this blog has moved to a new address: daveberta.ca

Please update your RSS, bookmarks, and links to http://daveberta.ca.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

tiny perfect alberta ndp.

MLAs Brian Mason and Rachel Notley don’t have a hard time getting media attention during legislative sessions, however, one of the biggest challenges facing the Alberta NDP is to become electorally relevant outside of Alberta's capital city (it has been twenty-years since the NDP elected an MLA outside of Edmonton).


In 2008, the NDP broke 20% support in only six Alberta constituencies (Peace River and Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, Calder, Highlands-Norwood, Manning, and Strathcona) and earned 34,339 of their total 80,578 (or 8.2%) province-wide votes in Edmonton's 17 constituencies. With the defeats of former leader Ray Martin and superstar MLA David Eggen (Eggen is now the Executive Director of the Friends of Medicare), the NDP dropped from 4 to 2 MLAs in the Legislature.

Last year's election was a disappointment for all of Alberta's opposition parties, but the third-place NDP have been busy in the year since. While I wouldn’t yet predict an NDP breakthrough in the next election (and by 'breakthrough,' I mean a handful of seats), they have been increasing their outreach by holding a number of regional ‘revitalization conferences’ showcasing speakers Matt Hebb (Nova Scotia NDP campaign manager), Libby Davies (MP for Vancouver-East), and Doug O'Halloran (union boss). The NDP are also reaching out to communities of new Canadians, including Edmonton's decently-sized Somali Community. This may not result in immediate electoral gains, but it will likely boost morale among members and local constituency associations. The spill over effect could also help the federal NDP boost their voter support in the next election to take advantage of the per-vote public funding program.

Mason has declared his intentions to lead the NDP into the next election, which will be his third as leader. Will Mason face a leadership challenge? I have been aware of a growing frustration among some NDP members over the control that a small number of individuals hold over the party's infrastructure and decision-making process. The fight against the internal status-quo went public when young NDP activist Anand Sharma solidified his position in the inner circle by defeating incumbent Steve Bradshaw for the NDP Presidency in 2008.

Another source of continuing tension within the NDP exists between the environmentalist camp (who want to shut down the tar sands and stop the development of nuclear power plants) and Union camp (whose membership depend on the energy sector for employment). Denise Ogonoski left from her job in Notley's Edmonton-Strathcona office in 2008 after taking part in a Greenpeace action at a fundraiser for Premier Ed Stelmach. During that year's convention, delegates from Peace River proposed an anti-Nuclear Power policy, which according to an NDP insider, was widely expected to face opposition from the newly NDP-affiliated IBEW Local 424. The policy was adopted, but as an affiliate member, the IBEW Local 424 exerts sizable financial leverage over the party (affiliate member-Unions donate 15-cents per member per-month to the NDP). Though a major showdown has been avoided, it does have potential to create tension in the future.

While I fail to see a strategic advantage for the actual Union members, the addition of new affiliate Unions (including the IBEW 424 and UFCW 401) gives the NDP a more secure monetary stream than their Liberal Party counterparts. The NDP now have eight party staff members, numbers not seen since the party formed official opposition in the 1980s.

As the Alberta NDP improve their financial and organizational capacities, the global collapse of capitalism could give the left-wing party a perfect opportunity to electorally capitalize on the economic situation. Whether they achieve this will largely depend on if they can successfully give Albertans a compelling reason to trust them with responsibility during the economic downturn.

43 comments:

Bob McInnis said...

Dave, same comments as yesterday. The AB NDs are irrelevant because they don't demonstrate value. Most policies are rooted in thinking and practice from the 1960's and 70's when big unions were fighting a good fight and the social safety net was far less structured.

