After last week’s victory electing him leader of the Alberta NDP, Naheed Nenshi has been defining the values of his leadership and setting the direction for his party, within Alberta’s complex political context.

“I feel like we need a pragmatic, thoughtful government, to be able to really have a very steady hand on the wheel,” he said in an exclusive interview with Shootin’ the Breeze.

Nenshi said he’s been hearing that Albertans are tired of divisive politics and looking for a change. This is what brought the previous mayor of Calgary out of retirement from politics and onto the provincial stage.

“Why I’m back in this to try and give people a sense of optimism for a better Alberta,” he said.

Though Nenshi has been in politics for many years and says he’s very proud of his record in Calgary, he notes he’s “got a lot to learn about the rest of the province.”

“One of the things that the Alberta NDP needs to do is really show up more for citizens outside of Calgary and Edmonton,” he said.

Nenshi himself hails from a small community in Red Deer County, and is re-emphasizing the party’s stance on small community issues under his leadership.

“People live in all kinds of different communities, and folks in Lethbridge are very different from folks in Pincher Creek,” he said. “I want to make sure that we’re relevant to people in every size community.”

Some areas of interest for small communities that Nenshi highlighted are energy, rural health care and education, agriculture and small communities being isolated from fully participating in the global economy due to issues like a lack of rural broadband.

On energy, Nenshi said he’s a huge proponent of Canadian energy, but that it is important to be realistic about the global energy transition. 

“If we believe the last barrel of oil sold in the world should be an Alberta barrel of oil, we have to earn that, and that means we’ve got to get to net zero,” he said.

He criticized the UCP’s moratorium as a “ridiculous” ban on renewables.

“It’s windy in Pincher Creek, I know that, and it scared away anywhere between 30 and 300 billion dollars in investment. It scared away good jobs.”

Nenshi said this just means these jobs will instead go to other parts of the world.

“We support investment in our communities, and we support good jobs in energy, because ultimately, nothing works … without a strong economy,” said Nenshi.

“We have the smartest people in the world in energy working here in Alberta, so we should be leading the transition, not just be bystanders.”

With a potential NDP government, Nenshi also seeks to make amends in rural health care, criticizing the UCP government for fighting with health-care workers and treating them “poorly and disrespectfully.”

“We have to fund the system properly,” he said, noting that it is just as much about the people as it is the money.

“We’ve got to ensure that people are seeing the wonderful communities that we have in places like Pincher Creek and across Alberta,” Nenshi said. “That they’re great places to raise a family, that they’re great places to live, and that we will treat them well once they get here.”

With his experience as a city mayor, the sanctity of local governments is a critical concern with the UCP government’s recent Bill 20. 

“Local democracy matters,” he said. “People vote for their neighbours as their councillors and their mayors and reeves.”

The controversial legislation in Bill 20 sets out provisions for the Alberta government to be more directly involved in municipal elections and processes.

In an emailed statement responding to questions from Shootin’ the Breeze, Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver said this legislation was in response to concerns heard from municipal stakeholders and their want for more clarity. 

“Alberta’s government introduced Bill 20 to make local election processes more transparent and local elected officials more accountable to the people they represent,” he wrote.

Nenshi said his party would repeal such provisions, which he calls a ridiculous power grab.

“I will, of course, approach every municipality with great respect for who they are, for the work that they do,” he said. “And ensure that we’re working with municipalities as partners, not as enemies.”

On top of these high-priority issues for small Albertan communities, Nenshi told Shootin’ the Breeze he seeks to make progress on affordability and security of the working class.

“Every single one of us, every single person who goes to work every single day, deserves to live a life of dignity and a decent life and a life of opportunity and a life of prosperity.”

By Mia Parker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 03, 2024 at 09:50

This item reprinted with permission from   Shootin' the Breeze   Pincher Creek, Alberta

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