Then Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi addresses the Canadian Federation of Nurses 2017 Alberta Biennium (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Before we get carried away by the current outbreak of Nenshimania, let’s just remember that it wasn’t the Alberta Party or the Alberta Liberals that toppled this province’s 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty in 2015, no matter how much they might wish they had. 

Departing NDP Leader Rachel Notley in 2019 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It was the good old Alberta New Democratic Party that stuck by its guns and its principles in bad years and even worse years, elected a talented leader named Rachel Notley in 2014, and formed a majority government the year after that.

Ms. Notley, now Alberta’s Opposition leader, has announced she is stepping down and a contest must be held to find her replacement. Naheed Nenshi, Calgary’s mayor from 2010 to 2021, has let it be known he might be interested in succeeding Ms. Notley as the leader of the NDP.

Mainstream media loves the idea. Mr. Nenshi was a controversial mayor and as a former member of the press, I can assure readers that controversy makes good stories and advances journalistic careers. A substantial number of busy denizens of a multitude of social media platforms have greeted Mr. Nenshi’s putative candidacy with similar enthusiasm. 

On Saturday, Mr. Nenshi gave a public speech on trans people’s rights at a public protest against the cynical United Conservative Party anti-trans policies announced by Premier Danielle Smith last week. It was powerful and passionate and, to many observers, had the ring of a campaign speech as well.

Judging from the enthusiasm generated on social media – including some suspiciously conservative corners – it has reached the point the sentiment can officially be labelled Nenshimania. 

Former Nenshi chief of staff Chima Nkendrim in 2011 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Now, let it be said here that Mr. Nenshi is a fine man and he is certainly on the right side of this issue. But is he the right person to lead the NDP? That is another matter entirely. 

As he has himself admitted, Mr. Nenshi is not a New Democrat, and he is ambivalent about political parties. 

Two days before the May 29 provincial election, won by Ms. Smith’s UCP after a lacklustre and strangely passive NDP campaign, Mr. Nenshi half-heartedly endorsed Ms. Notley and the NDP with a caveat that suggested he really wished he didn’t feel he had to. 

“I need to engage with politics and elections fluidly and based on the context of the moment, as well as who is running,” he wrote in an op-ed published by CTV News. “I have voted for at least four different parties provincially and federally, and for municipal candidates all over the ideological map. And this time, I’m voting NDP.” (Emphasis added.)

Is this the kind of leader the NDP needs to elect?

Former federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Of the current UCP premier of Alberta and the NDP Opposition leader he is apparently pondering replacing, he added, “truth be told, from my perspective, neither was particularly great at the job.” He assailed Ms. Notley for being too cautious, a fair criticism, and implied Ms. Smith is not cautious enough – a qualification that has certainly proved to be true since the election. 

But, again, is this the kind of leader who can not only lead the NDP to a potential victory (quite possibly against a different leader than Ms. Smith) but who can inspire the party to thrive and fight and win again another day in the case of an ambiguous loss like that in 2023? 

Sorry, but it doesn’t sound like it to me.

Whether or not Mr. Nenshi is now a member of the Alberta Party – a political entity that has never caught the imagination of Alberta voters because it engaged in politics and elections too fluidly and too much based on the context of the moment – he is certainly associated with it. 

Raj Sherman during his catastrophic leadership of the Alberta Liberals (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Some of his associates who would likely make up the core of his inner circle in the event he won the NDP leadership are certainly associated with Alberta Party and the Liberals before that.

Duncan Kinney of The Progress Report wrote Friday that Chima Nkendrim, Mr. Nenshi’s chief of staff at Calgary City Hall for seven years, told his former boss “I want him to think about it.”

Would that Liberal vibe make Mr. Nenshi an attractive target for the UCP? You can bet on it! 

It’s a funny thing about Western Canadian politics, and not just in Alberta, but to the frustration of both parties, many voters move between the Conservatives and the NDP with more ease than members of either group can give their support to the Liberals. 

And whatever Alberta is, while it’s not the festering MAGA heap the rightward fringe of the UCP insists it is, it’s also not the suburbs of Toronto! 

University of Calgary political science professor Lisa Young (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

How might Mr. Nenshi work out as NDP leader? 

No one can say for sure, but we have the example of Thomas Mulcair, the former Liberal chosen to lead the federal NDP after the death of Jack Layton. Mr. Mulcair proved to be an able Parliamentarian but a dud as a social democratic leader able to motivate the party’s base. 

We also have the catastrophic example of Raj Sherman, the former Conservative the Alberta Liberals foolishly allowed to be elected as their leader who basically proceeded to lay waste to their party. Well, no one is likely to be that bad, but it’s still food for thought. 

Mr. Nenshi has a lot of support in Calgary as well as some bitter opponents. How much support does he have outside of Calgary? Again, it’s hard to say. No more than any other progressive in rural Alberta. But I’d be willing to bet that if he tried to dampen down partisan loyalty to the NDP’s orange banner and replace it with a kind of purple haze that it would significantly weaken the NDP’s hold on Edmonton. 

NDP leadership candidate Sarah Hoffman in 2022 (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It’s all very well to say, as Mr. Nenshi does, that “purple is a combination of red and blue and I wear it to remind myself and others that we are not defined by our political tribe but by our common humanity. But in Edmonton, a lot of us bleed orange!

As University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young wrote in her Substack yesterday, accurately in my opinion, “If Nenshi applies to the committee for permission to run, what he’s really proposing is an informal merger between the Alberta New Democrats and his own political movement.”

I’m not here today to relitigate the falsity of the Conservative claim the NDP government was a fluke – it wasn’t – although the party did benefit from the split in Alberta’s conservative parties in 2015.

But part of the NDP’s successful formula was that the party always had stuck to its principles and Ms. Notley was the daughter of a respected NDP leader, tragically struck down in his prime. 

Kathleen Ganley, who is expected to announce her bid to lead the NDP today (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

And whatever moving parts led to the NDP victory in 2015, it put to rest the ancient Albertan superstition that Conservatives could never be beaten, no matter how bad they got, or that the NDP was only a fringe party never able to summon the talent needed to govern. 

If that charge rings true about any party today, it is the UCP. The NDP’s Calgary and Edmonton caucuses are full of talent, ready to lead. 

