Alberta Politics

It’s still hard to believe the NDP won Alberta’s election

Two days later it is still hard to believe. The New Democratic Party won an election in Alberta? The NDP won a majority government in Alberta? Rachel Notley is the next Premier of Alberta? Get used to it, because Albertans have spoken.

Rachel Notley Alberta NDP leader
Rachel Notley

A change in government is a good thing for Alberta. It was desperately needed.

As I wrote on election night, it would be a mistake to believe this election signals Albertans have shifted to the political left.This election was never about ideology and Albertans remain largely politically moderate. This defining narrative of this campaign was trust and accountability, and on this issue Albertans turned away from Jim Prentice‘s  Progressive Conservatives and embraced Ms. Notley’s moderate and progressive Lougheed-esq platform. The “time for a change” narrative was too strong for the PCs to survive.

But it could still be a while before it stops sounding totally strange. I have never seen another party form government in Alberta until this week. The PCs were first elected 12 years before I was born. My parents were in junior high school when Peter Lougheed became Premier. And this week that dynasty, which governed Alberta for forty-four straight years, collapsed in a spectacular fashion.

Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed
Peter Lougheed

Only one week ago, days before their defeat, the Tories revved up their impressive fundraising machine with a $500 per plate dinner in downtown Edmonton that raised around $800,000 in one night. A similar fundraising dinner, which I am told was sold out, is scheduled to be held on May 14 in Calgary.

But now electorally demolished, on their way out of government and without a leader following Mr. Prentice’s election night resignation, will the PC Party go on? Who will show up for the pricy dinner now that there will be no Premier at the podium or cabinet ministers to dine and wine with? What is the future of the PC Party, now that it is no longer in government?

Albertans wanted a change and they sent a message loud and clear.

On Tuesday night, 74 new MLAs were elected. Forty-nine of those new MLAs will sit in the government benches and 20 will be in opposition, including 18 in the resurgent conservative Wildrose Official Opposition led by Brian Jean. The average age of Alberta’s MLAs also tumbled from 52 years old to 36 40 years old after this election and almost half of the NDP caucus will be made up of women MLAs.

Jim Prentice Premier Alberta
Jim Prentice

The government and opposition now hold differing political views, a difference from the past legislature which could help create an atmosphere of real debate in the Legislative Assembly. This marks a seismic change in a Alberta’s political environment that has been dominated by one party for four decades.

Any new government can be expected to make lots of rookie mistakes, but the incoming Premier has spent the days following the election to set a pragmatic and moderate tone for the new government.

Ms. Notley made a point of using her first days after the election to set a positive tone with Alberta’s energy industry leaders, many who are also likely seeing their first change in government in Alberta. Ms. Notley has repeatedly made clear what Albertans already know: that energy industry is key to our economy. And the NDP Government’s proposed royalty review and modest increase to corporate taxes will ensure the role of Energy Minister remains very important in the new cabinet.

Energy Minister could be a role so important that Ms. Notley takes it on the responsibility herself, as Mr. Prentice took on the extra roles of Aboriginal Relations and Intergovernmental Affairs when he became Premier in September 2014.

While some fear-mongering conservatives, still bitter from their first electoral loss in 44 years, are predicting that the entire energy industry will pack up and leave because Albertans voted in a new government, there is an opportunity for corporate leaders to create a respectful working relationship with the new Alberta Government. And for Albertans, it could be refreshing change to have a government that acts like a partner with the energy industry rather than a wholly owned subsidiary of the energy industry. Albertans want to ensure they are getting their fair share of the wealth collected from their natural resources and industry, quite fairly, wants to know they will be treated fairly by the new government.

As Ms. Notley’s NDP Caucus transitions into their new role as government, the first time this has happened in 44 years, there are still a lot of unknowns. When will a new budget be tabled? When will the Legislative Assembly sit next? Will there be any major changes in the senior ranks of the public service? Will Alberta’s position on major national issues drastically change? Who will be appointed to cabinet?

We can expect incumbent NDP MLAs Brian Mason, David Eggen, and Deron Bilous to be at the cabinet table. Other possible cabinet appointments could include Edmonton-Glenora MLA Sarah Hoffman (former Edmonton Public School Board chair), Calgary-Fort MLA Joe Ceci (former Calgary Alderman), Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips (policy analyst), Medicine Hat MLA Bob Wanner (former Public Services Commissioner for Medicine Hat), Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Bob Turner (Doctor), St. Albert MLA Marie Renaud (non-profit executive director), and Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley MLA Margaret Mccuaig-Boyd (former Vice-President of Grande Prairie College), Calgary-Buffalo MLA Kathleen Ganley (labour lawyer), Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette (university instructor) and Calgary-Varsity MLA Stephanie McLean (criminal defence lawyer). And while their critics have focused on the perceived inexperience of new MLAs, we should not be surprised to see some of these unlikely politicians excel in their new roles.

