The medium is the message. And in March and April 2019, the medium and the message will be Rachel Notley.
Rachel Notley, premier of Alberta, personally popular but leading a New Democratic Party that has trailed its conservative rival in recent polls, called an election this morning. Albertans will go to the polls on April 16, in accordance with the province’s fixed-election-period law bequeathed by the now departed Progressive Conservative Party.
A day after her government’s Throne Speech in the Legislature, Premier Notley chose to make her election announcement in Calgary, which most political observers agree will be the key battleground in the election contest to come.
Premier Notley’s message was one of hope and optimism, but also of stark contrast with the United Conservative Party and its leader, former Harper Government Cabinet minister Jason Kenney, at this moment mired in a string of controversies including the way he secured his 2017 victory as the leader of the UCP, his living expenses as a federal MP, and the kinds of candidates his party attracts, one of whom quit the race last night after being exposed as holding white supremacist views.
Standing before a cheering crowd, diverse in every way, in the National Music Centre in Calgary, streamed on social media throughout the province, Ms. Notley was at her best – charismatic, warm and yet coolly focused.
She asked the crowd, and the province: “Are you ready to fight for an Alberta where we bring people together, not keep them apart?”
She is the story now, the medium through which the hopes of progressive, honest government in Alberta flow.
I don’t know if anyone still quotes Marshall McLuhan, the Edmonton-born philosopher of media who coined the phrase at the top of this story, but to me this was a truly McLuhanesque moment in Canadian politics. If Alberta’s progressive moment survives and prospers, and all of us with it, it will be because the medium is the message.