Rachel Notley says her party's historic win in Alberta this week could send a message to all Canadians that the NDP is a viable choice for voters looking for change.
Alberta's premier-designate said she doesn't see politics as simply left versus right.
"Left and right, I guess that's one way of looking at it," Notley said Thursday in an exclusive interview with CBC's Wendy Mesley for The National.
"Albertans were looking for progressive, forward-looking, thoughtful, intelligent change, and they concluded that they would find that in Alberta's NDP."
She knows the country will be closely watching what her new government does.
"Maybe Albertans can provide a lesson to other voters across the country," she said, "that the NDP is a viable choice if you're looking for that kind of thoughtful, progressive balanced leadership. I'm excited if we're able to help other New Democrats across the country make that case to the voters."
Notley said the Alberta Conservatives under former premier Jim Prentice acted in many ways as their own executioners, a party long past its "best before date" that had clung to power for almost 44 years.
"I actually think that, ironically, change to a new party with a new government with a good, solid four-year mandate is going to bring stability that hasn't necessarily been in place for the last few years," she said.
Willing to work with oil industry
The NDP election victory has prompted much talk and consternation in the oilpatch, widely seen as the economic engine not just of Alberta but of the country. Notley has already reached out to reassure industry leaders.
"What I've said to them thus far is that simply, listen, we're going to work with you, we're going to talk with you, you're going to be part of this process," Notley said. "We're going to consult openly. And we're going to make sure that preserving jobs and, in fact, growing jobs and ensuring the sustainability of the industry is one of the key criteria that we are always keeping our eye on."
Notley said she wants to return to the principles first laid out by former premier Peter Lougheed, the man who first won power for the Conservatives in 1971. She said her new government intends to ensure that the people of Alberta get "a fair return" on their energy resources
"That means, however, just like [Lougheed] did, working collaboratively with the oil and gas industry … listening to their concerns and taking them into account," she said.
The government and the oilpatch must work as partners, she said, to diversify the economy and create more jobs and more stability.
Notley, who took over as NDP leader in October, said she knows she and her government face big challenges ahead.
"There is certainly part of me that does a double-take when people call me premier," she said. "But it's what I ran for. It wasn't an entire impossibility, and I'm getting slowly used to it."
The interview will air across the country tonight on CBC's The National.