Rachel Notley is the new leader of the Alberta NDP

A quiet campaign largely overshadowed by the Progressive Conservative leadership race and four byelections will come to a close Saturday when Alberta New Democrats vote for a new leader.

The Edmonton-Strathcona MLA won 70 per cent of the leadership vote

Rachel Notley, the new leader of the Alberta NDP, talks exclusively to CBC News after her victory speech. 2:56

Rachel Notley, MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona, has followed in her late father’s footsteps and been named the new leader of the Alberta NDP. 

Notley, 50, received 70 per cent of the 3,589 votes cast in the first ballot, easily defeating MLA David Eggen and union leader Rod Loyola.

In her victory speech before an excited crowd of several hundred NDP supporters, Notley promised change and a viable alternative to the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties. 

"In the next election, Albertans will have a choice to make between the past and the future," Notley said. "In the past, you have a tax on pensions, you have lakes of fire, you have arrogance, you have entitlement, you have a narrow minded vision of days gone by.

"Let's leave the parties of the past behind," she continued. "This time, let's not forget history. Let's not repeat history. Let's make history." 

Notley was heavily favoured to win the leadership vote. She collected $108,815 in campaign contributions, while Eggen had $40,236 and Loyola $7,842.

The leadership race was triggered in April after Brian Mason announced he would be stepping down, saying the party needed new blood.

Destined for politics

Born April 17, 1964, Notley grew up in Fairview in northern Alberta as the oldest of three children to Grant and Sandy Notley.

Grant Notley is a provincial political legend who helped found the Alberta NDP and take it from a fledgling pass-the-hat movement in 1962 to one that captured 16 seats in 1986. 

He died 30 years ago in a plane crash at the age of 45, when his daughter was 20. A memorial in his honour will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Notley studied political science at the University of Alberta and then obtained a law degree from Osgoode Law School in Toronto. Before she joined politics, she worked as a labour relations officer for the United Nurses of Alberta.

She was first elected as MLA in Edmonton-Strathcona in 2008. Notley and Mason were the only NDP MLAs elected that year.

Mason says she has come a long way. 

"When she was first elected and I got up to go to the bathroom in the legislature one time, and she dug her fingernails into my arm and said, 'please don't leave me here'," Mason said.

"Look at her now. She's developed into an articulate, passionate politician, a parliamentarian and a very, very effective communicator. I'm really very proud of her. I think our party is going to go from better to great." 

Notley says the party, despite having four seats in the legislature, is poised for a resurgence not seen for two decades. 

"We're a little bit further ahead in some ways, but we have a lot of ground to cover," Notley said. "I like to think that we've laid the groundwork though. We've spread the seed, as it were, that we're well positioned to see a pretty significant step forward." 

With files from the Canadian Press


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