Alberta Premier Danielle Smith (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – It’s ironic how, despite complaints from the left about the Alberta NDP’s undeniable shift to the right, it was the party’s sole left-wing policy concession that appears to have sunk its chance to win the election.

This could have been meant as a gesture to placate the party’s traditional left or just been a moment of careless inattention.  Whatever it was, it had a fateful impact.

Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Don’t take my word for it – there are plenty of people who think I’m wrong to have argued the unforced error that contributed the most to the NDP snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in the May 29 election was its foolish decision to talk about a 3-per-cent tax increase for the province’s largest corporations. 

Consider instead what the denizens of the United Conservative Party election War Room have to say.

A report in the Globe and Mail published Friday describes how UCP staffers combing through the NDP platform-costing estimates released by the NDP on May 18 – just as the UCP campaign was at its lowest ebb – reacted when they saw the NDP’s corporate tax plan.

“I was like: ‘Oh my goodness, it is Christmas,’” the Globe’s reporters quoted the UCP campaign’s issues management director saying. 

“This is something that we need,” Erika Barootes remembered thinking, “to turn the page.”

Former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“They gave us a gift,” UCP Campaign Manager Steve Outhouse said in the same story. “We were able to very quickly incorporate that into our advertising.”

As former Alberta NDP leader Brian Mason said of the Globe’s story: “It’s interesting that, despite the assertions by some that the @AlbertaNDP’s loss should be blamed on its attempt to attract former PC voters, UCP insiders credit the corporate tax hike.”

Now, the UCP is not always truthful in its accounts and analysis, but I see no reason for them to lie about this particular point – indeed, I’m sure they’d be delighted if the NDP would stick with policies that scare the bejesus out of many Calgary voters. 

Say what you will about the need for the NDP – federally and in Alberta – to do the work to build support for more genuinely progressive economic policies, May 18 was the moment the NDP campaign faltered and fear in Calgary that modest tax increase on the most profitable corporations was the reason it faltered. 

It doesn’t matter that the fear is unjustified by economic reality, it has been nurtured literally for generations by Conservative politicians and their enablers and supporters and is believed with reverence by a majority of voters in Calgary and everywhere else in Canada.

Journalist and commentator Nora Loreto (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Anyway, whether the NDP a genuine social democratic party or just another centre-right party that is progressive enough to advocate neoliberalism with a human face doesn’t really matter. (Regular readers of this blog will know where I stand on this question.) 

The immediate reality is that the NDP had a rare chance on May 29 to beat the Conservatives, thanks to that party’s decision to choose as a leader a person who is both a dangerous ideological extremist and a serial liar who keeps getting tangled in her own web of tall tales. But in a moment of strategic insanity the NDP tossed that chance away. 

Journalist and commentator Nora Loreto wrote in her Substack the night after the election that, “the truth is that no amount of work during an election period can unseat a party that has rock-solid support in a majority of ridings. It’s impossible. And lying about it being possible burns volunteers, gives people false hope and makes it look like a party is deeply unserious.”

The real problem, Ms. Loreto concluded, is that “the NDP is not a serious party.”

The NDP, in Alberta and elsewhere, she argues, has failed to organize its base. “It can’t organize a base because, really, the party hasn’t stood for anything concrete in many decades and it’s very difficult to organize a base when you act for nothing,” she argued. 

This is only slightly unfair. Unlike the federal party, the Alberta NDP at least has made a stab at organizing its base, a process that began before Rachel Notley was elected to lead the party. But it has really only done so in Edmonton. In the rest of Alberta it will take a lot of work – maybe years of it – that can only happen if the NDP is truly committed to doing the work. 

As Ms. Loreto put it, “we have oriented everything in Canada towards the markets and no political party will change that with a single mandate (or even multiple mandates).”

In the meantime, though, we Albertans are going to have to live with the nightmare of a government run by Danielle Smith. This is not your grandfather’s Tory party, and the Smith-led UCP will do things intended to hurt Canada and that will damage many Albertans. It will be cruel and mindless. 

Best buckle up!

