Former NDP cabinet minister Danielle Larivee, left, and former premier Rachel Notley in 2015 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

After all the grim, disturbing and strangely familiar Groundhog Day news, it was nice to learn Thursday morning of a positive development in Alberta politics—the return of Danielle Larivee to public life. 

(Full disclosure: I am an employee of UNA and have had the privilege of working closely with Larivee since 2019. I think very highly of her talents as a manager, communicator and advocate for health care.)

Larivee, a public health nurse and capable former NDP cabinet minister, said in a news release she intends to seek the NDP nomination in Lesser Slave Lake, the riding she represented from 2015 to 2019 and where she still lives. 

Larivee said she is putting her name forward because Premier Jason Kenney and his United Conservative Party “have made life worse for the people of our region, from making things like utilities and insurance more expensive, to bringing in a curriculum that will hurt our kids, to completely mismanaging the response to COVID.”

“That’s not the kind of leadership I want in the province that our kids are growing up in,” she stated. “Our families deserve better.”

In her news release, Larivee observed that “our communities have really suffered from poor representation since 2019.”

This is something of an understatement given the disengaged attitude of the riding’s current absentee UCP MLA, Pat Rehn, who spent so much time tending to his business in Texas he had municipal officials in the riding calling for his head in 2021. 

He experienced a short exile on the Independent benches of the Legislature after he took a controversial mid-pandemic winter holiday in Mexico in December 2020, but was invited back to the UCP Caucus to shore up Premier Kenney’s flagging support in mid-January last year. 

By contrast, despite her loss in the 2019 UCP sweep, Larivee had a reputation as a hard-working constituency MLA and an effective member of former premier Rachel Notley’s cabinet, where she oversaw the NDP’s response to the Fort McMurray Fire in 2016 as minister of municipal affairs. 

In 2017, she was named minister of children’s services with the job of getting that troubled ministry back on track. 

In her current role as first vice-president of the United Nurses of Alberta, Larivee is a prominent spokesperson for health care issues. “Our public health care system is not safe in the hands of Kenney and the UCP,” she said. “They keep moving forward with privatizing our public health care, they attacked the front line instead of supporting it, with little care for the crisis they have created. I am prepared to fight for high quality public health care instead of dismantling it.”

She has lived in the Town of Slave Lake for more than 40 years. “The people of Lesser Slave Lake are like family to me,” she said. “I’m ready to get back to spending time with and listening to people across the constituency so that I can be a strong voice for our families and communities.”

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...