July 17th, 2024

Nenshi making rural concerns a priority

By ANNA SMITH Local Journalism Initiative on June 29, 2024.

Naheed Nenshi delivers his acceptance speech on June 22 in Calgary after being named new leader of the Alberta NDP.--CP Photo Jeff McIntosh


Even with nearly a week passed since he claimed the Alberta NDP leadership, Naheed Nenshi admits it’s still a whirlwind.

“The support that we’ve had across the province has been just great,” Nenshi told the News on Friday. He says he’s been overwhelmed and humbled by the response from Albertans, and is looking forward to continuing to meet with people and volunteers.

One thing on his mind as he looks to the direction he intends to steer the party, is tailoring his approach to best meet communities where they are, especially outside major cities Calgary and Edmonton.

“I’ll first start by saying that I think it’s important for us to understand that Alberta, outside of Calgary and Edmonton, is not a monolith,” said Nenshi. “Outside of the big cities, people live in all kinds of different communities. They may not all necessarily consider themselves rural people, but there are also people who live very agricultural or rural lifestyles.”

Nenshi admits the NDP has not been as relevant as it could have been to these communities in the past, and that this is something he strives to change. He mentioned he believes the party broke trust with many agricultural workers in 2015 by attempting to put through Bill 6, which set new standards around farm workers, and he intends to spend time listening and working to rebuild that trust.

“I really need to listen and learn a lot from folks about things they’re interested in, whether it is about building up our agri-food sector, about value-added agriculture and building export markets, or whether it’s about rural broadband, which is a topic I’ve heard over and over again,” said Nenshi.

He continued that he has heard about the growing sense of disconnection in rural areas due to lack of consistent internet access, and that these rural-specific issues are on his list of priorities, alongside broader issues that disproportionately effect these communities, such as the shortage of health-care workers.

“We’ve been talking about health care being at the brink of collapse for all these years, but in many smaller communities, it has already collapsed,” said Nenshi, highlighting a UCP announcement of a $4.6-billion surplus on the same day the Grande Cache Health Facility had to close due to lack of staff.

Nenshi also has his ears turned toward agriculture workers, who he calls the “first conservationists,” as they look for ways to balance the increasing demand for food worldwide with what’s needed to address climate change.

“We should never be in a world where we’re talking about environmentalists versus producers,” he said. “That should never happen, because we all believe in preserving and conserving the land. And we are blessed that we live on some of the most productive soil in the world, we should keep building on that.”

He stressed the need for smart agricultural practices, both innovating new ones and acknowledging those in place, but also placed weight on respect for the ability for producers’ livelihoods and ability to make money.

“For example, farmers in Alberta have really taken to no-till agriculture in a really interesting way, and these are the kinds of conversations we need to have,” said Nenshi.

He noted he’s heard many producers express concerns about the future of their land, in terms of ensuring they will be able to pass it on.

“I don’t know that a lot of thoughtful provincial government policy is really being used to better understand these concerns, and to ensure that farming remains a stable and desirable profession,” said Nenshi.

He hopes that, as he continues to settle into the role of NDP leader and listen to the concerns of Albertans, he will be able to help more residents see that “the Alberta NDP really represents the average Albertan.”

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15 days ago

Nenshi destroyed calgary and we’re still suffering from the terrible 4 years of ndp mistakes. NEVER VOTE LEFTIST.