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Alberta's NDP MLAs: 5 facts about the rookies

Given the low-key NDP campaigns in some ridings, Alberta NDP supporters might not have known much about their local candidates while voting in support of the party leader Rachel Notley or her policies. Here are some facts about the new members of the legislature who will make up the Alberta government.

NDP supporters of Rachel Notley might be surprised by the candidates they voted for

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley, centre, celebrates with two NDP candidates headed to the Alberta Legislature: Calgary East's Robyn Luff (holding her daughter Vesper) and Calgary-Fort's Joe Ceci. (Mike Ridewood/Canadian Press)

Given the low-key NDP campaigns in some ridings, Alberta NDP supporters might not have known much about their local candidates while voting in support of the party leader Rachel Notley.

The NDP ran a candidate in every riding and some took on the role without expecting to win.

Here are some facts about the rookie NDP politicians who will help run the new Alberta government.

1. A record number are women

Of the 53 NDP candidates declared elected to the Alberta Legislature, 25 are women — or roughly 47 per cent.

Stephanie McLean, newly elected for Calgary-Varsity, started her own law practice last year. She ran for the NDP in 2012, losing to a PC candidate, but won this time. (StephanieMcLean/Twitter)

That prompted Notley to say in her victory speech: "I haven't run the numbers yet, shall we say, but what I think is true is that we have elected the most women in any government caucus in the history of Canada."

That appears to hold true when it comes to the percentage of women elected to a governing caucus, according to Equal Voice, a non-partisan organization dedicated to electing more women to political office. 

"Remarkably, the three provinces with women now at the helm have the highest percentages of women in their legislatures. A powerful comment in and of itself," said executive director Nancy Peckford.

2. They aren't CEOs

​Some of the newly elected candidates are union organizers who got involved through careers such as flight attendant (Ricardo Miranda in Calgary-Cross), registered nurse (Danielle Larivee in Lesser Slave Lake), and Safeway employee (Barb Miller in Red Deer South).

Others come from a variety of backgrounds, including small business owner, lawyer, social worker, teacher, executive director, psychologist, hydrogeologist, and yoga instructor.

Lori Williams, an associate professor at Mount Royal University, said she sees enough depth among the incoming NDP caucus to form a small cabinet.

"The focus is going to be on the talented people that are there, and there are a great many talented people in that group. And not to focus so much on the inexperienced ones, because they aren't going to be in cabinet, they are not going to be running the government.

The one that will be running government is Rachel Notley, and she has said quite clearly that she will be doing that in consultation with industry leaders and Albertans."

David Shepherd, centre, elected in Edmonton-Centre, has worked as a musician and public servant and is an avid cyclist, according to his NDP biography. (‏@DShepYEG/Twitter)

3. They are well educated 

Most have undergraduate degrees and many have master's degrees.

Colin Piquette, elected in Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater, is a former professor of ethics and law.

A few are still studying. Deborah Drever in Calgary-Bow is taking sociology at Mount Royal University, while Thomas Dang in Edmonton-South West is getting a computer science degree at the University of Alberta.

Trevor Horne, elected in Spruce Grove-St. Albert, is studying political science at MacEwan University.

4. They are relatively young 

The winning NDP candidates appear to be younger than the former PC caucus. That's not surprising if you consider that the Tories held power for 44 years, and PC members of the legislature usually managed to hold onto their seats through several elections.

The new NDP caucus includes students, parents of young children and 20-somethings. Dang is 20, Jon Carson in Edmonton-Meadowlark is 23, and Michael Connolly in Calgary-Hawkwood is 21.

"Albertans elected a diverse group of MLAs to represent our province, including younger and older people. Being part of the younger group, we can offer a unique perspective on issues," said Dang.  

Thomas Dang, newly elected in Edmonton-South West, is getting a computer science degree at the University of Alberta. (@ThomasDangAB/Twitter)

5. They aren't seasoned politicians

Only four NDP MLAs were incumbents who have spent time in the Alberta Legislature. While a few of the rookies have sat on school boards, like Sarah Hoffman in Edmonton-Glenora, or municipal council Joe Ceci in Calgary-Fort, most have no political experience and will need some help finding their way around their new jobs.

Graham Sucha, elected in Calgary-Shaw, has spent seven years in restaurant management and was on parental leave taking care of a new baby during the campaign. His political inexperience doesn't faze him.

"Any career you go into you have a learning curve," he said. "We have Joe Ceci and Stephanie McLean — who know the ropes really well —  who have already said they are willing to mentor us and help us through this process. And even some of the experienced NDP members who are returning to the legislature are going to help us as well."

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