Second NDP leadership debate an improvement, but barely

Candidates' ideas are becoming clearer while Nenshi and Hoffman keep bickering with each other.

Things got a little more interesting at the second leadership debate for the Alberta New Democratic Party’s (NDP) leadership race. Kathleen Ganley, Sarah Hoffman, Gil McGowan, Naheed Nenshi, and Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse once again took the stage to debate their ideas, this time in Calgary. While candidates’ ideas got clearer in the second debate on May 11, some things remained the same. There was more agreement between candidates than actual debate, except for Hoffman and Nenshi’s pointless bickering.

Candidates weren’t shy about bashing Premier Danielle Smith and the United Conservative Party (UCP). But, they weren’t telling potential voters anything they don’t already know. Except for Ganley, who found a good balance between outlining the mistakes of the current government and what she would do differently. 

During the debate, Ganley showed she has actual ideas to help Albertans beyond simply not being Smith and the UCP. So far, Ganley has focused on convincing Albertans that the NDP is economically capable. This is an important strategy to win over more Albertans in the next election. In previous elections, the UCP has positioned itself as the only option for a financially healthy province. Changing that narrative is something I hope remains a focus of whoever wins the NDP leadership. 

Calahoo Stonehouse, on the other hand, emphasized water rights in her opening and closing statement. She’s selling herself short by talking about water more than anything else. When asked questions and debating issues that aren’t related to water, she has some good ideas. Despite being a first time Alberta Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), she has kept up with the more experienced candidates. But her focus on water is making an already tough fight even harder for her. 

Meanwhile, Nenshi kept banking on the fact that he isn’t Smith to not only win the leadership, but the 2027 election. He continued to spend more time talking about the UCP than his plans for the NDP. He is doing a good job setting himself up as the best opponent to Smith. But, he still hasn’t proven that he’s the best leader for the NDP. The NDP is more than the antithesis to the UCP, and limiting the party or the candidates themselves to that won’t get them very far.

When Nenshi’s record as Calgary mayor came into question, he only seemed to double-down. He defended his decisions and kept his composure when McGowan asked about the seemingly anti-union letter Nenshi had signed. Nenshi didn’t apologize for signing the letter or say it was a mistake. Instead, he tried to justify it as a difficult, but necessary decision, which might not be enough for people look past it.

But Nenshi lost his cool a little when Hoffman questioned the eviction of Calgarians from a mobile home park. He once again defended the decision as one that wasn’t easy but necessary, and took some shots at Hoffman. Nenshi seems to be standing by his record as mayor, despite some of his decisions not looking so good now.

Hoffman herself has a lot of good ideas and plenty of experience within the NDP behind her. She gave a thoughtful answer when asked about how she would make post-secondary education more affordable. She pointed to her record with the NDP government in helping bring about a tuition cap and called for investment in post-secondary education. I only wish other candidates also had a chance to answer and even debate the question. 

But her good ideas and thoughtful answers were all overshadowed by her attacks on Nenshi. Time and again, her attacks don’t make her look like the better candidate or inspire confidence in her. Really, it only does the opposite. 

Nenshi and Hoffman seem to bring out the worst in each other. It makes me nervous that they both lose sight of what’s important while debating someone who’s ultimately on the same side as them. If either of them become leader of the NDP, similar bickering won’t get Albertans anywhere either. Their efforts would be better spent actually talking about their own plans for the NDP. 

Not long after the debate, McGowan dropped out due to not being able to meet the $60,000 entrance fee. That leaves only four candidates in the race, with Ganley, Hoffman, and Nenshi remaining as the front runners. All the candidates still have some work to do to convince voters they’re the best choice for the NDP’s future. Hopefully, Hoffman and Nenshi spend less time squabbling and more time talking about their plans for the NDP. Otherwise, they’ll keep making themselves look worse and the other candidates look better.

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