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A new chapter for an Orange politician, and a Green one too

Calgary-Hawkwood MLA Michael Connolly (Photo: David J. Climenhaga)

A new chapter? Using those words as a headline, Michael Connolly, the youthful NDP representative for Calgary-Hawkwood and one of the few openly gay MLAs in the provincial Legislature, announced September 22 in a Facebook post that he'll be quietly stepping out of politics when a provincial election is called next year.

In his graceful farewell, Mr. Connolly, 24, thanked the voters of his northwest Calgary riding who gave him the job in the "orange sweep" of May 2015, family, friends, donors, volunteers, and "Alberta's LGBTQ2S+ community, who allowed me and inspired me to be one of their first representatives in Alberta's Legislature."

A former University of Ottawa student in that institution's bilingual immersion program, he also thanked Alberta's francophone community for giving him a new community where he also feels at home. (J'ai trouvé une nouvelle communauté où je me sens chez moi.)

In other words, Mr. Connolly's planned departure seems like a real loss to the NDP on the brink of an election that is bound to be an uphill fight in Calgary for the government of Premier Rachel Notley -- perhaps especially in Mr. Connelly's well-off and traditionally conservative suburban riding.

In a social media comment, Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan called Mr. Connolly "a smart, gracious, charismatic and effective leader" who will be missed.

"I got into politics because I believed we could create a more just Alberta," Mr. Connolly concluded his message. "I believe in an Alberta where our youth are not afraid to be themselves, where the rights of LGBTQ2S+ people do not need to be fought for in the courts, where working people have the right and the ability to join a union, and where a strong economy and a clean environment go hand in hand."

Meanwhile, after a tumultuous year in which a new leader resigned in after less than six months on the job, members of the Green Party of Alberta on Friday chose Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes of Calgary to lead them through the expected 2019 election.

Ms. Chagnon-Greyeyes, the first Indigenous woman to lead an Alberta political party, will have her work cut out for her. The party is small, marginalized, and has been divided by its own internal fights -- which are thought to have contributed to the sudden departure of former leader Romy Tittel in March.

But perhaps that presents an opportunity for Ms. Chagnon-Greyeyes, an activist devoted to Indigenous, social justice, and environmental causes employed by the University of Calgary.

While the time seem to have passed when a Green candidate could be seriously considered a contender in this province -- as the Green Party of Canada's Chris Turner was in the 2012 Calgary Centre federal by-election -- there might be an opening for some Green gains created by the Notley government's strong stance in favour of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

The days are long gone, at any rate, when Orange and Green appear to be compatible political colours in Alberta, as they were here once upon a time.

Image: David Climenhaga

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