Former NDP leadership candidate Rakhi Pancholi, who dropped out of the race this morning and endorsed former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s candidacy (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Rakhi Pancholi, one of the most credible candidates to lead the Alberta NDP, has jumped aboard the Nenshi juggernaut.

NDP leadership candidate Naheed Nenshi, who is now definitely the front-runner in the contest to replace Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“Recently, all Alberta NDP leadership candidates received an update on membership sales, marking the first such update since Naheed Nenshi entered the race,” Ms. Pancholi said in a public statement sent to media and published on her campaign website this morning. 

“Those numbers show that, in the span of a week, Naheed has more than doubled the size of the Alberta NDP’s membership,” she said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment and invites so many more people into our movement.”

“Growing our party has always been and will continue to be my first priority,” she said. “Rather than compete with each other, I want to unite us behind our shared visions and mutual goals. So today, I am announcing that I will be ending my campaign to be leader of the Alberta NDP.” (Emphasis added.)

This was not an easy decision, Ms. Pancholi said, thanking her family, members of her campaign team and other supporters. 

But by bringing “tens of thousands” of Albertans into the Alberta NDP she said, Mr. Nenshi has made it clearer than she could have that “if you are looking for pragmatic solutions and a compassionate government, the Alberta NDP is your home.”

NDP leadership candidate Gil McGowan at his campaign launch this morning (Photo: Screenshot of Gil McGowan campaign video).  

To say Ms. Pancholi’s endorsement of Mr. Nenshi is a significant development would be understating it considerably. The NDP MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud has been an effective party spokesperson since her election in 2019 and had been pondering a run for the leadership for months. 

She has run a good campaign and only days ago released a policy plank to protect and enhance public health care in Alberta that included ensuring fair and competitive pay for nurses, a new comprehensive funding model for physicians, and completing the South Edmonton Hospital and the Airdrie urgent care clinic, overdue major health care infrastructure projects all but abandoned by the United Conservative Party Government.

She created some controversy when she started her campaign by advocating a formal split between the Alberta NDP and the federal party. 

The attention generated by Mr. Nenshi’s campaign, which is evident to anyone who follows politics in Alberta, clearly made him the front-runner the moment he announced his candidacy.

Ms. Pancholi’s timing was probably not a happy development for Alberta Federation of Labour President Gil McGowan, who launched his campaign this morning. 

Mr. McGowan said he will campaign on a platform of adopting government-led industrial policy in the style of leaders like the late premier Peter Lougheed and U.S. President Joe Biden.

“We need to learn the lessons of Lougheed and use government led industrial policy to pivot our economy towards the future,” he said. “As premier I would follow Lougheed’s example and embrace government led industrial policy instead of the UCP’s failed trickle-down economics.”

As Mr. McGowan sees it, the NDP lost in 2023 “because we didn’t attract enough workers. Fix that problem and we can fix this province.”

“Under Rachel Notley the NDP built a powerful coalition that almost won the last election, but that coalition has a hole in it. There was a missing piece, and that missing piece is workers.” 

As a result of Ms. Pancholi’s announcement, Mr. McGowan had to expend energy responding to reporters’ questions about Mr. Nenshi, about whom he said: “Nenshi is popular. He’s a celebrity. But what he stands for is unclear.”

Mr. McGowan expressed his disappointment in Ms. Pancholi’s decision: “I don’t think this leadership race should be a coronation and I also fundamentally disagree with her that this is a done deal.”

He said the numbers provided by the party to candidates showed that membership had grown to about 30,000 from 16,000 since Mr. Nenshi entered the race. 

Mr. Nenshi is in Edmonton today for a public campaign event this evening. 

My blogging colleague Dave Cournoyer expects to publish an interview with the front-runner tomorrow at

Join the Conversation


  1. I find it bizarre that Gil McGowan invokes the name of former premier Lougheed. One of your most regular bloggers does this just about every time he posts.
    Lougheed made some good decisions for Alberta. He was also a hyper-controlling, secretive and vain leader. He showed complete contempt for former NDP leader Grant Notley. He booted a Conservative MLA out of his caucus because the member insisted the government should be more open in its handling of the Heritage Fund. Lougheed’s control over the fund prompted a long and unsuccessful filibuster by Opposition parties in the early 1980s,
    The National Energy Program turned Lougheed into petulant and paranoid leader, and it could be argued his positioning on this issue helped spawn a new separatist movement in Alberta.
    In other words, we don’t want a Peter Lougheed clone, or anything like that, to lead our modern NDP.
    Thank goodness, Naheed Nenshi is a far cry from Peter Lougheed — as are the other fine leadership candidates.
    Perhaps those that bring up the Lougheed name think this will somehow help replicate his winning ways. I think this is nonsense. Lougheed was a far-from-perfect premier who ruled in lomg-distant times.
    Please, leave his name out of the NDP leadership race.

