It is widely considered the “home turf” of Alberta’s New Democrats and is the region that helped propel the party into its first majority government, toppling nearly half a century of PC reign. Now, after the capital city of historically right-wing Alberta traded in their blue flags for orange in May’s provincial election, many across the country are asking whether or not that momentum could potentially carry over federally. To further explore this possibility, Global has gone to the epicenter of the orange wave to ask: could Edmonton be the catalyst that results in a federal NDP government?
While the New Democrats first built a strong political base in Edmonton in the 1980s, it is important to consider that the city’s federal representatives have consistently remained Conservative. Since 2008, the only non-Conservative MP to hail from Alberta has been Linda Duncan, the NDP MP from Edmonton Strathcona. The riding, which is currently being defended by Duncan, is made up of many of the same voters represented provincially by Premier Rachel Notley, who won the provincial riding of the same name by the largest margin of any MLA. While history tells us that how Edmontonians vote provincially does not necessarily impact how they vote federally, the undeniable momentum of the left vote in the city cannot be identified as a uniquely provincial movement.
The New Democrats are the only party to match the Conservatives with candidates in all 34 of Alberta’s ridings for the coming election. That said, the Conservatives have many incumbents seeking re-election for the eight Edmonton seats up for grabs, and are still the defending champions in the federal ring. A briefing of some key Edmonton ridings to focus on moving forward is as follows:
This riding is largely considered to be up for grabs, as Conservative incumbent Laurie Hawn has retired and will not seek re-election. Stepping in for the Conservatives is James Cumming, the former President & CEO of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce. Cumming is up against staunch competition from both the Liberals and New Democrats; Randy Boissonnault is running for the Grits, and has garnered momentum in one of Edmonton’s premier urban ridings through his philanthropic résumé and role as a community leader. The NDP have brought forward a big name in Gil McGowan, who serves as the President of the Alberta Federation of Labour. When discussing exactly how the federal dynamic may have shifted in Edmonton, this riding should be a focal point and will provide a great deal of insight come Election Day.
Edmonton Mill Woods
Veteran Conservative MP Tim Uppal moved from Edmonton-Sherwood Park to Edmonton Mill Woods as part of the federal riding re-distribution, and is facing off against Liberal candidate and Edmonton City Councilor Amarjeet Sohi. A former bus driver, Sohi has been a highly-popular councilor at the municipal level since 2004. The incumbent Uppal has served as an MP since 2008, during which time he served as the Minister of State (Democratic Reform) and the Minister of State (Multiculturalism). The New Democrat candidate Jasvir Deol is a small business owner and does not have experience holding public office.
As previously mentioned, the riding of Edmonton Strathcona has been where the New Democrats have found recent success both federally and provincially. Federally, Linda Duncan is seeking her third term in Ottawa. She will be up against Conservative candidate Len Thom, a lawyer with deep roots amongst the provincial PCs. The Liberals have also brought forth a lawyer by trade, Eleanor Olszewski, to run as their candidate in this riding.
Former PC MLA Matt Jeneroux is trying his hand for the federal Conservatives this election, after being defeated by the NDP sweep of Edmonton’s 21 provincial ridings. Jeneroux is banking on his familiarity within the region and reputation amongst voters, feeling that the momentum generated by the NDP provincially will not be repeated by the federal party in October. Brian Fleck is up against Jeneroux for the NDP, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta.
As Election Day is just over a month away, Edmonton could once again serve as a launching pad for drastic change. One interesting aspect is the dynamic between Premier Rachel Notley and NDP Leader Tom Mulcair. While Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman was present at Mulcair’s recent appearance in Edmonton, Notley remains at a distance. This is not to suggest that the Mulcair team is not attempting to leverage the foundation of New Democrat support, but that Notley has attempted as a strategic decision to focus on Albertan issues rather than concern herself with canvassing for the federal party.