NOTE: I continue to be on the road, which has an inevitable impact on both the frequency of the posts I am able to publish and the time it takes me to publish comments. If you are a regular commenter, please bear with me. DJC

Join the Conversation


  1. As much as I admire Rachel Notely, it is time for her to retire. Danielle Smith didn’t lie about one thing a while back when she said: to paraphrase, “It doesn’t matter what I say, the RUBES will vote for me” She truly does understand just how politically ignorant, uneducated, and propagandized her base is.

    1. It’s time for Rachel to stay with us, we need her now. I see this election as working toward a win. I’m from the days when we got maybe 4 seats. There’s lots of opportunity for us, and the wild card is Smith, the fragile UCP caucus and party, and the Take Back Alberta thing.

  2. There will be a great deal of soul searching, particularly by the party that did not win, but while that may be painful, it is good. I suspect the UCP will take the wrong lessons from their win and it may lead to a faster than expected demise.

    First, the good news for the NDP, it has steadily increased its popular vote over the last decade. The bad news of course is close only counts in horseshoes. The tough part now is to win over enough people who may have only ever voted conservative while still trying to remain true to itsself.

    I feel strongly the real strategic failure was to count on Smith to make more gaffes. In the debate she was poised, confident and attacked back. Perhaps low expectations, but it wasn’t the Smith the NDP portrayed. In politics never dismiss or underestimate your opponent, except at your own peril and unless you want to lose.

    I recall a somewhat similar previous NDP mistake in BC also against a talk radio personality and of course Smith herself underestimated the PC party in 2012. The good news for the NDP iis n both of these cases is neither governing party’s come from behind come back lasted.

    So yes, mistakes were made and need to be learned from, but tomorrow is another day.

  3. If the NDP couldn’t beat the UCP in this election, with Danielle Smith as the opponent, and with all their cash and volunteers, they will never be able to win. And that’s not so much a knock at Rachel Notley as it is a fact that the NDP, even a centrist NDP that barely befits their name, are not the natural choice of the majority of Alberta voters. This province has leaned conservative for generations and will continue to do so. At best, the NDP might have “borrowed” enough conservative votes to form government but it would only have been for 4 years and then they’d be out again and demonized on the right for all their lefty schemes and demonized on the left for centrist policies that would seek to appeal to the broader Alberta electorate. The best we can wish for now is either a new centre-right party or that the more moderate wing of the UCP overthrows Smith and the TBA crowd to restore the old PC party under the new banner. Such are the political realities of Alberta.

    1. Mike, do not give up hope. When Rachel Notley decided to stay on after last Monday’s tragedy, I asked myself, “Is she going to pull a Peter Lougheed?” I am one who remembers the heady days of the election (my first to vote in) when Lougheed turned the generations of Socred voters Progressive Conservative. A quick Wikipedia review of Lougheed’s rise revealed many similarities between Lougheed and Notley and their approach. If Rachel is playing a long game and slowly building a base, I can overlook a few bumps on the road and a move from the old-style NDP, with its policies for the dream world we all wish for. Here’s to a dynasty change in 2027! I know Albertans can be convinced to abandon “generations” of voting. The Lougheed revolution is proof!

      1. Might not be 2027. A five seat majority (as June 6th) may whittle away in less than 4 years.

        1. Gerald: This is not likely, but it’s also not impossible. We should rule nothing out in Alberta. DJC

  4. “Fear unfounded”? That’s why you fail. Most workers in business get a bonus based on profit. Your 38% increase in tax meant they all would take a 38% drop in bonus. It’s the ndp clueless understanding of the working world that is the problem.

    1. No, the rural UCP/TBA voters behave like children, so they elected a “mommy” who tells them soothing lies.

    2. Most workers do not get bonuses actually. Alberta per capita income seems high because there’s quite a few folks making a lot more than the rest of us, the average income is much closer to the rest of Canada, (with those outliers aside.) also not sure how you got 38 from 3 percent. If you’re just going to pick a number you may as well say 199%

    3. It was a 3% rise in tax rate. Presenting it as 38% is misleading. It’s ~38% of the existing 8% tax rate, but 3% of the quantity that the tax rate is calculated on.
      More mendacious conservative math.

