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With barely two years until the next provincial election in Alberta and the governing UCP cratering in the polls, the prospect of Rachel Notley’s NDP forming government again seems downright realistic. There’s just one problem: the federal NDP keeps getting in their way.

Witness the recent tweet from the party’s official account in which it pretended to have gotten its hands on the agenda for the bilateral meeting between the prime minister and Joe Biden. “NDP intercepts early draft of Biden-Trudeau meeting agenda,” it said. “You won’t BELIEVE what we found!”

What they “found” was enthusiastic support for Keystone XL (“Yes!!” they wrote in the agenda’s margins) indifference to a pharmacare plan (“wgaf”) and an apparent fascination with an ice cream summit (“OMG! Yes!!!”). Notwithstanding the failed attempt at humour, the tweet speaks to an obvious disconnect between what’s in the best interests of the federal NDP and its Alberta wing.

It makes all the sense in the world for Jagmeet Singh to keep chipping away at support for the federal Liberals in places like the Greater Toronto Area and Greater Vancouver. But in Alberta, where four out of five federal Liberal voters currently support the provincial NDP and where federal Liberals out-polled the federal NDP in the 2019 election, attacking the prime minister at every available opportunity isn’t going to help Notley.

But this is of a piece for Singh’s NDP. Take the news in January about Keystone XL, which gave the Alberta NDP a golden opportunity to remind voters about the risky $1.5-billion bet that Premier Jason Kenney had made on the now twice-dead pipeline with their province’s taxpayer dollars. And yet, on the same day that Kenney was eating one the most embarrassing losses of his political career, Singh was busy trying to serve the leftovers to Justin Trudeau instead.

“President-elect Biden has been clear on his KXL position from the start,” Singh tweeted. “Justin Trudeau knew this, did nothing and let Albertans down.”

It’s hardly the first such round the Alberta NDP has had to defend itself against. In 2016, the party gathered in Edmonton for its national convention — and proceeded to embarrass and humiliate the only provincial government it controlled at the time. Party members from across the country spent much of their time debating Naomi Klein’s “Leap Manifesto,” which took direct aim at Alberta’s oil and gas industry and the thousands of jobs it supported at the time. Not surprisingly, that went down like a bag of hammers in Calgary, where the Alberta NDP would go on to lose most of its seats in the 2019 election.

Since that election, and despite that outcome, the federal brothers and sisters of Alberta’s New Democrats have continued to undermine their standing in the province when it comes to projects like the Trans Mountain expansion and the jobs associated with oil and gas activity. With Biden now in office for the next four years and another federal election in the offing, the stridency coming from federal New Democrats around Alberta’s largest industry isn’t likely to die down any time soon.

Notley could cut formal ties with the federal party, but she need only look at the twisted remains of the Alberta Liberals — who barely got more votes provincewide in 2019 than Notley did in her own riding — to see that this isn’t going to be enough. And while a new party label would be an intriguing idea (the Alberta Progressive Alliance, anyone?), the odds of a lifelong New Democrat like Notley breaking faith with the party she grew up in are about as good as those of Kenney leading the next Pride parade in Toronto.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley's own worst enemy just might be her federal counterpart, Jagmeet Singh, writes @maxfawcett. #cdnpoli #ableg #NDP

So what can Notley do to hedge against her own political family’s willingness to forsake its Alberta wing? She can put as much blue paint in the Alberta NDP’s partisan bucket over the next two years as she can, and splash it around Calgary wherever possible. That means recruiting more business-friendly candidates to stand for office, and it means laying out a more coherent vision for the city’s economic future — one that includes a more meaningful role for the energy sector than federal New Democrats would like.

It also means drawing on the recent experience of its counterpart in B.C., which was frequently accused of being more interested in appealing to moderates on its right than activists on its left over its first term in government — and then won the biggest second-term majority of any provincial NDP government in Canadian history.