Personally, I lean toward the view it’s dangerous to depend too heavily on interlopers and johnny-come-latelys when choosing party leaders. I know the NDP has had this debate and it seems to have decided to grant Mr. Nenshi an exemption under its rules and let him run if he wishes. 

In my view, though, this sets the stage for a reverse takeover of the successful NDP by the remnants of the unsuccessful Alberta Party – not a formula for success notwithstanding Mr. Nenshi’s own obvious political talents. 

Meanwhile, there are excellent NDP candidates to lead the Opposition party. 

Sarah Hoffman, the last competent health minister Alberta had, has declared her intention to run. 

Kathleen Ganley, minister of Justice in Ms. Notley’s cabinet, has said she will make an important announcement this morning. It’s expected to be that she’s running for the leadership as well. 

Rakhi Pancholi and David Shepherd may join in the next few days. 

If you’re suffering from Nenshimania, be careful what you wish for. 

Join the Conversation


  1. I personally believe that a fence post is smarter than Danielle Smith and the UCP party are. Phony Conservatives and Reformers are hard for me to stomach, as Ralph was bad enough. Danielle Smith and the UCP may prove to be worse.

    1. I like Nenshi and always agree with his political views, I think he would be great but I would really like to see Shepherd lead, I think he could be as vocal as Nenshi is and that is what we need … Nenshi really needs to pick a lane first

  2. It is an intriguing idea, Nenshi’s potential candidacy. So now one of the biggest trial balloons in Alberta has been floated. He will note the reaction and presumably decide accordingly.

    His running comes with a number of pluses and minuses. First of all is a successful political career in Calgary and an Obama like eloquence that appeals to many progressives. On the other hand, his association with the party in question is somewhere between weak and non existent. Also, while he did win election, a lot of Calgarians were not supporters and even hostile, particularly after the initial honeymoon ended.

    As a big city mayor and champion of urban issues his appeal in rural areas might be limited. And his more moderate progressive style might be troubling both for more stalwart NDPers and Conservatives who would either feel he was really a Liberal or just call him a Liberal.

    However, his candidacy would make for an exciting race. I assume he would only jump in if he felt he had a good chance of winning and he is a candidate of much higher calibre than say Sherman, the last unsuccessful conservative turned Liberal leader. And at least Nenshi never claimed to be conservative.

    I like Nenshi more for his personality and style and I think his running would add excitement to the race. Would I vote for him as NDP leader? Given all the pluses and minuses, on that question I am undecided at this point.

    1. I like the comparison to Obama and have thought a lot about this in recent days. Like Obama, Nenshi’s message is one of hope for the future.

      Alberta has become very bleak. Hope is sorely lacking, with another three years and three months remaining in Smith’s term. As we witness trans rights violations and nothing to stop Smith from putting other groups in her “crosshairs”, who is going to stand up and speak out today? Who is going to motivate today’s youth to get involved now and get out to vote in three years and three months? Trans rights are a big deal to today’s youth, who do not think the way their elders do, so this issue is the perfect motivator. It is one issue among many but it is a powerful one. It’ll be interesting to see how many students take part in the Alberta School Walkout in response to anti-trans legislation on Wednesday from 10 to 10:30 a.m.

      I’m all for hope in these dark days.

  3. Naheed Nenshi’s biggest detractors impo ,would be the people behind the new Calgary flames arena; the ones who weren’t happy about the referendum results that Nenshi rightfully called for.
    Is Alberta ready for another Calgary mayor running for Premier ?? I’m sure Parker will have something scintillating to say about this if he hasn’t already.

    Slight sidebar— Marliana on X
    “Had such wonderful experiences this weekend in my home constituency, Brooks-Medicine Hat “…??
    Medicine Hat News:
    ‘Tensions run high at UCP town hall.”
    —- No filming was allowed and questions had to be submitted beforehand—-
    Those voices are getting louder, and that’s not counting the protest marches.

    And FWIW— CKPG NEWS-Feb 2 2024
    ” Caputo cancels Kamloops news conference after Tory MP’s muzzled by Polievre on Alberta policy. ”
    (well that explains the crickets & says alot more out loud)

  4. The media hype around Nenshi kind of reminds me of the way pundits bragged up Michael Ignatieff for no particularly good reason. And look how that turned out.

    1. What Micheal said. The AB NDP does not need a political gadfly. It needs a leader to focus on their core principles, which is what got them here in the first place.

  5. The NDP didn’t win the 2015 election – the PC’s lost it and the conservative parties split the vote to make that possible. Most Albertans had no idea who their NDP candidates were and most of the candidates themselves had no expectations of winning. We shouldn’t lose sight of those facts in the soft orange haze of hindsight. And Edmontonians do not bleed orange – we vote against the conservatives just like we voted Red when Decore headed the Liberals and had half a chance at defeating the PCs back in the day.

    History and demographics say the NDP policies that those who do bleed orange love so much will not win elections in Alberta. If there was any time to prove that wrong it was the last election and they couldn’t pull it off. None of the current NDP leadership hopefuls have a snowball’s chance right now. Time for new leadership, new directions, and a new policy platform.

    1. Excellent summary. For the first time, I must disagree with DJC: the 2015 win was a result of vote splitting PERIOD and secondly the current group of 4 potential candidates haven’t a chance in hell of winning the next election unless Dani defeats herself. With respect.

      1. If it was only due to vote splitting as you claim, how do you explain the fact that the share of the NDP popular vote went for 9.85% in 2012 to 40.62% in 2015? Clearly, Albertans warmed up to the NDP and the electoral result was no accident. Yes, they did benefit from the split, but Albertans flocked to the NDP like never before.

        1. Yes, the NDP’s vote increased but that was part of a bandwagon effect as disaffected Albertans abandoned their previous parties for change. It wasn’t a wholesale endorsement of social democracy or the NDP brand, far from it. In the last three elections (2015, 2019 and 2023) most of the people who voted for Notley’s NDP were long-time Liberal voters, Red Tory PC voters, and probably some Alberta Party voters.

