CAPTION: NDP Leader Rachel Notley at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on Sept. 21. She was visiting Jasper to address the Building Trades of Alberta convention. | Peter Shokeir / Jasper FitzhughScott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Alberta NDP have big shoes to fill after party leader Rachel Notley announced her decision to step down during a press conference on Jan. 16.

“Having considered what I believe to be the best interests of our party, our caucus, as well as my own preferences, I am here today to announce that I will not be leading Alberta’s NDP into the next election,” Notley said in a statement.

The former premier vowed to stay at the helm of Alberta’s official opposition party until it chooses a replacement. The NDP’s constitution empowers its Provincial Council (consisting of delegates from all constituency associations), the Party Executive, and delegates from party caucuses to set rules regarding how a leadership race should be conducted, and to determine timelines. The Provincial Council will be holding a meeting on Jan. 27 in Red Deer.

Council will determine the start and end date of the campaign period for the leadership contest at that meeting. 

“Alberta law requires the party to notify Elections Alberta of the particulars of the race before prospective candidates may register, so while there are many conversations happening within our party about what comes next, campaigning will not begin until the campaign period has been set by the party,” wrote Alberta NDP President Nancy Janovicek in a press statement.

“Over the coming days, we will be consulting on draft rules prior to the Council meeting.”

A former lawyer, Notley was first elected as an MLA during the 2008 provincial election, back when the Progressive Conservatives under Ed Stelmach took 72 of the 83 seats while Kevin Taft’s Liberals became the opposition with nine seats. 

The NDP had a paltry two seats that year, but Notley became the leader of the NDP six years later. She then led the party to a sweeping victory in 2015, taking 54 seats over Brian Jean’s Wildrose Party as opposition with 21 seats. The moment ended 44 years of PC rule in the province and dramatically changed the course of Alberta politics.

“We didn’t get everything right. But we governed with integrity, an ambitious agenda and an earnest desire to make life better for Albertans,” Notley said.

Things did not go as well for her or the NDP in the 2019 election. Jason Kenney became the premier of the province, taking 63 seats for the UCP. The NDP dropped to 24 seats.

The UCP’s rise to power led the way for Danielle Smith to take charge with 49 seats during the 2023 election. Notley’s NDPs remained the official opposition but with 38 seats, the largest official opposition in Alberta’s history.

Despite the setback, that election saw more Albertans vote for the NDP than ever before.  

The rollercoaster of fortune led many including Fred Kreiner, who was the NDP candidate for the West Yellowhead riding last election, to speculate that Notley would step down.

“It was not unexpected at all,” Kreiner said. “I think she’s chosen a very good time to move forward to allow the party to put a new leader in place and be ready for the next upcoming election.”

Kreiner reflected on her legacy, saying “the integrity and the honesty with which [she] governed” should be commended.

“The four years that the NDP formed a government in Alberta were four years that were scandal-free. That’s not something that’s happened with other governments. I don’t think you could find a time where there’s six months that are scandal-free.” 

Janovicek expressed gratitude to Notley for her leadership as well. 

“Rachel has forever changed the political landscape in this province. Her impact as Premier was transformational.”

She noted how the NDP brought in the first $15 minimum wage in the country as well as made huge gains in expanding affordable child care while making positive results on the economy even with a more stringent stance on climate action.  

“While the news of her departure is sad for many of us, there are lots of reasons to be excited, too. We are going to hold the most competitive leadership race in our party’s history.”

By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jan 19, 2024 at 13:30

This item reprinted with permission from    The Fitzhugh    Jasper, Alberta

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