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Alberta New Democratic Party

Alberta New Democratic Party
Active provincial party
Leader Rachel Notley
President Chris O'Halloran
Founded 1 August 1932 (1932-08-01) (as Alberta CCF)
Headquarters Suite 201
10544 114 Street
Edmonton, Alberta
Ideology Social democracy
Political position Centre-left[1]
National affiliation New Democratic Party
Colours Orange, green
Seats in Legislature
53 / 87
Official website
Politics of Alberta
Political parties

The Alberta New Democratic Party or Alberta NDP is a social-democratic political party in Alberta, Canada, which succeeded the Alberta section of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the even earlier Alberta wing of the Canadian Labour Party and the United Farmers of Alberta. From the mid-1980s to 2004, the party abbreviated its name as the "New Democrats" (ND).

The party rose achieved Official Opposition status in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta from 1986 to 1993. It was swept out of the legislature in 1993 and spent 22 years in the political wilderness, though it managed to return to the legislature in 1997. However, its time on the fringe of the province's politics ended in dramatic fashion in the 2015 provincial election, when it won 54 of the 87 seats in the legislature to become the governing party of Alberta for the first time ever. Until 2015, Alberta had been the only province in western Canada where the NDP had never governed at the provincial level.


  • History 1
    • Origins and early years (1932–1962) 1.1
    • The Alberta NDP in opposition (1962–2015) 1.2
      • Rise to Official Opposition 1.2.1
      • Wipeout and recovery 1.2.2
      • Attempts at political cooperation 1.2.3
      • Growing momentum 1.2.4
    • From wilderness to majority government (2015–present) 1.3
  • Party leaders 2
    • CCF 2.1
    • NDP 2.2
  • Election results 3
  • Current Alberta New Democrat MLAs 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Origins and early years (1932–1962)

Elmer Ernest Roper was the leader of the Alberta CCF from 1942 to 1955 before becoming the Mayor of Edmonton in 1959

The United Farmers of Alberta (UFA, which was the governing party in Alberta), and from the Labour Party, which had both sitting MPs and MLAs at the time. While most UFA Members of Parliament, led by William Irvine, supported the CCF and ran for re-election (unsuccessfully) in the 1935 federal election as CCF candidates, the bulk of UFA leaders and members were ambivalent to the new party. The CCF did not run candidates under its name in the 1935 provincial election because of its ties with the UFA and the Labour Party. The UFA lost all its seats in the election and fell into disarray. Federally, eight of the UFA Members of Parliament in the House of Commons of Canada ran as UFA-CCF candidates in the 1935 federal election - and were all defeated largely because of their association with the unpopular UFA government and the not-unrelated popularity of William Aberhart's radical Social Credit movement.[2] In 1936, William Irvine, a CCF founder and defeated UFA Member of Parliament, was elected the Alberta CCF's first president.[3] In 1937, the UFA decided to leave electoral politics entirely and, in 1938, the CCF committed itself to run candidates in the next provincial and elections setting up local riding clubs for that purpose.[3] In 1939, former UFA/CCF MLA Chester Ronning became the Alberta CCF's first leader in the 1940 provincial election but despite winning 11% of the vote the party did not win any seats in the Alberta Legislature - the CCF had not garnered the support of the UFA's conservative supporters or put a dent in support for the agrarian populism of the Social Credit Party of Alberta.[3][4]

The Alberta wing of the Labour Party federated with the CCF in 1935, but ran its own candidates in the 1935 and 1940 provincial elections. In 1942, the Alberta CCF clubs formally merged with the Labour Party and Elmer Roper became the new leader after achieving an unexpected victory in a 1942 by-election, becoming the party's first Alberta MLA (excepting Chester Ronning, who had been elected in 1932 as a joint UFA/CCF candidate).[4] In the next two years party membership soared from 2,500 to over 12,000.[2]

In the 1944 election, the CCF received 24% of the vote but won only 2 seats, due to the way the constituency boundaries were drawn, the single transferable vote system and the dominance of the Social Credit government, which received over 50% of ballots cast. Roper was joined in the legislature by Aylmer Liesemer, a Calgary schoolteacher.[2] The rise of support for the CCF after 1942 mobilized the business community to pull out of efforts to build an anti-Social Credit party and instead back the Social Credit government, now led by Ernest Manning, after William Aberhart's death in 1943, as a bulwark against the socialists.[2] Unlike the Saskatchewan CCF, which won office in the 1944 Saskatchewan election on a platform calling for social programs, the Alberta CCF was more radical and campaigned on provincial ownership of the province's resources and utilities. Irvine also advocated an alliance with the communist Labour-Progressive Party under Alberta's single transferable vote electoral system.[2]

