Look for Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, NDP premier of Alberta from 2015 until 2019, to step aside today.
After her election victory in May 2015, Ms. Notley proved to be a capable premier in difficult times, offering a steady hand of leadership and presiding over possibly the only time since the election of Ralph Klein that Alberta’s health care system didn’t appear to be on the verge of collapse.
She fought the good fight after her election loss to Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Frankenparty in 2019 and brought the NDP close enough to a return to power in May this year to make the loss all the more bitter and frustrating.
She has run a disciplined caucus in good times and bad, brooking no nonsense from wayward MLAs. It’s part of the reason the NDP is the largest Opposition in Alberta history and may well return to power someday soon, despite Alberta’s history and self-perception as a conservative province.
NDP Alberta circles have been abuzz for weeks that Ms. Notley will pull the plug soon. Informed New Democrats say today’s likely the day.
On Wednesday, veteran Conservative political strategist Vitor Marciano noted in a tweet that when Ms. Notley stood for her last question of the day, she “got a standing ovation from her caucus.”
“Think about that,” said Mr. Marciano, who may be a Conservative but is a shrewd observer of Alberta politics. “Pretty sure that was her last ever question as NDP Leader and likely as an MLA.”
This means there will be an NDP leadership race starting soon – indeed, in reality it has started already.
Political commentator Dave Cournoyer recently identified more than a dozen potential candidates from within and outside the NDP Caucus who might run. Most likely, though, fewer than half that many will do more than test the water with a toe.
Look for MLAs Kathleen Ganley, Christina Gray, Sarah Hoffman, Rakhi Pancholi, and David Shepherd to announce plans for serious bids soon.
It will be hard for Ms. Notley, given the control she has exerted over the party and caucus, to stand back and let the cards fall where they may, and to let the new leader run the party as she or he sees fit. But she needs to.
Whatever happens, it will be hard adjustment for many of us on both sides of the aisle.
Back in 2010, I observed that “the most engaging and promising politicians in Alberta today are two women at opposite ends of the political spectrum.”
They were, of course, Rachel Notley, then a first term NDP MLA for the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona, and Danielle Smith, the new leader of the Wildrose Alliance Party.
If either of those two young women succeeded, I wrote, “they have the opportunity to remake Alberta’s political history.”
“If they both succeed, they will make Alberta politics more interesting than those of any other province in Canada,” I concluded.
They did … and they did.
Now we are entering a new era, so allow me a new prediction.
Ms. Smith, who leads Alberta with a hand unsteady enough to frighten professional political Conservative strategists smart enough to see where this is taking the province, and how voters are likely to react when they cotton on to what the Smith Government is up to, will also leave Alberta politics sooner than you expect.
Unlike Ms. Notley’s farewell, fewer Conservatives will shed tears about Ms. Smith’s departure.
This will depend, of course, on the NDP making the right choice – a bad decision could well create conditions in which Ms. Smith could remain at the helm despite her extremism, dishonesty and bad advisors.
The right one will speed the present premier’s exit if Conservatives hope to continue to dominate the province’s politics.
Perhaps when Ms. Smith goes, Alberta politics will become boring again. After the past five years under two United Conservative Party premiers, only political commentators and pollsters are likely to be unhappy about such a development.