By Nick Kuhl
Rachel Notley thinks Lethbridge is ripe with New Democrat energy.
That’s one of the reasons the Alberta NDP leader spent the majority of her first two full days on the 2015 campaign trail with the city’s candidates and supporters, beginning with a rally Wednesday night.
“There’s a feeling of change in the air – Albertans want a new premier, and I’m here to tell you that I’m applying for the job, so we can deliver real results for families,” Notley told supporters.
“Families in this city want schools in their neighbourhoods and long term care for their aging parents. Lethbridge wants a government they can trust to deliver the things this community needs.”
With Shannon Phillips anticipated to be in a close race with incumbent Greg Weadick in Lethbridge West, and with Bridget Pastoor’s retirement opening a spot in Lethbridge East, where the NDP has Maria Fitzpatrick as a candidate, Notley believes the party can earn at least one seat here.
“Lethbridge is a very important community to us,” she said in an interview with The Herald on Thursday.
“We’ve been coming down here a lot more and paying a lot more attention to the issues that face the people of Lethbridge. The growth is really exciting and gives us great reason to be optimistic. We have a strong campaign across the city.”
With it status as a regional centre, its post-secondary institutions, a strong public sector, and the reliable agriculture industry, Lethbridge’s balanced and stable economy, Notley said, should be looked at in a brighter light.
“It’s a bit of a model, really, for what it looks like if you’re not riding a rollercoaster,” she said.
“The energy industry is strong here, for sure, but it’s not as big a part of the economy. There’s so much that southern Alberta has to offer to the province as a whole. With NDP representation, we can really highlight that.”
While in Lethbridge Thursday morning, Notley also unveiled her party’s first major platform item of the 2015 campaign. She said an NDP government, with a dedicated Job Creation Tax Credit, would help create 27,000 jobs by rewarding businesses that hire new employees in Alberta.
The plan would encourage new hiring by refunding 10 per cent of each new employee’s salary, to a maximum salary of $50,000.
“Albertans are concerned about their jobs, as they should be; we lost 14,000 jobs in February alone. Interestingly, Jim Prentice introduced a budget with no job creation component in it,” Notley said.
“People are worried about their livelihoods and being able to provide for their families, but Jim Prentice and the PCs are more interested in saving luxury golf courses than saving jobs. Our plan will provide real relief for families in tough times.”
Several provincial polls are indicating the 2015 election could be a close three-way race between the NDP, the PCs and the Wildrose. But Notley isn’t looking that far ahead yet.
“You don’t put too much in to them (the polls) at this point,” she said.
“What you do is you listen to what your volunteers are telling you, what your candidates are telling you, in terms of their efforts to talk to voters. That message coming back to us is certainly very encouraging. Every voter has a chance to vote for a genuine alternative to this government, in the form of the NDP.”