Alberta Premier Rachel Notley wins overwhelming support of NDP members

Premier Rachel Notley has won the overwhelming support of her party, with 97.8 per cent of delegates at the Alberta NDP convention voting in favour of her leadership.

Delegates at the NDP conference in Calgary vote 97.8% in favour of Notley's leadership

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley delivered a speech she later described as celebratory at the Alberta NDP convention in Calgary on Saturday. (Mike Ridewood/Canadian Press )

Premier Rachel Notley has won the overwhelming support of her party, with 97.8 per cent of delegates at the Alberta NDP convention voting in favour of her leadership. 

Notley became the first NDP premier of Alberta after winning a majority in the May 2015 election, and the leadership result Saturday shows the party supports the direction she is going in. 

"I'm very pleased and very honoured to have gotten that level of support from our membership," she told reporters after the results were announced. "It's a tremendous trust that they've put into my hands, on my shoulders and I take it very seriously."

Calgary-Fort MLA and Finance Minister Joe Ceci wondered about the 2.2 per cent who wanted a leadership review. "The only thing she could have done to get more votes is to probably give out ice cream in the room," he joked. 

The vote came after Notley delivered a defiant and passionate speech that prompted delegates to frequently jump to their feet, loudly cheer and sometimes chant her name. 

In the 40-minute address, Notley reviewed the actions taken by her government, including the farm safety bill, which prompted protests across the province late last year. 

"It turned into a brutal debate, and sometimes an ugly one, when those who incite hatred and violence decided to join it," Notley said.

Notley said the bill — which extended Workers' Compensation Board (WCB) benefits to farm workers and subjected farms and ranches to occupational health and safety rules — challenged the new NDP MLAs, but they prevailed.

"Our government caucus looked the anger machine in the eye and said 'This is one government you are not going to shout down.'"

When asked afterward about the tone of her speech, Notley said she didn't think she was being defiant. 

"It's certainly not how I felt. Honestly, I felt quite celebratory," she said. "If you look at the words, about 90 per cent of the speech was directed toward the part of our record that we're proud of, thanking the people who got us to where we were and talking about where we're going forward."

Ceci described the speech as "unapologetic." 

"That's following through with what you said you were going to do," he said. "That's keeping your word and that's what our premier is doing."

'Think of everything we've accomplished'

There was loud cheering and clapping as Notley reviewed actions like carbon tax, the end of the flat tax and the $15 minimum wage, which she said the party will take into the 2019 election.

"And I want to hear the opposition promise they'll take it away, that they'll roll back the minimum wage to where it used to be — the lowest in the country," Notley said. "And then we'll see what the people of Alberta think about that."

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley greeted supporters as she walked to the stage to give her speech at the Alberta NDP convention in Calgary. (Mike Ridewood/Canadian Press )

After taking swings at the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties, Notley told the crowd she would need them over the next three years.

"Think of everything we've accomplished," she said. "And think of everything we are going to accomplish over the rest of this term. Can any of you imagine losing it all to that opposition?"

"No!" the crowd shouted in unison. 

Changing Alberta

Delegates also voted on resolutions and amendments to the Alberta NDP constitution.

Two resolutions were focused on foiling party opponents, who mused earlier this year about buying NDP memberships in a bid to infiltrate the party and subvert it from within.

Delegates approved a move to require anyone whose membership application was rejected by the provincial secretary to wait one year before applying again. The resolution also allows applicants to appeal their rejection to the Alberta NDP president, whose decision is final. 

However, a resolution aimed at raising the price of a membership from $1 to $30 a year was defeated.

The convention, which started Friday, is the first since the NDP defeated the Progressive Conservatives in the May 2015 election.

The NDP government has since embarked on an ambitious plan to change Alberta, introducing a progressive income tax system and passing a law ending corporate donations to political parties.

The spring session of the Alberta legislature, which wrapped up Tuesday, saw the NDP pass legislation enabling a carbon levy: the controversial tax will take effect Jan. 1, 2017.

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