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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Notley's Quisling New Year

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley winds up 2020 by asking for everyone "to come to the table" to help craft the NDP economic recovery program...including the hard right Fraser Institute.

Rachel Notley at a press conference, November 30 (screenshot)

Buoyed presumably by approval ratings and polls that show that the Alberta NDP is making something of a comeback, former NDP Premier Rachel Notley wants even the hard right to know that they too are welcome to help frame her agenda.

Notley, of course, won one of the great upset victories in Canadian political history in 2015 when she ended decades of Progressive Conservative rule in the province. Having campaigned on a platform that she never expected to have any chance of implementing she did make some concrete promises (a mistake she will not make again to be sure) that she felt she had to keep such as raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, an objectively good thing, especially at the time.

But Notley and Alberta's NDP government also shifted right in ways that fundamentally challenged the notion that there is any validity at all to electing "social democratic" governments aside from the old lesser evil argument that the alternative is worse.

Notley began her tenure by on her very first day in office going out of her way to strike an explicitly collaborationist and conciliatory tone with the business community and the energy sector.
"I'm going to be making phone calls today to leaders within the energy industry to begin those conversations. They can count on us to work collaboratively with them. I'm hopeful that over the course of the next two weeks they will come to realize that things are going to be just A-OK over here in Alberta."
Would the NDP government favour unions and workers over capital and big business? Of course not! Hence when "asked about the close relationship the NDP traditionally has with unions, Notley said there will be no fear or favour shown" because "my job is to represent all Albertans". To make sure there could be no misunderstanding she went on to say "there's no question that there's common cause on many issues with union leaders, but there's also common cause on many issues with business leaders. That's the kind of approach I'm going to take with governance."

She did far worse than that seemingly "equal partners" approach.

Notley's government became a poisoned chalice for the NDP and Canadian social democracy by embracing many of the very worst narratives of the anti-environmental, colonial petrostate.

In her time in office Notley framed the colonialist "rule of law" narrative in ways indistinguishable from the corporations and the right, she was so determined to see the Trans Mountain pipeline built that she actually barred any of the members or staff of her government from helping the BC NDP win the BC provincial in 2017, when the newly elected BC NDP government objected to Trans Mountain she tried to bully B.C. by threatening transfer payments or proposing legislation to try to blockade B.C's oil and gas supplies, and she made pro-energy sector speeches that were so reactionary they even drew praise from United Conservative Party MLA Ric McIver who said "She sounded a lot more like Jason Kenney or like a UCP member when she got the applause".

Even after losing power the NDP needed to make sure they were still seen as stalwart police agents of the petrostate. Thus:

She wants the applause of the right again it seems.

To end the year the Alberta NDP leader now says she is seeking everyone's input on the NDP's potential plan for "economic recovery" including even institutions and a governing party that are widely acknowledged as hard right.

We’re asking people to participate. We want the Fraser Institute to come to the table and give us a paper and tell us what they think, and have all Albertans have the chance to engage, so we can really have a thoughtful conversation about our future.
We’re inviting people from across the political spectrum to participate in this process, because we absolutely must have this kind of collective conversation.
If you are a member of the UCP, if you are a member of UCP caucus, even if you work for the UCP, by all means, log on and offer up your opinions.

Supporters of this type of Quisling approach or sycophantic apologists for the NDP will try to claim she is simply making a show of being "democratic" or that she has to "govern for everyone".

In practice, as any leftist should know, that actually means she is explicitly signaling that she has absolutely no intention of governing from the left or on behalf of the working class just as she did on her very first day in "power' in 2015.

One thing you have to grant the right is that they don't engage in this type of self-defeating ritual because they are actually committed to their agenda. North American progressives are only committed to "winning" elections and then finding excuses to also implement a slightly less aggressive version of the right's agenda.

Once already Notley squandered an historic opportunity to truly change the Canadian and Albertan political landscape in a dreary and failed attempt to cling to office by shedding principle.

She is making it clear to international capital that she will do it again for another chance to be the petrostate premier.

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