On stage in Edmonton: The tough Rachel Notley who frightens conservatives, and may scare certain New Democrats too

Posted on April 10, 2016, 2:24 am
11 mins

PHOTOS: Alberta Premier Rachel Notley is not tall, but she casts a long shadow on both sides of the political aisle. She is seen here addressing the national NDP convention in Edmonton yesterday in a tough, memorable speech. Below: Federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair at the conference yesterday; delegates applaud Ms. Notley’s remarks, presumably those everyone there could agree on.

NDP Premier Rachel Notley called out Alberta’s conservatives yesterday for their climate change denying, science muzzling, regressive and deceptive ways.

But in her speech to the New Democratic Party’s national convention in Edmonton, she also also delivered a sharp rebuke to proponents of the Leap Manifesto, the radical green turn in party policy sought by some delegates to the first national convention since the Oct. 19 federal vote that saw the NDP returned to third-party status in Parliament.

MulcairPotentially, that stance could put her at odds with federal NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair … if he survives today’s leadership review vote by delegates.

Ms. Notley walked this political tightrope, Rabble’s Karl Nerenberg accurately observed, with “the rare political quality of seeming to be entirely genuine and without the slightest hint of guile.”

But by standing her ground with opponents on both sides of the political spectrum and seeking to strip the debate over pipelines in particular of the highly emotional discourse that has come to typify it, Ms. Notley also demonstrated the steely resolve that made her Alberta’s social democratic premier in the first place.

On the huge stage of the Shaw Conference Centre, Ms. Notley may have looked tiny to the groups of delegates who simultaneously leaped to their feet to roar their approval or sat on their hands in silent disapproval, but there is no denying the long shadow she casts over this debate.

Premier Notley began her evisceration of the modern conservative movement in Alberta by praising Peter Lougheed, the visionary founder of the late Progressive Conservative dynasty 44 years ago, who “urged Albertans to act like owners of their natural resources.

“He pursued a vision of a diversified and resilient economy,” Ms. Notley told the NDP delegates, elaborating on a theme Albertans may now be more familiar with. “And he laid the foundation for many of the social services we enjoy in Alberta today. …

“Let me offer you a laugh-out-loud understatement,” she went on. “Today’s conservatives are a very different proposition. … They want to fire nurses and teachers, and make pay and working conditions worse for those who remain.

“They want to privatize public services, because what social service can’t benefit from diverting 10 or 20 per cent of the budget to insiders, shareholders and senior managers?” This last point, of course, was delivered sarcastically.

Delegates“There are no forests they don’t want to cut. There are no streams they don’t want to foul. There is nothing sacred or important about our climate, or our land or our water … or at least, there is nothing we should be doing to protect any of these things, since every environmental measure is always opposed by today’s conservatives, while also denying the science and trying to muzzle the scientists.”

Their big idea? “That every possible benefit and every support for families, for the poor, and for the middle class must be cut to the bone … to pay for tax cuts for rich people.

“If today’s Conservatives were being honest about what they really stood for,” Ms. Notley asserted, “I don’t think too many people would vote for them. So, since they can’t campaign on what they really want to do, what do they do? We got a look at that in the federal election: They make the issue what women are allowed to wear!”

There are still good people in Conservative parties, Premier Notley reminded delegates. There are admirable roots in progressive conservatism. And maybe, some day, “our blue friends will find their way back to them.

“But based on the angry, raging, talk-about-anything-but-what-we’d-actually-do performance we get from our conservative oppositions here in Alberta, I’d say our conservative friends, at least in this province, are going to try everything else first!”

Ms. Notley then turned to the achievements of her NDP majority government – elected only 11 months ago on May 5. She enumerated a list of accomplishments in the government’s short life that included abolishing the “disgraceful and regressive flat tax system,” dumping the plan for a similarly regressive health care premium, banning corporate and union political donations, ensuring maintenance of health care and education funding, sticking with the commitment to a $15-per-hour minimum wage, and introducing what she called one of the most far-reaching job creation and diversification plans in Canada.

Moreover, she said, “we introduced Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan – the single most important step any Canadian government at any level has taken so far to actually act on climate change.” This includes such actions as phasing out coal-generated power, implementing a carbon tax, putting in place an oil sands emissions cap and a methane reduction plan.

“We are also implementing this plan because it will be good for the economy of Alberta. It is about moving to a cleaner, greener, more energy-efficient, more diversified, value-added economy. We are not making a choice between the environment and the economy. We are building the economy!”

