June 16th, 2024

NDP leadership race in final stage

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on June 5, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The last debate is behind them and the four contenders for the leadership of the Alberta NDP are heading into the final stretch of the campaign.

Voting started Monday and in what the party is calling a historic day, by 3:30 p.m. of the 85,000 Alberta NDP members, 11,633 had already cast ballots.

The new leader will be announced on June 22 during a “leadership premiere weekend” in Calgary where party members will honour outgoing leader Rachel Notley and celebrate her successor.

The four contenders for the party leadership include former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, Sarah Hoffman and Kathleen Ganley.

Ganley on Monday said in a phone interview from Edmonton that candidates will be busy in coming days on the phone and meeting with members to ensure they follow through on their committed support.

Party members can submit their ranked ballots online, by phone or by mail. Mailed ballots have to be sent by June 17.

The online method of voting is probably the easiest, said Ganley.

With the preferential ballot system, the new party leader will have to earn more than 50 per cent of all cast votes.

In the first round of voting, the first choice indicated on ballots will be counted as a vote for that contender.

The candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated from the race if nobody has achieved that mark after the initial count.

“Ballots cast for the eliminated contestant will then be re-counted for their next highest preference for a contestant who has not been eliminated. Ballots that indicate their first choice for a contestant that has not been eliminated will continue to be counted for their first-choice contestant in subsequent voting rounds unless that contestant is eliminated because they receive the fewest votes in that round,” state the official rules.

“Voting rounds will continue in this manner until one contestant receives votes from 50 per cent plus 1 of the eligible ballots cast. The most preferred eligible contestant indicated on the ballot will be determined to be the vote for that ballot.”

Ganley said while the leadership hopefuls are united on some issues, they are divided on others.

At the final debate in Edmonton, all candidates did a good job of putting forward their vision for the party, Ganley said.

“We share most of the same values. I think there were some obvious differences in terms of relationships to the federal party, policies that we’re putting forward” and there were different theories on how to win the election, Ganley added.

Ganley believes most people who joined the party in recent weeks were already supporters in some way already.

“I think what this race has done is it has just given the membership a little bit extra value to it if you will. A lot of people have gone out and got a membership who were previously supportive,’ said Ganley.

Some of those people will be disaffected supporters of the UCP or other parties but most were already involved with the NDP, the Calgary MLA added.

For Ganley, among the key issues she’s emphasizing on to gain support is that the party wins the next election by working as a team.

“It’s not about one person, one big name, it’s about making sure we elevate everyone and that we really build a movement that can govern this province in the long-term. And I think the other thing is we have done historically a very good job of attacking the UCP – it’s not a thing we’ve ever been shy about – but what we haven’t done as good a job of I’d say in the last two elections is putting forward a really concrete offer to people on the things that are most important to them,” such as the economy, said Ganley.

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to show people what I think we need to do in the next election which is give people a really clear vision of what we would do for them and I’m very hopeful because I’ve been resonating with a lot of people,’ the candidate added.

Ganley is feeling optimistic about her chances.

“This has been an incredible experience. We’ve identified tens of thousands of supporters so that’s been absolutely amazing.”

Ganley said the party is increasing its support grow outside of the major centres of Calgary – where it has also increased – and Edmonton.

“Significant growth in some ridings so I think that is really, really important,” added Ganley.

She agrees with former leadership candidate Gil McGowan that people who identify as more middle class or are university educated tended to vote for the NDP in the last election but the party lost voters who identified more as working class.

And the reason for that, Ganley said, is the party doesn’t talk about the issues that are important to them, instead putting more emphasis on academic issues, which she also believes are important.

And while such matters as democracy and health care systems are important, the party does have to address issues impacting people who are struggling to pay their rent and buy groceries every month.

The UCP is talking about these matters which makes people feel their concerns are validated, Ganley said.

“We don’t combat that by attacking the UCP harder, we combat that by giving them an actual answer to what we’re going to do.”

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