In the end, this may not matter if Kenney and the UCP keep shooting themselves in foot. But Alberta’s New Democrats shouldn’t get too cocky here. After all, two years is a long time in politics, and when the election finally rolls around Alberta could be in the midst of a new economic boom, one fed by a broader post-COVID recovery, rising oil prices and the completion of important infrastructure like TMX and Line 3.

Yes, the coalition that Kenney has built could splinter apart under the weight of his party’s recent hypocrisy, but it could just as easily come back together in the face of a potential NDP victory. That’s why the Alberta NDP needs to do everything it can to press its current advantage and remove any barriers that might stand in its way in 2023 — even if they happen to be painted in their shade of orange.

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I never forgave Notley and the Alberta NDP for removing proportional representation from their platform and failing to do a thing about it in four years. So when I read that the federal NDP are hurting them, it just makes me go "Haw haw haw!" in an evil yet hearty and satisfied way.

With proportional representation, some of the MLAs would not be elected to their position, and may not even have run for election. The could be party hacks who have no allegiance to the electorate. They would vote as directed by their party whips, as usually happens with the current system. But take a look at Alberta. You had a perfectly functional NDP government, then tossed them for no good reasons, and look at the result. Several lost years. Vote for someone, not against someone. Better still, join a party and seek to be a candidate for election. Be thoughtful, not emotional, in your choices.

Max Fawcett seems to have forgotten that the AB NDP were trounced in the last election. Soundly rejected outside their Edmonton stronghold.
Can anyone see rural and small-town Albertans voting for Rachel Notley? They didn't vote orange in 2015 or 2019 and they won't in 2023.
Undeniably, Kenney's first two years in office are a train wreck in slow motion — but for many Albertans the UCP is the only choice on the ballot. Kenney has always trailed his party in popularity. The UCP enters into the next election with at least a 35 seat headstart. The finish line for majority government is 44 seats.
NDP victory in 2023? "Poised to win"? You're dreaming in Technicolor.

"There's just one problem: Jagmeet Singh's NDP"
Does Max Fawcett really expect the federal NDP to abandon its principles for Rachel Notley's sake in Alberta?

It was the Alberta NDP who turned their backs on the federal party, not the other way around. Notley fell off the NDP map, not Jagmeet Singh.
Disastrously, Notley led a sizable contingent of progressives like Max Fawcett to support Big Oil's priorities: low royalties, new pipelines, and a predatory "climate plan" that sabotages Canada's climate efforts for decades. None of these notions carried any sway among progressives before 2015.
Notley has done what Kenney could never dream of doing: lead progressives off the climate cliff. Notley acolytes now embrace an essentially denialist position.
The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C warns that the world must nearly halve GHG emissions by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050 to keep warming below the danger limit of 1.5 C. Doubling down on fossil fuels today is insane.
Notley's neoliberal energy/climate policies represent a clear departure from traditional NDP territory. Notley should not expect long-time NDP supporters to follow her just because she wears an orange hat.
You can support Notley's energy/climate policies or the federal NDP's. You cannot do both. They are irreconcilable. Mutually inconsistent.

Notley's push for pipelines and oilsands expansion not only undermined her own climate policy (carbon tax), but also failed to win her any electoral advantage. Pipeline supporters would not give Notley credit even if she built a billion pipelines. All in all, a gross political miscalculation. And a massive setback for the progressive cause in Alberta on climate.
Kowtowing to Big Oil, swerving to the right, adopting neoliberal energy policies, pandering to conservatives, denying science, defying the IPCC, and misleading Canadians about pipelines and oilsands…
The results became clear on election night in 2019. For the AB NDP, disaster. In turning to the right, not only did the AB NDP lose the election, they also lost their good name, principles, and respect.

Now we have zero oil industry critics in the AB Legislature. Banished to opposition benches, the shrivelled NDP caucus can say nothing about oilsands expansion, oil & gas pollution, and climate inaction — because they shilled for Big Oil in office.
We no longer have a mainstream party that champions science.
We no longer have a progressive party in the NDP.
The AB NDP took away our last hope for real action on climate in AB.

