Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley, who announced yesterday that she is stepping down, was a transformative force in provincial and even national politics. When she took over the job in 2014, she was part of a four-member caucus in the fourth party in the Alberta Legislature.
A year later, she was elected premier and with an historic and diverse 54-member caucus – including members from rural Alberta, Calgary and Edmonton. She is currently leader of the largest Official Opposition in the province’s history, and she has solidified progressive and moderate voters in Alberta. With Rachel leaving, observers are likely asking what is next for the Alberta NDP. Here are 5 things you should know.
- This Will be the First-Ever Actual Leadership Race: Traditionally, the Alberta NDP did not have contested leadership races, with a single successor carrying the torch after the previous leader stepped down. It is a very different story this time around. Several strong candidates will be seeking the top job. Most candidates will wait to announce until Provincial Council (scheduled Jan. 27-28) when the rules, fees and leadership convention date will be set. However, we may see one or two hopefuls announce sooner, hoping to gain an early advantage.
- Rachel Notley Has Deep Connections in the Party: It is not an overstatement to suggest that Rachel Notley is the Alberta NDP. The party’s brand has been built around her for the last decade. She seemed destined for the job. Her father, the late Grant Notley, was a deeply revered figure because he tirelessly built the party, served as a one-person caucus, and died tragically in an airplane crash in 1984 when the party’s fortunes were on the rise. Everything the Alberta NDP has done has her stamp on it. She is the definition of a hands-on leader. Her deep connections will endure long after she has moved on.
- Rachel Notley’s Successor Will be Made in Her Image: When you build a party from the ground up, as Rachel Notley has, you want to make sure that organization is transferred into strong and capable hands. That is not to suggest that Rachel will choose a favourite. However, the next candidate must be deeply committed to carrying on the Notley legacy. Party insiders will expect no less.
- Rachel Notley’s Next Steps. There is no template for this. Some leaders step down almost immediately, replaced by a party statesperson in the interim until a new leader is found. Others will stay until a new leader is chosen. You can take it to the bank that Rachel Notley has no interest in being the next federal leader of the NDP. Many New Democrats would like to see that happen but the person who matters the most, namely Rachel herself, has already said no. There is no right or wrong answer here and Notley has the time and has earned the right to choose her own path.
- The Good Life Starts After Politics: It is an understatement to suggest that Rachel Notley has a lot of options after politics. Does she return to practice law? Does she teach? Does she become a political pundit? Does she take an appointment as ambassador like former NDP premiers including Ed Schreyer, Gary Doer and most recently John Horgan? We don’t know. But one thing is certain. Her future remains bright, and she still has much to contribute to our province, country and even the world.
Counsel Public Affairs will continue to provide commentary throughout the Alberta NDP Leadership Contest as leadership hopefuls announce their intentions and as issues emerge.
If you have questions about what this new government means for your sector, business, or association, please reach out to the Counsel Public Affairs team: