Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse with former Alberta NDP leader Raj Pannu during the 2023 provincial election campaign.
Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse with former Alberta NDP leader Raj Pannu during the 2023 provincial election campaign. Credit: David J. Climenhaga Credit: David J. Climenhaga

Two more high-profile candidates said over the weekend they are joining the NDP leadership race: Edmonton-Rutherford MLA Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse and Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) President Gil McGowan. 

Calahoo Stonehouse, 49, announced her campaign Saturday morning in an interview with The Canadian Press and later released a video on social media in which she said, “as a First Nations woman, I come from a value system where no one gets left behind and there is room for everyone in the circle.” 

However, she warned in the video, “in Alberta, we are heading into some difficult times. We are going to be facing forest fires, drought; we are going to sit together and decide how it is as farmers, ranchers, industry, businesses and citizens, how we are going to make policy that insures each and every one of us have access to the water that we are going to need.” 

Calahoo Stonehouse is the first First Nations woman and second Indigenous woman elected to the Alberta Legislature. A former member of the Michel First Nation Band Council, she campaigned in 2021 to become the national chief of the Assembly of First Nations. 

McGowan, 56, made his intention to run clear in a series of direct social media messages to potential supporters the same day, saying “I haven’t officially announced yet, but I’m going to join the NDP leadership race. I think it’s time we have a worker leader leading the workers’ party.”

“Unlike other campaigns, mine will NOT be run by party insiders or self-styled strategy gurus with podcasts who too often look down their noses at ordinary working people – and who have never actually run for office themselves,” he said in a note to

He ran as an NDP candidate in the 2015 federal election in the Edmonton Centre riding, placing a respectable third in the race won by Liberal Randy Boissonnault.

McGowan has served 10 consecutive terms as president of the AFL, which represents 28 affiliated unions with about 170,000 unionized members in Alberta. In that role, he led union efforts to gain full independence for the province’s public-sector pension plans, a change granted by the NDP government but withdrawn by the United Conservative Party (UCP) under Jason Kenney. 

He served as co-chair of the Notley Government’s Energy Diversification Advisory Committee. The AFL recently launched a “Diversify Alberta” campaign that argues the province should “skate to where the puck is going” on energy policy. 

In 2016, a “spitting angry” McGowan was harsh in his criticism of federal NDP activists who supported the Leap Manifesto, a document that called for significant changes to the Canadian economy to respond to climate change, at the party’s national convention that year in Edmonton. 

“These downtown Toronto political dilettantes come to Alberta and track their garbage across our front lawn,” McGowan told local media at the time. 

Calahoo Stonehouse and McGowan will join Calgary-Mountain View MLA  and former justice minister Kathleen Ganley, Edmonton-Whitemud MLA Rakhi Pancholi, and Edmonton-Glenora MLA and former health minister Sarah Hoffman in the race to succeed former premier Rachel Notley, who announced on January 16 she would step down as soon as a new leader was chosen. 

The winner of the leadership contest is expected to be named on June 22. 

If there’s another shoe that hasn’t dropped in this campaign, it belongs to former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, who has been widely rumoured to be interested in running. But so far, he hasn’t revealed his plans, one way or the other. He has until March 15 to make up his mind. 

David J. Climenhaga

David J. Climenhaga

David Climenhaga is a journalist and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with the Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. He left journalism after the strike...