      1. Add 3% to 8 percent, that makes for a 38% increase. Clearly they should be concentrating on the 3R’s abit more.

  5. I was frustrated that they waited too long to organize. Also, yes, this is the NFL, so how the opposition sees your policies need to be assessed. But perhaps most importantly, why couldn’t they find a way to talk about climate change? Is it because it’s not part of the platform?

  6. What’s sad is that many of those who voted UCP, especially in Calgary, think they made the safe choice.

  7. I do not agree that Rachel Notley should not have talked about the tax increases. If she is serious about being a good premier she has to do the right things and get the province out of the dependency on oil money. Anyone that doubts that is crucial is dreaming in technicolor. After all hiding that from Albertans is using what the UCP is all about. The NDP cannot get on that political garbage if it wants to be taken as a serious contender. The UCP uses all lies to get in but now they have to face reality.
    I think getting in on falsehoods and lies just to get power is definitely not the way to go. If the objective is to just do anything to get in then what is the point of parties and elections?

    1. Carlos, I think you have hit it precisely. Albertans prefer to have the rent paid by crude, pay for public services. That works just fine until the price of oil falls, and with it the provincial rental income. Thereafter the choices are, increase public debt, increase taxes, or slash public services. In the past, mostly it’s been increasing service fees (pseudo tax) and service cuts. Year by year the provincial debt went up too.

      Rachel and the NDP were being honest, and it hurt their electoral chances. They base cause for this; Alberta is very much a failed petrostate. 35% of Alberta’s gdp is O and G related, and this industry does dictate Alberta’s path. Rest assured, when Alberta’s oil production cost is higher than other producers these corporations will fold and leave with nary a worry. Or, as the late Rene Levesque said, Alberta will be left like a northern Oklahoma. The UCP appear to be only vaguely aware of this fast approaching likely fate.

  8. There are far too many faults that can be uncovered in the NDP’s campaign. Ideological disorientation, too much fiscal reality, and a milquetoast assault on the credibility of Danielle Smith and the UCP. They lie and they are prolific about it. During the debate, I was hoping for a “Math is hard” moment followed by death stares from Notley. However, that golden moment was not repeated. Was it because Notley didn’t want to make a scene because she was taking on another woman in public? Where is that special place in the non-existent Hell for women not supporting other women anyway?

    Notley’s was regrettably a terminal soft touch. But not matter. Alberta will be raped and pillaged nine different ways to Sunday. Mississippi North indeed.

  9. Personally I think the labels “left wing” and “right wing” are outmoded, over simplified relics from a bygone era. Didn’t they first come into prominence in the 19th century?

    Maybe the NDP, if it is true to its roots, should content itself with permanent third party status, grabbing 18 per cent of the vote and dedicate itself to formulating policies in the hope the Liberals will cut and paste it into one of their election platforms. Isn’t that how medicare came about?

    1. We know you think left and right wing are outmoded. You’ve made it very clear. It’s also a fascist talking point, and there very much remains a left and right wing and dialectical materialism remains a science. Not only that I seem to remember the NDP just got 44% of the popular vote ? What’s this 18 percent garbage ? It’s so dismissive and arrogant to discount nearly half of the voters of this province as a fringe minority. Grow up. Pride goeth.

    2. “Left wing” and “right wing” first came into use during the French Revolution. They referred to the sides of the hall in which the different factions of the Estates General sat – reactionaries seated on the right, revolutionaries on the left.

  10. Here’s Susan on the Soapbox’s take on the 3% NDP proposed corporate interest rate hike for large corporations:
    “This policy had no impact on voters’ personal taxes, but the UCP used it to scare voters into thinking their personal tax rates were next.”
    She, too, has some interesting comments re: our petrostate and the future of oil and gas…..”A Word of Advice……”

  11. All the Monday morning quarterbacking in the world doesn’t change the fact that, under Rachel Notley’s leadership, the Alberta NDP has enjoyed unprecedented success in a province that has historically leaned conservative. This success includes a full term of largely scandal free government, and in this election, a record percentage of the popular vote.

