Photo: MP Linda Duncan and MLA Rachel Notley at Edmonton’s Pride Parade.
It was one of the worst kept secrets in Edmonton politics.
After a strong second place finish during her first run for elected office in 2006, Duncan unseated four-term Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer in the 2008 election. The race was so close, and the Conservative campaign was so confident that Jaffer delivered his election night victory speech before all the votes had been counted. Unfortunately for Jaffer, the final polls in the NDP-vote rich areas surrounding the University of Alberta were late to report and helped give Duncan a 463 margin victory that night.
Despite spirited campaigns in Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-Griesbach , and Edmonton-Manning in 2015, the federal NDP have been unable to extend their foothold in Alberta beyond Duncan’s district, leaving Edmonton-Strathcona as an anomaly in Canadian politics. And despite its NDP-roots and the presence of Notley as the MLA for the provincial district of the same name, it is not a sure thing that Duncan’s successor in 2019 will be a New Democrat.
The current political climate has created a challenging situation for anyone with ambitions to run under the federal NDP banner in Alberta. New federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh’s decision to oppose the expansion of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline and his public split with Notley will not endear him to many voters in this district.
Until recently, Duncan had avoided getting involved in the debate over the construction of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, but her successor will have a tougher time avoiding the subject. She only recently commented on the pipeline issue, saying that she it was ‘not the priority issue’ for voters in her district. As a life-long environmentalist and former environmental lawyer, her position came as no surprise.
Singh’s posturing and the dominance of the pipeline issue in the media and minds of many Albertans will certainly make it difficult, but not impossible, for the NDP to hold on to this seat in the next election.
In selecting their candidate for the next election, AlbertaPolitics.ca author David Climenhaga offered some wise advice, “…the NDP should pick wisely – perhaps looking for someone who can appeal to Albertans more broadly outside the environs of the University of Alberta – because if the 2015 provincial election proves anything, it’s that change can happen in Alberta, and if you’re playing a long game, it probably will.”
Duncan is the seventh NDP MP to announced they will not run for re-election in 2019, including former leader Tom Mulcair in Outremont, David Christopherson in Hamilton Centre and Irene Mathyssen in London-Fanshawe.