On pipelines and oilsands expansion, Notley and Kenney are on the same page. The UCP are only continuing the neoliberal, anti-science policies embraced by Notley's NDP. Pushing for pipelines and throwing billions of dollars at the fossil fuel industry. The NDP's swing to the right excludes the traditional territory of the left.
If the NDP were miraculously returned to power, under Rachel Notley, policies propping up AB's floundering oil & gas industry would continue, if not expand.
NDP leader Notley supported Kenney's "investment" in Keystone XL. And as AB Premier, threw billions of dollars at the fossil fuel industry, beat the drum for new pipelines, failed to increase royalties, failed to investigate health concerns in the oilsands, and failed to fix Alberta's Energy Regulator.
Once Notley endorsed Vivian Krause wacky theories, it was no longer right-wing and no longer conspiracy theory. Notley took it mainstream.

Which is worse? Climate sabotage on the right — or betrayal by the "progressive" left?
The Liberals and AB NDP have proved far more effective than the Conservatives in delivering on Big Oil's and Corporate Canada's agenda. Trudeau & Co. have persuaded many Canadians that we can both act on climate and double down on fossil fuels. Trudeau and Notley moved the ball on the Trans Mountain pipeline down to the ten-yard line. Their signal achievement was to "push country-wide support for pipelines from 40% to 70%." Something Harper, Scheer, and Kenney could never dream of doing.
Some call Notley "pragmatic". Our house is on fire. "Pragmatic" is putting the fire out. "The most aggressive climate plan in the country" (Notley) would boost AB's emissions with no end in sight. Notley's policies exclude the only rational sane responses to our global emergency — reduce emissions and stop expanding fossil fuel infrastructure.
Notley's oil-soaked "pragmatism" foundered on delusion and denial. Our "progressive" leaders — Trudeau, Notley, and Horgan — are betting on failure. Oilsands expansion and new pipelines are not pragmatic politics — just plain lunacy. It doesn't matter what your policies are on farm labor, GSAs, childcare, etc. If you're not progressive on climate, you're not progressive.
NDP voters need to get off the fence. Heed reality or not. Act on the science or not. Either Canada meets [Harper's inadequate] targets or it does not.
There is no middle road. No compromise.

Notley's climate plan sabotaged Canada's climate targets.
Under a Notley govt, under-reported fossil fuel emissions would continue to climb year after year.
Notley steamrolled over the concerns of B.C. First Nations opposed to her pipelines.
Ignored the health concerns of AB First Nations in the oilsands region.
Pandered to the oil industry and oilsands boosters.
Set Albertans up for even more catastrophic economic crashes and job losses in the future.
Lied to Albertans about fraudulent oilsands emissions caps and climate change plans that don't reduce emissions.
Flouted IPCC warnings.
Endorsed Vivian Krause's conspiracy theories.
Bet the house on climate action failure.
Sold her grandchildren down the river.

The more Notley fought for pipelines, the more she fanned the flames of anger among Albertans. A pipeline project became the rallying flag for Albertans, whose sense of grievance against Ottawa burns eternal. Fuelling the right-wing rage machine.
Notley is not just on the wrong side of history and science, but she is guilty of bad politics as well.

Acknowledge the science, but ignore its implications. Boast about climate leadership, but push oilsands expansion and pipelines. Sign int'l agreements, but fail to live up to them. The new denialism. Just as delusional as the old kind but more insidious. And far more dangerous.
"The New Climate Denialism: Time for an Intervention" (The Narwhal, Sep 26, 2016)

If progressive Albertans want change, perhaps they should start with the party that purports to represent their interests. Notley's NDP.
Stop blaming Singh!