    Rachel deserves to take the time to make a decision on her leadership on her own terms. Whatever she decides, she can count on my continued support.

  12. After reading several pundits do the autopsy on the election it is bewildering and sad to see so many look to what the NDP did wrong.

    The big picture is this….More Alberta voters chose the party that has been a non stop embarrassment. Corrupt. Attacking doctors and nurses during a pandemic. Attempting to subvert justice through the highest political seat of the province. Gaffes, walk backs, Q anon level of conspiracy thinking…on and on.

    To say that a proposed 3% hike in corporate taxes is what did Notley in is missing the forest for the trees.

  13. One thing I’m going to say now and often into the future, there are two groups of people who can call for Rachel Notley to resign. The NDP MEMBERSHIP, and her constituents in the riding of Edmonton strathcona. Edmonton is a historically conservative voting block. Starting with a handful of ridings and her stronghold of strathcona where she lives and shops, she’s flipped the entire city NDP and staring to do the same work in outlying areas of the city and different jurisdictions of the province. These are real achievements of a capable leader and political operative. Firing your leader because there unpopular with people that literally hate you and want to hurt members of your community is a very shortsighted and cowardly take. And like I said, she’ll face a leadership review at the AGM (NDP leadership), as far as her constituents are concerned they are devoted. It’s her machine, she built it, she’s going to drive it until she’s done driving it.

  14. Same old shite, different pile. The corporate tax increase was so obviously a sop to the lefty ideologues, but it could have either been avoided or, failing that, defended like a mother bear that ate Danielle Smith and at least half her party. Belch!

    My party already knows the disgust I felt at the ouster of Thomas Mulcair for allegedly pushing the party too far to the right—never mind that he was the best parliamentarian we’d seen in living memory, easily the best Canadian Loyal Opposition leader, ever, who took the party from 2nd-place to first going into the 2015 election—totally unprecedented—and who won the second largest number of NDP seats ever had despite losing two-thirds of thems that was loaned to the late Jack Layton by Quebec voters—all because Mulcair had the temerity to campaign on a balanced budget in a bid to blunt the perennial canard that the NDP is fiscally inept and a profligate spender. That’s gratitude all wrapped up in smug self-righteousness. Bunch of idiots… (breathe, Scotty, breathe…)

    IMO, Mulcair did go too far by jumping onto Harper’s odious niqab ploy—I suppose to blunt the darts being fired at his backside by far-left idealists in his own party with a sop not far unrelated to the Alberta NDP’s corporate tax platform. WTF? Would they not prefer to deal with these internal issues from the position of government? What?—it’s all no-good if the party doesn’t take a high-road thrashing? Bunch of idiots…(keep breathing, keep breathing…)

    To flesh this out: Harper’s niqab ploy probably put the final nail into his party’s reeking coffin—all by itself. It didn’t need Mulcair to gin Canadians about it. Unfortunately for the NDP, Quebec voters, shoals of voting fish both pragmatic and quixotic, determined and thin-skinned—and every other paradox to be found in a sophisticated electorate—were quickly turned off of Mulcair’s blatantly opportunistic shoehorning of this particularly prickly issue into the race (many Québécois sympathized with a niqab ban). Mulcair, of all people, being an experienced Quebec politician (formerly a provincial Liberal environment minister, a resume that made him both a blessing and anathema to keepers of NDP flame), should have known better and stayed off of that. But I suppose he was looking at the country as a whole, not those 54 Quebec seat Layton won before he died of cancer. The niqab rejoinder wasn’t necessary except, perhaps, from the point of view of a young upstart running up his trouser leg—and, even then, he was running up Harper’s, too. One wonders if Mulcair wasn’t set up.

    What does the NDP think—that without such sops, right in the breach, wanna sit down and discuss it? What?—ideologues gonna up a join Svend Robison in a new party if all their demands aren’t met? Gimme a break!

