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Alberta NDP leadership candidates torn by automatic ties to federal party | Radio-Canada News

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What began as a race to choose a new leader for Alberta’s opposition NDP has sparked a broader existential debate about why being orange at the provincial level should automatically tie you to the federal brand .

According to party constitutions, members of a provincial NDP are automatically members of the federal party.

It’s a connection that caused headaches for the Alberta NDP when it was in power from 2015 to 2019 and continues to prove politically problematic as it seeks to wrest power from the United Conservatives of Prime Minister Danielle Smith in 2027.

The NDP received a boost in profile – and a boost in membership – earlier this month when former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi joined the race.

Rakhi Pancholi, a two-term MP from Edmonton and one of the leadership contenders, immediately left the race to support him.

Nenshi says it’s time for the Alberta NDP to cut the apron strings.

“I think members need to have a very serious conversation about their ties to the federal NDP,” Nenshi said in an interview.

“I believe that our ties with the federal NDP are the vestiges of a party that did not have self-confidence, of a party that was not yet an adult and that was counting on its big brother to take care of us .”

A man in a suit smiles against a backdrop.
Former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi entered the race to lead the Alberta NDP earlier this month. (CBC News)

“Now this party is confident and a modern force and I don’t think we need it anymore,” he said.

“The costs of allying with people we don’t control, whose values ​​and ethics may not match those of us, far outweigh the benefits.”

Nenshi is not the only one with this view. Pancholi began his now-abandoned campaign by questioning the link.

“Membership in one political party should not necessitate membership in another,” she said.

“Albertans who wish to join the Alberta NDP should decide whether they also wish to become members of the federal NDP.”

Candidate Kathleen Ganley, former Alberta justice minister and current Calgary MP, said she would not close the door on debate.

“I think the concerns of members, especially when heard repeatedly, are very valid,” Ganley said.

The alliance with their federal counterparts has forced Alberta New Democrats to walk a tightrope on energy and environmental policy in a province where jobs and billions of dollars in revenue are tied to non-renewable resources like the tar sands.

The two wings openly clashed in 2018 when the then Notley government celebrated billions of dollars spent by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion to ensure more of Alberta’s oil would reach the coast of British Columbia.

This decision outraged environmental advocates, including those in the NDP. Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh denounced the purchase, calling it a bad deal for everyone involved.

In last year’s provincial election, Smith’s UCP happily harvested anti-Trudeau sentiment among voters by gleefully portraying the Alberta NDP as either eager co-conspirators or impotent lackeys in the federal power-sharing agreement between Trudeau and Singh.

History shared between parties

In an interview, former Alberta NDP leader Ray Martin said it was wrong to let the ties go, adding that there was strength and pride in a shared history.

“Nenshi made some statements about the federal party that were not very well received here,” Martin said.

“The reality is when you look at the history of the party, going back to Tommy Douglas and the entire history of the party, it’s the NDP at the provincial and federal levels.”

Douglas, the former premier of Saskatchewan, is widely considered the father of medicare. He was also the first federal leader of the newly formed NDP in 1961, when it changed its name to the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.

Until today, six people were vying for the leadership of the Alberta NDP.  Top row, left to right: Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, Gil McGowan and Kathleen Ganley.  Bottom row, left to right, Sarah Hoffman, Naheed Nenshi and Rakhi Pancholi, who dropped out of the race Tuesday, reducing the field to five.
Six people were vying for the leadership of the Alberta NDP. Top row, left to right: Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, Gil McGowan and Kathleen Ganley. Bottom row, left to right, Sarah Hoffman, Naheed Nenshi and Rakhi Pancholi, who dropped out of the race Tuesday, reducing the field to five. (David Lipnowski/The Canadian Press, Jason Franson/The Canadian Press, Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press, CBC News)

Martin supports Sarah Hoffman, MP for Edmonton and former deputy prime minister in the Notley government.

Hoffman said the party doesn’t need to sever ties to sell out.

“I don’t think we should try to trick people into voting for us. I think if we really tell people who we are and demonstrate what our values ​​are, they will vote for us,” he said. she declared. “I have never backed down from our values ​​and I never will.”

“You’re not going to have a repackaged Liberal Party.”

Lori Williams, a political analyst and professor at Mount Royal University, said that while severing ties can be controversial, the debate doesn’t just come from the outside.

“It makes people angry because it’s (Nenshi) saying it. He’s not seen as someone who’s on the inside,” Williams said.

“But Pancholi said it (and) Kathleen Ganley was open to it.”

WATCH | Why the former Calgary mayor is running for the Alberta NDP direction:

Former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi announces his candidacy for the Alberta NDP

The politician, known for his “purple” policies, is entering the race to replace former leader Rachel Notley.

Williams said moving away from the federal NDP could also make the provincial party more acceptable to those alienated by Alberta’s shift to the political right under the UCP.

“Many former Progressive Conservatives do not see their conservatism in the current UCP government, but cannot bring themselves to vote for the NDP,” she said.

Alberta’s new leader is expected to be announced on June 22.

The other two leadership candidates – Gil McGowan and Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse – did not respond to requests for comment.

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