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Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley mum on political future following election loss

Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley says she has not made a decision on her political future following a second consecutive election loss by her New Democrats.
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley gestures as she speaks at an economic forum in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, April 18, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Alberta Opposition Leader Rachel Notley says she has not made a decision on her political future following a second consecutive election loss by her New Democrats.

Notley said she will think about her role as the party analyzes what went right and wrong in the campaign, and added there is no timeline for a decision.

“When I’ve made a decision, when I’ve reached a conclusion, I will be sure to let Albertans know,” Notley told reporters outside the legislature Tuesday.

“As of now, my No. 1 priority is to do the work Albertans have asked of us and nothing less. That is our intention as a caucus, and that is what my plan is as leader.”

It was the first time Notley spoke with reporters since the May 29 election.

Notley’s NDP won 38 seats in the 87-seat legislature, becoming the largest official Opposition in Alberta history, but failed to win back government from Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Party.

Notley said while the result was disappointing, her party made tremendous strides.

“More than 740,000 Albertans gave us their vote,” said Notley.

“Of 1.7 million votes, about 2,600 actually decided this election. It was that close.”

The 2,600 votes refer to close losses in key ridings that could have put the NDP over the top.

“I’ve been leader in this party when it had four seats, when it had 54 seats, 24, and now 38,” Notley said. “In every single election, our vote has gone up. It went up in nearly every rural riding, whereas UCP (vote) did not.”

The NDP swept the UCP in the 20 seats in Edmonton, won 14 of the 26 seats in Calgary, but were dominated outside the major centres by the UCP, which won 49 seats to form government.

“We captured ridings we’ve never held before. We defeated several high-profile UCP (cabinet) ministers and, frankly, we very nearly overturned the government,” Notley said.

She said her caucus is to meet in the coming days to hash out critic roles and responsibilities

The policy goals, Notley said, will be to push Smith’s government to reduce long waits for care and lab testing, for smaller class sizes in schools and to address the shortage in affordable housing.

She said they will also continue to oppose the government’s promise to explore abandoning the Canada Pension Plan in favour of an Alberta model and its pursuit of a provincial police force to replace the RCMP.

She said they will also be watching new Health Minster Adriana LaGrange does not impose restrictions on existing access to abortions given LaGrange’s anti-abortion beliefs.

Smith has already promised there will be no changes to a woman’s right to choose.

Notley declined to discuss the election campaign in detail or explore what led to the NDP loss.

She wouldn’t respond to a suggestion that a promised corporate tax hike, seized on as a wedge issue by the UCP, was a factor.

She defended attacking Smith’s recent record on the campaign trail, particularly Smith’s recent comments urging more direct pay in health care and Smith being found to have broken ethics laws by trying to get a COVID-19 protester’s criminal court case tossed out.

“We had a premier who was found to have broken the law in the course of interfering with the administration of justice,” said Notley.

“We had a premier who had advocated repeatedly in multiple forums for the privatization of our much-cherished public health care.

“These were issues that needed to be fully discussed and canvassed.”