BANFF – Working towards 2023, the NDP Banff-Kananaskis constituency association held its annual general meeting to begin building momentum for the next election.
During the meeting on Jan. 27 at the YWCA Banff, 2019 campaign manager and long-term valley resident Stephen Legault was elected as the association's new president.
“Pretty much everything that we have been doing over the last couple of years has been setting a new high bar for involvement in the Banff-Kananaskis NDP,” Legault said.
“The riding of Banff-Kananaskis is showing how deeply engaged it is in progressive politics in the province of Alberta.”
Marcella Campbell was elected treasurer, Anne Wilson was elected secretary and Bob Miller, Steve Wesley, Aurora Borin, Margarette Moarbell, Naia Noyes-West and Ericson Dizon were elected as members at large at the meeting.
The goal now, Legault added, is to build on the energy that has been growing in the constituency to help ensure the party can potentially win the next provincial election.
In an effort to hit the ground running NDP members were door-knocking in Banff on Tuesday (Jan. 28) with NDP Leader Rachel Notley and MLAs from across the province in tow. The canvasing served as an opportunity to connect with locals in the area and learn what matters to constituents so they can build up from the party’s established base, Legault said.
He added the NDP party was able to increase its vote count by several thousand in the Banff-Kananaskis constituency in comparison to the 2015 election, but it was not enough to defeat the combined Conservative Party and Wild Rose Party voters who cast their ballots for the United Conservative Party (UCP).
The NDP lost by about 1,500 votes in Banff-Kananaskis – a number that is not “insurmountable” to rise above in the next election, he added.
“I’m confident that we have a team put in place and that we will have a candidate that can make up that gap and help make sure Banff-Kananaskis is represented through a progressive vision and a forward-looking vision for the province,” Legault said.
The constituency association is carefully pacing itself and planning in the lead up to the next election, he said, explaining that it will spend the next few years refining ideas and a strategic plan in a way that can potentially set the next candidate up for success.
“Those keys things are listening carefully to the people of the riding, from Springbank to Millarville to Lake Louise,” he said. “There’s a very different set of circumstances – what we try to do with the election of our constituency association is make sure that we have good representation from all parts of the riding.”
Legault added it is an incredibly diverse riding and the party will be working to engage with the Stoney Nakoda and Tsuu T’ina First Nations, which make up more than 10 per cent of the riding population.
“Our goal is to spend the next year or two really focusing on making sure that we spend time in every single one of these communities to understand better what it is that they need in order to ensure that they have successful and prosperous and healthy lifestyles,” Legault said.
Former Banff-Cochrane MLA Cam Westhead highlighted that the annual general meeting saw the largest turn out he has seen with a crowd of more than 40 people in attendance.
“I was really enthusiastic to see the large turnout— People still have a desire for a strong progressive voice in Banff-Kananaskis,” Westhead said. “I get the sense that people are feeling that our current MLA [UCP member Miranda Rosin] is not doing a good job of representing them.”
It was important to see this engagement, Westhead said because the party is working on building momentum.
He added he suspects people are feeling remorse after seeing the United Conservative Party take power and introduce regressive policies that affect everyday Albertans.
One of the key concerns he said has been the rollbacks and lay offs in the health care sector that will especially affect rural areas like the Bow Valley.
“We’re seeing that the UCP’s policies are not resonating with people, in the Bow Valley especially,” Westhead said. “The UCP has done things like increase the price of electricity, car insurance, they’re taken away really important programs like energy efficiency programs that were very popular. People seem to have a real appetite for progressive representation."