The next NDP leader should fight for Albertans now

Albertans can’t wait until the next provincial election for change and the NDP has power now.

All eyes are on the Alberta New Democratic Party‘s (NDP) leadership race as we get closer to the debates happening from late April until early June. Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, Naheed Nenshi, Sarah Hoffman, Kathleen Ganley, and Gil McGowan are all running to be the next leader of the NDP — and maybe, even the next premier.

However, that possible premiership is years away, and Albertans need action now. After losing the provincial election by 11 seats to the United Conservative Party (UCP), Rachel Notley promised they would be the “most effective” opposition. After Notley, whoever becomes the new leader needs to remember that promise.

A lot hinges on who will take the reins of the NDP. They are the UCP’s largest competitor in provincial elections, so it’s no small thing. So far, we’ve heard plenty of candidates bashing Premier Danielle Smith. But that’s not enough.

I want to hear about the candidates plans. More than that, I want to know what the new leader of the NDP is going to do before the next provincial election. To me, bashing the current leader doesn’t demonstrate real leadership.

Many of the promises in candidates’ platforms depend on them becoming premier first. While I can admire the optimism, there’s no guarantee that will happen. Even if they do get elected as premier, that is three long years away. Three years of struggling with affordability, a deteriorating health care system, and an overloaded education system. For university students, it will likely also be three years of tuition increases that we can’t afford. As the largest official opposition in Alberta’s history, the NDP has power to make change now. 

While the next leader of the NDP will obviously use the next three years to prepare for the upcoming provincial election, they have a responsibility to hold the UCP accountable and take real action in the legislature. Unfortunately, candidates and their campaigns are instead using media interviews and stage time to offer changes they seem only inclined to make post-election. And that’s only if they’re elected premier.

As the UCP pushes forward with various controversial policies, the NDP needs to hold them accountable. They need to be tough on bills coming through the legislature, but for the right reasons. Publicly criticizing the UCP isn’t the extent of their role — they can table their own bills in the legislature. The NDP doesn’t have to wait until the next election to at least try to deliver on their promises. On that note, the vision the new leader brings to the party shouldn’t have to wait either.

The opposition shouldn’t be a passive party — they can still influence bills and put forward their own. The NDP needs leadership that doesn’t depend on the position of premier and being a majority government to take action. They have sway now and they need to use it.

Some members of the NDP are already showing leadership, even if they’re not running in this race. Janis Irwin, the Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Edmonton Highlands-Northwood, has put forward a bill to temporarily cap rent for Albertans. Unfortunately, promises like these are typically only made on the condition that parties win an election. But Irwin has shown that the NDP doesn’t need to wait to make changes — they can start now.

Whoever becomes the next leader of the NDP has their work cut out for them. But that work doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t — wait for the next provincial election to start. An active opposition government that is working hard to help Albertans now is what we need. Those running for leadership shouldn’t forget Notley’s promise. Although, it appears they already have.

Leah Hennig

Leah is the 2024-25 Opinion Editor at The Gateway. She is in her first year studying English and media studies. In her spare time, she can be found reading, painting, and missing her dog while drinking too much coffee.

Related Articles

Back to top button