Support for Alberta NDP falls with departure of Notley as leader

After Rachel Notley announced her resignation as Alberta NDP leader, support for the governing UCP (51%) over the NDP (40%) grew compared to previous polls. Among Leger respondents, 41% stated that they are not likely to support the NDP following the leadership transition.

Support for Alberta NDP falls with departure of Notley as leader
Facebook/ Rachel Notley
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Rachel Notley’s successor as leader of the Alberta NDP will be announced June 22, following a 20-week campaign starting next week.

Commencing February 5, party members must renew their membership by April 22 to be eligible to vote. Ballots can be cast online and through mail-in-ballots, with a telephone option in the works.

A complete rules package is expected next week, reported the Edmonton Journal, with caucus members Rakhi Pancholi, David Shepherd, Sarah Hoffman and Kathleen Ganley rumoured to run.

"We will announce the results at a special showcase on June 22, which will be a time for our party to gather to celebrate Rachel Notley’s legacy," said chief returning officer Amanda Freistadt in a party news release.

As determined by the party brass in meetings last Saturday, leadership candidates must submit fees of $60,000 to participate and can spend upwards of $500,000 on their campaign.

Notley, who announced her intent to step down after her replacement has been selected, clarified she will not endorse a candidate. She contends the NDP caucus is "filled with voices ready to take the next steps to building a better future for Albertans."

"I love this province and I know that our best days are still ahead," Notley said in a social media post.

However, a new Leger poll suggests the Alberta NDP could bleed support under a new leader.

After Notley announced her resignation on January 16, Leger saw support for the governing UCP (51%) grow over the NDP (40%) in contrast to a previous poll that pegged the party’s level of engagement at 50% and 43% respectively.

Among respondents, 24% believe Notley’s departure will hurt their chances to form government, while another 41% say they are not likely to support the NDP following this transition. Regardless, Leger executive vice-president Ian Large says it’s too early to write off the official opposition. 

"It’s good for the NDP that it’s years until the next election, but they have a lot of ground to make up," he said, acknowledging that Notley herself is more popular than the party.

Despite her lame duck term as premier in 2015, the NDP lost in overwhelming fashion to the UCP in 2019, and they failed to make sufficient ground in 2023. The NDP lost the May 2023 election to Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservatives after capturing 38 of the 87 legislature seats.

"It’s possible they can get a leader who connects with people and is capable of building the party like [Notley] did," said University of Calgary political scientist Lisa Young.

Although the firming-up of UCP support comes as a surprise, Young says not to count the NDP down and out. 

"The next person to propel the party will not be from the rank and file," added Large. "Maybe somebody already with a presence and profile people can support."

Young suggested Pancholi could be suitable should she enter the upcoming leadership race, as only 15% believe the next leader should hail from Calgary.

"At this point, I’m watching Rakhi Pancholi and [the poll] suggests this idea of being from Calgary isn’t that important," said Young.

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