NDP split presents tough choices for Notley

At this point in time, it would take a giant leap of faith to have any confidence in the New Democratic Party, either provincially or federally.

Let’s be honest folks: It ain’t looking good for the NDP.

The federal party has ousted Tom (previously known as Thomas before his populist transformation) Mulcair as their leader and has given themselves an extraordinary 24-month period to select a replacement. Part of the reason for this is a reported $5 million debt load they’re still facing from the most recent election. The NDP couldn’t hold a leadership convention anytime soon even if they wanted to.

Looking east to our neighbours in Saskatchewan, Cam Broten resigned as provincial NDP leader after a recent resounding defeat by the Green Party in which he lost his own seat.

Further east in Manitoba, the ruling NDP party shall almost certainly be defeated later this month in their provincial election.

That would leave Premier Rachel Notley as the only NDP politician in the country with any real power. But Notley is certainly not in an enviable position.

Notley has found herself in the awkward place of having to tread the line between defending her province’s most important industry while acknowledging her party’s long-standing policy of moving to a green energy economy.  This all came to a head at last weekend’s annual NDP Federal Convention, which happened to take place in Edmonton.

Apart from a vote on Mulcair’s leadership, the biggest news item to emerge was the party’s informal support of the Leap Manifesto, which advocates for a swift transition from fossil fuels to green energy, including a moratorium on pipeline projects. Despite Notley pleading with the convention to consider the effects of the manifesto on a province that depends on the oil and gas industry, delegates voted to debate the policy at the riding level and bring it under consideration in future policy-making.

The next day, Notley came out swinging, saying the manifesto was “naive, ill-informed, and tone-deaf” and didn’t make sense for her province. But she also spurned the idea of Alberta’s NDP separating from the federal wing.

So now we have a premier with a fractious relationship with her parent wing and a federal party that has adopted a radical left-wing policy that will likely shuffle them to the sidelines in the next federal election.

As for Notley, it seems disingenuous at best for her to suddenly have found her practical side after years of advocating for a slowdown in the oilsands (especially now that she’s facing some of her lowest approval ratings since she was elected). Her chief of staff, Brian Topp, ran for the party leadership in 2012 and a drastic change to the country’s energy policy was one of his main platform planks.

The NDP has always been an idealistic party that ran on principle — it’s easy to do so when you’re perpetually in third place. But Notley now finds herself in a position where the policies she drafts directly affects the lives of millions of people.

If Notley expects to see any kind of political future, she’ll need to start thinking about what’s best for Alberta, not the far-left agenda of the federal NDP. And I invite the federal NDP to either catch up or enjoy the political peanut gallery for the foreseeable future.

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