Rachel Notley, Alberta premier-designate, says new government 'reflects diversity'
Federal NDP counterparts arriving to help with government transition
Alberta premier-designate Rachel Notley, whose NDP toppled the 44-year Progressive Conservative dynasty earlier this week, says the province now has a government that reflects its citizens.
Notley made the remarks following her first meeting with her new caucus, just days after the party won 53 seats in Tuesday's election, enough for a majority.
"Over the years, our province has changed. Today, we are the youngest province in the country. Together in Alberta, we are diverse, and we are welcoming and we are proud to be Albertans," she Saturday.
She noted that her newly elected party includes 24 women as MLAs, which more closely matches the gender makeup of the province. The NDP candidates are also younger, she said, and have backgrounds that better reflect Albertans.
"For the first time, the median age of Alberta's new government now matches the median age of our province itself at, less than 40 years old.
I feel very old all of a sudden."
Plans to work with business, industry to 'build economy'
Notley's majority win has been met with some concern by parts of Alberta's energy sector. During the campaign, Notley promises to increase the province's corporate tax from 10 per cent to 12 per cent, and has suggested a review of the royalty rates paid by energy companies. She has also promised a "hands-off" approach to the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, in opposition to the PC's strong support for the project.
In her speech Saturday, Notley said she plans to work closely with business and industry leaders "to build Alberta's economy." She also promised to increased accountability when her party takes power.
"All Albertans deserve a government Albertans can trust and a government that works for them.
Notley did not take questions following the caucus meeting.
The party has brought in its federal counterparts to help with the transition: Anne McGrath, chief of staff to former federal NDP leader Jack Layton and national director of the party; and strategist Brian Topp, who ran for the NDP leadership after Layton's death.
Mason said the group is working with the Alberta NDP to figure out practical issues like how to operate the caucus, how to deal with the senior civil servants and how many ministers Notley should appoint to her cabinet.
The group is also overseeing the hiring of staff for Notley, her ministers and new members of the legislature.
20-year-old wins Edmonton seat
While Notley counts the youth of her caucus as a plus, there's the issue of rookie legislators.
The Alberta NDP held only four seats before the start of the campaign, so many of these newly elected members have little political experience — some are barely out of their teens.
Dang admits he has a lot to learn in order to properly serve his constituents, but he's confident he'll get the help he needs.
"We have very good staff, very good caucus, we have very experienced MLAs already there helping out and working together," he said.
While the Speaker's office schools new members like Dang on ethics, expense policies and how the legislature functions, fromer NDP leader Brian Mason said the rest of the mentoring has to come from the party.
The former city councillor and 15-year veteran of the Alberta Legislature has this advice for the rookies: lie low and learn the ropes first.
"Don't speak up on things or answer questions that are designed to cause you problems," he said. "Learn your job first. Learn your constituents.… I think the basic message is 'learn before you leap.'"
David Shepherd, who beat out veteran Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman to win Edmonton-Centre, said the new NDP government will have to do a lot of learning on the job — but no more than any other new government would.
"All of us coming in obviously have a big learning curve," he said.
"If Albertans are going to put their trust in their elected officials, they always want to see that they'll do good work."
He argued the fact that the caucus is younger than that of the PC government before it might serve to get a new generation of Albertans engaged in politics.
"I think it's great that younger people can see some other younger people who are involved in their government. "