Cheering crowds to furious farmers: Some key events in Alberta NDP’s 1st year

A rally opposing Bill 6 at the Alberta Legislature on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015.
A rally opposing Bill 6 at the Alberta Legislature on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015. Global News

EDMONTON – Rachel Notley’s New Democrats became the first NDP government in Alberta when they won a majority last May 5 in the provincial election.

READ MORE: Orange crush: Rachel Notley’s NDP stomps out 44-year PC dynasty 

The victory ended a run of Progressive Conservative governments stretching back to 1971. Tory leader and premier Jim Prentice quit public life altogether in his concession speech.

READ MORE: Alberta PC Leader Jim Prentice resigns after winning seat in Calgary-Foothills 

Here are some key events for the NDP government in the year since the election:

May 22: Member of the legislature Deborah Drever is suspended from caucus after social media posts surface containing violent sexual imagery and a homophobic slur.

Drever is among a cast of students, newbies and young ambitious leaders who won seats for the NDP and who will bring change to the chamber.

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READ MORE: New kids on the block: Alberta’s NDP government a diverse bunch 

Within a year, Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean is answering questions in the house while carrying her newborn.

May 24: Notley and her government are sworn in on the sun-dappled steps of the legislature to the cheers of thousands.

Notley introduces a lean cabinet of 12 ministers. That number will grow to 19 within nine months.

The NDP wrongly advertises the swearing in as a party fundraiser, the first of several missteps confusing party events with government ones.

June 15: The NDP begins remaking Alberta’s political and economic landscape in its first legislature sitting by increasing taxes on higher-income earners, raising the corporate tax and banning political donations by corporations and unions.

READ MORE: Alberta passes bill banning corporate and union donations 

Sept 3: The honeymoon is over for the NDP in Calgary, where it made unprecedented breakthroughs in the general election.

A Wildrose party candidate wins a byelection to replace Prentice.

About six months later, in another Calgary byelection, another Tory wins to replace Conservative Manmeet Bhullar, who died in a car crash.

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Oct 27: The NDP brings in its first budget as a prolonged slump in oil prices continues to hammer Alberta’s bottom line. Finance Minister Joe Ceci says infrastructure spending will be ramped up, despite the slump and a $6.1-billion deficit.

READ MORE: ‘This is not the budget that Alberta needed’: Albertans weigh in 

The government passes legislation to keep spending within 15 per cent of GDP, but months later removes the ceiling as borrowing grows.

Nov 22: Notley and Environment Minister Shannon Phillips introduce a climate-change plan to erase Alberta’s reputation for “dirty oil.” They also say it will give the province credibility when asking for new fossil-fuel infrastructure such as pipelines.

The plan includes a broad-based carbon tax, caps on oilsands emissions and phase-out of coal-fired electricity.

Dec 10: Despite vocal public backlash, the NDP passes a farm safety bill that gives compensation benefits to paid farm workers and puts them under health-and-safety rules.

Opponents fear the red tape will destroy the viability of farm operations and kill the family farm.

READ MORE: ‘Rachel Notley has to go!’ Hundreds rally outside Alberta legislature 

Protest rallies on the legislature steps are accompanied by anger, threats and hate directed toward Notley and others in her caucus.

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Jan 29, 2016: Notley announces that a royalty rate review has determined that what the government collects from oilsands operations is fair and will remain in place. It’s a surprising decision, since the NDP in opposition railed against the PC government for giving away its black gold resources at fire-sale prices. Notley says the industry has changed.

March 9: The spring legislature session opens to what the Opposition Wildrose calls “a gong show.” The NDP caucus pushes past pages to take part in what would have been an illegal vote. It’s one example of the NDP and new Speaker Bob Wanner learning the ropes.

NDP member Michael Connolly flips the middle finger to the Wildrose in debate, but denies it until caught red-handed.

PC interim leader Ric McIver is tossed out of the house after accusing Wanner of prejudging a decision against him.

April 14: Finance Minister Joe Ceci announces a 2016-17 budget with a $10.4-billion deficit and forecasts another $10.1 billion deficit the year after. Total debt of almost $58 billion expected by 2019. There is no plan to balance the books before 2024.

READ MORE: Alberta budget 20126: Winners and losers 

Notley says later that despite low oil prices, the province needs to move ahead to restructure, diversify and green the economy and get off the oil price roller-coaster.

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April 24: Notley pitches the need for more pipelines to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet during a federal retreat in Kananaskis, Alta.

Pipelines have become Notley’s idee fixe. She has spent her first year stumping relentlessly on the need for a line to the coast to get better prices abroad. She says given Alberta’s critical role in the country’s economy, the province needs Canada’s help.