Missing from Max Fawcett's narrative is Rachel Notley's bitter, unrelenting attacks on environmentalists and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. Notley threw environmentalists under the bus. By the end of term, she had bought into Vivian Krause's absurd fantasies:
"'I’m frustrated by it, of course,' Notley says of the [anti-oilsands] campaign. 'Vivian Krause (the B.C. researcher) and people like her have done a good job of really laying bare the details of this and really showing us the degree to which this had been going on and building over time.'"

"Oilpatch odours in northwestern Alberta still pungent, years after inquiry"
"[Donna Daum, a retired teacher] points out that members of the current NDP govt — including Premier Rachel Notley — were loud in their support when they were in opposition.
"'(Notley) talked about the precautionary principle, which obviously is no longer in their dictionary. I can't believe how these dictionaries get rewritten the moment there's some responsibility attached to things.'"

In opposition, the NDP voiced support for a comprehensive healthy study on cancers in Fort Chipewyan. In govt, the only sound was crickets.
"[Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation,] said his people continue to die from cancer at alarmingly high rates, a fact he blamed on oilsands developments. 'Whatever food I'm bringing in from the bush, it is getting our people sick.' The chief said he had hoped that after four decades of Conservative rule in Alberta, things would be different when the NDP government came to power in May 2015. But under the Rachel Notley government, he said, it's business as usual. 'I feel very, very ashamed to call myself an Albertan. I feel very, very ashamed to call myself a Canadian citizen.'" (January 2017)

"The talk around our table is that the NDP government is just another platform of the previous Conservative government with a different logo. Nothing has changed." (Chief Allan Adam)

Former AB Liberal leader Kevin Taft: "Through her whole career and her whole party, up until they became government, [Notley and the NDP] were very effective critics, counterbalances to the oil industry. As soon as she stepped into office, as soon as she and her party became government, they've simply became instruments of the oil industry."

Dr John O'Connor: "Pre-election, the NDP/Rachel Notley were vocally supportive of bringing accountability and responsibility to bear on the environmental and health impacts,especially downstream, of the tarsands. After the AB Cancer Board report on Fort Chipewyan, she was notably outspoken on the need to comply with the recommendation for a comprehensive health study of Fort Chip, which was never even started.
"Now—it’s buried and forgotten. Such hypocrisy."

Reakash Walters, federal NDP candidate in Edmonton Centre 2015: "As one of two people who nominated Rachel in 2015, I am truly disappointed in the direction the provincial party has taken and that they have chosen to prioritize oil extraction in the middle of a climate crisis."
"What was Rachel Notley suggesting when she said she’s not committed to voting for Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats?" (Alberta Politics, 2019)

Premier Notley on the UofA's decision to award David Suzuki an honorary degree: “Speaking personally as an alumni (sic), I’m not a big fan of this decision. It struck me as being a bit tone deaf.”
"If I'd been on the senate, I wouldn't have personally voted for it."

Notley responded likewise to Jane Fonda’s visit in 2017: “Super tone-deaf."
"Graham Thomson: Jane Fonda's outdated rhetoric fails to make dent in pipeline expansion"

Cheryl Oates, Communications Director for the Premier: "We have been clear that when it comes to Alberta’s oilsands, Tzeporah Berman is dead wrong."

Notley forbid her NDP sheep from posing for pictures with federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman: "I recall many times Jagmeet Singh has not been a friend to Albertans, to working people or to our nation when it comes to energy policy."

Premier Notley heaped scorn on federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh several times over Trans Mtn:
“To forget that and to throw [working people] under the bus as collateral damage in pursuit of some other high level policy objective is a recipe for failure and it’s also very elitist.”
"To do that and forget the needs of working people, or to throw working people under the bus, means that both economic growth and environmental protection are bound to fail."

Elitist? In subservience to Big Oil CEOs, Notley travelled the country, preaching salvation by pipeline to choirs of business elites. In May, Notley hosted a hundred businesspeople who flew into the AB Legislature from BC.

