NDP may re­gret be­ing a tor­toise as provin­cial elec­tion draws near

PressReader - BRUCE_CAROL_ROWE Channel - NDP may re­gret be­ing a tor­toise as provin­cial elec­tion draws near
In as lit­tle as three weeks, the NDP will be­gin to wage its firstever elec­tion cam­paign as the de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons of Al­berta pol­i­tics.In­stead of at­tack­ing the gov­ern­ment in charge, Rachel Not­ley’s team will be in the un­fa­mil­iar po­si­tion of de­fend­ing its record, tout­ing its ac­com­plish­ments, and re-hyp­ing a vision of the prov­ince grounded in four years of es­tab­lished pol­icy.Given the en­thu­si­asm Not­ley and her sup­port­ers showed at the NDP’s con­ven­tion last fall, you’d ex­pect the party would be the prover­bial bull in the chute, rarin’ to be un­leashed for what is sure to be the fight of its po­lit­i­cal life.While the rhetoric is sure ready to go, it’s less ob­vi­ous that the party is pre­pared on a prac­ti­cal level.You cer­tainly wouldn’t know it from the NDP’s list of ap­proved can­di­dates to date.As of Fri­day, the party web­site listed 36 of­fi­cially en­dorsed can­di­dates. That’s 36 out of 87 rid­ings.For com­par­i­son, the United Con­ser­va­tive Party’s web­site shows 79 ap­proved can­di­dates, while the Al­berta Party’s list sits at 53.Even more con­cern­ing for the NDP is that the vast ma­jor­ity of its can­di­dates ap­proved so far are in­cum­bent MLAs, who are al­ready well known in their com­mu­ni­ties.That means the party has yet to OK most of its rookies, the un­known po­lit­i­cal neo­phytes who the­o­ret­i­cally need as much pre-elec­tion time as pos­si­ble to meet and greet vot­ers.Sim­i­larly worth not­ing is that the NDP has spots filled in just eight of 26 rid­ings in Calgary, where the party must equal or sur­pass the 15 seats it won last time to have any chance of hang­ing onto power.With an elec­tion that could be called as early as Feb. 1, you’d ex­pect the gov­ern­ing party to be a lit­tle fur­ther ahead at this point.The fact they aren’t is as good an in­di­ca­tion as any that Not­ley will avoid a quick elec­tion call and in­stead drop the writ later in the spring.It’s also led to spec­u­la­tion the party is strug­gling to re­cruit good peo­ple.That’s a le­git­i­mate ques­tion, yet the party’s provin­cial sec­re­tary, Roari Richardson, in­sists there is no worry.A mass of nom­i­na­tion con­tests have been sched­uled for later in Jan­uary and early Fe­bru­ary, he said, adding that the party is also mak­ing ef­forts to pro­duce an elec­tion slate that is 50 per cent women.The main rea­son more can­di­dates haven’t been se­lected yet, Richardson said, is be­cause of the party’s in­sis­tence on con­duct­ing com­pre­hen­sive vet­ting of any­one hop­ing to fly the orange flag.“I’ll be hon­est, in many cases our (con­stituency) as­so­ci­a­tions have phoned me with a lit­tle bit of im­pa­tience say­ing they want this stuff to move faster,” he said. “But it’s im­por­tant we are thor­ough. When I look at the nom­i­na­tion con­tests that have taken place with the UCP in par­tic­u­lar, there has been quite a lot of in­ter­nal chaos.”In other words, it’s bet­ter to be the tor­toise than the hare, be­cause slow and steady wins the race. Or some­thing like that. Richardson has a valid point. The UCP nom­i­na­tion process has pro­duced an un­healthy num­ber of con­tro­ver­sies, some in­volv­ing nom­i­na­tion hope­fuls who were re­vealed to have dan­ger­ous views, and oth­ers in­volv­ing com­plaints over the process it­self.That said, any com­par­i­son be­tween the par­ties on this score has to take into ac­count that the ma­jor­ity of the NDP’s nom­i­na­tion con­tests have been un­con­tested, whereas the UCP’s races have typ­i­cally had mul­ti­ple com­peti­tors.In ef­fect, the UCP has had far more names to vet.Whether that ex­tra vol­ume is the rea­son for the con­tro­ver­sies that have dogged the UCP, or whether the party at­tracts more ex­treme per­son­al­i­ties gen­er­ally, is a mat­ter of de­bate.I sus­pect it’s a bit of both. Be­sides its can­di­date list, an­other po­ten­tial area of con­cern for the NDP is its ground game.Back in 2015, NDP sup­port­ers from around the coun­try came to Al­berta to help with the cam­paign.But given Not­ley’s frac­tured re­la­tion­ship with her fed­eral NDP coun­ter­parts, she may not be able to count on sim­i­lar as­sis­tance this time.Richardson also dis­misses this worry. Vol­un­teers will show up again but, re­gard­less, the party is in need of less sup­port due to bet­ter fi­nances and stronger con­stituency as­so­ci­a­tions, he said.Ul­ti­mately, it’s ques­tion­able how much the speed of nom­i­na­tion con­tests or ex­tra fundrais­ing is go­ing to mat­ter to the NDP’s re-elec­tion hopes.Whether they ad­mit it or not, the party’s strat­egy is go­ing to rest heav­ily on its be­lief that Not­ley is the most lik­able, charis­matic leader of the bunch.Charisma does tend to win elec­tions. But it’s hard to imagine that will be enough to counter the on­go­ing eco­nomic con­cerns and the fact the NDP will be fac­ing a no-holds-barred Ja­son Ken­ney elec­tion ma­chine that hasn’t yet lost a cam­paign.In the end, the NDP may wish it had given it­self more of a head start.Be­cause choos­ing to be the tor­toise in this sort of race is an aw­fully dan­ger­ous gam­ble.

The Al­berta NDP is hop­ing that Pre­mier Rachel Not­ley’s charisma will help lead the party to victory in this year’s provin­cial elec­tion.

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