NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

Rachel Notley, Alberta New Democratic Party riding to victory in massive, historic upset

Some­thing that can only be described as mon­u­men­tal, unprece­dent­ed, and incred­i­ble is hap­pen­ing right now in the greater Pacif­ic North­west: The New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, the most pro­gres­sive of Canada’s major polit­i­cal par­ties, is rid­ing to a mas­sive, his­toric vic­to­ry in Alber­ta, often described as the coun­try’s most con­ser­v­a­tive province.

Cana­di­an news net­works are pro­ject­ing that the NDP, under charis­mat­ic Leader Rachel Not­ley of Edmon­ton, will form gov­ern­ment for the first time ever.

And it will be a major­i­ty gov­ern­ment, to boot.

Rachel Notley

Rachel Not­ley, Alber­ta’s next pre­mier, is shown at an NDP cam­paign ral­ly (Pho­to: Don Voak­lan­der, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

As of 8:05 Pacif­ic Time (9:05 PM Moun­tain Time), the CBC tal­ly showed that the NDP was lead­ing for 56 seats, while the Wil­drose Par­ty (one of two major right wing par­ties in the province) was lead­ing for twen­ty seats. The incum­bent Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­v­a­tives (the oth­er major right wing par­ty… and yes, that’s actu­al­ly what they call them­selves) lead for only nine seats.

The num­bers con­tin­ue to shift as returns come in, but it’s def­i­nite­ly safe to say that the NDP has bro­ken through and won a vic­to­ry of unprece­dent­ed pro­por­tions. Alber­ta is like the Texas of Cana­da; as NPI Pres­i­dent Robert Cruick­shank says, “The NDP win­ning in Alber­ta is like Eliz­a­beth War­ren get­ting elect­ed gov­er­nor of Texas — with a Demo­c­ra­t­ic major­i­ty in the Legislature.”

“It is an orange wave,” declared a Cana­di­an Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion anchor, not­ing that the incum­bent Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­v­a­tives might not even form Her Majesty’s oppo­si­tion. They trail the Wil­drose Par­ty by near­ly a dozen seats.

The Globe and Mail, Canada’s news­pa­per of record, called it “a sign of a seis­mic shift in pol­i­tics in Canada’s most small‑c con­ser­v­a­tive province”.

NDP supporters cheer at a campaign rally

NDP sup­port­ers cheer at a cam­paign ral­ly (Pho­to: Don Voak­lan­der, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

The NDP was able to do it in part by cap­i­tal­iz­ing on vot­er dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­v­a­tives, who have ruled Alber­ta for four decades.

Years of cor­rup­tion and mis­man­age­ment left vot­ers yearn­ing for change, and the NDP offered a pos­i­tive, pro­gres­sive vision for the province (includ­ing a plat­form that calls for rais­ing tax­es on the wealthy) that res­onat­ed with voters.

NDP Leader Rachel Not­ley made his­to­ry by run­ning a com­pelling and error-free cam­paign that was able to deft­ly over­come the attacks and the scare tac­tics of the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­v­a­tives and their dis­graced leader Jim Prentice.

NDP chal­lengers were able to oust Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­v­a­tive incum­bents in a large num­ber of bat­tle­ground rid­ings, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Cal­gary area. (Cal­gary is Alber­ta’s largest city; a rid­ing is the Cana­di­an equiv­a­lent of a district.)

Not­ley and Pren­tice have yet to speak, but when they do, we’ll update this post.

8:41 PM UPDATE: The cur­rent numbers:

  • New Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty: 54 seats (will form government)
  • Wil­drose Par­ty: 21 seats (will form opposition)
  • Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­v­a­tives: 10 seats
  • Lib­er­al Par­ty: 1 seat
  • Alber­ta Par­ty: 1 seat

The NDP has hov­ered above fifty seats in the tal­ly for over an hour. Forty-four seats are need­ed to form a major­i­ty gov­ern­ment. The NDP has that and then some.

8:50 PM: The Cana­di­an Press has a nice arti­cle which puts the elec­tion in con­text. Here’s an excerpt which talks about the elec­tion from Not­ley’s point of view:

For Not­ley, the vic­to­ry is a vin­di­ca­tion of the pio­neer­ing efforts of her father, Grant Not­ley. He helped found Alber­ta’s NDP and kept the move­ment alive as the sole NDP mem­ber of the leg­is­la­ture in the 1970s. He died in a plane crash in north­ern Alber­ta in 1984, two years before his par­ty made its first big break­through in 1986 and became offi­cial Opposition.

The NDP has nev­er come close to pow­er in Alber­ta since it began con­test­ing votes in 1940. Its pre­vi­ous high-water mark was 16 seats and almost 30 per cent of the pop­u­lar vote in 1986.

Not­ley ran on a pol­i­cy plat­form of social change, promis­ing to invest more in schools and hos­pi­tals, while increas­ing tax­es to cor­po­ra­tions and the wealthy.

9:05 PM: Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­v­a­tive Leader Jim Pren­tice has deliv­ered his con­ces­sion speech in Cal­gary. Pren­tice announced that he has resigned, effec­tive imme­di­ate­ly, as the par­ty’s leader.

“While I am per­son­al­ly sad­dened by the deci­sion, the vot­ers are always right in our democ­ra­cy,” Pren­tice said, look­ing both sad and grim, but main­tain­ing his com­po­sure. He said that he had spo­ken to Rachel Not­ley of the NDP and con­grat­u­lat­ed her, as well as Bri­an Jean of the Wildrose.

“As the leader of the par­ty, I accept respon­si­bil­i­ty for tonight’s out­come,” he said. He thanked his par­ty’s sup­port­ers for their hard work, adding “Clear­ly, how­ev­er, my con­tri­bu­tion to pub­lic life is now at an end.”