          This is not a loyal NDP base by any stretch of the imagination. Assuming that attracting a popular outsider with name recognition will somehow alienate “the base” because he doesn’t pass an ideological litmus test misses the forest for the trees. It is not at all impossible for the progressive/centrist, anti-UCP vote to fracture once more among the Alberta Party, a rebranded Alberta Liberal party and perhaps a new party.

      2. Hold on a second. Vote splitting on the right was very much present in the 2012 election (43.97 % PC, 34.28 % Wild Rose, and in the 2015 election that went to
        27.79 % PC, 24.22 % Wild Rose), so something else was happening beyond mere vote splitting (participation was also higher in 2015 than 2012). The NDP campaign was somehow able to appeal to Liberals, Alberta Partiers, and those elements in the PC party that were probably anti-WR more than anything else in 2012. Taking the right wing/sort of right of centre vote down to just over 50 % from over 78 % was quite an event.

    2. Lol Michael Ignatieff is a terrible example, though I agree there isn’t a lot of logic going on here with nenshi+x= government. One, he actually was already in the party, and had a seat no less, two, the man is brilliant on a level that makes nenshi look like Ralph Klein. He may be a capable city politician but he’s hardly an international scholar.

      1. Ignatieff certainly is a stable genius. His support for the 2003 assault on Iraq has definitely stood the test of time, along with his advocacy for US military intervention in their War on Terrah. We were lucky to be able to count on such perceptive minds when it came time to send Canadian forces with the Imperial Host to Kandahar.

    3. THIS – 100%.

      Also, the article misses the point as to why Mulcair lost. He didn’t lost the 2015 election because he moved the NDP to the centre. Jack Layton moved the NDP to the centre (balanced budgets, small incremental corporate tax hikes, etc.)! Mulcair lost because he was an awkward campaigner and made several strategic missteps. If anything, Mulcair promised to create more affordable daycare spaces in 2015 than Layton did in 2011…

      Rachel Notley was a moderate, “Third Way” centre-left New Democrat, so is Manitoba Premier Wab Kinew, so was perennial winner Gary Doer, so was John Horgan, so is BC Premier David Eby, so were first time winners Bob Rae and Darryl Dexter, noticing a pattern yet? Moderate New Democrats have a much better track record than populist, “nationalise it” barnstormers. When’s the last time Niki Ashton won anything outside of her own riding?

  6. How does the good Mr. Nenshi feel about the City of Calgary’s policy of flooding provincial parks to protect his poorly planned city from floods? A policy he brought in and supported. What makes him so special the leadership election rules no longer apply to him? If he was really serious about restoring an NDP administration, he would have run for a seat under the NDP banner in the last provincial election. This does not pass my smell test.

  7. Thank you DC, great insights as always. There are a number of solid candidates already in, or about to join the race. If Mr Nenshi wants to be taken seriously he needs to join the NDP and find a riding he’s committed to running in. My take on social media yesterday was: “I like @nenshi, but @nenshi needs to join the @albertaNDP if he wants to lead the party.”

  8. Who has the ability to bring the voters out to the polls and win the next election? That is the question. It is not enough to have good people doing a good job if the voters don’t show up to be counted. All of the candidates need to remember this. Politics have changed. We live in a time of Republican-MAGA-TBA lies and dirty tricks. Yes, be fair, be civil, but don’t be timid. Roar.

    Let the leadership campaign begin.

  9. It has long been said that a yellow dog painted blue would be elected in Alberta.
    That said I would at this point vote for a squirrel flipping coins painted any color of the rainbow to be rid of blue horse cherokee dan of the unhinged clown party and the TBA fleas that make her twitch .
    That would solve 1/2 of our problems because random chance gets the right answer 1/2 the time. I could use that break.

  10. For every outsider that fell flat as a party leader, there are those that succeeded. Ralph Klein (also a former Calgary Mayor who at one time was a Liberal) comes to mind. Naheed Nenshi might bring some of the same qualities to the NDP leadership including plainspokenness and exemplary communication skills.

  11. His Alberta Party was based on being non-ideological and pragmatic in its politics. What does that even mean? I admire the guy. I voted for him. But I would need him to clearly articulate his positions on the numerous issues facing Alberta today before I’d support him for leader. At the least, his candidacy would bring a ton of interest and excitement about the race and hopefully attract new supporters (read: put a stake through the Liberal and Alberta parties’ hearts).

  12. The field really needs to open up with more candidates. Neshi’s potential appearance is welcome, but I am pleased that David Shepherd seems close to throwing his hat in. Right now, there are too many well worn candidates in the field, like Hoffman, who maybe carrying too much of that Notley baggage.

  13. I think this analysis is missing a few things, namely the context behind why Mulcair didn’t work out. Jack Layton had *already* brought the federal NDP to the centre-left by 2011, often campaigning on incremental changes (slight corporate tax hikes, increased naval spending instead of jet fighters, childcare yes but also balanced budgets). Mulcair didn’t lose because he was a moderate, he lost because he proved an awkward campaigner and tried to repackage Layton’s formula from 2011 (it didn’t play to his strengths).

    Jack Layton built a persona as a more trustworthy and down-to-Earth opposition leader than either Dion or Ignatieff, but Layton’s NDP was already well to the Right of Ed Broadbent. Likewise Rachel Notley moved the Alberta NDP to the centre-left, focusing on economic stimulus and slightly higher corporate taxes but also building pipelines and balancing the budget.

    Gary Doer, Roy Romanow, Bob Rae, Mike Harcourt, John Horgan, David Eby, Darryl Dexter, *Wab Kinew,* most electorally successful and at one point popular NDP leaders in this older Millennial’s lifetime have been pragmatic, centre-left Third Way style social democrats not barnstorming, “renationalise this or that” populist socialists in the mould of Niki Ashton or Jeremy Corbyn.

    The post-2015 Alberta NDP already is a coalition of non-typical NDP voters (former Red Tory PC supporters, former Liberal voters, probably people who flirted with the Alberta Party at one point). That’s why the Party no longer has only 4 MLAs. Given that context, absolutely a leader with Nenshi’s name recognition and appeal outside of traditional NDP circles would be an asset.

    Think of Alberta as being the opposite of Saskatchewan for the NDP. In Saskatchewan you have very deep roots but few trees, whereas in Alberta you have many trees with very shallow roots. Tend to those roots; don’t take them for granted.

