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More than 200 attend NDP forum in Northern Alberta

Alberta NDP candidates looking to replace Rachel Notley were in Athabasca.

“Think of what a great cabinet these four would be," a long-time party member whispered as the four candidates for the leadership of Alberta’s New Democratic Party took turns answering questions from the public at Athabasca Seniors Centre May 15.

Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, Sarah Hoffman, Kathleen Ganley and Naheed Nenshi drove into town for the first of two northern stops on their leadership campaign as they are vying to replace Rachel Notley. 

The forum, which more than 200 people attended, brought out progressives from Smoky Lake to Vermilion, 325 km southeast of Athabasca.

“It was remarkable to have so many folks from across the region to come and hear us, I was moved by hearing where everyone came from,” said Calahoo Stonehouse afterwards.

The group – down to four for the first time following Gil McGowan’s May 13 withdrawal – discussed everything from carbon rebates to public healthcare. 

“If you’re familiar with improv, you’re familiar with this idea of, ‘Yes, and…’” said Nenshi, drawing a loud response from the crowd. “I suspect on this topic you’re going to hear a lot of, ‘Yes, ands.’”

Despite being in direct competition with each other, the four candidates preferred to focus on what needs to happen to form a government in 2027.

“It was impressive to see how well they got along,” said former area MLA Colin Piquette. “You got the impression that there’s a lot of mutual respect between the candidates, which is great to see … Obviously, they’re rivals, but they’re friendly rivals.”

Why should you be leader?

The idea of a growing NDP movement — the party grew to more than 85,000 registered members during the race — and of change in the province was a common theme among the candidates. Each had a different reason for entering the race, whether it was Hoffman’s belief that “We need more change than the micro change I could make in my classroom” or Calahoo Stonehouse’s instruction from an elder to “Go where you can make change for the people.”

“To be honest, it wasn’t in the cards for me, I wasn’t like, I want to be Rachel Notley,’” said Calahoo, who said she chose to run after receiving calls from hundreds of people. 

“She doesn’t look like she’s had fun in this job, I see what that’s like.”

Ganley’s reason for running was simple; “I have an idea, and I have a good one,” said the Calgary-Mountain View MLA.

“We did a good job of knocking on doors, we had a lot of volunteers taking our messages to those doors, and what I heard back very consistently is that when they got there, they had a lot to say about why Danielle Smith is bad and they didn’t have a lot to say about what they would do differently,” said Ganley.

In Nenshi’s case, he felt the current UCP government was just too far past what Albertan’s should find acceptable. So far past that point that it brought him out of political retirement.

“The stakes are so high. As Kathleen said, we must win the next election. There is no time to waste, this government cannot win the next election,” said Nenshi.

Hoffman said her work ethic, which she partially attributed to growing up in the village of Kinuso, was one of the reasons she felt she was the best candidate to run.

“Nobody should work harder on a local campaign than the local candidate, and nobody should work harder on the provincial leader. Many of you know my work ethic, you’ve seen it in action, and I want to make sure that when we run this next campaign, like Kathleen said, like Naheed said and like Jodi said, we need to come with a proposition,” said Hoffman.


Benita Pedersen, a leading voice for right-wing groups in the region, organized a protest outside the doors of the event.

While she wasn’t able to attend herself, Pedersen said she was proud of the two women who did, adding it was important to have people out carrying signs to get their point across.

“We know that the majority of Albertans do not support socialist ideologies,” said Pedersen. “The New Democrat Party of Alberta is attempting to grow in momentum and is attempting to advance socialist ideology … It’s unacceptable to me, and people that support socialism need to be aware that this ideology is not supported by locals.”

Pedersen was unable to point to specific NDP ideologies she feels are socialist, instead saying the NDP supports the concept that a government takes care of its people.

“I reject that concept; I believe in individual responsibility and believe that we, the people, do a better job of looking after ourselves. We don’t need the government interfering in our lives,” said Pedersen.

Next up for the NDP candidates will be a June 2 leadership debate in Edmonton. Registered party members should have their ballots by June 3 and will have the next two weeks to vote. The results of the race will be announced June 22.

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