Dozens of people packed into La Crema Caffe in downtown St. Albert to meet Rachel Notley on Friday.
The excited crowd greeted Notley, the NDP leader, with applause at lunchtime. Notley’s visit was the first official party leader visit of this provincial election campaign that the Gazette is aware of.
Notley, flanked by St. Albert candidate Marie Renaud and Spruce Grove-St. Albert candidate Trevor Horne, addressed her audience.
“We’ve got a clear choice in this election. We can ask those who’ve done very well and profited off of the prosperity that we have in this province to pay just a little bit more so we protect our health care, we can get rid of those waiting times that we have at the Sturgeon Hospital … and we can make sure that those 12,000 kids who start school in September actually get a few teachers hired to teach them,” Notley said, urging voters to not repeat history but rather make it.
In a brief interview with the Gazette, Notley said the comparisons of her campaign to Jack Layton’s 2011 federal NDP campaign are exciting.
“That was a campaign that had tremendous hope, tremendous optimism, it was a vote for something and that’s what I hope we can do here,” Notley said.
The NDP proposes to reverse the cut to health care, she said, and over the course of four years build another 2,000 long-term care beds.
“What we’ve been saying is that the Tory claim that you can take a billion dollars out of health care and not have it hurt the front line is simply not believable. We know that the quality of health care has not been meeting the standards that Albertans should be able to expect,” Notley said.
She said the four new schools for St. Albert announced by the Progressive Conservatives would be built, adding the NDP has “embraced the funding envelope” put forward by that party.
Those efforts, and other infrastructure priorities like roads, would be part of an infrastructure priority list that Notley said would be transparent and have clear criteria to avoid political considerations interfering with them.
Wildrose candidate Shelley Biermanski was at the NDP gathering, hoping to ask Notley a question.
She wasn’t given the opportunity to – NDP candidate Renaud said Notley wasn’t taking any questions – but Biermanski told the Gazette she’d wanted to ask about progressive taxation.
“I just wanted to know if she sees St. Albert as a piggy bank,” Biermanski said.
Len Bracko, the former Liberal MLA for St. Albert, was on hand to see Notley speak.
“It looks like a minority government,” Bracko said, adding he’s looking at all the parties.
Bracko said St. Albert needs to be able to work with any of the parties.
He pointed out that no one has lasted more than two terms in St. Albert in the past 40 years.
“St. Albert is the toughest riding in Alberta,” Bracko said.
Brent Andressen, an NDP party member from St. Albert, came out to see Notley on Friday.
“I think Rachel Notley has a really good platform and the potential to renew provincial politics,” Andressen said.
With the NDP surging in the polls, it appears there are some new supporters.
“I think people are more open to the platform and considering it than they have been in the past,” Andressen said.