EDMONTON- When the calendar turned to 2015, Rachel Notley was the newly minted leader of the Alberta NDP. The party was fourth in the legislature with just four MLAs. One year later, even she admits she had no illusions that she would become premier.
“I can say quite definitively, at that point, no,” Notley told Global News during a year-end interview.
On May 5, the NDP swept the 44-year-old PC dynasty out of power, winning a majority government.
“There was one poll, I can’t even remember which one it is now; but for whatever reason, I remember looking at it late night in my hotel room and going oh my lord, we are going to win.”
Since forming government, Premier Notley has taken steps to quickly implement a number of promises made during the campaign. She’s put the province on a path to a $15 per hour minimum wage by 2018, the corporate tax rate was increased from 10 to 12 percent, and higher income Albertans will be paying higher taxes with the introduction of a progressive system.
The government completed a climate change review; a new economy-wide carbon tax will take effect in 2017, and coal power emissions will be phased out by 2030. Early in the new year, the NDP will release the results of its royalty review, with any planned changes also scheduled to take effect next year.
All of these changes come at a time of tremendous economic uncertainty in Alberta. The price of oil has fallen to below $40 U.S. per barrel, blasting a big hole in the province’s finances, and leaving thousands of Albertans out of work.
“We’re hopeful that eventually we’ll come out of this and that the economy will pick up,” Notley said when asked if there’s much reason for optimism in 2016. “In the meantime we’ll also work on diversification efforts to help transition those Albertans into other economic activities.”
The new government faced its first major pushback with the introduction of Bill 6, which mandated Workers Compensation Board coverage and Occupational Health and Safety standards on Alberta farms and ranches. Farmers opposed to the move staged large rallies across the province, angry they weren’t consulted before the bill was introduced and fearful the new rules would end their way of life.
“We allowed a situation to exist where farmers were rightly worried that this legislation was going to do much more than we had intended,” Notley admitted.
In the face of public pressure, the NDP introduced an amendment to the bill to make it clear that the new rules would only apply to paid workers, not to family members or friends helping out.
© 2016 Shaw Media