    1. Thanks, Stalwart. I am struck by how much better the quality of debate is on the left than on the right. Your thoughtful disagreement is a great example. If this were a right-wing forum, I suppose, someone would be yelling “woke,” or worse, by now! DJC

      1. Lol, not at all. I don’t debate with the populist Right as a matter of course for that reason.

        If Nenshi wants the leadership he’ll have to put forward a progressive agenda. I don’t think the NDP should run to the Right of Notley, but a broad-based centre-left coalition really is their best bet at ousting the UCP in my opinion (win over Calgary and the small cities. Edmonton will stay orange so long as the NDP are the most viable progressive vehicle).

    2. I lived in ON when Bob Rae came, by accident, to power. He never was, really, an NDP type. I think it was just a young (Liberal) man’s brush with a bit of socialism, but not much. The business community told him they would destroy him, and they did. But, imo he did try to make the province a better place.

      1. Bob Rae is a perfect example of how New Democrats can win elections when they build trust and confidence, but he’s also an example of what not to do.

        I think some of his cost-saving measures (not honouring public auto insurance and worst of all, the Social Contract) did little to balance the books while alienating organised labour and not giving Ontarians a reason to re-elect him. He achieved other important things, but I think he shouldn’t have caved on those issues. Still, at the end of the day it was Rae who headed up Ontario’s first NDP government, not Michael Cassidy (his immediate predecessor, with ties to the Waffle Faction).

  14. No thanks Nenshi.

    I’ve said this before (many times) the path to victory for the NDP is in being a working class party. Parachuting in a candidate from Calgary to keep the corporate vote happy makes no sense. The small amount of gravitas the former mayors profile would bring to the campaign would be a tiny drop in the bucket of what is needed to form the next government of this province.

    1. I believe you place too much credibility in the “working class”. As a member of said “class” for a number of my working years, I was never impressed with the political awareness of the people I worked with. In fact blue, no matter what, was the unthinking choice – damn the consequences. Today? Which “class” is primarily supporters of Danielle Smith? David Parker?

      1. Hey what do you know I, like
        Most albertans am also working class.

        Uh, the primary supporters of the UCP are the same as the pcaa, the business class. I don’t know how anyone living in this province since Jason Kenney showed up missed that.

        It’s not a given that working people are going to be left but there’s something to be said with social democracy being exceedingly popular with the working class. Probably because the work for every dollar they spend and they see their bosses not doing the same.

        If folks want a more engaged, left leaning working class, it’s on us to engage our colleagues and neighbours in organizing and education rather than looking down on them as dogmatic conservatives.

        Most working people don’t vote. Read that again. Those votes ? They’re the base of our power and the path to victory. Solidarity forever, anything else is just begging the bosses for a larger crumb.

        1. Nenshi, unlike Notley, walked the walk of someone taking on the rulers, and without pandering garbage coming out of his face like, “in Alberta we ride horses, not unicorns”. Nenshi used words like, “rich” and “poor”. He went to war with the Great Calgarians™, and defeated their hand-picked candidate in 2017. I hope he does not sully his legacy by joining the Alberta Neoliberal Duplicity Project.

  15. “He Should Run” has got it right. The 2015 election was a fluke. Several NDP candidates won without a semblance of a ground game deemed so necessary in conventional politics to take the spoils.
    In 2023 the Party had an impressive ground game, but an uninspired overall message.
    Some of this blog’s commentators (mistakenly, I believe) insist Rachel Notley was like a 21st century Peter Lougheed. On the political, left-to-right political spectrum, though, she was a cautious 4 or possibly a 5 out of 10. Nenshi is not much different.
    There are good candidates within the Party for sure. Or, “solid'” as some comments have suggested. Solid is not going to cut it against a UCP premier who can lie and prevaricate with such chilling cheerfulness. Or, against a UCP dominated by conspiracy doctrines.
    We exist in particularly fraught times. Extremism is gaining ground. It’s going to take someone with particular skill, steel and experience to lead a progressive agenda. Nenshi has imperfections and liabilities. But, he’s head and shoulders above other potential candidates within the Party.
    You dismiss Tom Mulcair’s influence on the Federal Party too hastily. The Federal NDP needed a street fighter who could hold his/her own in the dark alleyways of politics dominated by Stephen Harper. You fail to acknowledge how close he came to winning. I sense the potential for Nenshi to do even better in the weird political arena of Alberta. Stiffen the sinews; summon up the blood!

    1. Andy:

      Let pry through the portage of the head
      Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it

      Not the Bard’s best moment, IMO.


    2. I agree with Andy. Although there are many potential candidates I admire for their principles and their competence within the NDP, I cannot think of one who has the large enough personality and strong enough communication skills to compete against the very politically skillful (if diabolical) Danielle Smith. I think Nenshi has the intelligence, the knowledge, the political instincts, the presence, the profile, the media skills to take her on and win. His being from Calgary, where the NDP needs to pick up seats, is a bonus. Taking down Danielle Smith has to be the priority in choosing a new NDP leader before she completely destroys this province. Nenshi is not going to be shy about exposing her shamelessness, lies, and obfuscation in the media and on the debate stage. His sheer size and booming voice alone should do it.

  16. Meanwhile in Ottawa, Queen Dani opened the Embassy of Alberta. Speaking from a hay bale in an empty Target store off St Laurent Blvd, she spoke at length about how this was a first step in negotiating a separation agreement with the “woke elites”.

    In her absence, Davey Parker staged a koo-day-tat and has seized control of the legislature. Dani’s Fokker F-27 was denied landing rights at Vegreville International and she is now seeking sanctuary in Regina with Scotty Mow.

    1. Ha, her next stop will be Moscow, to cry on Tucker’s shoulder and try to borrow an army from Vlad.

    2. Jeez! You really had me going with that hay bale comment…it’s getting so hard to tell what’s real and what’s parody.

  17. It doesn’t matter what party label you stick on Nenshi, if he keeps nailing issues like he did this one, he’ll get my vote. It’s notable no other leadership candidate came close to calling out the horrors of this UCP institutionalized bigotry. For me, a candidate’s environment policy will be the most important piece of their platform. The NDP ignored this in the last two elections, that is to say they adopted the conservative environment policy. Let’s get some heat pumps into Alberta homes.

