Looking back on 2022, NDP Leader Rachel Notley sees little to celebrate in a year marked by an affordability crisis, continued spread of Covid, and strain on the health-care system.

“We’ve seen just heartbreaking, after heartbreaking, after heartbreaking stories coming out of people that desperately need our health-care system to work better, and to be capable of handling the growing number of emergencies that are confronting it,” she said in a year-end interview with AB Today.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about highlights when I know most people are really struggling,” Notley added.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley‘s appeal to “mainstream” Albertans who may feel alienated by the UCP is that her party offers a stable alternative. (Facebook/Rachel Notley)

While last year brought a new leader of the UCP, Notley said she sees little difference between former premier Jason Kenney and Premier Danielle Smith in the material ways that impact people’s lives.

“This is a government as a whole that has been religiously focused on things that for the most part don’t matter to Albertans,” Notley said. “And they have been distracted from that by being focused on their internal conflict. And neither of those things will change under Danielle Smith.”

In 2023, she is looking to get back into the premier’s office for a second shot at government.

Her appeal to “mainstream” Albertans who may feel alienated by the UCP is that the NDP offers a stable alternative.

“There is a pragmatic choice that they can make that will be utterly dedicated to fixing our health care, and dedicated to addressing affordability issues in a competent, thoughtful way, and ensuring stable and predictable leadership that allows Albertans to get on with the job of rebuilding our economy,” she said.

The party entered 2023 with about three quarters of its candidates chosen. Since 2020, the Opposition has been shaping its “Alberta’s Future” initiative, which forms the basis of an election platform.

Notley emphasized the importance of diversifying the economy. To that end, the NDP has hired former chief economist of ATB Financial Todd Hirsch to come up with a plan.

Notley said oil and gas can still play a role as hydrogen develops.

There’s also another energy source she has opened her mind to recently — nuclear. She said she is still waiting for evidence of the environmental and economic case for nuclear power, but that it was actually people connected to the environmental movement who gave her reason to give it another look.

“Folks very much connected with the environmental movement, that I wouldn’t have expected, are now saying, ‘You know what, I want you to take a look at this,’” she said.

No push to slow down carbon price increases

Notley said she hasn’t been speaking with leaders at the federal level about holding off on a carbon price increase because most people get a rebate back of more than they paid.

“We also hear from industry that as they’re looking to make long-term investments in emissions reduction, they need to see carbon price stability, because they’re making their investments on the basis of that,” Notley said.

“The more it becomes a political football, the less likely [it gets] we’re going to get the very behaviour that will engage in the job-creating investments towards emissions reduction.”

An end to double-breasted employers

When the NDP formed government in 2015, they brought in sweeping labour changes.

But, Notley said, they left unfinished business.

She pledged to end double-breasting in the workplace if re-elected. The practice allows both unionized and non-union workers to be employed in different branches of the same company.

“It’s a very complicated issue to fix,” Notley said. “It’s not as simple as just going into the code and banning it. And so we are looking forward to being able to work with experts on the more subtle approaches to making sure that we get that outcome.”

Looking back on when the NDP came to power, Notley recalled there was a recession in the province and the party was focused on other labour reforms.

“Now, there’s a shortage of people in construction,” she said. “And so the market is better positioned now to support that move. Quite honestly, we are literally losing a trained construction workforce to other provinces that don’t have these kinds of loopholes in their code. So we need to find a way to keep folks here and provide a competitive set of benefits to those working people that we need.”