    My son is like me and my dad, but my step-son asked me: why don’t you have grey hair like I do? Well, I probably would if they didn’t keep falling out. But I can tell you that the last NDP meet I was at was full of grey heads with nary a young person to be seen. I mention this because, to be fair, there was another reason the NDP failed at its nearest approach to the federal sun: green, pink, and magenta heads flocked to the youngest leader’s party, pumping the youth-vote up by a staggering 18%. It couldn’t have been JT’s promised proportional representation —at least none that this most-inexperienced cohort could have understood—because the NDP included a fairly detailed proposal to implement Mixed-Member-Proportionality; yet JT hypnotized young voters with a completely unworkable proposal to simply terminate First-Past-the-Post —and with no process, either: young voters were key to the Liberal win, but it was by way of a cheap-shot which many young voters, confused about how tactical voting works by a plethora of tactical-voting-assist sites online (some of which offered misleading info like using national polls to calculate the most likely candidate to beat a conservative in a given riding) effectively produced a bandwagon effect for the dark-haired Adonis. It didn’t pan out in incumbency (the Liberals won only a minority that put Dipper ideologues back into their comfort zone), just in time to release the most impressionable voters, now with a taste of voting-power, back into the up-for-grabs pool. I see the number of young men in MAGA hats on the news and I shudder. The promise to terminate FPtP without asking voters if they’d rather keep it (every referendum conducted so far says “yes,” they do prefer FPtP) was the worst thing Trudeau ever did—except maybe appointing His Excellency David Johnston to investigate the current tempest in a Chinese teapot.

    Does a 3% corporate tax increase resonate with young voters? I suspect it does, but also that they don’t really know why (maybe I’ve been listening to too many Alice Cooper records—vinyl—old school).

    Okay, okay, breathing normally again (“Hello Hooray”). Now what? I’m feeling good about BC’s NDP government: things are waaaaaay better here since the corrupt BC Liberals (now name-changed, a la Monsanto, to BC United) were toppled by an Green-Dipper parliamentary alliance in 2017. Unlike many of former-Premier John Horgan’s predecessors (all of them since Dave Barrett, excepting Mike Harcourt) who adhered closely to the pacifist ethos originally imposed to blunt perceptions that rough-and-tumble unions were running the party, he did engage aggressively, this time against the harridan Christy Clark, punch for punch—apparently she could dish it out but she sure couldn’t take it. At the convention in which Horgan came in third, they said he was too intemperate to lead the NDP. After Adrian Dix lost the 2013 election, going in with a 20-point lead against a bubble-headed rival, Horgan was acclaimed. We’re not apologizing for that. Well, at least I’m not.

    Yes, as usual, lefty ideologues, especially the anti-logging types, began to snipe at their new leader, despite his success in dislodging a 16-year government of unmatched corruption. But instead of providing a sop to these whiners, he requested and was granted an early election in which the NDP won an impressive majority which, for the first time ever, elected the same BC NDP leader twice in a row. I guess all those who threatened to tear up their NDP membership cards on some kind of principle didn’t add up to near the noise those same naysayers were making over on the Tyee site.

    I’m also impressed with our new Premier, David Eby, who—despite his gawdawful singing debut at that same convention to replace party leader Carole James (ousted for not attacking premier Gordon Campbell when his perfidious had laid him low—only to be replaced by the “positive politics” Dix), eventually ran against and beat Christy Clark in her own riding (actually Campbell’s vacated riding whence she reused her parachute to try again in a safer one, Kelowna, in order to get a seat in the Assembly). Eby then acquitted himself very well as Attorney General (he was previously the executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association). He deftly handled a sticky controversy during his own leadership bid after Horgan retired (a disgruntled candidate accused the party of rigging the race against her—which must mean the fat’s in the fire now for this kind of stuff). He is the new face of Dipper pugnacity. New BC Liberals leader Kevin Falcon, once the “total recall” pit-bull of his party, now looks weak in comparison. It ain’t the same NDP anymore, it’s true.

    And it is sooooo nice to finally have relative quiet on the political front for a change, after years of constant, rote, anti-NDP rhetoric from the BC Liberal government that never really got responded to and so formed almost the entirety of political discourse whilst the unhindered BC Liberals for years blithely sabotaged our public enterprises and even managed to sell some of them off for pennies on the dollar to insider cronies. Ahhhhhhh, soooooo nice they’re gone—and so is all that horrible sniping!