  18. I too have for 3 different parties federally and 4 different parties provincially in Alberta. Will I vote for Mr. Nenshi in the leadership contest?

    My gut reaction is no … but I can’t put a reason to why. I did vote for the Liberals under Laurence Decore, so I know it’s not the big city mayor credentials.

    I could be convinced to vote for Mr. Nenshi in the leadership contest; but I could just as easily prefer one of the other candidates.

  19. Are the NDP leadership hopefuls a case of, “meet the new boss, same as the old boss”? Is there anyone in this crowd willing to get their elbows up? Maybe these NDP leadership hopefuls really are firebrands that have been champing at the bit for the last four years but have been held back by management, but I don’t think so. We may require some new blood here. I would like to see an NDP leader with fire in their belly and if you are going to go down, go down swinging. Am I the only person getting tired of losing politely?

  20. Is Nenshi the answer? I can’t say for certain but the NDP has to get their act together and it has to happen now. I’ve said it here before, in this political landscape the NDP need a pitbull and not a poodle, someone that can bring a gun to a gunfight and I’m simply not seeing that with their current talent pool. Hoffman and Ganley are political lightweights, Pancholi is a relative newb and Sheppard is like your elementary school principle giving a speech during an assembly. I know the NDP diehards are very resistant to change but something has to change lest the party become a permanent monument to Notley, stagnant and unable to move forward. Perhaps new blood is what the party needs to become energized and become a serious threat, and possibly victor, over the UCP in the next election.

  21. At this point, I don’t really care if Nenshi runs and wins the leadership, as long as he wins the next election. I’d support Satan, if I knew he could win against the UCP/TBA. Anything has to be better than Batshit Smith and her gang of incompetent and corrupt MLAs. The NDP needs a leader who will stop at nothing short of murder to win. Anything less and Batshit will win another term.

  22. Nenshi won’t run. He is elevating his profile because the federal Liberals haven’t already recruited him to be the next PM.

    1. Oh yeah Doug, that is an interesting take on it to think about. But are we sure it’s the leadership of the federal Liberals he’s looking at?

  23. Everyone realizes that the vast majority of NDP voters, volunteers and donors are so-called ” johnny-come-latelys” too, right? Why is this a bad thing all of a sudden?

    I’m willing to bet many of the current NDP caucus didn’t volunteer, donate, or hold a party membership during the course of the 2019 campaign. They joined the party in the lead up to 2023 since they thought they could be in government and possibly a cabinet minister. So the notion that a new leader must come from within the party is hogwash – the party wouldn’t be what it is today without all of the ” johnny-come-latelys.” We should be thanking the new joiners, not demonizing them.

    Ironically, all of the reasons you base your criticism of Nenshi on are precisely why he is the best leader for those who weren’t born with an orange pacifier in their mouths. He is the only person who can run a campaign that the NDP *should* have run in 2019 and 2023. The internal leadership contestants are all fine people and excellent MLAs, but they are not leadership material. Sure, they can do it if they have to, but they can’t hold a candle to Nenshi’s leadership bona fides.

    Why didn’t Nenshi run as a candidate in 2023? He would have overshadowed Rachel, plain and simple.

    1. Exactly! That is how small third parties become viable, they attract new people and broaden their base.

      Rachel Notley was a moderate progressive, so was Jack Layton, Wab Kinew, Gary Doer, etc, etc. Party hardliners who pass ideological litmus tests don’t have a great track record at winning elections in this country.

      Most Alberta NDP voters from 2015, 2019 and 2023 are not people who normally identify with the NDP, would ever call themselves social democrats, or even considered voting NDP before Notley. In fact, a good many of them have probably voted Conservative federally and Progressive Conservative provincially. Nenshi, an undeniable progressive, makes a lot of sense given that context.

      The Alberta NDP voter coalition is still fragile. Calgary will only vote for a party it trusts to replace the UCP and Edmonton will only remain orange so long as orange beats blue. If the anti-UCP vote fractures, a lot of those “safe NDP seats” will go the way of the federal NDP’s Quebec caucus. Don’t rule out a rival centre-left party attracting voter attention should the NDP pick a dud.

      1. I’ll tell you one thing, albertans interested in progressive politics should prolly stop relitigating the 2015 election.

        I’m not digging back into the most recent election numbers, but I believe I showed pretty conclusively that even though they didn’t win all the ridings they needed to form government they significantly grew their vote share in nearly every riding (even Ponoka) and have a real fighting chance of forming government.

        Not many albertans had much of an idea who Rachel Notley was in 2k15 either, and now the party has pretty deep pockets to show albertans why whoever their next leader is should be premier, as well as polling to help them understand what message they need to say.

        People who think it’s the UCP election to lose are wrong, it’s the NDP election to lose, nothing is a given anymore in Alberta. The demographic shift, younger voters coming of age, frustration with late stage capitalism, not for nothing these are real issues and it’s very likely a party speaking capably to these issues will form government.

        1. Exactly, the Alberta NDP is a new voter coalition of anti-UCPers, not life-time NDP stalwarts. The pool of dyed-in-the-wool, committed deep Orange, social democrats is much shallower in Alberta than it is in BC, Saskatchewan or even Ontario. Alberta’s NDP is still a going concern because it’s been able to unite lefties and centrists under an anti-UCP banner opposed to their right-wing populism. Red Tories and moderate Liberals are inevitably a major part of that voter coalition.

          It would be bad for Alberta and Canada as a whole if the Alberta NDP began to wither as an alternative or if the opposition vote splintered once more, giving the UCP a free ride (their DNA is different than the old PC Association). The biggest consideration moving forward is broad appeal. You’ll never re-win the 2015 election, so any victory in 2027 will require slightly different math (keep Edmonton, dominate Calgary, gains in the small cities/suburbs). Nothing is a given in politics, but I can see Nenshi pulling that off.

          1. What makes you think nenshi has broad appeal? He left office with like a high thirties approval rating, how is that going to pull Calgary voters.

            As far as your other criticisms, yah red Tories, left liberals, social democrats, lot of overlap in those circles, I again don’t see how this changes the need for the NDP to have broad working class appeal.