There will be a lot of unknowns in Alberta politics in the coming months and years. This is not a bad thing. In most provinces it is completely normal. We live in a democracy and can expect, from time to time, that voters will decide it is someone else’s turn to govern.

Change is good. And while it still might be a while before it is easy to believe, Albertans sent a clear message on May 5 that they wanted a change in Edmonton, and they got it.

On Wednesday morning I joined Ryan Jespersen and Steven Dollansky on 630 CHED to talk about this week’s historic NDP election win in Alberta, the Wildrose resurgence and the collapse of the 43-year old PC dynasty.

21 replies on “It’s still hard to believe the NDP won Alberta’s election”

I am eagerly awaiting her decision on who will be Minister of Health. I’m sure many will predict “Dr Bob” will get the nod. But in parliamentary tradition, you don’t appoint experts in a field to the Ministry for that field; expertise is supposed to reside in a non-partisan civil service, prepared to advise and serve whatever government is elected, regardless of its political stripe, and the Minister is supposed to bring expertise on what the government, and the people who elected it, want that Ministry to do. That tradition has been much abused in recent years, but it has value. If Ms Notley were to ask my advice (which she won’t), I’d recommend she tap David Eggen, with his past experience with Friends of Medicare, to be Health Minister.

A correction in the linked globe & mail article now shows an average age of 40 (incorrectly reported as 36).

I agree, it’s hard to believe. I thought communism went out in 1989 with the fall of the iron curtain. I can just hear the giant sucking sound of investment and people leaving Alberta…

Hard to believe but every time I see Rachel in the news, I am cheered up.
After 44 years of the PCs it was time for a change.
I feel very happy about hiring a leader who is trust worthy and intelligent.
After so many years of listening to spin we might get real performance and deliverables now.
There are many social problems that the PCs ignored because they could.
These social problems need government to work in a positive rather than divisive fashion to ensure that there is rich collaboration, trust and commitment by all citizens to the projects that will ensure equity, inclusion and economic prosperity for all.

The major victory of the NDP was very unexpected and I still did not believe that we-the ordinary citizens of Alberta finally had the courage to boot out the PCs.
Right now, there is a big smile on my face.
It’s a new era in Alberta.
The PC bunglers are out.

The eviction of the bunglers won’t alter the current bust and we need to understand that we have just hired ordinary citizens to take care of the work of government.
Most of these ordinary citizens are just like us and don’t know this work so we need to give them time and encouragement as they learn this work.

It will take a couple of years for the NDP to get going (steep learning curve for ordinary citizens to learn the new jobs of governance which isn’t something you learn in university) but so what?
We gave the bunglers 44 years.

I say we give the NDP the same amount of time that we gave the bunglers.
At least now we know that some of the public money will come to the citizens of Alberta in the form of long term beds, supports for special needs kids, help for the homeless and sustained public education funding (but no P3 schools please!).
The public sector has been trashed under the PCs.
Now it is a different situation. I believe we will see a flowering of the public sector that will ensure all citizens will have the help and information they need but never got under the PCs.
At least the money used to subsidize folks like Katz and the continuing care magnates might actually stay in the public sector.

I think we will do just fine with the NDP in power.

If the private sector thinks that this is a catastrophe and that their companies will go bankrupt well that’s the free market for you–the really free market that is -and not one subsidized by private cash to prop up weak companies.
The industries that leave Alberta will be replaced by corporations built by our kids.
We don’t have to wait for this renaissance. We can do it as families (start small businesses) and teach our kids to do the independent business route too.
Big business in Alberta can stop the gloom and doom already.

We’re so not in awe of the threats.
So they leave Alberta.
There are plenty of other oil and gas companies that will return to Alberta once the oil prices go up. There aren’t that many places with oil and gas reserves. Do you think the oil and gas companies came here without major research? They know they can make money here and they will make money no matter who is in charge of government. If they don’t want to make money, they are free to leave the resources and go. The resources can stay in the ground if the prices don’t result in investment.
Our kids can develop these resources.

It is rather annoying to hear oil and gas companies who have earned trillions in Alberta whining to Rachel Notley that they are going to self-destruct if she increases the royalty rates.
The royalty rates should be increased. If oil and gas companies don’t like it, they can leave Alberta. We won’t miss them.
We are tired of being told how to do business in Alberta.
We -the citizens –decide how to do business in our province.

And yes, we have decided.
We’re doing business in a citizen friendly way from this point on.
The bungler way that was excessively business friendly to corporate donors of the PCs is so done with.

