Surrounded by candidates, Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley pauses during her speech as something like 1,500 supporters cheer her on in Edmonton yesterday. Below: Part of the crowd at Sunday’s rally; Ms. Notley interviewed by the media at a post-speech news conference; Ms. Notley during the newser.

There may have been better Canadian political stump speeches than the one Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley delivered in Edmonton yesterday afternoon at the end of this often surprising 2015 campaign, but I’ve never heard it – and I’ve heard plenty.

We may not yet know what will happen on Tuesday, but it’s a remarkable turn of events when a New Democratic Party leader can pack 1,500 or more people into a hotel ballroom in the capital city of Alberta on a rainy Sunday afternoon and get them to cheer themselves hoarse with an electrifying speech that’s both inspiring and coherent, and reasonable to boot.

It would be fair to say almost no one expected anything like this when Premier Jim Prentice arrogantly called this election, which was wanted by no one but his Progressive Conservative Party strategic brain trust, and set off on what he imagined would be an easy stroll to victory.

As the campaign progressed, with the PCs sinking to third place according to the pollsters, a whiff of panicky desperation began to emanate from the Tory war room. Their answer was the 2015 Campaign of Fear. Yesterday, while Ms. Notley was uplifting her supporters with her charismatic performance, Mr. Prentice was grimly warning voters that now, after only 44 years, was no time to start changing governments.

Sure, he seemed to be saying, we’ve had a chaotic succession of bumbling PC premiers, but we can trust him, ’cause this time’s the charm! And apparently, if the polls can be believed, I’m not the only Albertan to whom this sounds lame and preposterous.

As Ms. Notley put it, Albertans “are not that impressed with the circus the PCs have made of Alberta’s government since the last election either. Four premiers in four years, my friends. A never-ending circus instead of a government that has continued right through this election campaign. … If you can’t govern yourself, you certainly cannot govern this province!”

And surely those five well-off and well-connected Tory businessmen who called a news conference on Friday to scold Albertans about the need to stop the crazy talk about changing governments didn’t intend to hand Ms. Notley her best lines of the campaign?

That’s the way it’s played out, though, and the huge throng of Dippers at the somewhat grubby Ramada Edmonton Hotel and Conference Centre not so many blocks north of the Legislature gave Ms. Notley the perfect way to illustrate what for many Albertans has become the pivotal question of this election.

Here we had five impeccably tailored men who together have donated close to $100,000 to the PC Party in the past five years and whose companies the media says have received millions in contracts from the same government, sitting at a giant boardroom table lecturing Albertans on the need to straighten up and fly right, and I do mean right.

There it was encapsulated: Tory entitlement and self interest rolled into a handy dandy one-act morality play. Could you imagine a better way to make the NDP’s case that all corporate and union donations must end?

“Right here in this city on Friday, the PC party made their final throw, their case to Albertans, their big closing message to the people of Alberta,” Ms. Notley told the crowd. “It was delivered by five Conservative businessmen, all of them PC donors, including the former co-chair of the Conservative campaign and a vice-president of the PC Party.

“They lined up in front of the media in a luxury penthouse boardroom, in a tower not too far from here, and they asked: ‘Why? Why should we have to pay anything?’

“So let me just respond,” she said to the repeated cheers of the multitude. “Here’s why: By asking those who can afford it to contribute just a little more – 12,000 children will have a teacher when they show up for school!

“By asking them to contribute just a little bit more we’ll be able to start reducing wait times in our hospitals, and our clinics, and care for our seniors, and ensure that health care is better in communities across Alberta.

“But if they don’t contribute that little bit more, then ordinary working Albertans will have to make up the difference – which is why Albertans are rejecting your budget, Mr. Prentice.

“… If Albertans vote for change on Tuesday, and we make better changes, then we’ll live in a better province. A province that looks after its children better, a province that cares for the sick better, a province that’s a better place to live for all of us – including you, my PC friends.

“And that’s why you and other profitable large businesses should contribute just a little bit more!”

“Reject the politics of fear,” Ms. Notley urged her listeners. “And in doing that I ask Albertans to say, no thanks for your billion-dollar cutback to health care. No thanks to your cutbacks in our school boards and our schools. And no thanks for your Big Idea: That corporations can’t afford to contribute one single dollar more …”

“Jim Prentice said Alberta is not an NDP province. He’s right because Alberta doesn’t belong to any political party. Alberta is not a PC province. It’s not a Wildrose province. Alberta belongs to Albertans.

“And Albertans – Albertans! – are going to decide who the government is. Not Jim Prentice. And not his five friends.”

Now, if you’re like me, and you’ve been lamenting the decline in the quality of political speech making in this country, regardless of your politics, I recommend you listen to Ms. Notley’s entire speech. If nothing else, it will reassure you that great political speechmaking still thrives in Canada.

And if you’re not a New Democrat, maybe it’ll persuade you just the same that, in Ms. Notley’s words, “we do not have to repeat history in this province. In two days we can make history!”

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  1. WOW! This is how to give a political speech. I thought Rachel was very good, now she rises into greatness.

