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As Labour’s McGowan Enters the Race, Nenshi Lands a Big Ally

Rakhi Pancholi folds her bid for Alberta NDP leader, lauding Nenshi’s ‘incredible accomplishment.’

David Climenhaga 27 Mar 2024Alberta Politics

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at Follow him on X @djclimenhaga.

Rakhi Pancholi, one of the most credible candidates to lead the Alberta NDP, has jumped aboard the Naheed Nenshi juggernaut.

“Recently, all Alberta NDP leadership candidates received an update on membership sales, marking the first such update since Naheed Nenshi entered the race,” Pancholi said in a public statement sent to media and published on her campaign website this morning.

“Those numbers show that, in the span of a week, Naheed has more than doubled the size of the Alberta NDP’s membership,” she said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment and invites so many more people into our movement.”

“Growing our party has always been and will continue to be my first priority,” she said. “Rather than compete with each other, I want to unite us behind our shared visions and mutual goals. So today, I am announcing that I will be ending my campaign to be leader of the Alberta NDP.”

This was not an easy decision, Pancholi said, thanking her family, members of her campaign team and other supporters.

But by bringing “tens of thousands” of Albertans into the Alberta NDP, she said, Nenshi has made it clearer than she could have that “if you are looking for pragmatic solutions and a compassionate government, the Alberta NDP is your home.”

To say Pancholi’s endorsement of Nenshi is a significant development would be understating it considerably. The NDP MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud has been an effective party spokesperson since her election in 2019 and had been pondering a run for the leadership for months.

She has run a good campaign and only days ago released a policy plank to protect and enhance public health care in Alberta that included ensuring fair and competitive pay for nurses, a new comprehensive funding model for physicians, and completing the South Edmonton Hospital and the Airdrie urgent care clinic, overdue major health care infrastructure projects all but abandoned by the United Conservative Party government.

She created some controversy when she started her campaign by advocating a formal split between the Alberta NDP and the federal party.

The attention generated by Nenshi’s campaign, which is evident to anyone who follows politics in Alberta, clearly made him the frontrunner the moment he announced his candidacy.

New candidate McGowan: ‘Not a coronation’

Gil McGowan said he will campaign on a platform of adopting government-led industrial policy in the style of leaders like the late premier Peter Lougheed and U.S. President Joe Biden.

“We need to learn the lessons of Lougheed and use government-led industrial policy to pivot our economy towards the future,” he said. “As premier I would follow Lougheed’s example and embrace government led industrial policy instead of the UCP’s failed trickle-down economics.”

960px version of GilMcGowanHeadshot.jpg
Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan launched his candidacy for leader of the Alberta NDP saying the party lost the last election because of ‘a hole’ in its coalition. ‘That missing piece is workers.’ Photo via AFL.

As McGowan sees it, the NDP lost in 2023 “because we didn’t attract enough workers. Fix that problem and we can fix this province.”

“Under Rachel Notley the NDP built a powerful coalition that almost won the last election, but that coalition has a hole in it. There was a missing piece, and that missing piece is workers.”

As a result of Pancholi’s announcement, McGowan had to expend energy responding to reporters’ questions about Nenshi, about whom he said: “Nenshi is popular. He’s a celebrity. But what he stands for is unclear.”

McGowan expressed his disappointment in Pancholi’s decision: “I don’t think this leadership race should be a coronation and I also fundamentally disagree with her that this is a done deal.”

He said the numbers provided by the party to candidates showed that membership had grown to about 30,000 from 16,000 since Nenshi entered the race.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Alberta

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