'Less drama': Calgary legislature member first candidate for Alberta NDP leadership

CALGARY — The Alberta NDP leadership race formally began Monday, with Calgary legislature member Kathleen Ganley the first to announce she wants the top job.

Ganley, who served as Alberta's justice minister when the NDP held office between 2015 and 2019, told a news conference she's running to replace current leader Rachel Notley.

Ganley, flanked by seven caucus members, said Premier Danielle Smith’s governing United Conservatives have been "all flash and no substance" with their policies.

"What this province needs is less drama. It needs experienced, competent leadership focused on what matters. I think we win Calgary by offering a vision of the future, by offering our vision for an economic future that works for everyone," Ganley said.

"People are struggling for the basics, they're barely getting by and they're worried because they have nothing to put away for tomorrow. It shouldn't be this hard."

If successful, Ganley would be the first New Democrat leader from Calgary, which increased its number of seats in the city to 14 from three in last year’s election.

Notley announced last month she would step down as party leader as soon her replacement is chosen. Candidates must register before March 15 with a new leader named June 22.

Ganley is now in her third term in office, representing Calgary-Mountain View.

Calgary legislature member Amanda Chapman, who originally recruited by Ganley to run for the party, introduced her at the event.

"We didn't win the election, but we did create a seismic shift in this city and we know there is still much more work to be done," Chapman said.

"Now I see the opportunity for Kathleen to captain our team, to lead that work across the province."

Other potential candidates include former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi along with Edmonton legislature members Sarah Hoffman and Rakhi Pancholi.

Ganley said she expects a number of other "amazing" candidates to come forward.

"I think it's really a sign of how impressive our growing team is and the opportunity we have to speak to all Albertans. I think a competitive race is great," she said.

Ganley was short on details when asked about two contentious subjects, including whether she supported the federal carbon tax.

"We'll have a lot of policies to release and a lot of things to say. What I think is I am in favour of policies that result in decarbonization," she said.

"My preference is to do that in a way that creates the most possible economic growth for the province. There's a lot of ways to achieve that goal."

Ganley was also asked if supported the corporate tax increase that the NDP pitched during the last election campaign — a promise that some observers have said hurt the party's election chances.

"I think it's going to be a long four-and-a-half months … what I can tell you (is) the policies that we have will support working people," she replied.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2024.

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press