    Such is not to be in Alberta. See, Rachel? —this is what you get for not engaging rigorously with the enemy: you get an even more difficult opposition. It’s going to be pretty tough sledding so, if you’re not up for it, you need to find someone else who is. It might turn out to be just the training a more aggressive party needs.

    But, personally, I think she should stay on—I mean, who else is there? Well, next Alberta NDP MLA who stands up and promises to “knock ‘em out!!” would be a good place to start. The only thing to worry about is a former ProgCon throwing cher hat in the ring—that is, if Notley decides to step down. I hope she doesn’t—but I also hope for other things.

    And if you don’t know what they are, you might just be a Dipper!

  15. “[it is assumed that the maintenance of the political/economic status quo is preeminent by guaranteeing that no profound or extensive shifts in policy occur]”

    And generally once again, so it specifically is, “The pressure to moderate some of its past ideas and views, especially around energy policy, started the day after the 2015 election, when energy industry and investors sent them a clear signal. That day, world oil prices rose above $62 a barrel for the first time in months, yet as a sell-off began, the energy sub-index of the Toronto Stock Exchange saw a drop of three per cent. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business warned of major job losses if taxes were increased. Then-premier Notley spent that morning on the phone with oil and gas executives and corporate leaders, reassuring them that her government would be a moderate one and would introduce no radical changes to existing energy or corporate policy. That position was rewarded when, six months later, the heads of Alberta’s major energy corporations stood on stage with Notley as she launched her climate leadership plan.” [Where, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” Further, “the true ruling power” (in the neo-liberal corporate state) acts as both cudgel and carrot because, the compliant politician is most often monetarily rewarded with an appropriate revolving door position (or multiple positions) in the corporate world after ‘public life’.]

    If one wishes to expand the floor of the economic/social cage in presumptive democratic societies, then one way to accomplish such an expansion would be by using think tanks, certain high profile vocal academics, the MSM, and select social movements and their advocacy to shift the boundaries of the Overton window. The malleable and short sighted public must be convinced that the desired policies, currently outside the window should be in it. [Where a constant public relations advocacy campaign for extreme positions using the standard techniques of propaganda changes public opinion by processes such as normalization, habituation, conditioning, ect.]

  16. I think Rachel Notley and the largest opposition in Alberta history will be looking forward to playing whack a mole with the least capable cabinet and premier … oh and OIL prices are well below $ 70 so NOOO surplus, Alberta …. Budget 2024 will be PAINFUL !!!

  17. If my fellow Albertans are happy with the same corporate tax rate as Arkansas, then they should be happy with the same healthcare, education and infrastructure as Arkansas. I’ve heard math can be hard, but it’s still the math we will have to live with.

  18. Albertans have been fooled again by another pretend conservative and Reformer. It’s going to be very hard to live with the consequences, including more very pricey shenanigans, that will cost us billions of dollars, more hardship for the less fortunate, and the seniors, more harm to public education and public healthcare, increased costs of utilities and insurance, a compromised environment, and so much more.

  19. In my world no one waved a magic wand and created an NDP party. There is no question they were created by the sons and daughters of former conservative supporters who encouraged them to try to put a stop to these reformers. They know that there is nothing conservative about them.

  20. ” … I see no reason for them to lie about this particular point …”, that the UCP are honest about their claim that the NDP 3% corporate tax increase was the deciding factor in them winning. Do you truly believe that the UCP would tell you why they won? How dumb do you think they are? In this case, the UCP is only uttering what their paymasters, the corporate class, want to hear.

    I would suggest that the reason the NDP lost is a tad more complex, and has a lot to do with the long term, corporate media war against anything the progressive movement stands for, namely, minority rights, human rights, equality, environmentalism, justice and not just corporations paying their fair share of taxes. In any other province, the NDP would have won by a landslide, but not in Alberta, where the corporate media has a stranglehold on public information. Alberta is truly a corporatocracy, not a democracy.

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