            How do they do that ? By crafting talking points and policies that show how they are going to improve the material conditions of the average albertan. Culture war? Big city parachute candidates trying to recover their stalled political careers ? Not so much.

  24. If any of David Parker’s TBA moles get into the NDP who do you think they’ll vote for? Nenshi is my bet…

        1. 147 million, more or less. It’s been declining lately. None one wants to move there, and many are leaving.

          1. You’re right it’s more than I said. Up from 140 million in 2010. The country where everyone is leaving, they all hate the president and they’ve had to introduce conscription because they’re running out of bodies is Ukraine, to the west of Russia. Some 13 million people have left the country since 2020 and they are not coming back. To the shame of NATO, who played them like fools and used them as cannon fodder in a hopeless war.

            281,000 people immigrated to the Russian federation in 2023. The much talked up “flood” of Russians leaving since 2022 includes folks who’s living permit was automatically extended through the pandemic, but ultimately cancelled. Russia has a stable economy, population, capable government and civil service and an extremely popular leader. But yes no one wants to live there. Just 1/4 million people moved there during *checks notes* the middle of a War on their literal border.

  25. Alberta’s NDP has been wildly successful on its own terms, and has no shortage of talented and experienced leadership candidates. If there’s a party that does not need a leader to be parachuted in from outside, it is the Alberta NDP.

  26. I agree with you on two points, David, first that the Alberta NDP should not change its name and second that Naheed Nenshi would not be a good fit to lead the party. He’s had nothing to do with the NDP to this point.
    He is progressive but not a social democrat and he seems to have little but scorn for what the NDP has achieved to this point. He’s a chippy guy with an abrasive personality who wants to run the show. How would he fit with our existing NDP caucus? I am very interested in finding out more about Kathleen Ganley and the other MLAs who plan to run.
    Thanks for your in depth look at this important issue.

  27. I would get this argument if we were comparing Nenshi to someone still upholding the traditional principles of Alberta’s alleged labour party. Gray, perhaps, or Eggen. But versus Ganley, Pancholi, Shepherd? Are they actually to Nenshi’s left? Is even Hoffman?

  28. Please explain to me how this creature DS got elected. DS was plainly shown as a liar spoke not on facts but on her believes feelings and opinions which was not based on facts evidence rejected advice from experts and crucified those who disagreed with her viewpoint on public health She is Alberta s Trump yet she was voted in please explain this to me This is scary to me as this can happen again So I think we need a shark a street kid not afraid to fight hard and loud not a knight in shining armour A in your face up your nose knuckles barred street fighter That is the new leader we need NDP has shown itself to be too nice too soft it needs new people who can fight this evil empire that we have to exist in Especially us old seniors who are afraid living under the ucp thx for listening to my rant. Old RN

  29. I like Nenshi, like his “nonpartisan”—or, should I say, “non-confrontational” style of politics which is really the design of municipal-style politics (some of the Territories, which are not sovereign in and of themselves, still use the mayor-in-council type of government), and while I regularly condemn the right for its partisanship, I must question whether the former Calgary mayor has the kind of partisanship which I feel is a non-negotiable fact of life if you’re a contender for any sovereign office.

    It’s not as contradictory as it might first sound. Every political party is partisan—that should be at least lexically obvious— but what I hate (and I really hate to hate) about the right is the fact that it’s almost nothing but partisan, that it will do almost anything to set itself apart from, nay, even hate with every vacuous ounce of heartlessness any and all other partisanships which espouse some different policy—even if it’s better policy—and, really, without allowing party members their likemindedness and desire to cooperate and compromise on policy proposals, without allowing seasoned politicians to do the art of the possible in vetting and getting these proposals to the assembly, there can be no cogent policies, no constructive criticism, no helpful partisanship, only grovelling sycophancy to the powerful. I want my party —I’m a lifelong Dipper—to be organically thoughtful, pragmatically responsible, and as cooperative as possible, but it must be partisan to this extent: it always needs to set itself apart from other parties by putting workers concerns at the fore. Workers are the centre of any healthy economy just like schools, churches, hospitals, police and fire departments are to any community.

    I’ve often lamented excessive idealism in our party, but that’s never been anything like the extremes we see in today’s ultra-partisan right and its unavoidably automatic hypocrisy. One can be a partisan without being extremist; one needn’t require absolute enmity to set a party of likeminded citizens apart from others on any given issue. Nenshi bills himself as non-partisan but the NDP needs to be as partisan as much as workers’ concerns need better representation on fairer wages and adjudication of corporate interests where they conflict with workers’ interests, and of course the related impact on the environment. We don’t set ourselves apart from workable compromise—the other side does just to be on the other side. Dippers should be know as partisans willing to compromise and cooperate to find and implement workable policies. Unfortunately the UCP defines partisanship differently as implacable omertà and undying enmity to all others, like, for example, the rote “policy” of undoing everything the NDP did while in office or replacing elected NDP MLAs with a council of failed UCP candidates to “advise” the Smith regime. Somebody should ask Nenshi how he sees that: the answer should be quite educative.

    Nenshi’s thoughts on the controversy of the moment are laudable and, hopefully, not merely convenient. But sovereign governance is much, much broader than that and, frankly, I haven’t heard much about other pressing issues yet, really nothing that would make ordinary Canadian workers take notice—and always remember: the NDP is the Workers’ Party. Not saying he shouldn’t take a crack at it, but Dippers in Alberta will have to parse his sincerity when he begins, as he would have to, talking about typical worker stuff.