And the farmers and ranchers quietly feed the masses with not a word from anyone. Do the city people realize that our industry is the second largest in this province.? We aren’t unionized and never will be, so maybe we’re not worth talking to or about. We can’t walk off the job in protest, carry placards and cry for higher wages. If we do, your dinner will die. Think about it and let us know what the NDP will do for us. Maybe do a blog or two about it. Tell us what you can about your breakfast, lunch and supper (yea us redneck farmers still call it supper). Really analyze what is on your plate and where it came from. Trace that juicy steak all the back to conception. We’re a quiet bunch, us farmers, but we do exist.

Are votes counted by hand all the way in the process? Is computer system involved in the final vote counting? Who is taking care of the system?

I think Dave is right that this win can’t be seen as a move to the left(at least not yet), but it does show as Bob Rae observed in a Globe and Mail editorial that Alberta is not captive to one political party. For years my friends and myself have wondered if change would ever come to the Wildrose province and we now have it. While it took Albertans much longer than other provinces did to turf the government out, they did come to that decision eventually. Hopefully Albertans won’t allow this government to create a dynasty which will become as bad as the previous ones that came before. For those who fear that the NDP will shutdown the oil sands need to take a valium. No government, even the Greens have proposed that. While I think the oil sands proposes great challenges to climate change no one can shut if off that quickly. Providing some better management of the oil sands and providing a plan for an economy that doesn’t rely on fossil fuels is good for everyone. I am also sure that providing better safety and environmental standards would appeal to even those who live in the Mac. For someone who is a member of AUPE, I am hopeful that the government won’t be as hostile as the previous government was in introducing Bills 45 and 46.

I wish people who talk about the oilsands being such a significant threat to climate change would first inform themselves. According to the most recent GHG report, in 2013, the oilsands generated 62 Mt of Canada’s total GHG production of 726 Mt. So how does something that represents 9 per cent of something be a significant threat to something that the other 91 per cent isn’t an ever greather threat to?
If you look at the numbers, passenger traffic generates 88 Mt of GHGs and freight transportation generates another 56 Mt. Add to that the 88 Mt created by the generation of electricity and you start to see where there is an actual threat to climate change – the people who drive their cars to and from work, go to the grocery store to buy food that was transported there on trucks and then go home and power up their computer to tell us all how much a threat the oilsands are to climate change.
I’m not saying industry is blameless here but when you look at the numbers you start to see how much GHGs are produced for domestic purposes. If anything I hope the new NDP government first educates itself on the actual numbers and then develops solid, effective policy and not just attack the oilsands like it’s the only thing pumping out GHGs. Despite not being a fan of the NDP, I’m taking a wait and see approach to the new government.
I’m not directly criticizing David Grant above, I’ve heard those comments before quite often. As for Julie Ali’s “like it or leave it” approach to oil companies, I suspect if that were to ever happen she would quickly change her tune when she pulls up to the gas station or grocery store and see what happens to prices when you pull that kind of volume out of the supply chain. That kind of rhetoric is all fine and good until it impacts you and be assured it would directly impact you.

It is amazing to me how little is taught about government in schools. With so many being elected , especially who are young with little experience in much at all, one would think they might at least have to take a course before running – and maybe have a quiz before being allowed to run – ie what is known about how government runs/operates and what the job entails.

There is a School at the Legislature. Most candidates who want to run and who won need to at least attend it along with elementary school kids already attending.

How many running were running because qualifications nor knowledge is required? How many are running for the money and pension vs that and wanting to contribute (if they know what the job even entails)?

I now know someone who wants to run for the federal election because he says if others don’t have to know anything, why should he. As long as he doesn’t have to listen to people’s problems much, he will run, he said. He truly does not care about people, nor know anything about politics, but he will likely get in the way things are going – is already setting himself up to run. It makes me sick to think he could be representing a riding in the future – and makes me wonder how many others don’t have a clue, nor really care, but plan to wing it until the real money rolls in. He knows nothing about politics, nor cares/has admitted it – but he sees opportunity re. money, a pension, and perhaps future additional power as others with so little life and other experience have so easily won. That is democracy . . . but it is also terrible to think we are being governed by perhaps too many players or sociopath-like individuals (sociopath checklist: glib, charming, self absorbed, without conscience or remorse, etc.).

Please look very closely at those running for the NDP in the next election. Ask more of candidates, be suspect, don’t be bamboozled.

For sure, Energy Health and Education need solid ministers. No more creative destruction for awhile, and please turf the boards. If Premier Notley asked me, (heh) I would recommend immediate auditing of Energy, Finance and Infrastructure.
@Darren, Your numbers are incorrect but your point is reasonable. Our new government should be about sustainability. As far as the oil companies go, I think you’ll be surprised how well the integrated players like Suncor, Shell, Husky and Esso get along with our new Premier.
@Ahn, “That is democracy . . . but it is also terrible to think we are being governed by perhaps too many players or sociopath-like individuals (sociopath checklist: glib, charming, self absorbed, without conscience or remorse, etc.).” I can’t decide if you’re alluding to Jonathan Denis, Thomas Lukasuck, Alison “wonderland” Redford, Danielle Smith, Rob Anders… it’s endless!

