NDP Alberta election material headlined: “Rachel is ready.” Now the verdict is clear: Alberta was ready for Rachel Notley to head an NDP majority government.
The Alberta NDP won 40 per cent of the vote and 54 seats, including 19 out of 19 in Edmonton.
The outgoing Progressive Conservatives finished third with 10 seats. Wildrose, the PC rival for the right-wing vote, will be the official opposition; it won 21 seats. The Alberta Party and the Liberals each won one seat.
The Jim Prentice PC party lost 58 of the 70 seats it held at dissolution of the legislature. Prentice, the fourth PC leader in four years, not only quit the leadership, he resigned his seat before being declared elected.
Rachel Notley won the May 5, 2015 election for her party. Contemporary politics focuses on leadership, and Notley was up to the task. Instead of relying on the mainstream media, the party found ways to introduce its leader to voters.
The Alberta NDP produced Rachel Notley videos that captured the personality, charm, seriousness of purpose, and likability of the premier-elect. Facebook and Twitter allowed the NDP to connect directly with citizens by telling its own story in the visual language of the short documentary.
The NDP leader benefited from the set piece of most Canadian elections: the leaders’ debate. Albertans paying attention discovered a smart, competent and charismatic leader who easily turned away attacks from then-premier Prentice, and captured the issues that matter to voters: education, health care and a fair shake for citizens.
Rachel Notley is an inspirational speaker, which helped her project her ideas in meetings held continuously around the province, culminating in a rally of 1,200 New Democrats in Edmonton.
Notley was elected to the Alberta Legislature in 2008, and became party leader in 2014. Her period in B.C. with the NDP government gave her a look at government from the inside.
Former NDP leader Raj Panu identified a rage across Alberta, anger about the PC machine in government. Rachel Notley captured what was wrong, in her campaign platform: “Mr. Prentice’s plan is about making you and your family pay for his government’s mistakes.”
The Progressive Conservative government identified the 50 per cent fall in oil as a crisis that needed to be addressed. His budget was supposed to turn things around for Alberta, and Prentice precipitated an early election to get it adopted.
The more people learned about it, the less they liked it.
As polls revealed, with support for the NDP surging, the PC party and Wildrose resorted to standard shock doctrine strategy (identified and explained by Naomi Klein) in an attempt to create fear of a left-wing government. Corporate Alberta and its two political vehicles, the PC party and Wildrose, each tried unsuccessfully to get supposedly conservative Alberta to rally to their banner.
The Alberta that elected progressives Naheed Nenshi, mayor of Calgary, and Don Iveson, mayor of Edmonton, was unafraid of voting NDP. The NDP fielded 44 women candidates, and 24 won seats in the 87-seat legislature.
Now comes the test. The same forces that attempted to stampede voters away from the NDP will be determined to undermine her government.
In her victory speech, Notley promised to work with other provinces on energy and the environment. Her willingness to work with Stephen Harper was met with loud booing from NDP partisans when she spoke his name.
Of course, as is well known, Rachel Notley is the daughter of an NDP leader (1968-84), Grant Notley, tragically lost in an airplane accident at the age of 45. In her first election in the same role as her father, Notley carried the family name with aplomb. In the middle of celebrations of a great victory she recognized how proud the evening would have made her father.
As the new premier remarked, spring has arrived in Alberta.
Duncan Cameron is the president of rabble.ca and writes a weekly column on politics and current affairs.
Photo: Don Voaklander/flickr