April 23rd, 2024

SACPA hears about future of NDP after Notley

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on February 23, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs (SACPA) hosted retired professor of Sociology Trevor Harrison who spoke about the future of the Alberta NDP after Rachel Notley’s departure during a full house session at the Lethbridge Senior Citizens Organization on Thursday.
In an interview with the Herald prior to his talk, Harrison said he would be talking about Notley’s legacy and what she meant to the party, the NDP leadership race candidates, and some of the issues the NDP is going to have to deal with moving forward.
“They’re not insurmountable issues, but there are things they need to think about, and I think their membership will think about that as they choose who their new leader is going to be,” said Harrison.
When it comes to finding a suitable replacement for Notley, Harrison said whoever takes on that role will have big shoes to fill.
“They’re huge shoes to fill because when she first became NDP leadership it wasn’t that she was well known particularly outside of Edmonton, and whoever comes along to the NDP next is going to be challenged also with very quickly developing their profile not just in Edmonton or in certain circles, but throughout the province,” said Harrison.
Harrison also discussed this during his presentation from another angle. He showed a graph where poll results regarding the NDP as a party and Notley as the leader compared to one another, and how she was better liked than the party itself. Which also represents another challenge to whoever takes over her role, as she was well liked.
During the interview with the Herald Harrison mentioned the benefits one of the candidates may have by having the support of fellow NDP member Shannon Phillips.
“Phillips did hold a fairly prominent position within the NDP government when they were in office and has been well known since then. I think that her voice in terms of supporting one of the candidates is probably a fairly strong measure, and I think that it speaks well for the one candidate that she has supported,” said Harrison.
Harrison started his presentation by talking about some of Notley’s government highlights, which included raising the minimum wage.
“I think this was an important issue and specially in the province as the gap between the very wealthy and the not so wealthy has increased,” said Harrison.
He also highlighted her support for the LGBTQIA+ and human rights, the end of the use of coal, and the introduction of the carbon tax that later became a federal carbon tax, to what Harrison said it was a good idea until the Liberals sabotaged their own policy.
“It was actually a really good policy, probably every economist has basically said that the idea of a carbon tax is a really good idea. The fact that politicians then interfere and mess with it is a separate kind of issue,” said Harrison.
 He said the policy itself in regards of trying to get people to do right by the environment makes it a very defendable policy.
Harrison highlighted the biggest issue Notley faced during her time as Premier was being elected at the wrong time. He said winning when oil prices tanked worked against her, as many of the issues regarding the debt acquired by the province happened during her time in government.
“To have not spent during that period of time would have been frankly really bad policy, somewhat akin to what we saw in the early 1930s when governments didn’t want to spend during the Great Depression, so it is defensible,” said Harrison.
But even through that, he said the biggest legacy Notley leaves behind is her ability to basically taking the NDP from the fringe to the centre of Alberta’s politics, to the point of governing the province and being legitimized as the challenger party.
“The amount of seats won and percentage of votes during the Notley government wipes out any other period of NDP. It was close to 44 per cent, really quite impressive for a party that before used to come in at 10 to 12 per cent,” said Harrison.
He said that regardless of not winning the last election, in general the NDP under Notley did extremely well compared to before her time.

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