In sport, athletes study tapes of themselves, their teammates and their opponents to evaluate their mistakes and successes so they can learn from them and adjust themselves accordingly when similar situations arise. It is this type of dedication to continuous improvement that the new NDP Government in Alberta must apply to their day-to-day decision making. The problem, however, is that there is not a lot of “tape” on NDP-run governments. And where there is, the tape is difficult to watch. It is therefore paramount that the major players in Alberta’s NDP internalize as many of the mistakes of the previous iterations of NDP governments across the country and tread carefully between ideological and fact-based decision-making so as not to replicate the negative outcomes others have faced.
The youth and inexperience of the NDP caucus will be a significant challenge for the new government moving forward. To help bolster the government’s ability to function, key strategists and operatives have been brought in from outside the provincial ranks to provide immediate support to the formation and establishment of the new government in Alberta. However, many of these key backroom players will soon be pulled from the province over the summer to support the national party in the lead up to the federal election. Therefore it will be imperative for the political leadership to get up to speed quickly in order to appear capable and confident until after the October federal election, when some key support could return.
However, the lack of experience has created a very cautious leadership in the Alberta NDP. They seem to understand, and are trying to articulate, that you can’t run a province based on strictly NDP ideology. A move towards the centre is inevitable if they want to last. Notley has stated that working with industry to ensure Alberta’s advantage is important. Job creation is job one. But there will be a few progressive policies around healthcare and education that will be thoughtfully pursued. The mistake that many NDP governments have made is that they resisted shifting away from their ideological base on the left and governing for all. It takes strong leadership to move a party from protest to government. If Rachel Notley can do this successfully, this could be more than a four year experiment.
Alberta is a different province than most in the federation. And likewise, the Provincial NDP party is a little different that those found in other jurisdictions. Yes, they have their share of union activists and social extremists. But on the whole, the province is further right and so is this iteration of the NDP. This is not the Ontario NDP of the early 90s, nor is it the federal NDP, for that matter. Look for Notley’s NDP to take a page from Prime Minister Harper’s book: game and build the strategy quickly, but implement slowly and incrementally. Alberta might not notice the change as much as you think.