The NDP’s amazing win in Alberta – suggested reading for after the hangover

Rachel Notley - best NDP leader everI have only the highest praise for everyone who put Rachel Notley and the Alberta NDP in power over the last months – indeed years. They are some exceptionally talented intelligent and hard-working people. And everyone’s euphoria is absolutely warranted. So I feel like a miserable, cynical shit for writing what I am about to write. But here goes.

The last time I felt this much excitement about a provincial election was when Bob Rae’s NDP won in Ontario in 1990. That too was a history-made, miraculous, unprecedented event. Called for comment by a student journalist, I quipped (the official spokesperson for the Ontario Federation of Students hadn’t come in from the after party yet) “Yeah we’re packing up and disbanding. Our work here is done.”

But two years later, university tuition fees had marched merrily upwards and Ontario had done away with the grant portion of its student assistance program. Every open-road-roving freedom loving Ontarian was up in arms over photo radar, and some Tory operative made a trip up to North Bay to tell Mike Harris to put his golf clubs away because the party had other plans.

After working so hard to get to that day in 1990, it must have been inconceivable to party candidates, staff and stalwarts at all levels that their work had only just begun and that the political battles they faced were just the warmup routine.

But that’s precisely what I think we all discovered – the high intensity intervals were just beginning. (Sorry for the bike training metaphor – it was inevitable, but we’re past it now).

I’m going to guess the ANDP folks remember this history and probably take some comfort in knowing that for better or for worse, Alberta is not Ontario. I personally take some comfort in the feeling that there are geniuses in Alberta backing a truly inspiring leader and no doubt some truly inspiring leaders-to-be.

But for the record and for the benefit of anyone who doesn’t remember the Bob Rae government but would like to learn the lessons anyway, I recommend:

  • Giving Away A Miracle, Wayne Roberts and George Ehring An exhaustive (and at times exhausting) read that goes into great detail about all the Rae government’s missteps, but mostly focuses on their ideological shortcomings and how that played right into the hands of the forces of capitalism arrayed against them. Frankly in serious need of an editor, but a richer trove of facts and information than the next book. Copies may prove hard to find. Contact me if you want to borrow mine.
  • Rae Days, Thomas Walkom. A very succinct, much better written assessment of Bob Rae’s stint as premier. Not quite the same amount of left wing indignation at the “sell out” but probably a better bet if you only have time to read one book. Amazon sells it, if you do Amazon.