'An incredible run': Rachel Notley marks expected last day at Alberta legislature as NDP leader

Notley is the longest-serving MLA and will step aside after nearly a decade as party leader

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Alberta New Democratic Party (NDP) Leader Rachel Notley expressed pride and appreciation on Wednesday in marking what she expects to be her last day at the legislature as the party’s leader.

In January, Notley announced she would not be leading the party into the next election, sparking a leadership race that will conclude on June 22 and indicating the end of close to a decade as NDP leader.

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“It’s been an incredible run and I’m so proud to have played such a key role in building Alberta’s biggest official Opposition in the history of this province and ensuring that we have a province that is a strong two-party democracy,” she said Wednesday, adding she isn’t yet ready to reveal her plans for after the new leader is named.

“This is my last day sitting in the particular seat that I’m in, in the legislature. That’s as far as I’ve gone in terms of my deliberations and decision making.”

She declined to comment on if she would continue to function as party leader inside the legislature should Naheed Nenshi, the only leadership candidate who is not an MLA, emerge as her replacement.

“We’ll see how things go.”

MLAs are scheduled to meet for a final time before the summer on Thursday, though it is widely expected Wednesday night’s sitting will be the last before the fall.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley, right, announces she is stepping down as leader of the party, as her husband Lou Arab listens, in Edmonton. Photo by Greg Southam /Postmedia

Inside the legislature, Premier Danielle Smith delivered a ministerial statement that drew a standing ovation from all MLAs acknowledging Notley’s likely final day and the Opposition leader’s accomplishments over 16 years as an elected official.

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“It can be very difficult being leader of a political party and premier of the best province in the country,” Smith said, noting that Notley was the assembly’s longest-serving MLA.

“She has been an effective parliamentarian and has remained committed to her principles.”

Notley responded with her own statement, and thanked her family, caucus, staff, and residents of her Edmonton-Strathcona constituency for their support.

“This work with all its warts and cantankerous exchanges, all the hazards of social media, and the unending hours outside of this building, is an immense honour,” she said.

“A lot of people like to shake their fist at clouds. Very few of us get to do it professionally. There is no bad seat in this house.”

Notley also marked the day by tabling the Eastern Slopes Protection Act, a private member’s bill she first tabled in 2021 that proposes banning coal mining and exploration along the Rocky Mountains.

Rachel Notley
Alberta Premier Rachel Notley pictured in Ottawa in 2018.

Notley, 60, was first elected to what was then a two-person NDP caucus in 2008. She became party leader in 2014 in a low-key contest that drew only 300 attendees to the announcement of her as leader.

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It had a $5,000 entry fee and $100,000 spending limit compared to the $60,000 entry fee and $500,000 spending limit in the ongoing campaign to replace her.

“There were some similarities,” Notley said of the two races. “It was a long contest. There was a lot of excitement, (and) obviously a smaller membership base.”

She became Alberta’s 17th premier following the NDP win in the 2015 election. As head of government, she increased corporate income taxes to 12 per cent from 10 per cent, increased the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and placed a consumer carbon tax on fuel while also aiming to phase out coal plants.

She also directed the province’s response to the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016 and liaised with the federal government as it moved to purchase the Trans Mountain pipeline and its expansion project, which started shipping crude this year.

Notley ended her statement in the legislature Wednesday by addressing all MLAs and reflecting on the importance of public service.

“Wherever you sit, never forget the incredible privilege and awesome responsibility we have to channel the hopes, the expectations, the ambitions of all of the citizens of the best place in the world to live: our province of Alberta.”

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