Former premier Rachel Notley, after almost a decade at the helm of Alberta’s NDP, is stepping down from the top job.

“It’s been a crazy ride,” Notley, the leader of the Opposition, told reporters Tuesday while flanked at the lectern by her family.

“Having considered what I believe to be the best interests of our party, our caucus, as well as my own preferences, I’m here today to announce I will not be leading Alberta’s NDP into the next election.

“Upon the selection of a new leader, I will be stepping down from that role.”

Notley, 59, choked up as she spoke of her mother, Sandy, and father, former NDP leader Grant Notley, “demonstrating daily the value of hard work, compassion for neighbours, the duty of compassion for neighbours and the importance of social democratic convictions.”

She added, “The opportunity to serve this party and this province has been the honour of my life."

She ruled out taking her career to Ottawa: “I have no intention to pursue a federal role in elected politics.”

The provincial NDP, in a statement, said executive members will meet Jan. 27 to hammer out details and timelines for the leadership race.

Caucus members Rakhi Pancholi, David Shepherd, Sarah Hoffman and Kathleen Ganley are rumoured to be running.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley announces steps down as party leader. #NDP #abpoli

Notley said she will not endorse a candidate.

In an interview before the announcement, Notley said she doesn't know next steps, including whether she will fulfil her term as the legislature member for Edmonton-Strathcona, a riding she won handily in five consecutive elections. She also did not rule out running again.

"I just don’t know. It’s a volatile world, politics," Notley said.

The announcement ends months of speculation over Notley’s future, after her NDP lost the May 2023 election to Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservatives. Notley’s NDP captured 38 of the 87 legislature seats to become the largest Opposition in provincial history.

It was the second consecutive election loss for the NDP under Notley, which ended a 44-year Progressive-Conservative dynasty in 2015 with a surprise majority government only to be trounced four years later by Jason Kenney's UCP.

Notley was elected party leader in 2014, commanding a caucus that, except for a short-lived breakthrough in 1986, had been confined to a tiny corner of the legislature with a handful of members who could hold meetings in a subcompact sedan.

Under Notley, the NDP wiped out rival left-centre parties, including the Alberta Liberals, to establish itself as the dominant alternative to the governing right-wing UCP.

Notley said she takes the most pride in what the NDP has become under her watch — a mainstream alternative that listens and connects with Albertans, while staying true to its core values.

“When we got elected in 2015, we didn’t know who voted for us. We barely knew why, because we couldn’t afford polling,” said Notley.

That has all changed, she said, with more financial resources, strong candidates and more ways to find out what Albertans want in a government and from their elected representatives.

“Those relationships with stakeholders and that ability to be engaging with Albertans in a meaningful, responsive way strengthens the party, strengthens the movement,” she said.

“So did we move to the centre in the traditional left-right (spectrum)? I would say no.

“Did we get better at talking to Albertans and representing who they are, through our own lens, but representing the things that matter to them? Yeah, we did."

Asked what she considers to be her signature accomplishments as Alberta’s 17th premier, Notley points to getting approval for the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, building a new Calgary cancer hospital, reducing child poverty, investing in schools and hospitals, phasing out coal-fired electricity, kick-starting renewable energy investment and hiking the minimum wage.

Of those accomplishments, she said the wage hike resonates.

“We raised the minimum wage to $15 (an hour), the first jurisdiction North America to do that, and others followed because, of course, the world did not collapse as everybody suggested," she said.

“To this day, although a little bit less so now because we're falling behind again (on minimum wage), I still have people come up and tell me how it changed their lives. I’m very proud of that.”

So if the party is doing well, why step down as leader?

“I’m a bit of a polarizing figure in the province,” Notley replied.

"I think we have a lot of really great people who are part of our movement, and I think it’s healthy to allow other voices to have an opportunity."

Notley, as premier, was criticized from the right as an out of touch, spend-happy eco-extremist, and from the left as a pipeline-loving fossil-fuel sellout.

Her NDP governed during a punishing recession that saw her government rack up multibillion-dollar deficits as profits dried up in oil and gas — the wellspring of Alberta’s economy.

The UCP, under Kenney, won the 2019 election in part by painting Notley’s NDP as wide-eyed spendthrifts who never met a dollar they didn’t want to spend and couldn’t be trusted with the public purse.

Asked if she felt like she got a raw deal when she won in 2015 only to be handed the keys to a government with no money, Notley said no.

Because the NDP was in power, she said, it was able to reduce poverty, increase wages for those who needed it most, index payments for people with severe disabilities to inflation, and spend to keep pace with population growth in schools and hospitals.

"As much as we paid a price for it electorally (in 2019), I'm glad we were the ones that were there in the hard times," said Notley.

"It would have been a lot worse if it hadn't been us."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2023.

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It actually says a lot that she outlasted Jason Kenney while opposition leader. Her nearly 4 years and 9 months will also be longer than Danielle lasts. Now I'm puzzled how Ralph Klein even survived a full term.

And I agree, even a single NDP term can theoretically leave a huge impact. It helps that Alberta and Saskatchewan already had strong co-operative histories anyway.

That last line is so true, and watching her emotional speech yesterday (the ONLY thing the CBC focused on for the National last night, infuriatingly, what's WITH the stepped-up mining of emotion on there lately?!) I think many responded with their own tears at what might have been here in Alberta, how much more hopeful we could have all felt at a time when we have never needed that more.
Just look at the photo here and see the wisdom, intelligence and genuine pain in her eyes, and then bring smith's pudding face to mind. Rachel's face often gives her away like it did during the "debate" that may have sunk her; her lips twitched repeatedly, and she succinctly sums up one of the main reasons the cons won--because they had zero problems with LYING. It's truly the bottom line at this point and we all need to start sporting hats that say, "Make lying wrong again."
As far as her successor, I hope it's Gil McGowan, leader of the Alberta Federation of Labour at a time when labour is rightly ascendant in the country, and someone who I think could win big although he's not officially announced yet. He's attractive, articulate, and generally incensed, not to mention new and fresh to politics. Second choice would be Ms. Pancholi, sharp, bold and beautiful.
Rachel was right, she has indeed opened up the field for progressives in the last election with some top-drawer candidates, any of whom could probably wipe up the floor with all the rural type retreads in the UCP, and the fact that she intimated much discussion was going on within the party was most promising.