@May Day

How do you have time to comment on this blog. Won’t we die of hunger since you are not out in the fields?

@Magdalene M., ballots are counted by hand in most Canadian elections, including federal and in most (maybe all) provinces. We use a simple paper ballot, marked with a pencil, not some fancy-schmancy punch card (like Florida, and we all saw how well that worked in 2000) or ScanTron type sheet. And yet, our elections are remarkably free from fraud and other malfeasance, at least at the point of casting and counting votes.

Recounts are routine in constituencies that are very close, including ties, and there will be rulings on contested ballots, such as whether a ballot is clearly marked or should be deemed spoiled. Judicial recounts can also happen. This is why there is a time lag after the election is over before the results are final and the newly-elected MLAs can take their seats. Meanwhile, we have a caretaker, “lame-duck” government, still led by the PCs, at least in theory.

Remember, though, the Americans wait two and a half months to install a new Administration and Congress, even when there is no real change of government. In comparison, then, our system is greased lightning.


Thank you bringing change. We believe in you. You have delivered the people. Here is what we want:

-increase corporate tax
-fix healthcare and seniors long care issues
-review all existing contracts
-reinstate foil
-open up the books, all of them
-better environmental stewardship
-fund education and post secondary
-alleviate most poverty (bottom 5% are taking 50% of healthcare cost.
-cleanup house, find the skeletons, hold past folks accountable (Saskatchewan did)
-dismantle entire network of cronyism in levels of all agencies, everywhere
-bring new levels of transparency and accountability
-ask senior bureaucrats to leave, at least 5 levels down
-undo ALL past bills meant to weaken democracy, too many to list
-save money
-lower executive pay and bonuses in govt.
-above all you have the mandate…have courage, even if they resist change, its their time to go, away from any govt agency, they had 44yrs.

Mr Bung. That’s not a positive response to an honest question. Do you eat? If so, you should be worried. If mad cow shuts down our borders or a case of hoof and mouth appears out of nowhere, or even the dreaded anthrax bug turns up in the soil of Alberta, the Alberta beef industry will be sunk. At this point, drought is already rearing its ugly head in southeastern Alberta and that affects everyone from crop producers to cattle ranchers. But then, it won’t bother you because you get your food at the grocery store. I’d like to know who in this government can handle any agricultural disaster and a few of the bloggers who support the NDP should maybe catch up and do a story on it.

I have noticed in these blog comments that the farmers are concerned that the NDP will ignore their concerns and needs. I think there is a blank here caused by an amnesia of 44 years of PC reign. The NDP here in the west has deep agricultural and rural roots; witness the NDP electorate in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. For many years the only support the NDP received here in Alberta came from the rural north. It is going to take many people here to reorientate their political and historical knowledge after 44 years of conservative brainwashing.

@pogo. I cited my sources. I typo’d 88 instead of 85 for electrical generation but other than that all numbers are in the report. What is your source to say the numbers are incorrect?

I agree with Darren about transportation and energy but I would like to check out his numbers on emissions. The oil companies won’t go anywhere because this is a stable place to do business compared to other places. When it comes to the role oil companies play, well they seem to have been part of the problem because they have funded the climate change deniers for a long time. Fossils fuels really have a lot of problems and the sooner we break our dependency on them the better off we will be.

I agree with David Shea that the NDP is not to dismiss the needs of farmers because of their roots. The only way to ensure that their needs won’t get ignored is to be engaged with MLAs on this matter and be so docile as they were when the PCs ruled this province. Frankly, I don’t expect Alberta to become Nirvana but it won’t be hell on earth. Further to Darren’s comment on Oil Sands being not the only thing to cause GHG, it is responsible for its share. In terms of whether we are as bad as other places, this is in our backyard and we are responsible for doing something about it. The PCs had 44 years to tackle these problems, let the NDP have two terms and we will see what results are. I think that is a reasonable proposal. By the way, I am okay if Darren criticizes me directly. That is part of the exchange.

I think by the time the NDPs 4 years is up Rachel will be a full blown capitalist and a big believer in free enterprise If she isn’t this Province will be in big trouble.

The industry number is strictly for the oilsands operation, not the full oil and gas. The full O/G number is closer to the transportation numbers, about 170Mt and 179Mt respectively. I used the oilsands number to show that the green’s poster boy for environmental apocalypse isn’t quite the GHG culprit when compared to other, much larger, sources that seem to be getting a free pass. The executive summary is a good start but if you really want to see what is producing how much, you need to review the full National Inventory Report.

The executive summary is here:

The Full NIR submission is here:

Re: “It’s still hard to believe…”

Believe it. Ms.Notley’s NDP are the real deal.

Probably have my expectations set too high, but I’m on the edge of my seat nonetheless.

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