The Nenshi era begins; meanwhile, cops get political in Edmonton

The dust has settled: Rachel Notley’s time as leader of the Alberta NDP is over. We’re now in the Nenshi era.

Everyone understood that Naheed Nenshi was in the lead of the ANDP leadership race, but the scale of his victory might have still been a surprise.  Nenshi hit the party like the meteor hit the dinosaurs, securing an incredible 86% of all the votes. And not by sneaking across an uncontested field, either—over 85% of active party members cast a ballot.

Nenshi’s rivals were completely blown away. The second-place contestant, Kathleen Ganley, secured less than a tenth of his votes.

These dominant numbers are signs of both strength and weakness.

Electorally, they bode well for the ANDP in the next general election. If the math truly is Notley’s NDP plus all of the centre and centre-left voters who couldn’t bring themselves to align with the supposed left, that’s absolutely enough to retake the Legislature. Notably, far more members showed up to participate in this leadership race than Danielle Smith's.

But within the party itself, Nenshi’s unreal run up the scoreboard highlights serious internal weakness, both in the mundane terms of just turning voters out, and in the more conceptual space of values and policies.

You don’t just get to walk into a group that stands for something and take over on the basis of name recognition. But with the millstone of the Notley administration’s record—including public sector wage freezes, failures to deliver on labour rights, and spineless deference to the oil industry and the cops—around their necks, Nenshi’s rivals just couldn’t make a convincing argument that there was something to protect from him.

Still, it’s hard to argue against an opportunity to get rid of the Smith administration.

What’s really going to surprise the thousands of new Alberta NDP members coming in with Nenshi is how leftist the NDP actually isn’t. In all my years volunteering and working with the NDP, the only purity test I ever encountered was that you couldn’t say the word “Palestine.”

Naheed’s following the same course as Rachel, if his first social media post as party leader, a sop to the greenwashing ‘carbon capture’ scheme, is any indication.

When you get down to the details, Alberta’s NDP really is what it says on the tin: a slightly left of centre coalition that doesn’t want much more than reliable public services, a government that doesn’t look and act like fools, and a bit less of that old-time bigotry than the other guys. I think Naheed Nenshi and the friends he’s bringing with him will be right at home.

But let me tell you, I’d rather be in the timeline where Janis Irwin ran and won.

Cops’ anti-Sohi campaign in Edmonton escalates with new PAC

There is a coordinated, well-resourced project underway in Alberta’s capital city to ensure that conservatives retake council and the mayor’s chair in the next election. The UCP are in on it, the cops are in on it, and this month, a new piece was added to the board—a pro-police PAC called ‘Edmonton Forward.’

The conservative scheming to knock off Edmonton’s liberal, and former-Liberal, mayor Amarjeet Sohi has been at work for a while, but the conflict escalated big time this month as the Edmonton Police Service and Edmonton Police Commission sparred with Sohi in council meetings and the media.

Duncan wrote a comprehensive timeline of the whole conflict this week. In his analysis, a swing at Edmonton’s council has been a conservative goal ever since the present police chief, Dale McFee, was hired away from his gig as a deputy minister under the Saskatchewan Party back in 2019.

Since then, things have escalated so far that the Edmonton Police Commission, supposedly a civilian oversight body meant to keep the police in check, but stacked with police apologists and run by a UCP-appointed chair, is refusing meetings and information requests from city council with dubious legal justifications while the police chief they’re supposed to be supervising goes to bat for them in press conferences.

Into this heated political environment steps the newest player in the political advertiser or ‘PAC’ sphere, Edmonton Forward.

You expect pro-police propaganda to have a bit of fear-mongering, but Edmonton Forward really mongers it to 11. Here’s a little copy from their website:

“Thefts, violence, and social disorder are impacting Edmontonians. People fear for the safety of their loved ones; dread the shattered glass of their cars, and shudder at the possibility of becoming the next headline. This isn't paranoia—it's the grim reality.”

Abdul Abdi, a former Conservative political candidate and former police officer, is the group’s spokesperson. A LinkedIn post about the group’s launch event in May revealed a bit about who else is backing it—attendees included Mike Chadi, legal counsel to his family’s development company, Fourcha; Matthew Altheim, former campaign manager to Danielle Smith; developer Greg Christensen, presently in the news for a dodgy life-lease scheme targeting seniors; developer Paul Allard; David Young, a director at commercial landlord CBRE, who sits on the UCP-aligned Downtown Recovery Coalition; and Roman Rogatko, VP of commercial real estate lends Trez Capital.

The PAC’s first supporter-identification project appears to be a poll on LRT fare gates, an issue already being pushed by UCP-aligned councilor Tim Cartmell.

Electeds in Alberta need to understand that the police are not a politically neutral force. For generations, the owner class, conservative politicians, and the police have formed a tight axis in Alberta, and fear-mongering about public safety is one of the most effective arms in the conservative arsenal.

Edmonton’s city council may not be a socialist vanguard, but it’s at least a bit better than who’s run the city in the past—and who might run it again in the near future. Let’s hope that city councilors and the mayor  take notice of what’s being organized right under their noses.

(Cheers to my colleague Duncan for assisting me with files for this section.)


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