By COLLIN GALLANT on February 13, 2024.
Candidates looking to lead the Alberta New Democrats are courting Medicine Hatters as the race to replace Rachel Notley begins.
Kathleen Ganley told the News that Hatters and southern Albertans should be concerned about how the United Conservative government will handle an expected water shortage this summer.
As well on Monday, another candidate Sarah Hoffman addressed a local audience one day after the former health minister announced her bid to become party leader in a vote this summer.
The party contest officially began Feb. 5 and will end June 22.
Ganley said she feels that based on the government’s track record, addressing a water shortage is a concern.
“It’s in part the result of our refusal to take meaningful action on climate change,” she said. “I think there are ways to do that moving forward, but one of the big (initial) concerns is how the crisis will be managed.
“My concern with the UCP is that they’re not going to manage it at all.”
Ganley blasted the current government on a number of pressing issues.
“They haven’t managed the cost of living crisis, certainly haven’t managed the health-care crisis and are doing nothing about the housing crisis,” said Ganley, the MLA for Calgary-Mountain View.
Hoffman, the health minister and deputy premier during the NDP’s term in government from 2015 to 2019, spoke to a crowd Monday night and promised media availability Tuesday.
Also in the race is Rakhi Pancholi, an Edmonton MLA first elected in 2019, who was the party’s critic concentrating on renewable energy development.
Ganley was the party’s chief energy critic in shadow cabinet after 2019 and has been critical of the handling of the power grid and power market after the Jason Kenney-led UCP cancelled reforms five years ago.
On water, Alberta Environment predicts warm dry weather this winter could lead into extension of drought conditions in the 2024 growing season. Minister Rebecca Schulz highlighted it as a priority in late fall, and this month named Cypress-Medicine Hat MLA Justin Wright to a feedback panel to work with large licence holders (irrigators, municipalities, the oil patch and First Nations, among others). Talks are underway to manage licences toward potential swaps in times of shortage.
Ganley said she isn’t confident the UCP can manage the issue, based on her view of how they have addressed issues in health, education or high electricity prices.
“We should be talking more about an economy that work’s for everyone,” she said.
“The UCP is running around right now saying ‘everything is great’ but it isn’t working for people. A lot of people right now can’t afford the basics, and even if they can, they can’t put anything away.”
Nominations for leadership candidates close March 15. Party members as of April 22 are eligible to vote in the contest.