Through the 1940s and 1950s, the CCF's vote percentage declined, eventually falling under 10 percent. At any one time, the party never won more than two seats. The party was kept to two MLAs throughout the 1950s. Roper lost his seat in the 1955 election. In the same election, Stanley Ruzycki and Nick Dushenski were elected. Roper was succeeded as party leader by Floyd Albin Johnson.[5] The 1959 general election was a disaster for the CCF, losing both its existing seats while Johnson, running in the Dunvegan electoral district, failed to win his seat, leaving the party shut out of the legislature.[5]

The Alberta NDP in opposition (1962–2015)

Ray Martin was the third Alberta NDP MLA elected and was the leader of the party from 1984 to 1993[6]

The CCF merged with the Canadian Labour Congress in 1961, becoming the New Democratic Party of Canada. In Alberta, the NDP was founded in 1962 with a new leader, Neil Reimer, Canadian director of the Oil Workers International Union. The NDP did not, at first, build much on the CCF's popularity, and, with the exception of a 1966 by-election victory by Garth Turcott, did not win any seats until the 1971 election when Grant Notley, who had taken over the party in 1968, was elected to the legislature.[6]

Rise to Official Opposition

With the election of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives in 1971, Social Credit gradually collapsed. The Alberta Liberal Party suffered in the late 1970s and early 1980s due to its shared name and links with the federal Liberal Party of Canada government of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, which was very unpopular in Alberta.

The decline of Social Credit and the unpopularity of the Liberals gave the New Democrats an opportunity to become the focus of opposition to the Lougheed-led Conservatives. Popularity of the NDP gradually increased under leader Grant Notley, who led the party from 1968 until his death in a plane crash in 1984, and was the party's sole MLA until 1982.[6] In 1971, the NDP's popularity surpassed the 10% mark and went on to climb to 19% in the 1982 election. The party became the Official Opposition in 1982, though with only two seats. Notley was leading the NDP to what many thought was to be a major breakthrough before his death.[6]

In the 1986 election, under Ray Martin, the party, now known as the "NDs," won almost 30% of the vote and 16 seats. This was to be an apex of New Democrat support.[6] Party membership, which had rarely been more than 5,000 in the 1970s, reached 20,000 following the 1986 provincial election.[2] The New Democrats were unable to gain additional seats in the 1989 election.[6] While they were still the Official Opposition in the legislature by virtue of having more seats than the Liberals, the NDs' popular support fell behind the Liberals (26% to the Liberal's 28%) for the first time in decades.

Wipeout and recovery

Brian Mason was elected leader in 2004 and is currently the longest serving Alberta NDP MLA in the party's history[7]

In the 1993 election, their popular vote fell by more than half to 11%, and they were shut out of the legislature altogether. This was mainly due to the anti-PC vote consolidating around the Liberals. Both the Liberals and Tories were preaching the need for fiscal conservatism at the time. Ray Martin resigned as leader and was succeeded first by Ross Harvey and then by Pam Barrett.[6] The party regained its presence in the legislature by winning two seats in the 1997 election. Barrett resigned her position as party leader in 2000 after claiming a near-death experience in a dentist's chair.[8] She was succeeded by Raj Pannu. The party retained its two seats in the 2001 election.[6]

In 2004, the party reverted to the traditional "NDP" abbreviation and the colour orange. That same year Raj Panu resigned as leader and was replaced by Brian Mason. In the 2004 Alberta general election the party doubled its seats from two to four - which re-elected then leader Brian Mason and Raj Pannu, returning former leader Ray Martin, and newcomer David Eggen. The party received 10% of the vote province-wide.

In the 2008 election the party was reduced to two seats. Brian Mason was re-elected as was newcomer Rachel Notley. Ray Martin and David Eggen were narrowly defeated. The party received 9% of the popular vote.

