Alberta Politics

Fifty years of Alberta NDP.

Alberta NDP Campaign Button 1986 Election
Alberta NDP button from 1986 election (PC Premier Don Getty had been a football Quarterback before entering politics).

New Democrats from across Alberta have gathered in Edmonton this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their party’s founding. Attendees at this weekend’s annual convention will hear from NDP leader Brian Mason, MLAs Rachel NotleyDeron Bilous, and David Eggen, Member of Parliament Linda Duncan, and federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.

With only 4 elected MLAs in the 87 seat Assembly, the NDP Opposition is a small force in Alberta but their MLAs are known for punching above their weight, taking full advantage of every opportunity to get their message into the media. They are good at it. When I worked for the Liberal official opposition in my previous life, I remember how frustrating it was to see the tiny NDP caucus regularly overshadow the Liberal official opposition. They were a tough scrappy insurgency and could easily outmanoeuvre the more official Liberal establishment at the Legislature.

Looking back at the past 50 years, the conference will include a retrospective panel, which will include former MLA Alex McEachern, former NDP president Reg Basken, and former leaders Raj Pannu and Ray Martin. A ‘Planning our future’ panel, complementing the historical retrospective panel, will include Brian Topp, Ryan Meili, and Manitoba Member of Parliament Niki Ashton.

Here is a look at how the Alberta NDP have performed in provincial elections since 1963:

Alberta NDP MLAs
The number of NDP MLAs elected to serve in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly compared to the total number of MLAs in elections from 1963 to 2012. (Click to enlarge)


Alberta NDP Vote 1963-2012
The number of votes received by the Alberta NDP compared to total voter turnout in elections from 1963 to 2012. (Click to enlarge)

5 replies on “Fifty years of Alberta NDP.”

I hope that those who are allowed to be members of the NDP will look seriously at your historical charts, Dave. They show that punching above its weight has rarely caused the voters to pay the NDP much attention (except in the mid-to-late 80s when a prolonged recession made many Albertans wonder whether they lived in the promised land). The NDP needs to be as open as possible to discussions of why it does poorly in Alberta elections (as opposed to babbling about “doubling” its seat count from 2008 to 2012–2 to the 4 that they also won in 2004)and what it could be doing differently. Instead it is closed to debate and a number of people, including myself, who are viewed as rabble-rousers, have been denied membership (in my case, despite having been a member from 1969 to 2010 without interruption).

Such hypocrisy too! I am unwanted on the NDP ship because of my public role in Change Alberta, which made note of which left-of-Tory candidate had the best chance of winning in 42 seats where that might be at least of some small interest (we were right in 39 of them, that is 93 percent). The NDP denounced the whole idea of Change Alberta, but then lobbied us like crazy (as did the Liberals and Alberta Party) for “endorsements.” In fairness, the NDP were fulsome in our praise when we did suggest that their candidate was the progressive in the lead in seats that they hoped to win. But they went ballistic about our refusal to manufacture a potential lead for Lori Sigurdson (NDP) over Arif Khan in Riverview. ‘She’s a social worker, and he’s a businessman,’ they said; ‘so she must be better’ (and maybe she was; but that missed the point: he was progressive enough and all our sources showed that he had a far better chance of winning).

Anyway, I wish them luck. Most of all, I wish them some commonsense–and, thinking of the Don Getty picture, I wish them a new quarterback. The old one works hard and knows his stuff but he inspires no one outside of the small hardcore of the party.

Alvin has a point. There hasn’t been any real progress over the last four decades (other than the 86 to 89 blip which wasn’t sustainable). One thing that could change this picture is the emergence of dynamic candidates who attract the issue voters, not the party line voters. If it is true that voters are moving away from party loyalties to vote for the candidate that best reflects their values, elections in the future might turn into jump ball…but this will take time, meanwhile the PCs continue to drag this province anywhere they choose. So the idea of inter-party cooperation should not be dismissed out of hand.

Aside from the Alberta NDP, the only organization with a greater legacy of failure over the past fifty years is the Toronto Maple Leafs. THAT is sayin’ somethin’…

Alex don’t bother comming to my house to get my vote for the next election.This carbon taxe B.S. is a deal breaker.I voted for you and this is a total betrayal.You just lost 5 votes.This is a absolute disgrace.Why didn’t you go the way Quebec and Ontario did.You needed the money.Steal money from every Albertan and let big businesses like Suncor go on laughing all the way to the bank.Job well done….

Yves Cloutier

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