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Rachel Notley, one of the finest political orators of her generation, raises the rafters with optimistic speech

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Alberta Premier Rachel Notley as she prepared to leave the stage after her speech in Edmonton yesterday. Photo: David J. Climenhaga.

Rachel Notley looked and sounded like a politician on a roll yesterday afternoon as she addressed at least 1,500 people sardined into Edmonton's Polish Hall -- energized, by turns forceful, funny, and inspiring.

This runs counter to the media narrative about this 2019 election campaign from the get-go, of course, not to mention the United Conservative Party's dark storyline.

But when Alberta's first NDP premier proclaimed, "on Tuesday, my friends, we are gonna bring it home," Notley sure gave the impression of someone with the wind in her sails at what is certain to be one of the final events before the general election.

Notley is one of the finest orators of the current generation of political leaders in the English-speaking world. Indeed, it could be argued she is one of the only fine speakers among the current crop of Canadian politicians. And whatever Tuesday brings, she was in top form yesterday.

She started with a joke:

"We've seen a lot in the last little while: Shocking betrayals. Intense internal fights. Attacks on kids and the most vulnerable. But you know what? It’s all coming to an end." (Beat … beat …) "Because tonight, tonight we turn into the final season of Game of Thrones.

"And here's the spoiler: Just like in Alberta, the bad guys, the White Walkers, they're not gonna win! Because -- you know what? -- we have a couple of dragons, and their names are … The Truth!"

She built up her audience:

"Across the province, our support is growing. The demand for lawn signs -- and some of you may have heard this, but honest to God, this is true! The demand for lawn signs is so huge that we have actually caused a national shortage of orange ink!"

She told them why she fights:

"I'm proud to fight for the young woman who was forced to choose between being a mom and joining the workforce. Let me tell you, when we hold women back, we hold Alberta back, and that's why I'm fighting for her.

"I am fighting for the young man who came up to me in a store and told me that the higher minimum wage genuinely allowed him to stay in school and get the skills and he needs. And I'm gonna defend him, and I'm gonna defend that minimum wage!

"I'm gonna keep fighting for him, and I'm gonna keep fighting for the woman who came up to me recently, teary-eyed, telling me how hard it was for her to come out, and thanking me and our crew for standing up for her. And I'm telling you, my friends, I'm gonna keep fighting for her.

"Or the grandmother on a fixed income, with sky-high medication costs. Or the mom who benefitted from the boost to AISH payments. Or the pipefitters who deserve their time-and-a-half overtime pay! And for the nurses who want to make sure that they can actually care for their patients."

"That's why we're here. That's why we do this."

She defended the campaign's aggressive stance against the policies and activities of the United Conservative Party opposition, and its leader, Jason Kenney.

"It's true. We've run a tough campaign against the UCP. But like that wise old pastor from the Prairies, Tommy Douglas, once said: If you're gonna lie about me, I'm gonna tell the truth about you!

"And so we have made sure that Albertans know exactly who Jason Kenney is, and the risk that he presents to Alberta. Because those risks are real. They're real for you. For your family. And real for Edmonton.

"Mr. Kenney has been clear. He will cancel our rail deal. A $2-billion hit to jobs and investment.

"And his reckless stunt, something he doubled down on just yesterday once again, will put Trans Mountain and that pipeline to tidewater absolutely at risk.

"You know, according to a new report, just released a couple of days ago, by respected, international investment analysts, if Mr. Kenney is allowed to win on Tuesday, the Canadian energy sector should actually brace for a significant amount of uncertainty, and risk.

"And not only that. What's also clear is that Jason Kenney is actually what those people who don't want us to get that pipeline built are hoping for: An easy target.

"We don't need Jason Kenney's stunts. Stunts paid for with your money. We need shovels in the ground and we need them now. My friends, we are simply too close to let Jason Kenney mess up Trans Mountain."

Those are not the only risks of electing a UCP government, of course, Notley asserted. School fees will go up, road tolls will be applied, and overtime pay will be cut. "And to pay for his $4.5-billion tax break for corporations, a tax break that won't create jobs, he will make deep cuts to things that matter to families.

"Kids in our schools will get less. Patients in our hospitals will wait longer. And our seniors will have fewer supports to help them age safely. And our public services and the people who provide them, they will get slashed."

"Keeping Alberta the best place in Canada to do business," she summed up, "should not mean that we ask those with the least to give up the most.

"The economy needs to grow. The economy needs to diversify. But the economy needs to work for everybody."

She concluded:

"People like to say Alberta is a conservative province … But it's not. It's not a UCP province. It's not a Liberal Party province. It's not an NDP or an Alberta Party province. It's none of those things."

"Alberta belongs to all Albertans. And Albertans expect a government that fights for all Albertans.

"People actually see, and feel, and know, when governments don't do that. And that's why Alberta elections have a way of surprising people. And you know what? I think this one will too.”

Readers will forgive me for quoting Notley at such length. I believe one of the gravest flaws of modern journalism is our failure to allow our politicians to speak for themselves. You can hear the entire speech for yourself here.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Photo: David J. Climenhaga

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