July 14th, 2024

Nenshi ready to take on challenge of new role

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on June 29, 2024.

Alberta NDP leadership candidate Naheed Nenshi answers a question during a leadership debate in Calgary, Saturday, May 11, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh Jeff McIntosh

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

Newly elected Alberta New Democratic Party leader Naheed Nenshi says he was moved by the number of Albertans that came out to support his vision for the province by electing him.

“It was pretty exciting. We had an 86-per-cent voter turnout which no one has heard of in an election like this before, and I’m told I got more votes on the first ballot than any provincial leader in Canadian history,” Nenshi said Friday.

He said it was humbling and exciting, and he allowed himself a “wow” moment before moving on.

As the new party leader, Nenshi said he will continue to work with his NDP colleagues, including those previously running against him for the leadership role.

“Three of them are MLA’s already, they will all be part of the caucus. They will all be in leadership roles, they are remarkable, brilliant and I’m so happy that we get to be a family again,” said Nenshi.

He said the leadership election was not divisive and they all got along very well. And now that they are finished, they can all figure out how to work together again, something he is very excited about.

When talking about the legislature, Nenshi said at this time is not his priority because there are other areas he wants to focus on first, and the legislature only meets between 12 and 15 weeks out of the year.

“There’s lots of work to be done outside of the legislature, and I’m really anxious to get that done. We have a really good team inside the legislature who can do a good job.”

He added that there is also something that came as a surprise to him that needs to be addressed.

“I am not actually the leader of the opposition. This is a surprise also to me because you have to be an MLA to officially be leader of the opposition. So, I’m the leader of the party, but I’m not leader of the opposition.”

He said in the meantime, Christina Gray, MLA from Edmonton-Mill Woods, will be serving as the official leader of the opposition until such time he obtains a seat.

When asked about the possibility of taking over Shannon Phillips seat, he said he is not closing the door entirely on it, but he would like to see a local candidate take over her position in Lethbridge.

“I don’t think that I will be the candidate unless the volunteers in Lethbridge really want me. I think that we’re going to find a great local candidate. You’re going to be seeing a lot of me, to ensure that we keep that seat NDP orange and that we have a great local MLA supporting Lethbridge.”

In terms of what needs to be done to gain even more NDP supporters across the province – they currently have about 45 per cent of votes – Nenshi said they need to go further and it starts with how you target yourself to particular groups.

“We need to find people in different geographies. We also need to talk to different groups of people including working class people, particularly young men who have become disenchanted with government as a whole.”

He said they also need to have conversations with newcomers, to people in agricultural communities. It is a matter of helping everyone understand that the NDP is a place where they can find a comfortable home.

“I am a new member of the NDP myself and a lot more people can benefit from having the same conversation that I ended up having, the one that helped me realize that the NDP is here in a way that could make a big difference for the province.”

One thing he says is going to take some time to get familiar and comfortable with is being in opposition to the government, Nenshi added.

“I’ve never been in opposition before, so learning the ins and outs, trying to influence government policy when you’re not the government, is something that is also really going to be difficult, but a challenge that I really am looking forward to.”

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