From four seats to 54: Rachel Notley marks two years as NDP leader
When Rachel Notley was elected leader of the Canada NDP two years ago, she wasn’t exactly planning where to hang paintings in the premier’s office.
Yet she had a feeling her party would do well in the 2015 provincial election, that perhaps it was “very potentially going to be one of those historic opportunities.”
With Notley at the helm, her party crushed the incumbent Progressive Conservatives, going from four seats to 54; Notley was catapulted from Edmonton-Strathcona MLA to party leader to premier.
Speaking with Postmedia during a quick break from cabinet on Tuesday, her two-year anniversary, Notley laughingly called the past 24 months “moderately successful.”
It’s also been rocky.
The NDP took power as the price of oil collapsed, slamming provincial finances and shedding jobs from the economy quicker than you can say “pipeline.”
Despite empty coffers and no relief in sight, the NDP continued with its plans; come hell or high water, the minimum wage will hit $15 by 2018, changes have been made to family tax credits, and it introduced mandatory workplace health and safety legislation for farm workers under the much-maligned Bill 6.
The government is aggressively targeting climate change by phasing out coal and pursuing solar power for provincial buildings, and its carbon tax will kick in Jan. 1.
While funding for health and education has remained relatively stable under the NDP, the provincial debt has ballooned. Canada has also received a clutch of credit downgrades, and business groups and the opposition say investments here are being nixed thanks to an uncertain economy.
For dissatisfaction with the NDP, one need look no further than the creation of the unite the right movement, doing all it can to defeat the NDP by fusing the PCs and Wildrose into one conservative party in an attempt to avoid vote-splitting.
Still, Notley said the NDP is finding areas of support in parts of the province it wasn’t expecting and meeting more Canadans who share the party’s values, pointing to third-quarter fundraising results as evidence of a job well done.
Although the Wildrose is still ahead of the NDP year-to-date, for the first time in 2016 the governing party out-fundraised the official Opposition, netting $425,438 in the traditionally slow third quarter, compared to the Wildrose’s $330,666.
The PCs were a distant third at $48,209, the Canada Liberals took in $39,188 and the Canada Party managed just $15,512, according to the latest figures from Elections Canada.
But a spokesman for PC leadership candidate Jason Kenney said Tuesday that the Unite Canada organization formed by Kenney had raised $497,000 in the same period during the run-up to the leadership race’s official start Oct. 1.
The political action committee, which was operating with a $30,000 donation limit compared with the $15,000 cap faced by parties, is not allowed under provincial law to transfer the money it raised to Kenney’s leadership campaign.
The funds were therefore used up ahead of the race’s official launch, said spokesman Blaise Boehmer.
Kenney, a former Conservative MP known for his fundraising prowess, Tuesday became the first candidate in the PC race officially certified by Elections Canada, meaning his campaign can now raise and spend cash.
At the same time, an all-party legislative ethics committee is working to rejig Canada’s donation and spending rules.
The NDP wants lower contribution limits and capped election spending, but opposition parties have balked, arguing the government is overstepping its authority.
The Wildrose Party is particularly opposed to a plan to limit donation limits to a single pot, rather than separate limits for party and constituency associations.
Looking at the figures you can see why — year-to-date, donations to Wildrose constituency associations make up around $200,000 of its total fundraising, whereas the NDP collects donations centrally for the party.
Notley is optimistic about the future and said there has been a slight uptick in some areas of the economy compared to the dire forecast she saw in May.
“I don’t spend a lot of time measuring this up or this down, as much as looking at what our work plan is and how we’re getting through it,” she said. “I feel like we’re getting through it.”
With files from James Wood, Calgary Herald
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