Orange is the new blue: How the Progressive Conservatives can help the NDP win power | Catch My Job


The Alberta New Democrats unveiled a new logo at their convention this weekend.

It is a shield containing two orange stripes, representing the prairie fields, two white mountains and a light blue sky stripe.

The color palette may be an unintended representation of the mix of voters — a lot of NDP orange, a little conservative blue — that could pave the way for the NDP to win next year’s provincial election.

Part of the plan to get Rachel Notley back in the prime minister’s office is to woo Progressive Conservative voters to lean a little to the left.

How? The convention offers some clues: an increased emphasis on the economy and the refinement of voters in Calgary.

The new logo for the Alberta NPD is a shield with two orange stripes, representing prairie fields, two white mountains and a light blue sky stripe. (NDP)

Ironically, the people who could help push the NDP into 45 of the 87 seats needed (44, plus the speaker) may actually be Conservatives. But it is not a strategy without obstacles.

Dip your toes in the orange water

Orange and blue signs waved through the crowd as Notley declared, “Today we are joined by politically active Albertans from other progressive traditions” in her speech to just under 1,400 party members.

The NDP is betting there are some “light blue” Conservatives who feel politically homeless.

The Janet Brown Poll A public opinion poll from the summer shows that on a scale of 0 (far left) to 10 (far right), 31 percent of respondents identified as a five — dead center politically.

The job is to convince those people to “dip their toes in the NDP water,” said Cheryl Oates, who worked in Notley’s premier’s office and returned to help with the campaign.

Lou Arab, who organizes the party’s caucus and is also Notley’s partner, said since the 2019 election they’ve seen a 332 percent increase in the number of identified voters who are open to the NDP. He also said that in the 24 hours after Danielle Smith was elected UCP leader, his party raised $100,000.

Monday will also mark the launch of a new NDP advertising campaign, aimed in part at traditionally conservative voters who do not identify with the path the UCP is traveling under its new leader.

Rival parties have similar priorities, as Smith’s speech at the UCP convention (also on Saturday) addressed affordability and health care issues — albeit from a different angle.

That may be the only thing the two sides can agree on these days: the votes lie in a strong economic proposition.

Economy, economy, economy

By emphasizing economic issues, the NDP is trying to show unsuspecting voters that a progressive party can make legitimate offers on issues that the Conservatives tend to monopolize.

A recent survey by Navigator Ltd. shows Notley is starting to gain more Albertan confidence in the economy.

But building that trust takes time, and Notley was often tied to the 2015-2016 recession Alberta experienced due to falling oil prices.

The party has been meeting with business players and unveiling policy for years, but those proposals have struggled to get oxygen as Alberta’s focus is on the actions (and drama) of the ruling United Conservatives. Notley outlined what has been done so far, but says there is still work to be done on the economic fronts.

About 1,400 members attended the NDP’s annual convention Saturday where leader Rachel Notley outlined her party’s plan ahead of next year’s election. (NDP)

She has enlisted a prominent financial mind in the province to help, announcing that former ATB chief economist Todd Hirsch will consult on the NDP platform.

Perhaps the most obvious play to conservative voters this weekend was Notley’s display of federal tensions.

“I know Albertans are sometimes frustrated with our relationship with the federal government, and many times I share that frustration,” she told her supporters. “We have legitimate concerns about specific issues with Ottawa, like the fiscal stabilization formula and Bill C-69.”

She was quick to add that throwing tantrums and ignoring solutions is a dead end.

Battleground Calgary

Calgary has always been a fortress city for the old Tories, and now it’s Notley’s party capital. No wonder the NDP held their convention there.

The accepted electoral math in Alberta looks like this: There are three regions (Edmonton, Calgary and rural). You have to win two.

UKP will be dominant in rural areas. NDP likely to sweep Edmonton. Calgary will be a battleground, and the NDP knows it.

“While Calgarians are being kicked out by the UCP, we’re happy to welcome you back,” Notley told the crowd Saturday, foreshadowing Danielle Smith’s comments to the Calgary Sun.

The premier told the paper she is not trying to win every vote, and will focus on winning 41 seats outside of Edmonton and Calgary, while she only needs a handful in metropolitan areas to secure a majority.

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley revealed some of her party’s plans during their annual convention on Saturday. They will focus mainly on health care and economic measures as they take on the United Conservative Party in next spring’s election. (NDP)

There are 26 places in Calgary. In 2015, the NDP took 15. Today they hold three.

In the vacant Calgary-Elbow riding, which the NDP has never won, the party’s candidate, Samir Kayande, is running. His target is the same progressive-conservative party voters who elected former prime ministers Ralph Klein and Alison Redford to that position.

“That ‘P’ is very important,” Kayande said. “These are political homeless people.”

A balancing act

Getting those blue voters to choose orange is no easy feat.

In 2015, the NDP won the election by 13 percentage points, but in the next election, the united right defeated them by 22.

Many of those voters were motivated by the thought that Notley was untrustworthy in managing the economy and the energy sector.

It will probably take more than attractive economic messages to convince parts of those voters to give the NDP a second chance in government.

“We didn’t get it all right,” Notley admitted over the weekend. “I realize that and take responsibility for it.”

There’s also the risk of overextending yourself to chase those voters.

Most of the policy resolutions presented at the convention focused on social issues, education, labor and health care (bread and butter topics for NDP members).

In a room where mentions of health and public education were cheered the loudest, Notley will have to balance honoring the core concerns of his membership with delivering messages to the larger group.

The outcome at the far ends of the political spectrum in Alberta is already clear. Danielle Smith will take the far right side. Rachel Notley will lock down further left.

The real battle for Alberta will be decided by that fluid environment – light blue.


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