It’s a historic day in Alberta! The NDP has won a majority government—the orange wave indeed rolled over the province. Premier-designate Rachel Notley has proven her charismatic, populist touch could capture the province’s imagination. Her party approached the election with enthusiasm and a sense of humour.

Her opening statement this campaign: “My name is Rachel Notley and I’m running for premier.”

At 11 p.m. MST Tuesday, the unofficial vote count gave NDP 54 seats; Wildrose 21; PC 10; while the Liberals and Alberta Party pulled up the rear with one seat each. Alberta voted for change en masse.

Since popular premier Ralph Klein, Albertans have been signaling that they want change. The PC Party was able to convince the province through three elections that by changing its leaders, the party embodied change—a safe change. But the game of musical chairs since—Stelmach, Redford, Hancock, Prentice—eroded the faith that change could come from within Alberta’s 44-year political dynasty. During his concession speech at 10 p.m. Tuesday tonight, Premier Jim Prentice resigned as leader of the PC Party and also resigned as MLA, effective immediately.

Much will likely be said about how the three-way race allowed the NDP to come up between warring conservative factions in some constituencies, but no one should make light of the great feat of Notley’s NDP that inspired hope. For years, Albertans have been telling the rest of the country that they are not as conservative as often perceived in eastern boardrooms. This election drives home the point already made by left-leaning mayors Naheed Nenshi and Don Iveson of Calgary and Edmonton, respectively. But truthfully, Alberta’s NDP is more centrist than elsewhere, too.

Premier-designate Rachel Notley

So just who is Premier-designate Rachel Notley? Elected as MLA in 2008 in the constituency of Edmonton-Strathcona. Notley is through-and-through NDP. Her father, Grant Notley, led the NDP from 1968 until his death in 1984. She is a lawyer and previously worked for various unions in both Alberta and British Columbia.

Notley has distinguished herself as a strong, tenacious voice in the legislature. A passionate advocate for children in care, child poverty reduction and health care, she was known for holding government accountable—and now has the chance to change the government from within. During her time in the legislature, Notley has introduced several private members’ motions, including:

  • phasing-out coal-generated power by 2030;
  • reducing child poverty; and
  • establishing affordable rates for child care.

During the election, Notley continued her passion for these issues, highlighting her plans to improve health care by cutting waste in AHS and putting a focus on front-line workers. Notley also took the opportunity to discuss coal-powered electrical generation. Throughout the election period, Notley positioned herself and her party as a viable choice on the economy, presenting a plan reversing tax increases and program cuts while raising corporate taxes. She also put a focus on jobs, including an increase to a $15-minimum-wage and a tax incentive to create jobs for Albertans.

First steps

Notley is expected to take a couple of weeks to appoint her cabinet and has a robust caucus to pull from—Alberta has a tendency to elect healthy majorities. While some has and will be said of caucus members with limited experience, Notley’s team includes many strong members. We will provide early expectations for Notley’s cabinet in a future blog post.

She will likely follow by calling the legislature back in late spring to pass a budget or seek interim supply.  As other new governments have done in the past, expect the NDP government to ask for an independent audit of the provincial budget to establish an independent baseline for revenue and spending measures. The premier-designate will, no doubt, also take immediate steps to reach out and listen to key members of the business community in the early days of a new administration.

As a longtime opposition party, the NDP in Alberta have historically been untrusting of large corporations and lobbying, outside of unions and non-profits. That will quickly change as Notley and her team assume the broad responsibilities of government and move to quell any fears in Alberta’s key industries.

In the bureaucracy

The Alberta bureaucracy prides itself on being non-partisan and having members from all political perspectives, but after a 44-year PC regime, we can expect a lot of nerves about what the change means for day-to-day operations. The truth is that the bureaucratic machine will continue to chug along, awaiting instruction from the new government. Notley is a strong and experienced MLA, so we expect that she and her cabinet will take their time to better understand the government they have inherited before they make major wholesale change.