Calgary·Opinion

Wright: Let me explain why Albertans should choose Ms. Notley

"Rachel Notley is as frustrated as the rest of us by the lack of progress on pipelines, but unlike Jason Kenney, she recognizes that Alberta is a part of Confederation and she’ll accomplish more with persuasive rhetoric than threats of litigation." Progressive blogger Susan Wright’s opinion on the Alberta election.

'I prefer Notley’s rhetoric to Kenney’s'

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has called an election for April 16. Notley asked cheering supporters standing behind her in Calgary if they are ready to fight for an Alberta that benefits everyone. (Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press)

Editor's Note: Previously, we ran an opinion column by UCP supporter Monte Solberg entitled, "Opinion: Let me explain why Albertans should choose Mr. Kenney." Today, we present from NDP supporter Susan Wright a counter opinion.

Under the heading Opinion, we are carrying a range of  different points of view on the issues facing Albertans during the current election. You can find them on our Alberta Votes 2019 page.


There are two NDP signs on my lawn announcing to the world I'll be voting for Rachel Notley's NDP on April 16.

Why? Because I prefer Notley's rhetoric to Jason Kenney's. 

Full disclosure here. I ran for the provincial Liberals in the 2014 byelection and have hosted meet-and-greets for municipal candidates and candidates running for the Alberta Party, Liberal and most recently NDP candidates. Yes — candidates for this particular election. And I write a regular blog that reflects my progressive values. But I have no formal or paid role in any NDP campaign.

Still, it will come as no surprise to anyone that I lean to the left.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks during an announcement of a mandatory cut in oil production on Dec. 2, 2018. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

Art of persuasion  

Political discourse is all about rhetoric, the art of persuasion. 

Rhetoric can focus on the past, the present or the future. A rhetorical appeal to the past focuses on blame, a rhetorical appeal to the present focuses on values, and a rhetorical appeal to the future focuses on choice. 

In this campaign, Notley is asking Albertans to think carefully about the present, how her policies stack up against her opponent's, and the future, who is offering the best choice for Alberta as it moves forward into the 21st century. Kenney is asking Albertans to focus on the past. 

Notley came into office during one of the worst downturns in Alberta's history.

  • VOTE COMPASS | Find out how your views on campaign issues line up with the platforms of Alberta's major parties

Instead of falling back on former premier Ralph Klein's outdated policies and slashing public services, she took a fresh look at the oilpatch, which drives our economy. She recognized that the oilpatch was experiencing a transformational shift caused by the drop in global oil prices and the rise of American shale. The old oilpatch had to transform into the new oilpatch, fast. Only those who learned to operate in a low cost, high-tech environment would survive. 

Notley reached out to experts to help her create a strategy that would carry Alberta into the future by diversifying the economy, adding value at home, addressing climate change and supporting other sectors like agriculture, tech, tourism and renewables. 

David Dodge, the former head of the Bank of Canada, advised her to borrow now while interest rates were low to invest in infrastructure. Economist Peter Tertzakian helped her modernize the royalty structure in a way that did not damage Alberta's global competitiveness. And university professor Andrew Leach helped her create a climate leadership plan that allowed her to push countrywide support for pipelines from 40 per cent to 70 per cent.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley gave a campaign-style speech to a room of cheering supporters in Edmonton in March of 2018. (CBC)

Pragmatic approach

Some of her decisions surprised long-time NDP supporters, but they reflected Notley's pragmatic approach. She was well aware that Alberta's economic driver is the oilpatch and she took steps to protect it while she lay the groundwork to transition it into the future. 

Notley has been criticized for increasing the debt by refusing to take a hatchet to public services.

But she believes the economy and society are two sides of the same coin and that public services like health and education — and social issues like access to abortion and a kid's right to join gay-straight alliances without being outed to their parents — cannot be ignored while four million Albertans wait for the global oil prices to pick up. 

Instead of taking a page from the past and cutting taxes, reducing spending and privatizing public services — a move Notley believes would burden future generations by leaving them with inferior health care and education — she developed a financial plan that would allow every Albertan to achieve their full potential. 

  • Sign up to get our election newsletter The Scrutineer delivered directly to your inbox twice weekly

Notley is as frustrated as the rest of us by the lack of progress on pipelines, but unlike Kenney she recognizes that Alberta is a part of Confederation and she'll accomplish more with persuasive rhetoric than threats of litigation. 

Instead of flinging herself on the floor and throwing a temper tantrum when the Trans Mountain approval process hit a snag at the Federal Court of Appeal, she upped the pressure on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and convinced him to buy Trans Mountain. She continues to press Trudeau to fix federal legislation that could make pipeline approvals more difficult in the future.

Most importantly, she created an immediate, medium- and long-term strategy to address the lack of pipelines to tidewater.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley updated cabinet on the latest developments after Kinder Morgan announced it was suspending non-essential spending on the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion in April of 2018. (CBC)

The immediate strategy is production curtailment, the medium-term strategy is transportation of crude-by-rail and the long-term strategy is the construction of one or more pipelines to tidewater. Notley's strategy lays out concrete steps to move Alberta to a future that includes more pipelines.

Kenney's "fight back" strategy is nothing more than a way to blame and punish anti-pipeline groups who got in the way in the past. 

The merit of Notley's policies when compared with Kenney's should be enough to persuade Alberta voters to support Rachel Notley. However, in this election, the question of character and ideology is front and centre. 

Every political party is driven by ideology.

UCP Leader Jason Kenney, left, and NDP Leader Rachel Notley. (CBC)

Present and future

Rachel Notley is a pragmatic New Democrat who is picking up where Peter Lougheed left off by transforming the oilpatch, diversifying the economy and focusing on value added and renewable projects. 

She's bringing public services into the 21st century by modernizing the education curriculum, expanding health care to address mental health issues, particularly children's mental health, and making life more affordable with a $15-per-hour minimum wage, a $25-a-day daycare program and more affordable housing. She's got her eye on the future by investing in artificial intelligence and high-tech companies. 

  • Listen to The Ledge podcast, as CBC's legislative reporters bring you expert analysis and insiders' insight

At the end of the day, for me, it all comes down to rhetoric. Rachel Notley and her candidates have adopted a rhetoric that focuses on the present and the future. It reflects an inclusive, diverse Alberta that offers opportunity to all. 

The rhetoric of Jason Kenney focuses on the past and blame and victimhood. The rhetoric of some of his candidates is even more alarming in that it reflects an Alberta that's becoming more homophobic, Islamophobic and misogynistic.  

I'm voting for Rachel Notley because she's the only leader with the integrity, character, grace and vision to lead Alberta into the future, unlike Jason Kenney, whose vision is nothing more than a glimpse in the rear-view mirror.

  • This column is an opinion. For more information about our commentary section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ

About the Author

Susan Wright

Lawyer / Political Commentator

Susan Wright is a lawyer who has worked for more than 26 years in the petrochemical, pipeline, oil and natural gas industries. She ran for the Alberta Liberal Party in the 2014 byelection in Calgary-Elbow. She maintains a blog and comments in various forums on political and cultural issues.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.