Notley's barely disguised insults towards environmentalists like Berman and Greenpeace's Mike Hudema didn't go unnoticed.
"How a Rachel Notley volunteer wound up on a bridge blockading an oil tanker"

@ Geoffrey Pounder, thank you for taking the time to provide a cogent, impassioned and well-linked critique on this flawed op-ed about the NDP.

There are many signs that this piece is shilling for the oil industry. Some of the most obvious include the appropriation of the word "energy" for "oil." As if renewable power isn't energy. Another is equating the resistance to the fossil fuel narrative as being anti-economic or anti-jobs. As if renewable power doesn't create wealth and jobs.

Another observation is the hypocrisy of the writer in wrapping his political narrative around economics while ignoring the economics that today threaten his beloved fossil fuel industry. Being pro-jobs is to support the oil industry, even as millions of increasingly affordable electric vehicles take oil industry jobs away through oil demand destruction over the next decade. And the electrification of the economy is pursued by proponents of renewables, net metering, technological advancements in cheap, industrial-scale battery storage, rejigging provincial and national building codes toward deep energy conservation, and so forth. And of course, there are the fast-building layers of international commitments to drastically reduce atmospheric carbon emissions before 2030, just as the author foresees higher oil prices and a boom for Alberta.

There needs to be a better planning process for Alberta's future than that concocted by last-century commenters.

The revolution is underway, and it has everything to do with getting rid of carbon fuels. This will happen irrespective of political differences in Canada. On that note, when it comes to oil policy , you couldn't slip a plastic credit card between Rachel and Jason. And both of them are in store for depression as long as hydrocarbon remains the Holy Grail, thus reinforcing their magical thinking.

love reading your rants. Mark Fawcet wrote for an Oil mag. What is his opinion worth comment on ND P federal green policies ? not the time it took to read his smear shite article

Watching Rachel Notley shill for oil pipelines while Premier made it perfectly clear that the NDP hadn't actually won Alberta as much as the fossil fuel industry had finally won the NDP. Politics that continues to double down on claims that worsening climate change will open the doorway to future prosperity are not only ecocidal, but also economic self delusion. Considering the quality journalism that the National Observer provides on climate issues, it seems jarring to have a former editor of Alberta Oil magazine use the platform as a soapbox to bemoan how awful it is that a federal party might acknowledge climate reality by opposing unnecessary pipelines. It seems that Max Fawcett not only hopes for a federal party to repudiate the concerns of its voting base for the convenience of orange signs in Calgary, but also that any hope of avoiding what climate scientists tell us will be catastrophic to the entire planet should consider stepping out of the way solely to benefit the modern now-just-another-pro-oil-climate-arsonist watered-down version of NDP principles that has prostituted itself just enough to possibly consolidate support in Canada's climate denial central.

Oil shills are fabulous as proclaiming themselves the victims whenever anyone mentions things like the global economy transitioning away from fossil dependency or that the reason that's happening is a clear and present danger to our entire civilization, while endlessly remaining comfortable insisting that a handful of dwindling oil patch jobs justify devastating the economy of the globe. If your election strategy relies upon refusing to allow people to address or even mention real concerns, you don't deserve to win, and you should never be permitted to govern.

Thank you to the several commenters here who collectively have written the article that the National Observer should have run instead of Max Fawcett’s piece.

