“I think the PC Party needs a break from government and Albertans need a break from the PC Party,” New Democratic Party leader Rachel Notley told a massive crowd of more than 2,000 supporters at a May 3, 2015 rally at the Ramada Hotel on Kingsway Avenue in Edmonton.
“You don’t have to repeat history on Tuesday, you can make history,” she said.
An NDP rally the previous day in Calgary attracted hundreds of supporters, an occurrence that would have been unimaginable in previous elections.
In my years writing about Alberta politics, I have witnessed many large rallies outside the Legislature. Most were gatherings focused on specific issues but I had never been to a rally this large in support of an opposition party. In fact, I had never seen so many people at an election rally in Alberta, ever.
From the moment Ms. Notley entered the room and made her way through the cheering crowd was on their feet and eager to shake her hand or snap a selfie. The crowd erupted in cheers again when she took to the stage and spoke the words “my name is Rachel Notley and I am running to be Premier of Alberta.” It was something that no NDP leader had ever said convincingly but with Ms. Notley it was different. It felt like it could happen.
Standing in the crowd at the NDP rally, I spoke with two senior citizens who were very excited to experience their first political rally. It is also the first election they will vote NDP. They voted for the PCs in the last election and in many elections before that, they told me.
In the crowd, I also spotted long-time New Democrats, seniors, students, parents and children, union activists, academics and ordinary working Albertans. I also noticed a handful of former Liberal and Progressive Conservative activists who were excited about Ms. Notley’s leadership and the opportunity for a change in government.
Although I was still reluctant to believe the NDP would actually form government, it was impossible to deny that the momentum behind Rachel Notley’s NDP was real.