Alta. NDP leader takes campaign to Lethbridge

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley says she is running to be premier.

Running appears to be the operative word, because she visited most of Alberta’s major cities during the first week of the campaign that culminates in a May 5 election.

Notley made a campaign stop in Lethbridge April 8, where she officially launched the campaign of local candidate Shannon Phillips, an economic policy analyst who finished second to Progressive Conservative Greg Weadick in the last election.

Phillips’ strong showing three years ago has local NDP members hopeful that Lethbridge West will become an orange spot on the political map next month.

A Mainstreet Technologies survey released April 8 showed the NDP at 26 percent, PC at 27 percent and Wildrose at 31 percent support.

Southern Alberta voted Wildrose in 2012 with the exception of the two Lethbridge ridings, which elected PCs.

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Notley said she is counting on southern Albertans’ desire for alternatives.

“As Albertans have been looking around for an alternative and they’ve been looking for a message and a party that represents them and that they see themselves in, they were going to come to the NDP a little bit faster here in Lethbridge than maybe in other places because we had a really solid group of activists that have been here for a long time,” said Notley.

As for NDP policies specific to rural and agricultural issues, she gave general comments.

“When we talk about rural Alberta, we talk about the community and we need to make sure that we support our rural communities so that the kids who are born and raised in those rural communities have something to stay for.”

Support for family farms and public services in small towns is part of the platform, she added. As well, she said the renewable energy potential in southern Alberta has not received the attention it deserves.

“Those are the kinds of things that keep rural Alberta vibrant and successful so those are some of the things that we’ll be looking at.”

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Concerns about property rights legislation were key to Wild Rose gains in southern Alberta before the last election.

Notley said the NDP shared some opinions with the Wildrose on that front.

“There was a fair amount of overlap at the time between us and the Wildrose and some elements of that, particularly as it related to the overbuild of the electricity and the work that was done around that.”

During her speech to party supporters, Notley criticized the PC government of Jim Prentice for its recent budget that excluded corporations from tax hikes.

“They’ve put corporate tax giveaways before your family budget. They’ve put luxury golf courses before our schools for our kids. They hire more PR people for the ministry of health but they cut money from hospitals.”

Notley was also critical of the “roller-coaster” of Alberta’s economy, which rests largely on oil and gas revenues. She said the current crisis reflects the current government’s failure to diversify the province’s economic base.

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Contact barb.glen@producer.com