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Politics and Business in Alberta: Ne’er the twain shall meet again

The election of Rachel Notley as Premier of Alberta will change the way the Government of Alberta (GOA) does business.  In the weeks and months ahead, industry can expect that Alberta’s new NDP Premier will do things differently.  The Globe and Mail reported today that Premier-elect Notley is expected to be sworn in earlier than the rest of her caucus.  This will allow her to begin taking briefings on files from her civil servants and start to make decisions and set the overall direction of the government.

As we predicted last week, the professional civil service in Alberta now has an increased role to play in this new political reality.  Industry stakeholders will need to start shifting their focus away from the old ways of doing business, primarily based on contact with key Ministers and party backroom deal-makers, and make a clear public policy case to the civil service for a particular policy outcome.  These changes are not unlike the ones experienced at the federal level in 2006, when the Conservative government took over after 13 years of Liberal rule and changed the way business is done in Ottawa.

Similar to the federal Conservatives, Notley may also decide to take this opportunity to overhaul Alberta’s election finance rules.  It’s worth paying attention to the editorial in the Globe and Mail today which urges her to change the way companies and unions can donate to political campaigns.  Currently individuals in Alberta can donate up to $30,000 towards provincial campaigns during an election year.  Federally, this figure is only $1,500.  Any way you slice it, that’s a big difference.  The Globe editorial board makes it clear: “Ottawa’s rules were designed to keep big money out of elected politics. Alberta’s rules are designed to keep it in.”  This is an easy first move for the provincial NDP to endorse since the Official Opposition Wildrose Party also supports the change.

In Alberta, the path forward won’t be “politics as usual” and this is a good thing.

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