Then Ms. Notley turned to the challenge presented to her government by the Leap proposal … and the genuine electoral danger it presents to her government:

“We’re acting, really acting, on the basis of a concrete plan that is actually being implemented,” she said. “That is what you get to do when you move up from manifestos, to the detailed, principled, practical plans you can really implement by winning an election.”

In other words, as the Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson interpreted her statement, “the Leap Manifesto is a naïve and impractical diatribe that will not win any elections.”

Ms. Notley challenged NDP delegates from the rest of Canada to deal with the change wrought 11 months ago when Alberta voters “took away one of your favourite enemies …

“There’s no climate change denying, science-muzzling, regressive Tory government here any more. So it’s time to start thinking differently about Alberta and the 4.4 million fellow Canadians who live here… I am asking you to always remember that hundreds of thousands of Canadians work in resource industries – here and across Canada.

“I am asking you to leave here more persuaded than perhaps some of us have been that it is possible for Canada to have a forestry industry, an agriculture industry, a mining industry and – yes – an energy industry… while being world leaders on the environment. …

“We need to be able to get the best possible world price for the oil we produce here, at the level of production that will be responsibly allowed under a climate change plan that is focused effectively on reducing the amount of carbon in each barrel of oil. And the way to do that is through pipelines to tidewater that allows us to diversify our markets and upgrade our products – here in Canada.”

“Pipelines that are built by Canadians,” she argued, “support the national goal of being a smart, sophisticated, progressive energy producer on the international stage even as we use the prosperity from that endeavour to carefully reposition our economy and the working people within it to a move diversified, greener future.”

“There are voices in our party who want to wave all this away – and give those Conservatives I was talking about exactly what they need to return to office and to carry on with their agenda,” she said. “Progressive parties of government don’t let that happen.”

This was exactly the Rachel Notley those conservative parties – still reeling from their loss of power in Edmonton and Ottawa – fear the most.

As one participant put it during a desperate-sounding unite-the-right rally in Edmonton last week, there’s a “Doomsday Scenario” in which the NDP “actually get a pipeline built. … If that ever happens, they’re going to govern for the next 20 years!”

Whether or not you agree, and whether or not you think it’s very likely, that is Ms. Notley’s goal.

Whatever the future holds, after a speech like yesterday’s, surely the conservative refrain Ms. Notley isn’t fighting for what Albertans want is starting to wear pretty thin!

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

19 Comments to: On stage in Edmonton: The tough Rachel Notley who frightens conservatives, and may scare certain New Democrats too

  1. Sub-Boreal

    April 10th, 2016

    Yes, it was a terrific speech. I was in that room yesterday, and you could feel how desperately everyone wanted something to cheer about. I remember her father, and her skills as a speaker far exceed his.

    But.

    I understand the limits of the political universe in which she has to operate, but in the end, her appeal to the rest of the country boiled down to: nicer people are now in charge of Alberta, so please let us have our pipeline(s).

    While it’s an effective rhetorical device for bringing a hometown partisan crowd to its feet, it doesn’t change the inexorable arithmetic of emissions reduction. If AB wants to emit more CO2 by enabling bitumen export capacity, then other sectors have to emit less.

    So if I spend my own money to improve the energy efficiency of my house, why should I be glad to see that effort neutralized by more investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, whether it’s LNG production in BC or bitumen extraction in AB?

    I understand why Rachel had to say what she said yesterday, but I suspect that the dodgy economics of bitumen will doom those pipeline proposals more surely than any number of manifestos that anyone could devise.

    Reply
    • Unreal!

      April 11th, 2016

      I too want the environment to thrive for future generations be what people aren’t seeing is that responsible management can and will allow both energy development with positive economic impact and environmental protection. The thought that other industries will need to downsize to allow the oil industry to survive is ludicrous. The current full production rate doesn’t reach the current emissions limit. There is room for growth. We’ve let biased environmental groups (most of which are funded by big oil business from the U.S. – yes I’m looking directly at Greenpeace) go unchecked for the untruths that they widely spread and unfortunately so many Canadians have drank the kool-aid!

      Reply
      • cheryl b

        April 11th, 2016

        Responsible management are the key words here and all we have to do is look at northern Alberta over the past 75 years to see that hasn’t been the case.

        Reply
    • cheryl b

      April 11th, 2016

      Totally agree. If there were a guarantee that her government would be around for 44 years; I’d tentatively support pipelines to BC. But there is no guarantee, and the people in BC now, and the ones coming behind Notley, aren’t so nice. Once pipelines are here; they are here to stay.

