During Rachel Notley’s speech at the NDP’s federal convention in Edmonton, National Newswatch tweeted out a hypothetical question: “Is this Notley’s federal leadership speech?” At the time, I chuckled, and scrolled on past the tweet. There’s no way that a newly elected Premier would leave her seat only a year or two in to run for leadership of the third party in Ottawa, right? Why would Notley consider such a thing? It’s interesting to think about, but it’s not gonna happen, so it’s not worth more than that single tweet.
The latter half of the previous paragraph explains my line of thinking…prior to this morning. This morning I received a phone call from someone fairly well-connected in the Alberta political sphere. This person told me of something overheard from a staffer in the Notley government last week. At one point, the topic of Tom Mulcair’s leadership review came up. When asked who would replace Mulcair, the staffer replied, “Rachel’s thinking about it”. Yes, I understand that this kind of thing should typically be considered as hearsay, but this source has proven to be incredibly reliable and trustworthy in the past. Recent events also back up the possibility of this happening. Let me explain.
Let’s go back to last week. Rachel Notley conducted a televised address in which she made a number of ideological shifts from her past. She embraced pipelines and oil development. She spoke about tightening the province’s purse strings and being more stringent with government spending. Notley put her best foot forward in working to appear as a leader (at least when we ignore the enormous $90K price tag). Following this was Notley’s address at the NDP convention itself. She laid out her revised views once again, and at the same time, she rejected the extremism held in some NDP policy proposals, such as that of adopting the Marxist Leap Manifesto (which was passed). At the same time, Notley grabbed on to the knife stuck in Mulcair’s back and twisted it for good measure. One day before the vote that removed Mulcair as leader of the NDP, Notley clearly nudged convention attendees in the direction of voting against Mulcair’s leadership.
On the final day of the convention, the NDP also passed an amendment allowing two years for the leadership campaign to occur (the party’s constitution typically allows one year). In my opinion, this only lends more likelihood to Notley entering the fray for federal NDP leadership. It would give her time to line up potential successors at the provincial level (Sarah Hoffman & Shannon Phillips would likely run in this hypothetical situation), and set the provincial party in the direction she wishes for it to proceed. At the end of it all is the simple reality that the Alberta NDP is very, very unlikely to win the 2019 election, and Rachel Notley knows this. There is a large incentive for Notley to seek leadership of the federal NDP.
In a hypothetical situation, what would happen if Notley were to seek federal NDP leadership? First, she would have to resign as Premier. Secondly, she’d have to fight a long battle for the federal leadership. If Notley were to win, she would have to replace a current MP in a safe NDP riding. The politically observant folks in Alberta would notice that Edmonton-Strathcona NDP MP Linda Duncan has been unusually quiet over the past year or two. She’s getting older, and rumors have this current term being her last term. For Rachel Notley, this is a riding she would likely win in a landslide. Of course, this is all purely hypothetical, but it’s certainly believable.
Carrying forward, it’ll be interested to see what happens with the NDP leadership race. One thing is certain: Notley is likely the best potential candidate that the federal NDP could ask for. We’ll see if they get what they want.