Linda Duncan, at left, back in the day, riding in the Edmonton Pride Parade with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley (Photo: Dave Cournoyer, used in the hope he’ll forgive me).

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Not to be negative, but the federal New Democrats might want to hold off scheduling the nomination to choose Linda Duncan’s successor until just after next spring’s provincial election.

Then again – given the fraught relationship these days between the federal NDP and the Alberta branch of Canada’s social democratic party – perhaps not!

Ms. Duncan, of course, is the NDP Member of Parliament for Edmonton Strathcona. She announced this morning that she would not be seeking re-election in the federal election expected for October 2019. It won’t be on the front page of the Washington Post tomorrow, but thanks to the Internet, the news could still be heard here in the Imperial Planetary Capital.

Ms. Duncan, who comes from the green branch of the federal party, has shown signs of discomfort lately with the not-quite-so-green inclinations of the government of Premier Rachel Notley that was elected in 2015.

The potential for family strife arising from that situation, plus the fact Ms. Duncan is now 69, may make the idea of stepping out of active politics an appealing one.

A lawyer by profession who was first elected in 2008, and re-elected in 2011 and 2015, she said in a short but effusive news release that she is “profoundly grateful” for the honour of being elected three times to serve the riding.

“I will continue working hard inside and outside the House of Commons to hold the government accountable for its responsibilities to Canadians,” the former environmental law specialist and Environment Canada employee said with careful neutrality.

Seriously, though, however the Alberta election that’s supposed to fall between March and May next spring shakes out – and the outcome is not necessarily the foregone conclusion of the Opposition and media narratives – there are likely to be some high-quality NDP candidates with experience in government available to face new challenges come the fall.

Of course, if Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decides to call an early election to take advantage of the chaos and division among the federal Conservatives the strategic electoral equation changes a bit.

Either way, the NDP should pick wisely – perhaps looking for someone who can appeal to Albertans more broadly outside the environs of the University of Alberta – because if the 2015 provincial election proves anything, it’s that change can happen in Alberta, and if you’re playing a long game, it probably will.

As Ms. Duncan observed in a letter to her constituents on her web page, “as my dear friend Jack Layton was so fond of declaring, “don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.” No one knows that better that Alberta New Democrats.

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  1. Being a progressive voter in Alberta is frustrating, wondering which progressive candidate, Liberal or NDP, has the best chance of blocking the Tory candidate.

    I live in Linda Duncan’s riding. Voting federally this past 10 years has been a treat, knowing which candidate has the best chance of winning. Knowing I was also contributing to Stephen Harper’s hissy fit that his party was unable to sweep Alberta was just a bonus.

  2. She is one of several NDP sitting MP’s who have decided not to run in the next election.

    Cannot say that I blame any of them for abandoning ship. This one is sinking. Fast.

    Jasmeet Singh is a disaster. Avi Lewis has caused a great deal of internal strife.

    Not certain how any Albertan could vote for Federal NDP party given their current policies. Notley certainly cannot stomach them…..why should the rest of us Albertans.

  3. I suppose the Federal race in Edmonton Strathcona will be an interesting study in how a well a party does without a well regarded incumbent among other things. I think as always there is a need to pick a candidate wisely, ideally both someone who is connected and appeals to voters in the constituency and perhaps someone who is fairly high profile and can bring together a coalition of progressive minded voters. For instance, it is interesting our mayor has already felt the need to comment on whether he might be a candidate.

    I have never totally understood how conservative parties could win so many times in the past in this area, which would seem to be a textbook example of a progressive constituency, particularly with candidates that were really not that impressive. I wonder if that time is now past, but the pipeline issue may present a challenge for the Federal NDP in Alberta, although I don’t think that was the main factor in Linda Duncan announcing retirement. I suspect, as you get further past typical retirement age, spending a lot of your time in Ottawa away from friends and family and on planes flying back and forth is probably less and less appealing.

    I suppose it is better when a MP gives their party more time to plan for the future, particularly in a constituency where a good well chosen candidate could win and where a more hastily arranged one may not. On the other hand, of course it will also give other parties the time to do the same. I will wish my MP all the best in her upcoming retirement, although it doesn’t sound like she plans to retire completely, but to pursue activities and interests closer to home.

  4. As others have commented, federal NDP support in Alberta has sunk under Jagmeet Singh leadership. (11 per cent in recent Angus Reid was higher than I expected). Several federal constituencies are virtually defunct, having failed to file official reports. I hate to use the term disastrous, but it’s not positive. There are obvious and serious policy differences between provincial and federal wings. Maybe someone like Linda Duncan can play a role in mediation. I am strong supporter of Premier Notley and Alberta NDs, but am dismayed at her public and barely disguised contempt for Singh and the federal wing. It is a stain on her reputation. I am very strongly opposed to any formal break-up between federal and provincial Party wings — which some have raised as a possibility.

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