    Grumbling about pulling the NDP too far to the right is sooooooo tiresome. That was the bogus charge levelled at Mulcair when he took the federal party to first place in election-eve polls for the first time ever—for which his sterling parliamentary performance deserves all the credit, BTW. Dipper idealism, especially dressed up as partisan distinctiveness, is what kills me. Firing Mulcair—who took the default elevation to Loyal Opposition and managed to retain about a third of Quebec seats Layton won, also by default (just a fresher one) —was one of the dumbest things the party ever did. Yes, he was once a Quebec Liberal—a constant reminder at his review that made me wanna puke—but, in case ideologues hadn’t noticed, campaigning on a balanced budget is not a partisan distinction. It is—or should be—non-partisan. Are Alberta Dippers ready to hear something like that from Nenshi? (It would be, after all, his nature to say it). Taking away the prestige of having a party leader from Quebec was something Quebec voters—if one knows anything about them— surely would not appreciate (Quebecois are notorious for turfing their governing parties—just ask the PQ or the ADQ or the Liberals). Sure enough, the party’s Quebec seats departed along with the leader who won the second largest number of NDP seats in the HoC, ever. I will grant one thing, though: Mulcair, his parliamentary performance notwithstanding, proved a weak campaigner (he should never have taken the ‘niqab’ bait and, as a Quebecker, he should have known it would disaffect much support). So when I hear (which I still do) griping about moving too far or not far enough to some benchmark of non-existent ideal partisanship, I just want to throttle the offender (not to death, naturally, because that would preclude redemption, aside from doing it more than once). But I still want the party to set itself apart from others which do not consider workers as much as they should.

    I’m not sure—at least not yet—that Nenshi can or will do that for Alberta’s workers. Alberta takes 10% of interprovincial migration, the highest in Canada (there is only one other net-migrant-gainer, BC, and it takes just 2%), and most of them aren’t corporate CEOs or retirees (in fact, many Albertans tend to retire elsewhere—like out here on the Coast where I live, which I guess makes up a significant portion of that 2%—and I’m not unhappy, having notable success, to convert their voting habits), and nine times out of ten they are people looking for work—workers! Hey, NDP! Real, live workers! Just our kinda people! Do you feel me?

    Electing Nenshi, I’m afraid, would be committing the same mistake as the NDP did last May: it presumed too much that the difference between Rachel Notley and Danielle Smith—which is plain enough—would speak for itself and be enough to win back power, to add to that single, surprise, default victory in 2015. Strangely passive is a good way to put a bad thing.

    It comes down to this: is Nenshi cut out for the task at hand? Is he capable of splitting a few lips, busting a few heads, and putting a thumb in an eye or two when the rough and tumble of campaigning season comes along? Remember, the hyper-partisan UCP makes that a virtually everyday experience.

    The main reason I would—and would that I could—vote for Ms Hoffman is that she has well-rounded experience at both victory and loss (only in Alberta can two loses back-to-back look promising) and, most importantly, she was the health minister in power and critic in Opposition, healthcare being the UCP’s vulnerability, one which its hyper-partisanship blinds any politic thing it might, but probably can’t do.

    The NDP should know by now that defining the partisanship it should possess by setting the personalities of contending party leaders apart simply doesn’t work. It isn’t a beauty pageant.

    That said, I welcome Nenshi to the race—should he decide to accept it. And, if he does, he needs to explain how waving a purple flag is gonna work when the electorate, the whole thing undifferentiated by partisanship, is always attentive to something he seems determined to avoid: blood and teeth on the floor between the contestants. As much as I hate to say it, that’s just how it is. Want to do something different?—well, save it for governance. Campaigning is, after all, a reference to war, something which should be prepared for even in times of peace.

    Good luck, my friends! If you’ve had enough, do consider moving out to the Coast where we have a really good NDP government that pollsters give 99% odds of winning another majority this October. And it didn’t happen by “positive politics” or smarmy pacifism, either.

    1. I find that charge against Mulcair very unfair and narrow-minded. If anything, in 2011 when Jack Layton led the NDP to 103 seats with 31% of the vote he only promised to create 100 thousand affordable daycare spaces over 4 years versus Mulcair’s 2015 promise of 1 million spaces over 8 years…

      You’re right, Mulcair started the 2015 campaign with a lead in the polls (Broadbent also briefly led in the polls before 1988). Tom Mulcair, Jack Layton, Wab Kinew, Gary Doer, Roy Romanow, Rachel Notley, John Horgan, David Eby, Bob Rae, Darryl Dexter – the most electorally successful New Democrats have tended to be moderates. Even within the context of their time, Tommy Douglas and Ed Broadbent were moderates relative to their rivals within the party (at the time).

      This idea that moderates will sink the party because of Mulcair ignores a tonne of context (e.g. the kind of New Democrat that Jack Layton actually was and why Mulcair in fact lost), and the fact that if you’re a typically a small third party, your only path to victory involves attracting voters who haven’t historically identified with your party… That doesn’t mean you have to surrender your core values or represent nothing, but it does mean picking priorities and reaching out to new people.

      A great analogy would be comparing Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party with the Reform Party of Preston Manning!

  30. A tough one! My view as an NDP supporter and donor (because of Notley), federal and AB Liberal supporter and interested Alberta Party observer:
    – when I moved to Edtn from Calgary, my Millwoods district to my delight was Liberal provincially and federally – so Edtn is not as orange as some believe. What they are is more progressive than my hometown of Calgary.
    – Notley’s move to the centre gained my support as a pragmatist who believed that she sincerely was there for the good of Albertans. NDP principles are worthy, but they have proven to have limited appeal in the reality of elections. As for working women and men – they are falling for Poilievre hook, line and sinker so do not count on their support for the NDP.
    – while I at least recognize the names of those being touted as leadership candidates, I have no knowledge of their background and accomplishments, and suspect that these are not names that most Albertans will recognize if they become a leader. As for their ability to lead a dynamic campaign or party – who knows? Notley certainly excited her party but could not arouse Albertans.
    – so all things considered – Yes, I would support Nenshi as a leadership candidate. He has name recognition, I like what I have seen, he holds many of the same views and values I hold. With the UCP past and present, these are desperate times and desperate times call for desperate measures like examining NDP principles and beliefs in the light of the new realities.

    1. I would say you are mischaracterizing Poilièvre’s support. It’s not working men and women as such, it’s white people who don’t live in cities.

