Riveriew, and Edmonton-Glenora.

A photo of Shannon Phillips Alberta NDP Candidate in Lethbridge-East.

Shannon Phillips

Moribund in Calgary, the NDP has not elected a candidate in Alberta’s largest city since the 1989 election, which is the equivalent of eons in politics. The party has tried hard to shed any “anti-oilsands” baggage, calling for in-province refining and distancing itself from some positions taken by the Ottawa NDP.

To become a convincing province-wide political force, the NDP needs to break its reputation as an Edmonton-only focused party and recruit candidates who can win in Calgary and Alberta’s medium-sized cities. With the vast majority of rural Alberta a write-off for the tiny social democratic party, I have argued they should focus on an urban agenda.

The NDP has a star candidate in Shannon Phillips, who is campaigning for a second time in Lethbridge-West. Ms. Phillips came very close to winning in the last election, placing only 1,115 votes behind PC MLA Greg Weadick. A win in Lethbridge in the next election would be a significant beachhead for the NDP outside of Edmonton.

With the conservative PCs and Wildrose dominating the political narrative heading into the next election, Ms. Notley’s NDP could play kingmaker and spoiler in close races in cities like Edmonton and Lethbridge.

Even though it is almost impossible to imagine the NDP forming government in Alberta, there could be a real chance they could hold the balance of power in a minority government scenario after the next election. And if that did happen, Albertans would be lucky to have an intelligent and thoughtful leader like Rachel Notley holding the balance of power.

5 thoughts on “The NDP are Ready for Rachel… are Albertans?

  1. Brad Lafortune

    “Even though it is almost impossible to imagine the NDP forming government in Alberta…”

    You hear that, Albertan poli-nerds? Mr. Cournoyer said it’s possible to imagine an NDP government in Alberta!

    Reply
  2. Alvin Finkel

    The NDP noted during the campaign that they were signing up many new members. They likely did sign up some people since their membership at the time of the 2012 election was only about 3000. But with fewer than 3600 people voting for the leader, the NDP is still not ready for prime time, except perhaps in Edmonton. Good luck to Rachel Notley. She is the most articulate member of the provincial legislature when it comes to opposing the egregious policies of the Tories. Now the NDP needs to become clear about what, if anything, they actually stand for, and then has to be open and honest about which seats they are actually going to put their scarce finances into. Or they can pretend that they can win everywhere as they did in New Brunswick and win nowhere.

    Reply
  3. GoinFawr

    “With the vast majority of rural Alberta a write-off for the tiny social democratic party, I have argued they should focus on an urban agenda.”

    Perhaps, but don’t forget that the NDP’s roots lie in the countryside (Shannon Phillips’ in particular). In any case the rural vote is up for grabs to any party willing to review the current mineral rights regime; where millions of mice are beginning to tire of being ruled by a handful of cats.

    Reply

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