After 44 years of Progressive Conservative government, Albertans voted for change on Tuesday, electing Rachel Notley and 52 other New Democrat MLAs, including dozens of political rookies. The PCs, under Jim Prentice failed to even remain the Official Opposition, as Brian Jean and the Wild Rose Party claimed 21 ridings.
After 44 years of living under one political banner, the swing left on the political spectrum will certainly shake things up within the province and its bureaucracy, but it also raises all sorts of questions.
When it comes to agriculture, who will be agriculture minister? David Eggen, a teacher from Edmonton was the NDP ag critic, but there are dozens of other MLAs to choose from now, although none of them appear to have enough of an agricultural background to make them an obvious choice.
What does this mean for the meat packing industry in the province, having a government that supports stronger unions? And what about Keystone XL and pipeline development that could potentially ease pressure on the rail system?
Although it was thin on detail, there were a few mentions of agriculture and farm-related issues in the NDP platform:
- A pledge to review federal rail and transportation policies, and their effect on Alberta’s agricultural food producers, and advocate for reliable, sufficient, and fairly priced rail service to markets.
- A promise to strengthen landowners’ rights for fair compensation and due process in surface rights issues.
- An NDP government would stand up for farmers’ rights to save and sell their seed.
- A focus on working with small producers to eliminate barriers to local food production and marketing.
- An emphasis on diversifying the provincial economy, including value-added agriculture, food processing, alternative energy and small Alberta brewing.
Verlyn Olson, who had served as the province’s agriculture and rural development minister since 2012 and as the MLA for Wetaskiwin-Camrose since 2008, was among the election casualties, falling to the NDP’s Bruce Hinkley.