      Reply
  2. anonymous

    April 10th, 2016

    “So it’s time to start thinking differently about Alberta and the 4.4 million fellow Canadians who live here… I am asking you to always remember that hundreds of thousands of Canadians work in resource industries – here and across Canada.”

    Why should Alberta be a special case? At least she didn’t say ‘Think Different’. Yes, Virginia, there are Canadians outside of Alberta who need attention too.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iaaXv6t0oWU

    Reply
  3. political ranger

    April 10th, 2016

    Road apples, barnyard dropping, pure hogwash!
    It’s beyond belief that you swallow this fantasy David. Did Tinker Bell write this piece for Peter?
    You can create a greener, more diversified economy, but not with oil and not with another pipeline. You can build pipelines and more petro development but you by abandoning any climate change plans.
    The two are mutually exclusive, by definition. Any attempt to promote both at the same time and place is a lie, a trick or a deception.
    It’s time for Notley to be honest too. It’s time for her to start talking about the compromises she has had to make, about how it is to govern as a captured government. She sounds just like Klien now.
    Look, even if she inspired every decision-maker in the country, which she certainly didn’t, it would be 2-3 years before a pipeline decision was made. Even if there were no obstacles to construction, which there are aplenty, it would take 5 years to build. Then this newly built infrastructure would be used for the next 40 years. So, we are talking about a plan to increase petro-production for the next 50 years, to 2065.
    Just on the face of it, that plan contributes to the increase of GHG emissions. That plan locks in a captured economy, makes it impossible to diversify into other sectors.
    No, if she were being honest, she would be laying out the choices we have to make. Instead, she promises sugar plums and flights of fantasy and a good nites sleep.
    She has irresponsibly put off the real, the important decisions to some other gov’t. Real decision-makers, real governors, of which she comes from a long line of, would be hanging their heads in shame.

    Reply
    • Chris

      April 16th, 2016

      Rachel is surrounded everyday by the destruction wrought by shutting down the just a portion of the hydrocarbon economy. She governs these people today, right now. She is in no position to offer a lofty utopian future. She needs a whole lot of cards that she doesn’t control fall into place to get re-elected three years from now. Revolutions do work from time to time but they leave destruction in their wake, and she fears destruction of the Alberta NDP come 2019. Evolution, not revolution. Sorry if that’s not fast enough for you.

      Reply
  4. April 10th, 2016

    There is not much of a leap (sort of pun intended) from insisting on pipelines and climate denialism.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    April 10th, 2016

    Key sentences here are the last three, agreed.
    Susan Riley, on CBC’s Sunday Scrum this morning, brought up an interesting take on things. She queried whether the NDP would have to decide to lead or be the party of conscience, and was leaning toward that not being the question. No more pipelines, could be a wedge issue, as is being boldly done by Bernie Sanders in the USA election campaign. And, it is young voters who are connecting here, because this is the group of people who are the most concerned about climate change. Riley suggested that this might generate more support than what is thought. I have noticed Elizabeth May, leader of the federal Green Party appearing to be very supportive of the LEAP Manifesto. Will it be a strategic move in the future?
    So the question remains, all politics can talk the talk of needing a pipeline to tidewater, but is it going to happen?
    Is there “any economic context to any of the proposed pipelines?” Time will certainly tell.

    Reply
    • Disgusted

      April 11th, 2016

      “And, it is young voters who are connecting here, because this is the group of people who are the most concerned about climate change.” That may be true in Massachusetts and Vermont, and maybe even in Ontario, but it is true of only a minority of young people in Alberta. The rest prefer to bury their heads in the sand, and bemoan the loss of energy sector high-paying jobs that would allow them to by the 4X4 3/4-ton pickup, quad, and snowmobile of their dreams. Many even hold the Alberta NDP responsible for the disappearance of those jobs, giving them an easy scapegoat that requires no understanding of either economics or the environment.

      Reply
  6. TENET

    April 10th, 2016

    At the end of the day, the flock of federal New Democrats that convened in Edmonton where on a field trip.

    Our urban, cosmopolitan friends should have learned how the chicken goes from the chicken coop to the crock pot, and all the gory details, realities of life on the farm. Instead, they entertained themselves at the petting zoo behind their own Colonel Sanders.

    Before our brethren head east, they should get a locking gas cap from Premier Notley as a token of our appreciation. They must promise put them on their automobiles when they get home. The Premier will keep the keys. When the tanks are empty, the lights may come on.