    1. AndyM: What good did doing the total opposite of what Peter Lougheed did accomplish for Alberta? It was a horrific mess. Peter Lougheed wasn’t hyper controlling, secretive and vain. Ralph Klein fits that description, as does Danielle Smith.

    2. Hmmm, David Parker said the TBA will be working to get people to swamp the NDP by buying memberships to force the party to cancel the leadership race. Or, has their rationale changed since Nenshi declared – swamp the party so they can elect Nenshi as leader, figuring the NDP will be easier to beat in a general election with him as leader?

      1. Katherine: Mr. Parker certainly indicated he thought Mr. Nenshi would be easy for the UCP to beat. I am not sure of that. Be that as it may, I’m inclined to think Mr. Parker has other things on his mind right now. DJC

  2. Mr. McGowan said he will campaign on a platform of adopting government-led industrial policy in the style of leaders like the late premier Peter Lougheed and U.S. President Joe Biden.

    I am not sure of the Lougheed reference but Joe Biden tossed the US railway unions under the bus. Either we need to questionMr. McGowan ‘s principles or his knowledge of recent history.

    1. Joe Biden has been the first president ever to walk a picket line. He is not afraid to say that we need unions. I think that says a lot. Joe Biden understands that the extremely wealthy will destroy everything if they have complete control. He has said so on many occasions

  3. Just an alert to the Next Big distraction. Sounds like school vouchers may be the new squirrel. “There is a concern that the topics discussed will involve “parents for choice in education” and possibly school vouchers and we are hoping that we can help pass on some names to the ASCA so they can send them to the ministry and have them attend.”
    I will refer Minister Nicolaides to David King’s 2013 article.

  4. I agree a good leadership race should not be a coronation and hopefully this one is not. However, this is always a risk when a candidate who is well known and popular in some circles jumps in. Hopefully it does not become that and remains competitive regardless of who the front runner is felt to be.

    There is probably some connection between the increase in membership and Nenshi’s joining the race, but not necessarily everyone who joined in that period is a supporter of his so we should not assume that. However, his joining probably made it harder for other candidates, perhaps some more than others, such as Pancholi.

    So I hope this remains a time to hear the ideas of all candidates and give attention to them. McGowan brings up good points about industrial policy and how to gain more support of workers. For instance the NDP runs respectably, but could do better in places like Fort McMurray with its unionized work force.

    So hopefully Nenshi will also bring some of his own ideas to the race and it will not just be a race based on image or personality. A good leader needs some substance as well as style or pithy quotes.

  5. Can the Big N reach the Village People and convince them to vote orange? Can he reach Calgary’s oil and gas beholden and convince them to leave Planet Smith? Those are huge asks even for him and a party that managed to choke big time in 2023. Bonne chance!

  6. mcgowan is right – nenshi is a celebrity. has all the clichés, one dimensional talking points, national network of the social justice industrial complex, all nailed down.
    as with all the other calgary based political leaders we’ve endured, he’ll certainly focus any future gov’t priorities on that region and continue to supply second rate services and attention to the capital region.
    this guy reminds me of ralph after he became a newly minted PC type, in order to join the getty regime.

    1. Klein didn’t finish high school. Nenshi doesn’t drink alcohol. Klein threw coins at men in a shelter and raged about “eastern creeps and bums”. So tell me, what exactly do they have in common, aside from being men who served mayor of Calgary?

      1. Abs: I believe Mr. Klein dropped out of Crescent Heights High in Grade 11 but returned later and graduated from Viscount Bennett High. I do think Mr. Klein and Mr. Nenshi have some things in common beyond the fact they were both mayor of Calgary – both are quite charming, for example, and both are examples of politicians who favour pragmatism over ideology. That said, you are right that it’s dangerous to suggest they are cut from the same piece of cloth, or have identical career paths, because they obviously do not. DJC

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