Attempts at political cooperation

At its 2008 provincial convention, the party overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by the Environment Caucus recommending a party task force be mandated to “investigate a variety of options for political cooperation with the Alberta Liberals and/or Greens.” and “to prepare a motion to be considered” at the next Party Convention.[9] The proposal was opposed by NDP leader Brian Mason.[10]

Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan had, independently from the Environment Caucus, distributed a detailed discussion paper advocating that the NDP form a one or two election cooperation pact with the Alberta Liberal Party and Alberta Greens in which parties would not run against each other in certain ridings in hopes of defeating Progressive Conservative candidates. It was called The Way Forward: An AFL proposal for a united alternative to the Conservatives.

McGowan was unable to speak to the NDEnvirocaucus motion on cooperation before the question was called. However, just after the resolution was soundly defeated, and during his report to the Convention as AFL President, he addressed the issue. He urged members to admit, in the face of 40 years of Tory government and the recent disappointing election results, that there is a problem and that significant change is called for.

Growing momentum

In the 2012 provincial election the NDP picked up two seats in Edmonton, regaining their previous 4 seat total. Both Rachel Notley and Brian Mason safely held onto their seats while David Eggen was re-elected as the member for Edmonton-Calder. Newcomer Deron Bilous was also elected in Edmonton-Beverly-Clareview, the seat formerly held by Martin. In many other ridings the party also won more votes than it had attained previously.[11]

On April 29, 2014, Brian Mason announced that he would step down as leader as soon as a leadership election could be held to choose his successor.[12] The leadership convention was held in Edmonton from October 18 to October 19, 2014. Rachel Notley was elected as the party's next leader, defeating fellow MLA David Eggen and union leader Rod Loyola in the first ballot with 70% of the vote.[13]

From wilderness to majority government (2015–present)

Current leader Rachel Notley during the 2015 campaign in which the Alberta NDP formed its first majority government

In the May 5, 2015 provincial election, the Alberta New Democratic Party under Notley was elected to form a majority government in the provincial legislature, defeating the incumbent Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta after 44 years in power.

The incumbent PC premier Jim Prentice had called the election following the reveal of a new budget that slashed social spending and raised taxes and fees while still holding the line on low corporate taxes.[14] With the Official Opposition Wildrose Party still reeling from a series of floor crossings and mass defections, most pundits and commentators felt that the PCs had a good shot at winning their thirteenth consecutive majority government.[15] Even though the party was already enjoying strong polling in Edmonton,[16] the Alberta NDP was still only widely expected to form the Official Opposition.[17][18]

By the middle of the campaign however, it had become evident to pollsters that the election had become a three-way race between the Progressive Conservatives, the Alberta NDP, and the Wildrose Party.[19] The NDP had managed to capitalize on the unpopularity of the PCs budget, stating that they would instead raise corporate taxes and rollback fees and cuts.[20] The sole televised leaders' debate proved to be a turning point, with Rachel Notley largely being viewed as having had the best performance.[21] Jim Prentice also came under fire for saying "I know math is difficult" to Notley, a remark which was widely seen as being deeply patronizing as well as potentially sexist.[22]

By the final week, it had become clear that the NDP had emerged as the front runner in the campaign.[14] On election night, the NDP won 54 seats, re-electing all four of their incumbents as well as 50 new members to the legislative assembly. The NDP took every seat in Edmonton, all by wide margins. The NDP had been expected to make a strong showing in Edmonton, which has traditionally been much friendlier to centre-left candidates than the rest of Alberta. However, its clean sweep of the city exceeded even the most optimistic projections. Even more surprisingly, the NDP took 15 seats in Calgary, long reckoned as the power base for both the Tories and the federal Conservatives. The NDP also swept the cities of Red Deer and Lethbridge, and won 16 additional seats in the rest of Alberta, mostly in the northern and central parts of the province.