Their irrelevance is compounded by the sniping leadership style (one of deconstruction and opposition rather than new ideas and helpful propositions). But who in their right mind would really want to lead this party? I said after the last election that all the opposition parties needed to elect new leadership (younger, fresher, innovative) and so far the Greens have had a coup that enshrined a single issue/rump party leader, the ALP traded one academic for another, and there doesn't appear to be a saviour rising up for the ND's. Next AB General election results are easy to predict(if drastic change doesn't happen in opposition party leadership and platforms).
PC's 70-77 seats
ALP 5-9 seats
ND's 0-2 seats
Greens 0-1 seats
Others 0-1 seats

The last Environics poll actually has the Greens and ALP virtually tied at 15% and PCs up 10% from last election.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dave,
The Peace River number doesn't tellt he whole story because there was no lib candidate. So the 20 percent may have been a bit of the lib vote going that way as well.

Anonymous said...

Denise was not laid off. She left Notley's office of her own accord.

Anonymous said...

NDP who? Aren't they from Ontario?

Anonymous said...

"Denise was not laid off. She left Notley's office of her own accord."

Yeah. Kinda like Rick Wagoner left GM.

Jorge Bruno said...

Rather than standing up and defending the rights of her employee to be involved in political activities outside of the work-office, Notley refused to stand up and defend her employee. Disappointing.

Anonymous said...

I think Notley did point out that this person had every right to engage in political activity on her own time, to be fair. others questioned whether she was actually supposed to be at work (and paid by the Alberta tax payers) on the day she spent hiding out in the Shaw Conference Centre rafters, or protesting at a daytime public meeting in Ft. Sask. - Vegreville. Regardless, no political staffer should EVER be in the news at all, much less more often than her boss.

Kyle said...

"Regardless, no political staffer should EVER be in the news at all, much less more often than her boss."

110% agree. Notley is an good MLA and it's a shame she had to make this tough decision (even though I don't agree with her, she was put in a tough spot as a rookie MLA).

Rutherford said...

David Eggen is a superstar and should have become party leader if he had been re-elected.

The Watcher said...

The Edmonton Journal's Paula Simons offered advice for the two NDP MLAs:

Brian Mason: Which over-the-top rhetorical gambit was most offensive? Accusing the premier of being Stalinist? Likening Bill 18, the TILMA legislation, to Hitler's takeover of the Reichstag? Or comparing Alberta's senior public servants to greedy bonus-grubbing AIG execs? Whatever Mason's legitimate concerns about Tory policy, comparing Alberta to Stalinist Russia or the Third

Rachel Notley: The NDPer from Edmonton-Strathcona has been having an excellent session. Her questions about the devastating injuries suffered by an aboriginal foster child from the Tsuu T'ina First Nation so embarrassed Children's Services Minister Janis Tarchuk, she actually announced the results of the internal special case reviews into the injuries to the Tsuu T'ina child, and the earlier death of a Métis foster child in Edmonton would be made public.

Anonymous said...

(it has been twenty-years since the NDP elected an MLA outside of Edmonton).

2009 minus 20 is around 1989. That is about when this last round of prosperity began to pick up steam.

As I read the papers I notice that profits are down ( NOTE not losses just less profits )so the first that that happens is wage cuts and layoffs.

To see what revelence NDP might have in the future perhaps a review of the era of 1979 to 1989 might be pertinent.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Dave. Is the ALP is such bad shape that you are giving a tacit endorsement of the ANDP? All the factual errors in your post aside (not the least of which is the Labour vs. Environment cliche), it sounds like you almost like what you see.

Anonymous said...

I heart Dave Eggen

tjk said...

Global collapse of capitalism Dave? Little over the top there.

Ian said...

Anon 1:33: What factual errors? What endorsement? I see neither of those in Dave's relatively objective analysis.

Denny said...

I don't seen any factual errors in the union and environmental movement analysis. If anything there is more tension between IBEW in particular, and most of the party caucuses than Dave alluded to.

WernerPatels said...

Well, let's hope that these measures will boost their morale, rather than their morals, eh?

I hope, Dave, you weren't trying to imply that NDPers are immoral, were you?

Tiny Perfect Blog said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

As a Dipper I can say that Dave's analysis is fairly accurate. Certainly the parts about a handful of people controlling all decisions are true. This tyrannical structure is slowly driving the traditional grassroots towards other options (David Swann's team had several ex-Calgary NDP types aboard and Joe Anglin is ex-NDP as well). Perhaps the ND's rediscovered union affiliates can more than make up for the slack though? Change has to always be on the table for such a small shop.