  2. Congrat’s. One of your very best columns. And Rachel’s speech…wonderfull. Makes me wish I was back in AB so I could vote for her!

  3. It is so refreshing to see a practical and honest political leader. It makes the thought of a shallow twit pandering for support by mouthing a slogan like “I’ll keep your taxes low” seem even more pathetic. What the panderer is basically saying is that they would rather have an easy time not having to set goals – just let government get out of the way. Rachel offers a program of sincerity – where positive results are possible. The panderers only want to download their jobs on a “private sector” that has no grasp of what public policy’s function actually is.

  4. Seems the mud slingers have settled on “NDP amateurs” and “job killing corporate taxes” followed by the standard dark forces of socialism have wrecked everything everywhere they’ve be allowed to win. My response to each:

    1. Re: Amateurs, I would rather have my pet cat Sniffy, run the joint with a magic eight ball than have to watch these slimy “professionals” screw over every citizen that doesn’t have cash to buy their protection.
    2. Re: Job killing corporate taxes. We’ve had slash and burn infrasture deficits from Ralph “hic here’s 400 bucks” Klein along with low corporate taxes and yet somehow those low taxes only produced more dependance on oil money while our royalty rates were being reduced. mmmm… scam.
    3. Re: NDP have wrecked every economy everywhere tm !!1111!! Bull and also shit! Mostly NDP like our Notley crew have had the unenviable task of trying to clean up conservative messes after the bumfuzzled electorate finally wakes up and realizes that fox has eating hens and sold the hen house to his buddies in Wisconsin! PS who do they think got us Public health care, decent working conditions?

    Anyway before heading out I voted in the advance and you could tell the difference between the oh so concerned suckers for the standard bull and the happy faces of the NDP voters!

  5. Yes, yes, all very exiting! Ultimately, irrelevant if the NDP don’t win a majority tonight.

    Wake me up tomorrow, and I’ll tell you what kind of mood I’m in. I will either wake up to the same old same old days of exploitation by the ruling elite with more austerity coming my way, or…

    I’m hoping I wake up to the dawn of a new age in Alberta, where the government actually governs in the interest of those who elected them and not the privileged one-percenters.

    Anything short of a majority NDP is in fact a failure for the other 99% of Albertans.

    1. Prentice told a media interviewer “I guess we hit the Heritage Fund a little too hard.” What an understatement! They sucked over 700 billion dollars out of it.

      When Harper took over Government he had a 75 million dollar surplus sitting there that he promptly passed onto corporations by lowering corporate taxes to a point below what would be considered competitive. Oil is not going to be hurt by the small increments that Notley publically put forward!

      Notley did not put forward her own environmental plan. She said she would look forward to working with Harper in establishing a National environmental plan. So far, so good.

      Albertan’s are presently paying for new DC power lines to move oil sands excess power to the US export market. Lines are already in place from Montana to Alberta. The Trick is, if Alberta puts a line across a border the Fed has a say in pricing. If however the US brings the line across the border to meet a Canadian Hook up the Fed has nothing to say about it. The point remains, Alberta taxpayers are paying for all of this!

      Before the election, Prentice put a 30.00 power charge on every meter in Alberta which is an indirect taxation of over a billion dollars every two years. What will the NDP do about this? I think nothing, they too need cash!

      Perhaps some of you recall when an oil sands electrical producer got caught up in a California lawsuit on overcharging them for their electricity? That was exported through BC and amounted to many millions of dollars at stake. This type of power is not included in royalty yet, we pay for all the power lines.

      There has to be a shakeup of the industry but, it doesn’t have to be bad. We need a strong industry but. we have to start conducting ourselves as a producing province, not a backwater oil kingdom.

  6. As of 10:00 PM May 5, all I have to say is, “First we take Alberta, then Canada. Harpercons you are next.”

  7. PJP • 4 Weeks Ago
    Every single Albertan municipal riding in an urban area went NDP.

    The Albertan political cultural strangle hold finally been broken by the ‘one-two’ punch of the 200,000 net migrants over the last 10 years and the Echo generation demographic coming of political age?

    Personally, I suspect the it is our urbanization trends… the voters of Alberta have other ideas about what we want from politics…ideas that are much different from the stale and weariful ideologies/campaigning of the PCs.

    ‘Mirror opposite’ even?”

    1. Ummm… not quite. Both Fort McMurray seats went Wildrose, and the two Grande Prairie constituencies split PC (Wapiti) and Wildrose (Smoky). Sadly, Mary Dahr could not pull ahead of Wayne Drysdale to win it in GP-Wapiti; the only bright note is that he now gets to sit on the Opposition side of the House. Also, sadly, while it went down to the wire in GP-Smoky, Todd Russell could not finally prevail over the Wildrose’s Todd Loewen, although at least Tory Everett McDonald ended up in 3rd place.

      OTOH, I was gratified to see the level of NDP support in northern rural areas, like Peace River, Dunvegan-Central Peace-Notley, and many others. It shows we are not just an Edmonto-centric party.

  8. Wow! It doesn’t get any better. Ok, let’s get on with governing this province. I am so excited!

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