Party leaders



Election results

Election Leader Votes % Seats +/– Position Government
1940 Chester Ronning 34,316 11.11
0 / 57
5th N/A
1944 Elmer Ernest Roper 70,307 24.24
2 / 60
2 4th N/A
1948 Elmer Ernest Roper 56,387 19.13
2 / 57
2nd Opposition
1952 Elmer Ernest Roper 41,929 14.05
2 / 60
3rd Opposition
1955 Elmer Ernest Roper 31,180 8.2
2 / 61
4th Opposition
1959 Floyd Albin Johnson 17,899 4.33
0 / 65
2 5th Opposition
1963 Neil Reimer 37,133 9.5
0 / 63
4th N/A
1967 Neil Reimer 79,610 16.0
0 / 65
4th N/A
1971 Grant Notley 73,038 11.4
1 / 75
1 3rd Opposition
1975 Grant Notley 76,360 12.9
1 / 75
3rd Opposition
1979 Grant Notley 111,984 15.8
1 / 79
3rd Opposition
1982 Grant Notley 177,166 18.7
2 / 79
1 2nd Opposition
1986 Ray Martin 208,561 29.2
16 / 83
14 2nd Opposition
1989 Ray Martin 217,972 26.3
16 / 83
2nd Opposition
1993 Ray Martin 108,883 11.0
0 / 83
16 3rd N/A
1997 Pam Barrett 83,292 8.8
2 / 83
2 3rd Opposition
2001 Raj Pannu 81,339 8.0
2 / 83
3rd Opposition
2004 Brian Mason 90,897 10.2
4 / 83
2 3rd Opposition
2008 Brian Mason 80,578 8.5
2 / 83
2 3rd Opposition
2012 Brian Mason 127,074 9.9
4 / 87
2 4th Opposition
2015 Rachel Notley 603,461 40.6
54 / 87
50 1st Government

Current Alberta New Democrat MLAs

See also


  1. ^ Britannica Book of the Year 2013. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. 2013. p. 402.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f Finkel, Alvin, "Alberta" in Heaps, Leo, Our Canada, 1991 ISBN 1-55028-353-7; Monto, Tom, Protest and Progress, Three Labour Radicals in Early Edmonton, (Crang Publishing/Alhambra Books), 2012
  3. ^ a b c Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, Alberta Online Encyclopedia
  4. ^ a b Alberta Archives - CCF fonds
  5. ^ a b Adler, Phil (19 June 1959). "Socreds Almost Wipe Out Opposition". Saskatoon Star–Phoenix (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan). p. 1. Retrieved 7 May 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Barnes, Dan (May 9, 2014). "Historic victory casts new light over NDP pioneers". Edmonton Journal. Retrieved May 17, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Brian Mason resigns as leader of Alberta NDP". CBC News. April 28, 2014. Retrieved May 8, 2014. 
  8. ^ Cosh, Colby (May 21, 2015). "How Rachel Notley became Canada’s most surprising political star".  
  9. ^ Alberta NDP Convention Resolutions 2008, p.4
  10. ^ Fekete, Jason, "NDP rejects alliance with Liberals, Greens", Calgary Herald, June 15, 2008
  11. ^ "NDP Leader Brian Mason glides to victory". CBC News. April 23, 2012. Retrieved April 24, 2012. 
  12. ^ Bennett, Dean (May 2, 2014). "Alberta NDP to pick new leader in Edmonton". The Canadian Press (Global News). Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Rachel Notley is the new leader of the Alberta NDP". CBC News. October 18, 2014. Retrieved October 26, 2014. 
  14. ^ a b Bennett, Dean (May 10, 2015). "Notley says she knew NDP would win Alberta election a week before vote". CTV News. Retrieved May 12, 2015. 
  15. ^ Justin Giovannetti (7 April 2015). "Jim Prentice seeks mandate on May 5 in cautious Alberta election bid". Retrieved 7 May 2015. 
  16. ^ Ryan Tumilty (7 May 2015). "Alberta NDP insiders say path to Rachel Notley’s historic victory started long before election began". Retrieved 17 May 2015. 
  17. ^ Jen Gerson (2 April 2015). "As PCs and Wildrose struggle, Alberta NDP has a real shot at becoming official oppostion". Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  18. ^ Rob Brown (7 April 2015). "Alberta election 2015: The real race is for 2nd place". Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  19. ^ Dean Bennett (19 April 2015). "Alberta election more horse race than coronation with two weeks left". Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  20. ^ Justin Giovannetti (24 April 2015). "Alberta NDP’s Notley is preaching transformation and finding hope". Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  21. ^ Rick McConnell (24 April 2015). "Alberta leaders debate: Poll suggests NDP's Rachel Notley won". Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  22. ^ Allan Maki (7 April 2015). "Mirrors and miscalculations: Five Alberta election moments to remember". Retrieved 5 May 2015. 
  23. ^ Lethbridge Herald, August 20, 1955

External links

  • Alberta NDP
  • The Socialist Party - CCF/NDP in Alberta
  • The Rise and Fall of the Labour Party in Alberta, 1917-42
Preceded by
Progressive Conservative Association of Alberta
Governing party of Alberta
Succeeded by
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