When looked at with Dave's newest post about the AB Libs laying off the last of their staff one has to think we are headed towards 1986 style election results; a massive PC majority in 2010/2011 and the Official Opposition being a handful of NDP MLAs.

While this is somewhat good news for the NDP it is terrible news for Alberta. The NDP seem unlikely to ever take power in this province so while they might make a terrific opposition they will never present the PCs with the democratically neccesary threat of defeat. If they truly wish to capitalize on the current Liberal collapse then the NDP would be wise to install Eggen, Notley, or someone else as leader prior to the next election. Brian Mason lacks both a coherent vision and the soft skills required to maximize this window of opportunity.

Inglbert said...

Gotta love the comments above. The NDP is raising more money, signing up more members, and generally heading in the right direction while the Liberals and Greens implode. If the NDP is being controlled by a small group including Mason - it sounds to me like they are doing something right, no?

Anonymous said...

No, because it takes more than money and names on a list to win elections. It takes a vision that resonates with the non-partisan masses, it requires a small army of volunteers to run each local campaign, and it takes some meaningful policies that you plan to enact should, god forbid, you actually win.

The clique that's running today's NDs lacks all of those other elements and has no idea how they could change to acquire them (without giving up some of that juicy decision making power).

Inglbert said...

Money and names on a list indicate people who support the direction they are going in. Those members and donors don't seem too concerned with the so-called 'clique.'

Denny said...

I agree with anonymous at 9:25. New members and money do matter, but they need to be engaged, and if the membership are alienated by a core group who try to dominate the affairs of the party, having names on paper and money won't help much.

art said...

Denny, Hard to argue the membership is alienated if the numbers are up and they are donating more.

Denny said...

Numbers may be up, but they will not provide numbers for how many memberships have actually been renewed, and how many have lapsed. It's entirely possible that a large number of long term members have not renewed their memberships. These new members will also not necessarily renew their memberships. You need to remember that an Alberta NDP membership comes virtually free with a donation of any amount to the party, so the question is, will these new memberships translate into long term continuing members, or are they one off things? Will those who do get involved in the party continue to participate, or will they be turned off by the fact that too much power is held by small amount of individuals?

Anonymous said...

This is a perfect example of "if you say it often enough, it becomes true". I disagree with the entire premise about who is running the NDP. What I DO see is a handful of disgruntled people, many of whom are prolific bloggers, who feel shut out by the grassroots majority. Most NDPers that I meet are interested in talking about how we can move this province forward in a more progressive direction and not about internal party politics. And they are donating in large amounts and are organizing locally. We've now had two very successful revitalization conferences with very positive and practical suggestions being made about how we can move the party forward. This negative navel gazing is a job better left to Alberta's Liberals and Greens, because we have real work to do.

Denny said...

I love when people hide behind Anonymous names on the comments. It really calls into doubt the legitimacy of what they're saying. For example, we have no idea if Anonymous at 10:01 could be one of the people who is in the center of power, or one of their sympathizers for all we know, but they hide behind a veil of anonymity instead of letting us know who they are, and what their motives are.

When policy resolutions proposed by the grassroots calling for more openness mysteriously do not appear in convention agendas, and when party staff and table officers refuse to disclose information to the party executive, to provincial council, and provincial convention, or attempt to steer any decision that needs to be made back to the table officers, coupled with underhanded threats from party staff about the consequences ones future in the party will, or support one will receive from the staff in future campaigns, face if one chooses to openly support particular policy resolutions and candidates for party executive positions, it really does call into question how much the grass roots of the party really are being listened to.

Denny said...

I agree that the revitalization conferences have been successful. What I worry about it that they will be virtually meaningless if their recommendations and suggestions are ignored, and it remains to be seen how their recommendations will be treated by those running the show.

Most party members are not overly interested with internal party politics, you are right, which is unfortunate, because if they realized what little influence the grassroots have in the end over the actions that are eventually taken, they would likely become more interested.

Colin said...

The largest seat total the NDP have ever won in Alberta is 16.

