NDP Leadership Race and UCP Leadership Review – #ABInisghts from Crestview Strategy

Evan Menzies

Evan Menzies


Evan Menzies is a Vice President with Crestview Strategy based in Calgary.

Evan Menzies is a Vice President with Crestview Strategy based in Calgary.

The Alberta political calendar is set to heat up now that MLAs have signed off from their desks in Edmonton for the Summer and all eyes are now on two important votes being held by Alberta’s two main political parties in June and later this Fall. 

It’s on June 22 when the Alberta NDP will reveal their new leader and during the Fall (likely in November) when Premier Danielle Smith will need to pass an important leadership review vote to secure her grip on the United Conservatives looking ahead to the 2027 election. 

Let’s begin with the Alberta NDP leadership race.  

The party that was just two MLAs representing the core of Edmonton in 2008 has ballooned to 38 MLAs and with it a growing constituency of support in Calgary, the vote rich and competitive battleground that will determine the next election. A report by the CBC (officially disputed by the Alberta NDP) suggests the party has swelled to more than 85,000 members, with 46 per cent of members heralding from Calgary.  

These numbers – if true – are undoubtedly good news for newly converted New Democrat and former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi who drew national headlines when he entered the race. Calgary-based leadership candidate Kathleen Ganley, first elected under Rachel Notley’s mandate in 2015, is also spinning it as good news.  

While most believe that we’re heading to a Nenshi coronation, it’s worth noting the Alberta NDP’s significant organizational strength and the complete shift in Alberta’s political dynamics that these numbers indicate. 

The Alberta NDP raised $1 million in just the first quarter of this year. While they gave up the fundraising crown in 2024 (so far) to the Alberta UCP who pulled in an impressive $2.3 million, that number collected with a leader ready to exit is nearly the same amount the federal NDP under Jagmeet Singh raised between January and March.  

It’s unquestionable at this point that the Alberta NDP and its provincial affiliates in the governing BC NDP next door represents the very best of the national NDP movement when it comes to its organization and should be the envy of any provincial opposition party in the country. 

Which brings into view the importance of the Alberta UCP leadership review date pegged for this Fall. The new leader for the NDP will come with a wave of positive news coverage, with an even bigger glow of national profile if it is a Nenshi victory.  

The contrast between the Alberta NDP on the move and the Alberta premier navigating the always turbulent waters of internal conservative politics in the province will be too juicy for much of the press to pass up for several weeks. Will a narrative of Premier Smith on defense begin to take hold? 

Polling released in the CBC this past week shows that among the Alberta conservative heartland, Premier Smith has an enthusiastic “floor” of support, with 35 per cent of Albertans very impressed with her performance – while the party has maintained the support it received in the last election.  

She’s hitting the right notes for conservative supporters on many of the big economic policies and proudly waving the Alberta flag in fights with Ottawa.  

But leadership reviews are a funny business and a question around turnout and who shows up to vote will be top of mind. The makeup of the UCP conventions has undoubtedly changed with numbers growing to record numbers at the last convention to help celebrate the recent election victory.  

Longtime Calgary Herald political columnist Don Braid raised some spectre of growing discontent inside the tent over how the government managed its agenda during the Spring session, specifically on Bill 20 which led to massive pushback from municipalities impacted.  

It’s those type of press clippings that will give the premier’s office and her supporters headaches over the coming months.  

Being around my share of internal conservative leadership politics, I’d advise the premier to avoid the noise. She is a rock star to her strongest supporters. Lead with confidence and on your toes and be careful about falling back on your heels and playing too much defense.  

And if there has been any friction internally, getting outside of the dome at the legislature building and having MLAs put their feet on grass back with their constituents throughout the Summer will likely do a great deal of help.  

So, with the Spring legislature wrapped, start your engines political watchers! The first phase of the post-2023 election environment in Alberta will soon be drawing to a close. The next phase will determine wither or not the Alberta NDP can move on from nursing its wounds from its election loss and if the Alberta UCP and Premier Danielle Smith can find stability to govern through the rest of its mandate.

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