He also announced that he is resign­ing from the Alber­ta Leg­isla­tive Assem­bly seat that he was just elect­ed to, which means there will be a by-elec­tion in his rid­ing not long from now. (A by-elec­tion is the Cana­di­an term for a spe­cial election).

CBC com­men­ta­tor Stephen Carter described the defeat­ed Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­v­a­tives as a rud­der­less, col­lapsed par­ty with no future. That may sound like a harsh char­ac­ter­i­za­tion, but with­out pow­er to hold them togeth­er, can the par­ty sur­vive? They’ve been beat­en tonight not only by the NDP in terms of rid­ings won, but also the Wil­drose Par­ty — though they did man­age to beat the Wil­drose in terms of the over­all share of the vote (28% to 24.7%).

9:21 PM: Here’s a map of the cur­rent results, cour­tesy of Dai­ly Kos Elections.

Map of Alberta election results with 73% reporting

Map of Alber­ta elec­tion results with 73% report­ing (Daniel Donner)

9:26 PM: The CBC just car­ried Wil­drose Par­ty Leader Bri­an Jean’s speech.

“Wow, what an incred­i­ble elec­tion. What a change in Alber­ta,” he began. “It’s very, very unbe­liev­able. It was just a few months ago that pun­dits said that the Wil­drose Par­ty was dead… Wil­drose proved them wrong.”

“Do you know why? The Wil­drose Par­ty is not about one per­son. It’s not about one MLA. It’s about all Alber­ta. We are a movement.”

“My good­ness gra­cious, we’re the offi­cial oppo­si­tion. We’ve got like twen­ty seats!” he exclaimed lat­er, mar­veling at his par­ty’s elec­toral performance.

“Thir­ty-sev­en days, and we have pros­pered, might­i­ly. We have done amaz­ing things,” Jean declared to cheers and applause. He went on to crit­i­cize the Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­v­a­tives, say­ing they had reaped what they had sown.

“I would like to con­grat­u­late Rachel Not­ley. She ran a very good campaign.”

“It is an NDP major­i­ty gov­ern­ment. We will work to keep them on their toes.”

9:37 PM: Rachel Not­ley is mak­ing her way towards the stage at the NDP par­ty in Edmon­ton to deliv­er her vic­to­ry speech as premier-designate.

Sup­port­ers are loud­ly chant­i­ng “NDP! NDP! NDP!” as Rachel waves to the crowd.

9:56 PM: Wow, what a speech! Some of the highlights:

“Well, my friends.… I think we might have made a lit­tle bit of his­to­ry tonight. Change has final­ly come to Alber­ta. New peo­ple, new ideas, and a fresh start for our great province,” she began. “Now, you know, Alber­tans are a gra­cious peo­ple, and tonight, I want to be gra­cious. I’ve just spo­ken to Pre­mier Jim Pren­tice. He’s served our province in many roles, for many years… and I want to thank the Pre­mier for the enor­mous con­tri­bu­tion he has made to our province.”

“I’ve also just spo­ken to Bri­an Jean, leader of the Wil­drose Par­ty. Bri­an, I want to say: Through your courage in the face of fam­i­ly tragedy, you have earned the respect of every Alber­tan, and I’m look­ing for­ward to work­ing with you.”

“And let me say to our amaz­ing cam­paign team: Thank you for your extra­or­di­nary efforts. I haven’t done the math yet,” she said, paus­ing as she was inter­rupt­ed by wild, jubi­lant cheers from her sup­port­ers, “but I think we have elect­ed the most women in the his­to­ry of this province.”

“To the peo­ple of Alber­ta, I want to thank you for putting your trust in our par­ty,” she said. “I’m deeply hum­bled, and I want to pledge to you, the peo­ple of Alber­ta, that we will work every day to earn your trust.”

“In this province, we’re opti­mistic, we’re for­ward-look­ing, we’re entre­pre­neur­ial, and we’re care­ful with the fam­i­ly bud­get,” she declared.

“That is the kind of gov­ern­ment that we will work to be.”

“Togeth­er, we need to start down the road to a diver­si­fied econ­o­my,” she added, acknowl­edg­ing Alber­ta’s addic­tion to oil. “We need to end the boom and bust roller coast­er that we have been rid­ing for too long.”

She said she was look­ing for­ward to work­ing with Cana­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harp­er on projects that affect­ed the province. Sup­port­ers booed at the men­tion of Harper’s name, but Not­ley smiled and sim­ply reem­pha­sized her sentiments.

“The weath­er is what it is, but spring has arrived,” she said.

“A new day has begun. You vot­ed for change. For bet­ter health­care. For bet­ter schools. And we will answer your call.”

Beam­ing, she con­clud­ed by remem­ber­ing her moth­er and father, say­ing she was hon­ored to con­tin­ue her father’s life work. “I know how proud he would be of the province we all love,” she said. (Sup­port­ers chant­ed, “Grant! Grant! Grant!”)

Her final words: “Friends, my name is Rachel Not­ley, and I want to thank you for elect­ing me as your next Premier!”

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  1. Extra­or­di­nary out­come at a cru­cial time. How many mem­bers of provin­cial assem­bly will retain their seats but become part of the major­i­ty for the first time ever?

    # by Gael Tarleton :: May 5th, 2015 at 8:52 PM
  2. Excel­lent cov­er­age Andrew!

    Thank you for fol­low­ing this impor­tant pro­gres­sive cam­paign and being ready to cap­ture the rea­sons she has won, so that we and pro­gres­sives every­where can learn what it takes to win the trust of the peo­ple and gov­ern in their interest.

    # by Ken Albinger :: May 6th, 2015 at 9:50 AM
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