ANDP membership growth provides a real opportunity to do mass politics

In order to defeat the UCP, the Alberta NDP are going to have to do something they’ve never really done in their life as a political party—engage in mass politics. While early signs from the leadership race are encouraging, they must be nurtured to grow a party that can defeat the UCP behemoth. 

The ANDP is the largest it’s ever been, with more than 85,000 members as of April 22, according to the party. The party membership rolls have more than quintupled from the start of 2024, when they had around 16,000 members. 

That’s real growth. For comparison’s sake, 3,589 total votes were cast in the last ANDP leadership race, which saw Rachel Notley win it in commanding fashion in 2014. 

This growth in the ANDP membership roll compares decently to the UCP, who say they sold nearly 124,000 memberships in 2022, with 84,492 of these members voting in their leadership race. A key difference is that race elected the province’s next premier, giving Albertans added incentive to join the governing party, while the ANDP are choosing the leader of the official opposition. 

Image from the 1932 Edmonton Hunger March, which was violently broken by Edmonton cops. 

Much has been made of the regional breakdown of the ANDP membership numbers Calgary MLA Kathleen Ganley’s leadership campaign leaked to the CBC, which has 46 per cent of party members living in Calgary. That’s a dramatic shift from the tiny Edmonton-centric rump party that the ANDP used to be. Kudos to the ANDP for recruiting two strong Calgary-based candidates to grow the party in that electorally key city. 

But there are concerning trends in these numbers.. There are 11 rural/smaller city ridings where fewer than 300 memberships were sold. Membership sales in the bedroom communities and ridings surrounding Calgary outpaced membership sales in the suburban ridings around Edmonton. In 2015, when the ANDP formed a majority government, the ANDP took all of those Edmonton bedroom communities. In 2023, they only secured two—Sherwood Park and St. Albert. 

That’s not great. Any road to victory for the ANDP involves winning seats outside of Edmonton and Calgary. The easiest place to do that is going to be in the so-called doughnut suburbs outside Edmonton. 

But 85,000 members is nothing to sneeze at. Whoever the next leader is needs to look upon this new party membership as an asset, instead of casting it aside once they win. Refusing to engage with newly activated members and returning to a tightly held, tightly controlled top-down party would mean repeating some of the same mistakes that led to ANDP losses in 2019 and 2023. 

People know things are bad. Wealth and power is concentrated in the hands of a tiny, unaccountable minority while most people work longer hours for less money, pay more money just to live and are struggling to make ends meet. 

Notley’s successor cannot simply leap to garden variety, pro-corporate liberalism as soon as the leadership race is over. They must tap into a powerful force outside of the usual structures, using the social power of a mass political movement to not only win the next election, but to meaningfully improve the lives of Albertans after they win. 

People need a reason to be excited for politics that isn’t just, “Danielle Smith/UCP bad,” or I’m “name of leadership candidate.” Winning a majority in Alberta against a unified conservative opponent is’nt easy; it won’t be won with timid half measures and personal charisma. 

While Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan’s campaign was unable to get to the finish line, he raised an important issue that the eventual winner needs to address: the party’s relationship with workers and the general shambolic state of class politics in the party.

The traditional party of labour needs to find more electoral support from workers, which is an important means  to breaking out of the big cities. The ANDP tent is getting bigger, but if its coalition doesn’t include the vast majority of people who work for a living, they’re cooked before they even get going.

Make it easier for workers to join a union. Enforce OHS rules again. Promise public sector workers wage increases that, at a minimum, keep up with inflation. Take the politics out of AIMCo governance and let the pension plans, not cabinet, appoint the majority of directors. Fight corporate power.

None of this can be done by fiat. It needs an actual mass political movement behind it for any of it to stick. If the ANDP want to win, they must continue to keep doing mass politics after the leadership race is over.


Chief Dale McFee on the problem of homelessness on March 26 while standing next to Danielle Smith and Jason Nixon: “The numbers aren’t as big as some have let us on to believe. The reality is they’re getting smaller everyday, that’s a win,” said McFee. According to data from Homeward Trust more people are homeless now in Edmonton than literally ever before

Terrible fact: Israeli weapons manufacturers will soon be using Alberta as a testing ground to market their latest weapons. Todd Pruner has a piece on this for Alberta Politics.

More terrible facts, according to an AFL-commissioned report by economist Jim Stanford:

  • Alberta is no longer the wage leader among Canadian provinces.
  • The real (after inflation) purchasing power of hourly wages in Alberta is down 5 per cent since 2018—for public sector workers it’s down as much as 10 per cent.
  • Even real wages in the “super-profitable” petroleum and mining sector are down.
  • Alberta has the slowest wage growth among all provinces but equally high inflation, causing unprecedented downward pressure on living standards.
  • The share of the Alberta economy going to labour compensation has dropped by eight percentage points while the share going to corporations has skyrocketed, something the report describes as a “perverse redistribution” of wealth.
  • The cost of living in Calgary and Edmonton is among the highest of any city in Canada (and higher than Toronto).
  • Despite the government’s “pro-business” rhetoric, over the past five years, Alberta has also had dramatically lower rates of economic growth, productivity growth and business investment growth than the Canadian average.

If you made it this far and you live in Edmonton you’re also invited to a live podcast recording with the front half featuring political and media criticism between myself, Emma Jackson and Progress Report staff writer Jeremy Appel. For the back half of the show I will be talking with students who organized and took part in the U of A anti-genocide protest encampment. Please email me at [email protected] to RSVP and get the address. 

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