NDP leader and former Alberta premier Rachel Notley’s decision to step down as her party’s leader creates opportunities and challenges for both the official Opposition and the ruling UCP.
With the next provincial election still three years away – and with a federal election coming in 2024 or 2025 at the latest – both parties have a chance to make headway against their respective principal rivals.
And while the upcoming NDP leadership race will likely have little, if any, direct impact on residents in this district, the longer term impacts will certainly be felt provincewide, even before the 2027 provincial general election.
For its part, the NDP has a chance to strengthen itself both internally and with the general population over the coming months. At the same time the party faces a sizeable challenge in finding a leader to replace Notley’s formidable and veteran guidance.
Several NDP MLAs and former Notley government cabinet ministers are likely to vie for the leadership, and, of course, outsiders may also jump into the race.
In the end, the person chosen will need to be as strong as Notley and at the same time be able to offer Albertans a clear and concise vision for a viable new NDP regime. And that won’t be easy in the face of a well-funded and experienced incumbent UCP.
As for Premier Danielle Smith and her UCP colleagues, the fact their rivals will be without a permanent leader for at least the next several months presents an opportunity to show Albertans that the regime is worth supporting now and for another term.
Albertans, including in this region, will be watching closely to see how the Smith government behaves and acts when it is operating against a partially preoccupied Opposition.
Whether the UCP will use the opportunity to push even harder on some of its more controversial plans – like replacing the Canada Pension Plan with an Alberta Pension Plan – or focus instead on addressing key issues such as the cost-of-living crisis remains to be seen.
Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.