Alberta Politics

Notley NDP waste no time implementing popular progressive agenda in former conservative heartland

Banning corporate and union donations: Check.
Restoring funding to health, education and human services: Check.
Increasing corporate taxes: Check.
Introducing a new climate change strategy: Coming soon.
Phasing in a $15 per hour minimum wage: Coming soon.
Reviewing Alberta’s natural resource royalty framework: Coming soon.

Progress is the order of business in Canada’s so-called Conservative heartland as Premier Rachel Notley’s newly elected Alberta NDP government begins implementing the main promises from their winning election platform. Leaders of the previous PC regime, Alison Redford and Jim Prentice, styled themselves as Progressive Conservatives, their actions rarely matched their words. The NDP proposed a fairly moderate progressive agenda and it is refreshing to see it take action so quickly after the election.

Marg McCuaig Boyd
Marg McCuaig Boyd

Revenue and tax reform was a big issue before and during the recent election, with Mr. Prentice and the opposition argued over how best to remove Alberta from the oil revenue roller coaster. It remains clear that Alberta cannot continue to rely on revenues generated from oil and gas royalties to fund the provincial operating budget. Both the PCs and NDP proposed tax increases in the recent election, but Mr. Prentice’s refusal to increase corporate taxes, even symbolically, was a huge miscalculation.

While conservatives preach doom and gloom, our province still has corporate and personal tax rates lower than when Ralph Klein was premier, no provincial sales tax, and huge reserves of oil and gas. Alberta will now have the same corporate tax rate as Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Deron Bilous Edmonton Alberta MLA Minister
Deron Bilous

But there is still plenty more for the new government to do. Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier should extend protections to farmworkers injured on the job. Municipal Affairs Minister Deron Bilous should follow calls from Calgary’s Naheed Nenshi and Edmonton’s Don Iveson and Michael Janz to reform municipal election finance laws. And the province can do much more to clean up provincial election laws, something that a new all-party committee will be tasked to do soon (and they should consider adopting some of the amendments made by Wildrose MLAs during recent debates in the Legislature).

Kathleen Ganley NDP Calgary Buffalo
Kathleen Ganley

Apologizing for previous governments lack of action to stop residential schools and calling for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women was absolutely the right step to take but action needs to follow. Justice and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kathleen Ganley needs to show through government policy that this apology is more than just political posturing.

The government also announced it will soon take action to improve Alberta’s record of poor environmental management and lack of action of climate change, which has helped fuel international opposition to pipeline expansion and the oil sands. On climate change, the PCs lost the public relations battle years ago. Now the challenge will fall to Ms. Notley, Environment Minister Shannon Phillips and Energy Minister Marg McCuaig-Boyd to win the policy war on climate change.

Shannon Phillips
Shannon Phillips

I do not have enough room in this post to even begun to discuss the challenges facing Health Minister Sarah Hoffman and Education Minister David Eggen (which will be included in a series of future posts).

As the new government moves forward with what in most other provinces would be considered a moderate progressive agenda, Canada’s conservative outrage industry is gearing up its attacks on the Alberta’s new government.

Talking heads like Ezra Levant are fuelling the paranoia of right-wing fringe conservatives afraid we are witnessing a Red Dawn-style communistic coup (federal Conservative candidate Kerry Diotte and Wildrose MLAs Drew Barnes and Rick Strankman were among the registered spectators at one of Mr. Levant’s travelling circus shows). And recent opinion editorials by critics like conservative economist Jack Mintz, who suggested Alberta could be the next Greece, have verged on the bizarre.

Drew Barnes Wildrose MLA Cypress Medicine Hat
Drew Barnes

Ms. Notley and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason moved quickly to quell criticism of their fiscal plan by announcing last week that former Bank of Canada Governor David Dodge will be advising the Premier on infrastructure investment issues. Hiring Mr. Dodge is a smart move and shows a willingness to bring in talent from outside traditional NDP circles.

Aside from the angry conservatives, the new government appears to still enjoy popular support from Albertans, who tossed out the scandal-ridden and tone deaf Tories on May 5. Recent polling shows Ms. Notley, still in her honeymoon period, enjoying the approval of 53% of Albertans, making her the second most popular premier in Canada next to Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall.

The NDP need to be careful not to cut short their honeymoon by making small mistakes. They have already faced criticism for hiring too many provincial outsiders and the media is poking around the perceived influence of Ms. Notley’s husband. These are minor issues that I am sure most Albertans will look past today but the small mistakes can pile up quickly if the new government is not careful.

If the NDP can continue to limit their missteps, focus on implementing their popular platform, and remember why Albertans endorsed Ms. Notley’s charismatic leadership, they will enjoy a warm welcome on the summer political barbecue and parade circuit.

12 replies on “Notley NDP waste no time implementing popular progressive agenda in former conservative heartland”

Perhaps as the wife of the former high paid bank executive, she did not need to work outside the home. Does anyone even know what she did?

It’s inspirational at the positive changes the ndp is taking.
If we are not to solely rely on oil then we need to incourage big industry that will fuel employment, apprenticeships and other proffessional trades to the sunniest best places to live in the country !
Now if can only have Notly take Harper’s job !

The Alberta Advantage was the greatest scam phrase ever to subdue the masses that one day, “their day” to profit like the top oil/gas executives and über-rich would come. At the same time, the PC Government was supporting corporations and the wealthy on the backs of average Albertans who kept getting screwed but wearing their rose-coloured “Alberta Advantage” glasses … thinking “one day … which never comes.

Wow. Kerry Diotte and the Wildrose MLA’s are fans of Ezra Levant? They all lost my vote. Too much crazy in that party for this longtime conservative.

This agenda is out of touch and highly unpopular. Raising corporate taxes will kill jobs. Raising minimum wage will kill jobs.

When we are all out of work, can we collect welfare?

I notice the democratic reforms stop well short of what we were promised by the NDP during the election. Apparently it is still okay for big business and big labour to lend campaign workers and cash loans to political parties. The limit for donations was lowered, but only to $15,000, which is still much too high.

And one of our environment minister’s trusted advisors is a big fan of destroying capitalism. Oh boy! What’s next?

So far, so good, indeed excellent. The appointments of Andrew Leitch and Dave Mowat, as well as David Dodge, demonstrate that the NDP government can easily find qualified experts in various areas who share NDP values on a particular issue but who are not partisans. That shouldn’t stop them from using their own when that makes sense, but it does demonstrate that Premier Notley recognizes the need to go beyond Battleship NDP where necessary in order to expand the base for the government when it legislates in contentious areas. It won’t prevent the Wildrose Tea Party or the Tories and judging by recent comments, the Greg Clark Party, from simply rejecting the effort to move away from corporate-friendly Tory policies but should help the NDP to consolidate its support from the growing progressive elements within the society of “New Alberta.”

Will people please stop exaggerating the supposed awesomeness of bill 1? This should have been a slam dunk for the NDP. Campaign finance reform fits with their ideology of balancing the scales in favour of the poor, it is politically popular, and it benefits them during campaigns at the expense of their opponents. It is the exceedingly rare triple win in politics. Instead, they completely flubbed it in not one but two ways. First, they didn’t change the contribution limits, meaning anyone can still donate 30k, many multiples more than most other Canadian jurisdictions. Do people not realize corporations are not some sentient evil entities in and of themselves? They are composed of people–and the higher income executives and the wealthy shareholders can still donate absurd amounts to any party. To make matters worse, they don’t even have to go to that extent–the law a catastrophic loophole that allows corporations and unions to lend to parties.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *