Don’t expect an NDP cold war between Jagmeet Singh’s federal New Democrats and Rachel Notley’s Alberta caucus

Posted on October 02, 2017, 12:49 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Jagmeet Singh, whose campaign to lead the national New Democratic Party came to a successful conclusion yesterday. (Photo: Below: Alberta NDP Leader and Premier Rachel Notley, former Alberta Progressive Conservative premier Alison Redford, and former Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith.

So, it’s Jagmeet Singh, and decisively.

But don’t expect many hints from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s 55-member New Democrat caucus indicating how they feel about the new federal NDP leader declared elected yesterday.

Ms. Notley’s caucus would be too tightly disciplined for lips that loose on a normal Monday after a significant party vote like this, let alone in the aftermath of a vehicle attack in Edmonton that police are now describing as a “lone wolf” terrorist action.

As a commenter on this blog observed shrewdly yesterday afternoon, Ms. Notley’s job today will be to channel German Chancellor Angela Merkel and get ahead of “the assault on reason” the attack is bound to provoke, and indeed already has.

Mr. Singh at one point was considered by Alberta caucus insiders to be the federal leadership candidate Alberta’s New Democrats could best work with on the pipeline file. Later, as he shifted toward a greener stance in the face of pressure from leadership candidate Niki Ashton, that hope was transferred to Charlie Angus, to no avail in the event of the vote count.

Nevertheless, don’t expect the Alberta New Democrats to openly feud with the federal party, even if provoked – and there is no certainty that will happen, because Mr. Singh to appears to be a savvy operator capable of protecting all his flanks, just as Ms. Notley has already established she has a subtle and flexible strategic mind.

Ms. Notley will doubtless be attacked by the United Conservative Party for anything any New Democrat says anywhere that could be taken as being a slap at Alberta’s wishes. But such pro forma rhetoric will not be where Alberta’s 2019 election is won or lost, and everyone on both sides knows it.

In truth, such situations are nothing new in Alberta. It’s just that they have usually happened on the right for the simple reason that, hitherto, New Democrats have never been in power in Edmonton and they still haven’t been in Ottawa.

So don’t expect internal NDP disagreements to slip into the open, at least on the Edmonton end, as the fight between the Conservative Party of Canada then led by prime minister Stephen Harper and the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta then led by premier Alison Redford did in 2012.

Alert readers will recall that in the lead-up to the April 23 Alberta election that year, Mr. Harper’s CPC had been all but openly campaigning for the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith, ably assisted by mainstream media, which was full of paeans to the glory of the Wildrose and the inevitability of its victory. Even normally sensible commentators drank the Kool-Aid in the hours before the election with florid premature predictions of the party’s death.

When Ms. Redford pulled off a convincing victory anyway, cold war broke out between the CPC and the PCs, with the provincial Tories ending the automatic welcome the once extended to members of federal riding associations on the grounds so many of them were likely to be perfidious Wildrosers.

Even so, it never went much farther than that, though it might have, had Ms. Redford’s troubles not continued to deepen as the clock ran out on her political career.

Oddly, when the PCs fell to another talented female politician on May 5, 2015, no one on the right or in the media saw it coming because the attack came from the left – although, if anyone had actually been paying attention, they would have remembered that’s always been the direction whence epochal change has come in Alberta.

Mr. Singh’s greatest strength is his demonstrated ability to raise money, credibility in the suburbs and general popular support. Even die-hard New Democrat traditionalists will likely forgive him for sounding too much like a Liberal if he succeeds with those tough jobs.

This possibility had CPC boosters in the mainstream media rubbing their hands with glee yesterday, predicting the well-dressed Mr. Singh can steal enough support from our equally dapper Liberal prime minister, Justin Trudeau, to let a colourless apparatchik like Andrew Scheer slip into power.

However likely that is, my guess is that the provincial New Democrat brain trust here in Alberta will be crossing their fingers that if Ms. Ashton could push Mr. Singh to left in a fight for committed party votes, the electorate will be able to push him enough back toward the centre to smile on a pipeline or two.

It may or may not be a realistic hope. In the mean time, don’t expect a cold war on the Alberta left like the one the right waged before the reverse hostile takeover of the PCs by the Wildrose Party was arranged in the back rooms of the Manning Centre.

6 Comments to: Don’t expect an NDP cold war between Jagmeet Singh’s federal New Democrats and Rachel Notley’s Alberta caucus

  1. David

    October 2nd, 2017

    I think we in Alberta can’t look at the rest of the world as the enemy on energy issues – that will ultimately become self defeating if we retreat into our own bubble, as some like Kenney seem to advocate. After all, the rest of the world is the market for our energy and the pipelines that are debated here also go through other provinces and countries that have some say in energy issues too, whether convenient or easy for us or not.

    For a number of years, the Federal and Alberta Conservative governments took the approach to ignore others concerns and tried to ram things through – that didn’t work so well. If Kenney thinks we need to repeat this again, but this time just shout a bit louder to get our way, he will be very disappointed in the outcome.

    I think at this point we need to give Singh a chance and not assume he will be hostile to Alberta’s interests. The Federal leader who did the most for oilsands development was Chretien, even though Conservatives here and elsewhere always went around for years portraying him as hostile to Alberta. It just goes to show the Conservatives often don’t know what they are talking about and the outsiders are not agin’ us, as much as some local and other Conservatives try to portray for mostly for their own political advantage. However, that sort of posturing is not in Alberta’s interest, only for certain local Conservatives’ benefit.

  2. Farmer B

    October 2nd, 2017

    First, congradulations to Jagmeet Singh on running a successful campaign. I believe the Prime Minister will push the NDP to left due to the fact that he is continually pushing left leaning policies to poach votes from the NDP such as his latest proposals to change how the corporate tax system treats small business corps. As for pipelines, there is no doubt to distinguish themselves from the Liberals the NDP will come out against any new pipeline construction. If I understand the NDP party structure, when you buy a membership you are automatically a member of both the provincial and federal party, the federal NDP’s anti pipeline stance will certainly provide opportunities for those in favour of pipelines to point this out. One related side note, in my opinion Canadians are being played for fools for buying into the leave it in the ground narrative. Countries such as Russia, the USA, and many others continue to push oil exploration and developement, Norway has also fully developed it oil resources and continues to look for opportunities. In Alberta we need to concentrate on increasing the amount of money put aside by oil companies for remediation of abandoned wells and putting people back to work not shutting down the industry. Enjoy your day

  3. Scotty on Denman

    October 3rd, 2017

    In BC we have a new NDP government, one Ms Notley worked for before she got into electoral politics herself; she knows Premier John Horgan personally. When goaded by MSM campaign reporters about his promised opposition to the Transmountain pipeline expansion project— which probably won him those critical urban seats in the Lower Mainland where TMX terminates at Kinder Morgan’s refinery — he said he and Rachel agree to disagree. But, get this: Horgan, then leader of the official opposition, wasted no time in denouncing the federal NDP convention’ s resolution to adopt the Leap Manifesto because, he said, “We do pipelines in BC, we sell natural gas…” Plainly he was thinking about LNG loading facilities somewhere other than the Lower Mainland where the opposition to tanker traffic in the Salish Sea is near-rabid. In any case, it was a clever, if moot point since there is no LNG market and won’t be for the foreseeable.

    The NDP, whether it’s their ideology or federated party system, seems to be thinking pipelines through a churning morass of sentiments, on one side paleo-rightists that want everything their own way, just like the old days, and on the other its own party’s environmental faction. Gotta have your head on right and tight to walk that tightrope. Industry might just ditch the paleo-rightists for the smarter socialists— opps! Wasn’t s’posed t’ say that! — as the only way to get something at least. In this sense Premier Notley is the most important person at the table — and she’s smart.

    Provincial and federal NDP wings do not flap on the same bird. The odds of the NDP winning federal government are relatively slim, but it is very effective at punching above its own weight and enticing Liberals to expropriate policy from them; thus, as “the conscience of parliament” it may promote Leap with immunity. That will never happen in the provinces where the NDP is the alternative option and winning power is feasible and lately successful. Feds don’t do resources in provinces like they do in Territories; provincial NDP governments do do resources and can’t let anybody forget it. I agree that there’s some ground to be gained if major environmental concerns that’ve represented the petroleum-industry for decades as major polluters are addressed instead of dismissed, or even attacked. This is the opening to compromise. The right just wants to close the door and pretend everything outside is okay.

  4. Tom Langford

    October 3rd, 2017

    “that if Ms. Ashton could push Mr. Singh to left in a fight for committed party votes, the electorate will be able to push him enough back toward the centre to smile on a pipeline or two.”

    David, I’m not sure that Ashton’s campaign had much of an effect on Singh’s new-found green positions. Firstly he seems to have been strongly influenced by Peter Julian’s arguments during campaigning. In terms of the politics of winning the leadership contest, his environmental positioning allowed him to win the support of Julian and Nathan Cullen, along with a number of other BC MPs. Given the importance of Peter Julian and Nathan Cullen to his leadership victory, I don’t think that Jagmeet Singh as federal leader will be as flexible on pipeline approval policy as you suggest.

  5. Athabascan

    October 8th, 2017

    Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

    Canadian voters aren’t ready for Singh. The proof will reveal itself in the next general election.

    • Murphy

      October 10th, 2017

      Au contraire. Canadians are well primed to respond to identity politics, further taking folks’ eyes off the birdie, which is of course, the non-functioning world economy in the late-stage era of finance capitalism. The notion of the leader of Canada’s one-time socialist party wearing a few thousand dollars worth of clothing and religious headgear is beyond absurd. But hey, nothing brings people together like overt religiousity and conspicuous consumption.


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