Notley plans to run again for premier but is coy on topic of federal Liberal entreaties

In a year-end interview with CBC News, Alberta's Official Opposition Leader Rachel Notley looked back at this spring's campaign — and ahead to the next election.

Alberta's opposition leader looks back at spring campaign and ahead to next election in year-end chat

Rachel Notley speaks to CBC Calgary News at 6 during a year-end interview on Dec. 17, 2019. (CBC)

Rachel Notley plans to stay in Alberta and she plans to fight.

But on the question of whether or not federal parties have come calling to change her mind on that front, she's tight-lipped.

The former premier opened up during a year-end interview with CBC News' Andrew Brown on how she sees her role as leader of the Official Opposition, why she doesn't regret maintaining a respectful relationship with the federal government and whether or not she's considered working to unite the province's progressive parties.

Since the UCP swept to power in the spring, the NDP leader has been anything but quiet — participating in lengthy filibusters and even getting turfed from the House during a debate over a bill that led to the firing of the province's election commissioner. 

"It's been very challenging and very volatile," Notley said of the last eight months.

As for what went wrong with her campaign, she said she knows what drove Albertans' choice — they were frustrated and concerned about jobs, economy and the future. 

"The problem is that I don't think that's what they got," Notley said. 

"We were in government during a very, very difficult time in Alberta's economy, and even though things had been trending upwards, both in terms of job creation and economic development and economic growth, people held our government responsible. And that's fine, because when you're in government, you are responsible…

"But now I'm in this new role and I think part of my job is to make sure Albertans get what they were promised and that's not what's happening right now."

'We were making progress'

The UCP have moved quickly to erase NDP policies — repealing the carbon tax, lowering the minimum wage for youth workers — and appear to be heading for a battle with unions, threatening thousands of public sector job cuts.

Notley said she's found those actions frustrating to watch.

"I think we were making progress and now I see this government abandoning so much of what we were starting to make progress on," she said.

That frustration doesn't mean she plans to vacate the role of Opposition leader any time soon. She'll be running for premier again in three years, she said.

Watch Opposition Leader Rachel Notley's full year-end interview: 

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley reflects on 2019

2 years ago
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley reflects on 2019 11:44

As public approval drops for Premier Jason Kenney's government — a  recent poll suggests 21 per cent of UCP voters now say they disapprove of the government's performance — she hopes to win over some disillusioned Albertans.

She said the NDP's shadow budget shows her party would end up on the same accumulated debt path as the UCP but would cut fewer public services to get there.

"We're going to deliver our message that it doesn't have to be this way," she said.

Because we took a respectful working relationship with the federal government, regardless of who is in power, we were able to get the federal government to basically walk in and save the pipeline.- Rachel Notley

As for other strategies, like dropping the name that ties the party to the federal NDP or working to unite with other progressive parties — that's "internal navel-gazing" and not a great use of time, she said.

"It's better for us to get out there and talk to those many Albertans who need to hear about the practical alternative solutions that we offer … I want to focus on that work."

Notley has publicly criticized federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh over the party's anti-pipeline stance.

But perceived ties between Notley and the federal Liberal party have been harder for her to shake, with Notley supporting carbon pricing while pushing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for bold action on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Notley said that alliance was used against her during the campaign but she doesn't regret it.

"Because we took a respectful working relationship with the federal government, regardless of who is in power, we were able to get the federal government to basically walk in and save the pipeline," she said. 

"If you pit responsible energy development and market access against responsible, thoughtful action to tackle climate change, the longer you put the two against each other the way our current government is doing and the way some in the environmental movement do, we will fail on both counts."

As for whether the prime minister or anyone in his office asked her to run for the federal Liberals, all she's saying is that she's staying put. 

"Lots of people have different conversations … you know what? I love Alberta. You know, I've lived in other parts of the country but I've always come back home," she said with a smile.

With files from CBC Calgary News at 6


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