Singh makes his case to Alberta’s new NDP leader amid party separation talks

But Nenshi intends to ask party members if they want to separate from the federal party
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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh asks a question during question period in House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Breaking up the federal and provincial arms of the New Democratic Party would be a mistake, federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh suggested on Thursday, as members in Alberta increasingly vocalize their desire for a separation.

Singh said the federal and Alberta NDP need to remain united in their goals to bring down conservatives.

“We are united in our goals to take on conservatives, to bring forward a clear vision for a government that works for people,” Singh said in Toronto.

“And the best way we achieve that goal is by being united.”

It’s a message he said he delivered in a conversation this week with Alberta’s new NDP leader, Naheed Nenshi, who took over the helm of the Alberta party from Rachel Notley earlier this week.

But Nenshi intends to ask party members if they want to separate from the federal party, an issue he had campaigned on during the leadership race.

Party constitutions dictate that members of a provincial NDP are automatically members of the federal party. But the link has caused headaches for the Alberta NDP and Nenshi is not backing away from his pledge to address it.

“You know me, I don’t wait on things,” Nenshi said on Monday during his first press conferencing following his win.

“But really the issue on this one for me is simply that the members are really talking about it. I hear it every day and the way I like to lead is that I don’t like things that are bubbling under the surface.”

He plans to bring up the issue with members “as soon as possible” while conceding that it will ultimately be up to members to decide whether or not to divorce, despite his opinion.

“There’s no point in dilly-dallying about it,” Nenshi said. “I promise that I will put in a transparent process for the members to make the decision once and for all.”

The NDP in both Alberta and Saskatchewan NDP have for years now tried to distance themselves from federal policies around oil and gas, and the carbon price. Notley and Singh have publicly feuded in the past, particularly over the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which Singh publicly opposed. The pipeline was critical to Notley’s political fortunes in Alberta.

Singh is heavily criticized in the Prairies for propping up the Liberal government through their confidence-and-supply-agreement, and is blamed for helping keep Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in power.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe both often draw links between their NDP opponents provincially, and Trudeau’s decisions in Ottawa, many of which have been backed by Singh and the federal NDP. Smith and Moe contend Trudeau is overstepping into provincial jurisdiction including in health care, energy and the environment.

Smith’s United Conservative Party launched a campaign following Nenshi’s win on Sunday after the former Calgary mayor, who doesn’t have deep roots within the New Democrats, captured 86 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

Albertans will see a series of ads on television, radio, and online platforms “starkly contrasting the tax-and-spend record of Nenshi with the common-sense leadership of Smith,” the UCP said in a statement Thursday.

“We’ve had enough of Trudeau in Ottawa, we don’t need one in Alberta,” a slogan on their recent ad says.

“Naheed Nenshi, Trudeau’s choice for Alberta.”

Mickey Djuric, The Canadian Press