Alberta NDP to pick new leader in Edmonton

Alberta NDP MLA Brian Mason.
Alberta NDP MLA Brian Mason. Global News

EDMONTON – Alberta’s New Democrats have selected the province’s capital as the site to pick their new leader this fall.

A convention is to be held in Edmonton on Oct. 18-19, Brian Stokes, the party’s executive director, said in an interview Friday.

Stokes said details and deadlines on the race have been delegated to a committee that is to report back in a month.

He also said it will be the party’s first one-person, one-vote leadership contest. Previous contests were decided by delegates.

“We’ve modernized our leadership process,” said Stokes. “We want to make it as accessible as possible.”

There will also be a block vote for union affiliates, depending how many are signed up at the time, to a maximum of 20 per cent of the total, he said.

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The membership fee is as low as $1 but is open to whatever a member wants to pay. That will not change for the leadership race.

Stokes said the party is also looking at the feasibility of electronic voting.

“Our big issue that the committee is exploring is can we do online voting in a way that is cost effective but also very secure?” he said.

“But we also want to get as many people in person at the event as possible.”

Current leader Brian Mason announced Tuesday that he is stepping down from the top job once a new leader is picked.

Mason said a split between the Progressive Conservatives and the Wildrose party on the conservative side of the spectrum, coupled with organizational disarray for the Liberals, has opened a window of opportunity for his party.

But for the NDP to capture progressives “looking for a new home,” a fresh face is needed in the top job, he added.

No one has stepped forward yet.

House leader Rachel Notley said Friday she hasn’t made up her mind and wouldn’t even say if she’s considering a run.

“I’m not even thinking about it right now,” said Notley.

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The NDP leadership race is one of two taking place this fall.

The Progressive Conservatives are to pick someone to choose former premier Alison Redford, who resigned in March ahead of a caucus revolt over lavish spending and her imperious manner.

The party announced this week members will have the option of voting online, by phone and in person on Sept. 6. A runoff ballot, if necessary, is slated for Sept. 20.

Party executive director Kelley Charlebois said it was time to go online.

“We’ve looked at it in previous leadership races and had some concerns about the security of it and the maturity of the process,” said Charlebois.

“When we looked at it this go-round, we saw there have been great changes, even in the last few months, in the security.”

Even the in-person polling stations will tabulate votes electronically for quick turnaround of results, he said.

Charlebois said it’s a diverse province and the electronic option is crucial for those who have trouble getting to polling stations.

“We want to enable (supporters) to participate.”

One candidate has officially declared for the race — former municipal affairs minister Ken Hughes.

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Former Calgary MP and cabinet minister Jim Prentice has let it be known through intermediaries that he will run as well, but has not spoken publicly about his intentions.

A number of current cabinet ministers are mulling a run, including Doug Horner, Thomas Lukaszuk, Ric McIver, Diana McQueen and Jonathan Denis.

The Tories have set a $50,000 non-refundable entry fee. The race officially begins May 15 and candidates are to be introduced at an event in Edmonton on June 2.