Alberta NDP leader no overnight sensation
CALGARY — Only a few weeks before the writ dropped on what would become one of the most stunning upsets in Canadian political history, NDP Leader Rachel Notley admitted she did not expect to sweep Calgary — the bastion of Canada’s oil and gas sector.
But that doesn’t mean she didn’t have her eye on it.
“I’m definitely sensing that it’s very competitive in certain parts of the province,” she told the National Post after newly deposed premier Jim Prentice’s fatally unpopular budget dropped in March. “We’re excited to be able to make a breakthrough in Calgary, but I’m not anticipating that we’re going to sweep it.”
The depth of the NDP victory was impossible to imagine, even for Notley herself back then.
Six weeks later, she would be premier-elect. She crushed the four-decade-old Tory dynasty Tuesday to become the leader of a healthy 53-seat majority. And, yes, she swept Edmonton, most of Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and even a hearty chunk of rural Alberta for good measure.
While the New Democrats were certainly the grateful recipients of Albertans’ protest votes, there can be no doubt Notley’s fierce debate performance, natural onscreen presence and near flaw less campaign combined to make her the province’s goto alternative to Progressive Conservative rule.
This despite the fact she’s a New Democrat in a province that traditionally isn’t.
The rout will have enormous implications for Notley on the national stage as well. In a matter of weeks, she has been elevated from near obscurity, the newly appointed leader of a fourperson rump party in Alberta, to one of the most important New Democratic Party politicians in Canada.
If her rise is stunning elsewhere in the country, it’s less so in Alberta, where Notley boasts generational political roots.
Her father, Grant Notley, was one of the founding members of the NDP in the province and its first MLA. He became leader of the Opposition in 1982 — then, the head of a two-person party.
Grant Notley’s life was cut short by a plane accident in 1984, when his daughter Rachel was 20.
Notley went on to study at the University of Alberta, and Osgoode Hall law school in Toronto. She worked for the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees; lived in B.C. and worked for Ujjal Dosanjh, who was attorney general at the time.
Inequality, health care and especially education are her passions; she seems committed to restoring and even increasing funding to schools and post-secondary institutions. And Albertans should expect some tax hikes in the years to come. But the party has also pledged reforms to a democracy badly stunted by four decades of dynastic rule. Among them, she’s pledged to limit political donations from corporations and unions.