Even in my wildest imagination I can't believe the NDP would elect more than 5-6 MLAs under Brian Mason's leadership. I want a change in government, not a change in an already tiny opposition.

Colin said...

The largest seat total the NDP have ever won in Alberta is 16.

Even in my wildest imagination I can't believe the NDP would elect more than 5-6 MLAs under Brian Mason's leadership. I want a change in government, not a change in an already tiny opposition.

Anonymous said...

Premier Brian Mason
Finance Minister Gil McGowan
Energy Minister Linda Duncan

What a scary thought! Good thing it will never happen.

Wapitidude said...

Mr. Denny

Regardsing grass roots organizing
instead of sniping and kavetching
why not enegize the NDYA or heck - join a constituency association and actually recruit, discuss, debate and move forward -

Denny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Denny said...

Mr. Wapiti

Grassroots organizing is something I engage in on a regular basis, and something I support within the party.

What I am saying however is we can do all the grassroot organizing we want, but it's meaningless if the party leadership ignores the grassroots.
There are a few people on the executive who have to fight tooth and nail to actually ensure that even a few positions adopted by the grassroots at conventions and councils are implemented, if it wasn't for them even less of what the party membership has called for would be implemented than already is.

So no, I won't stop highlighting what I think are problems with democratic deficits within the party, and I will continue to raise these issues, I'm sorry but turning a blind eye to these issues is not something I'm willing to do.

Denny said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Denny said...

This evening Lou Arab, former Chief of Staff at the NDP Caucus and husband of Rachel Notley sent me a Facebook message criticizing me for daring to critique the party here. He also messaged the party's table officers.

Apparently Lou does not feel that I should be expressing my opinion about the NDP. He asked the table officers to ask me to retract my posts, or for me to voluntarily do so.

It will be interesting to see if the table officers do in fact ask me to retract my comments, or take other actions against me. If they do, they will be proving the points that I was attempting to make earlier about voices of members being stifled.

I will keep you all posted. Sadly the state of democracy in the party may be worse than I initially though.

Anonymous said...

Solidarity through intimidation.

Don't think you're the first, Denny.

Anonymous said...

Wow great article about what has happened with the Alberta New Democrats. It was missing one thing about convention. The fact that the paid staffers of the party were actively campaigning for the past president. This also played an important role in the out come of the elections for executive officers.

Anonymous said...

Fair post. Really enjoyed the read, Dave.

Dipper Watch said...

Read this on Denny Holmwood's Blog:

CEP Local 777 has been supported the Alberta NDP for many years has backed that up with money and volunteers for the party. For the last number of Alberta Federation of Labour Conventions Local 777 has organized a number of fund raisers for the party. But because of internal issues will not be putting on a fund raiser this year. Look for the Local helping with the Friends of Medicare fund raiser at convention. CEP Local 777 has been asked to co - sign for the debt that the Alberta NDP has incurred. THE LOCAL has over the years put hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Alberta NDP.

not a genius said...

"Global collapse of Capitalism" No wonder the Alberta Liberal Party is about to be thrown under the bus.

daveberta said...

"Global collapse of Capitalism"

Lighten up. It's a joke. :-)

Anonymous said...

I come from another part of the country where the NDP have every riding except one. Of all the people that I have ever known I was the biggest NDP support however upon moving to Alberta I have distanced myself from the party. I can not support a party that allows unions to buy bulk memberships; which are memberships that do not belong to a specific person but allow the union to have numerous votes on all issues and for all leadership candidates within the Alberta NDP. I can also not support a party that bans and speaks out against all Christian suggestions. I am used to the NDP being made up of people from all walks of life such as clergy, public service,small business owners, etc. The Alberta NDP even supports unions over small businesses in Alberta which is a no-no anywhere else in the country.

Now for those of you who think that I may have no clout I will let you know that I have been a paid campaign staffer for the NDP both federally and provincially in different parts of Canada as well as an executive member in the past.

Also I know Denny and although I do not always agree with him I do think that he is a good person and my experience and knowledge backs up what he says in his comments.

Denny don't let the Old Guard of the Alberta NDP silence you!