I dislike this article because it's a purely "horserace" article. It completely ignores all questions of what policies are good. The fact is that the Leap Manifesto is good policy. Pandering to the oil patch for the sake of helping the Alberta NDP win a horse race would be backing bad policy. There is little point in winning just to enact Liberal policies--the Liberals can do that just fine.
It's also not that clever from the perspective of horse race politics. First of all, Canada is bigger than Alberta, or even Alberta + Saskatchewan. And the prairies are out of step with the rest of the country on fossil fuels. So which is more important, doing well in the rest of Canada or in Alberta?
Second, the Conservatives are always going to be able to out-pander the NDP. The Alberta NDP cannot win by being more pro-oil than the Conservatives. People whose main political issue is being pro-oil are going to stick with the Cons except if they're in a moment of rage with Conservative corruption and arrogance (which is what got the NDP in before). The oil lobby is also not going to suddenly start backing the NDP. So the Alberta NDP doesn't need to worry too much about what the federal NDP is up to in terms of oil--they weren't going to be able to outflank the Cons on that front anyway. The NDP needs the conversation to be about corruption, good government, health care, education, economic diversification, right now coal mines--almost everything except oil.

Ah, when I wrote the above comment I hadn't noticed Michael Nabert pointing out the article was by a "former editor of Alberta Oil magazine". That explains a lot.

I am dismayed that the Nat Observer has published such a poorly argued mash-up of differences between the federal and Alberta NDPs, apparently inspired by admittedly weak Jagmeet Singh tweets (if they are, in fact, as Fawcett represents them).
Federal NDP climate policy has indeed taken issue - not enough in my view - with Notley's Albertan energy policies - excepting her terrific coal wind down! - because it did not / does not address the critical need to stop all oil sands expansion in the face of the climate crisis now upon us. The oil price downturn since 2014, made worse by the pandemic, and the increasing pace by which world market investors are fleeing Alberta's oil sands, has underscored what a looming economic disaster Alberta's fossil dependency is. Federal and provincial NDP policies - and that of every other party that wants to be part of the solution - has to much more aggressively support an Alberta pivot to renewables and other real job-creators if the province and the country and the planet are to thrive.
Notley is too smart not to see this necessity and Kenney, with his disaster policies that gave away +$1B to a pipeline everyone knew was doomed and now is still pushing coal extraction opposed by almost all Albertans who value their water sheds, is evidently too deeply in bed with his fossil sponsors to recognize.
Fawcett's silly claim that the BC NDP was recently re-elected with a majority thanks to their moderate pro-fossil policies, forgets that Horgan and co. adamantly oppose the Trans Mountain Pipeline and face huge opposition to their pandering to both the Site C and northern gas projects in that province. They won a majority because of their handling of the pandemic and because of their basic competence relative to the excessive corporate pandering of the still-in-disarray BC Liberals (aka conservatives).
Where does Fawcett end his argument? With the last-stand hope of a new Albertan oil-fed "economic boom" despite all the last decades' worth of boom-bust evidence that if these do still happen, they will be increasingly short-lived. Notley knows this. Fossilized fossil-thinkers like Fawcett apparently don't.

As other readers have commented, this is a rather poor effort for N.O. I'd expect this type of superficial, horse-racey drivel in Postmedia or, alas, one of the CBC's predictable panels. I can get that for free; it's not what I pay my N.O. subscription for. (At least you haven't given David Frum a guest column yet, so I'll grant you that.)

What readers of N.O. would really benefit from was a thoughtful, probing analysis of why all three of the BC, AB, and SK provincial versions of the NDP have climbed on board the last running of the fossil fuel express. Is it their interpretation that nothing else would play in their respective political universes? Yet, when you look at BC, which is what I'm most familiar with, the NDP batted exactly .000 in 2020 in ALL of the northern districts that host any part of their signature energy megaprojects (Site C, Kitimat LNG, Coastal Gaslink & its feeder gas fields). Strategic genius!

Perhaps it's just the local symptomology of the general global lameness of late 20th / early 21st C social democratic parties, who've made their peace with neoliberalism, and can't imagine anything else. In BC, the provincial party seems terminally spooked by the thought that the Vancouver Sun will denounce them as being the "party of no". So they have to roll over on every big project.

So there is a lot to diagnose. Please give use the coverage that we need and deserve.

Well said!

The correct response to Albertan whining is not to kow-tow to their increasingly irresponsible demands. We’ve got bigger problems.