  31. Nenshi has already missed the 6 month membership rule in order to run so why is everyone even discussing this? Despite that, Nenshi is Calgary, and so urban, I don’t know if he has even stepped foot on a farm let alone been in the patch. He is so not a good fit, That’s why media and cons are salivating. He would be slam dunked at the polls. If Nenshi were ever serious about Premiership with the NDP he would have started the long slog towards that goal years ago. Due to ideology and anti progressive Alberta, cred and feet on the ground is what counts in the NDP. It used to be like that for the cons in Lougheed’s day, but since Ralph Clown stole the crown, it’s been open season for whack jobs. Smith has crossed the floor so many times she’s left skid marks. Like whackamole, she happened to land in the right, and I do mean Right, hole to be jettisoned to leader cum Premier. Pave Darker is gunning for her job as we espeak. That’s his long game. So if that transpires, he’ll make Smith look like the Tooth fairy, who, incidentally has made it clear that she’s not interested in governance but in a power career for when she jumps ship. Like Harper, she’s grooming those connections beyond parochial politics into the Big world of corporate wealth and glory.
    The NDP is now known as the party with a steady hand on the wheel, a reputation they will not be stupid enough to forsake for the likes of Nenshi. You are right. Politically he’s all over the map. We already have one party like that in Alberta and it’s currently driving it into the ground.
    We need strong leadership with fire and passion. not just indignation and hand wringing. I vote for Arcand Brooks but he’s young and busy. But that’s a good thing.

  32. Very interesting column, David. A few friendly counterpoints:

    1. Our politics are incredibly leader-centric and there’s no doubt that Nenshi beats the rest of the NDP leadership candidates, announced and unannounced, in this category. Being a former three-term mayor of Calgary, he’s both a provincial and national figure.

    2. Absorbing the Alberta Party votes from 2019 was a big part of the NDP’s strategy from 2019-2023. Even former Alberta Party President Rhiannon Hoyle is now an NDP MLA! There’s no threat of an Alberta Party takeover of the NDP because the NDP invited them into their political coalition!

    – Dave

  33. Mr. Nenshi failed his first test as NDP leader before he even got there. He made a rousing speech in support of an issue which only a minority of Albertans support. It doesn’t matter how you feel about the issue, defining yourself as standing against the majority on such a sensitive question is not wise.

  34. If I lived in Alberta most likely would not go for Mr. Nenshi. Although he is progressive on many issues, he is not a member of the NDP. /territory I’m aware of. He most likely has the people and skills to win a nomination, but what then? The other candidates for leadership and their supporters maybe very unhappy if Nenshi won.

    Although Mr. Nenshi was a very popular Mayor, that doesn’t always translate into being a popular anything else. A late friend, in Calgary, would tell me Mr. Nenshi was very popular in Calgary and she certainly thought he was a good Mayor. However, they also advised me, there were groups who did not want him as Mayor and worked hard to unseat him. they may have failed then, but do we want them to have another go at it, especially if the NDP membership isn’t over joyed.

    The NDP in Alberta has a number of qualified candidates, choose one of those. You only hire from outside your organization if you don’t have qualified people withiin the organization.

    My suggestion would be Mr. Nenshi first run as an MLA to see if the voters would elect him as an MLA.

    In B.C. when Dave Barrett stepped down as NDP leader, there were a number of candidates for leadership. The winner, Bob Skelley, was a sitting MLA who was not some one everyone was happy with. There were a number of very good candidates also running and most expected one of themm to win. I watched as Skelley won, couldn’t get it. He won because his campaign manager was better than most (Jerry Scott). According to some Scott had not only lined up votes for the first ballot, but also the 3, 4 ballots, etc. Labour was very unhappy because their candidate was one who was expected to win. (even sitting up in the stands one could see the anger in their faces and body language) Did the NDP win the next election? Not so much. It wasn’t until Mike Harcourt became leader and won that the NDP was back in office. (Jerry Scott was his caimpaign manager for Mayor of Vancouver and leader for the NDP, etc)
    So based on what I’ve seen over the years in B.C., I’d suggest Alberta go with one of the other candidates.

  35. As a resident of a genuinely northern Alberta city that puts the lie to Edmonton’s conceit of being “northern Alberta”, when in fact the midway parallel of latitude between the US border & that of the NWT runs roughly through Barrhead & Westlock, I can’t really say what I think of Nenshi’s politics, except that he’s all Calgary all the time. However, if he were to enter the race, there’s one aspect of politicking that he would bring that has long been lamentably absent: oratory. I haven’t heard a Canadian political speaker as spellbinding as he is since the late Dave Barrett.

    As for the unlamented Thomas Mulcair, I felt right away that he was not the right choice for federal NDP leader. However, in the interest of fairness to Mr Mulcair, the fact he was a provincial Liberal in Québec politics ought not to be a knock against him.

    At the time, and as far as I know still today, the Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ) was and is the only political home for federalists and anglophones. Every other party in that province, from the governing Coalition avenir du Québec (CAQ) to Québec solidaire (QS);to the Parti Québécois (PQ), is unabashedly separatist, even though only the PQ is willing to actively pursue that policy.

    But the PLQ is solidly federalist and less inclined than any of the others to bash the anglophone and allophone minorities in that province, and so no self-respecting anglophone joins any party other than the PLQ. Thus, one should discount that fact about him, just as it ought to have been discounted by the federal Conservative Party of Canada when Jean Charest was running against Skippy Poilièvre for CPC leader.

  36. Why not ask iveson what he’s up to, Hes been coolin’ his heels for a minute now…

    His political career seems equally finished, for some reason…..

    No less a ridiculous trial balloon.

    It has to be a female anyway, the optics of a MAN running from the left against poor little DS. if you think that won’t come up I’m not sure what to tell you.

  37. There is an old truism about Canadian politics, “parties campaign from left or right, but govern from the centre”.

    Arguably, this exactly what Ms. Notley did. Would Mr. Nenshi do the same? Hard to say, his disdain for partisan politics is public record, but balanced by his non-partisan leadership style (the govern from centre).

    When evaluating liars (and politicians), I use the following heuristic: since what they say cannot be trusted, judge them on their documented behavior.

    I don’t know enough about Ms. Ganley’s, Ms. Pancholi’s, and Mr. Nenshi’s records to draw a comparison (yet), I do know enough of Ms. Hoffman’s. That’s why, should she declare her candidacy, she currently has my vote.

    A further consideration about Mr. Nenshi (as previously noted by other respondents) is his lack of provincial MLA experience. That lack is not a deal breaker for me, but it does set his passing bar higher. I will have to look at his municipal record and extrapolate/translate via a “provincial” lens.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.