    Wouldn’t it be fitting for the Premier to lock down all the fuel trucks at YEG? All those delegates can car pool in their Prius and plug-
    ins for the scenic journey home.

    Reply
    • TENET

      April 10th, 2016

      Au revoir…

      Reply
  7. Brogan

    April 10th, 2016

    At what point to do the fascists(conservatives and wildrose) in this province finally admit they are fascists? Their opposition to the essential non partisan legislation the NDP puts forward make it really obvious that everything they do is based on greed and bigotry.

    Reply
    • D. Connolly

      April 14th, 2016

      All of their legislation has been partisan. Typical NDP comment “greed and bigotry” as the NDP Advsnces their goal of making everyone equally poor.

      Reply
  8. Sassy

    April 10th, 2016

    Rusty Idols at http://rustyidols.blogspot.ca/2016/04/what-mess.html calls the Leap Manifesto “a masterpiece of high level manipulative communication”. Exactly. And he mentions the negative effect it will likely have on Manitoba’s provincial election on April 19. I’m sad to think the NDP party may have insiders with a hidden agenda, but how else to explain this declaration?

    Reply
  9. Athabascan

    April 12th, 2016

    Someone should explain to Rachel Notley that promoting construction of a pipeline to a tide water destination, is NOT diversifying the Alberta economy. Instead, it is chugging along the same path we have been on for decades. In other words, it’s not new and it’s not visionary.

    Diversifying means promoting a different industry which entails doing things differently. It means taking a few of our eggs and putting them in a different basket – one that is not so oily.

    Reply
  10. Arrow54

    May 9th, 2016

    What does any of this matter, if people do not have jobs, a home, and food? They can not survive without a job. Cutting Alberta’s juggler between Notley and Trudeau to get gain for the powers that be makes me sick. Both of these two people have down enough damage to Canada to last over a million years. They have royally screwed it up. Climate change is caused by the 15 damned HAARPS in the world that are owned by the powers that are. The High Altitude Auroral Research Program is used to control weather plus a number of other things, but everyone says climate change is caused from the pollution etc. Bull crap it is. This whole business that is happening is because the powers that be what CONTROL, AND DOMINATION. Every thing is being done because of GREED.It is the everyday common man that is paying for this bullshit.Oh, but I forgot we are expendable. Do you really honestly think Trudeau and Notley give a damn about you and this country? If you do, then you are a bigger bloody fool than I first thought. Canada is defenseless, we are sitting ducks in a pond. Easy pickings. You think for one minute that Canada can not be taken over by the corrupt, incorrigible powers that be. History is repeating itself over and over again. It will continue to do so till the lesson is learned people. You want a Canada that is totally independent and self sustaining for the people who live here. Not giving our money to other countries who do not and have not and never will help us back. Who the hell ever helped Canada make it what it is today outside of Canada?? Russia is the only one that has ever said they would come and help put out the fires up north but our darling Trudeau has not given a thank you or a nod for help offered toward Russia. He is down in Washington. I certainly would like to know why. Trudeau would be happy to let Canada burn because he don’t give a shit .Notley too, what the hell is she doing in Washington? That is the USA, not Canada. So what the hell are they up to down there? Our Free Trade never was for Canada by a long shot. It was always for the good old USA. They have their damned fingers in everything up here and they are the ones cutting our XL pipeline for political reasons, but here we are. We are buying Saudi Arabia dirty sticking crude oil to use in Canada.It is still coming into our east and is tankard to our holding tanks, but we can not use our oil, or tankard our oil or build pipelines for our oil. Funny that, isn’t it. Just blooding convenient for Trudeau to stop all our oil don’t you think, after rubbing shoulders with Obama. Now the massive fire up north of Alberta. Pretty coincidental too that it was conveniently beside the main city that runs our oil. You want to believe it was coincidental you can, but I sure the hell don’t Influx of refugees who are all descendants of Arabia brought in here by the thousands, so we could be good Samaritans, what a joke. Money for them but not for destitute Canadians. ISIS, who is funding that do you suppose?? Who is backing their oil?? Any guesses?? I could name a few for you. I am sick of the political bull shit folks that our government is taking all the precautions not to disclose. You want to keep Canada the true north strong and free, then you had all better wake up and run Trudeau and his party and Notley and her party the hell out of town today, otherwise you just might have to fight long and hard to keep Canada our home and native land.

    Reply

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