The Alberta New Democrat convention was held in Edmonton last weekend and with it, the outline of their campaign for 2019. If I have been impressed with Conservative messaging in the past, and I have, the Alberta NDP look as though they are about to embark on a message they too will stick with as if their lives depend on it; the fight.
Their hashtag for social media was #fightingforyou. Their digital background was “fighting for” public education, jobs, healthcare, equity, and Albertans. And if anything can get the base riled up, it’s the impression that every inch of Rachel Notley’s unimposing five foot frame is poised for a fight, And much like the evening of the 2015 leader’s debate, she seems more than capable of succeeding.
I first met Rachel Notley in the summer of 2018 when I finally determined I should attend more than just conservative events. At the end of her welcome message, she said “I look forward to meeting you all tonight, every one of you” and for the following two and a half hours, it appeared she did just that. I waited for the line to end and if I wasn’t the very last one waiting to say hello, I was definitely close.
Politician or not, Rachel Notley exudes a strength and personal warmth that is difficult to deny. Some people have that “it” factor and she does. What she lacks in physical stature is easily made up by the sheer forcefulness of her personality which is not only graciously inviting but also genuinely competent. That competence is what turned the tide in 2015 and if anything, it has only become more potent after three and a half years of her Premiership. And they know it.
Much like 2015, the galvanizing force will be Rachel Notley. The opposition will continue to attack the Party in name but will refrain from going after Rachel Notley personally. That’s because most people feel she is competent, genuine, witty, and sincerely cares about Albertans. She is also able to reach people on a very different level than the opposition leader, Jason Kenney, whose name was dropped within the most unflattering commentary throughout the weekend.
Rachel Notley’s stories are second to none. She told one about how she stubbornly watched her father’s empty truck roll towards a cliff but didn’t alert him because she was 13 years old and mad that she had to help build a fence. Most people can relate better to moments of teenage impudence than working for the government in Ottawa.
Dave Cournoyer of the Daveberta podcast once did an interview with both Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney and asked “tell me something not a lot of people know about you”. Rachel Notley offered her weakness for potato chips and enjoyment of craft beer and Jason Kenney offered his history as VP of young liberals and employment as Liberal MP Ralph Goodale’s executive assistant (and that he played rugby but it wasn’t central to his response). Only one of those options is likely relatable to more than a handful of people.
Jason Kenney and the UCP would like the upcoming election to be about the parties alone. They will continue to attack the “Party” and the “government” because they want to ensure 2019 is not about the people they want you to elect. The Alberta Party’s slate of candidates so far suggest they will want to focus on the people and Notley’s team will ensure it is Rachel vs. Kenney.
While such notable candidates as Thomas Lukaszuk attempted to distance themselves from “The Prentice Team” back in 2015, the crowning glory for the NDP is Rachel Notley. The crowning glory for the UCP is a blue sign. And the Alberta Party, while it has yet to define its soundbite, is growing a stellar list of potential candidates. The NDP want this election to be about Rachel. The Alberta Party will want this election to be about its candidates. If they get their way and this election is about people, Team Kenney may be in for a bumpy ride.
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