Rachel Notley and the Wonder Women

Anyone who thinks women are too emotional and unpredictable for a life in politics hasn’t met Rachel Notley and the Wonder Women.

Ms Soapbox had the pleasure of meeting some of the Wonder Women this weekend at the NDP Convention.

They’re smart and have a wicked sense of humour.  When Finance Minister Joe Ceci told Environment Minister Shannon Phillips he enjoyed watching her take apart the Wildrose Opposition when they attacked the carbon levy, Ms Phillips replied “Actually I’m a nice person.”

And she is.


Environment Minister Phillips

She’s also ten times more knowledgeable about the environment and climate change than the Opposition MLAS who are attempting to discredit the Climate Leadership Plan (which has the support of industry, environmentalists and First Nations by the way) with what Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute, characterizes as misinformation and outright lies.

They’re committed and tireless. Rachel Notley and Municipal Affairs minister Danielle Larivee moved heaven and earth to protect the residents of Fort McMurray after the worst forest fire in Alberta’s history.  Both of them have families but their sole focus was on keeping the residents of Fort McMurray safe.  Unlike a previous premier, neither of them checked into the Jasper Park Lodge for a little R&R over the weekend.

Even the crotchety Leader of the Official Opposition gave Ms Notley and Ms Larivee credit for a job well done…or was it credit for having a good communication plan throughout the emergency.  It’s hard to tell with Mr Jean.

The Premier and Municipal Affairs minister will get a short break over the summer but unlike the rest of us they won’t be turning off their cell phones.  They’re on call 24/7.

They’re affectionate.  Ms Notley beams with pride when she talks about Baby Patrick, the first baby born to a sitting MLA, Ms Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service and Status of Women.  Apparently, the cabinet ministers fight over who gets to hold Baby Patrick during cabinet meetings—others have a talking stick, Notley says, we have a baby.


Services Minister McLean and Baby Patrick

They like to hug people.  Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman gave Ms Soapbox “a squeeze” (hug) while at the same time juggling notebooks and a cell phone after meeting Ms Soapbox for the first time in the convention hall.  Premier Notley’s speech was delayed a few minutes to give her time to hug her way up to the podium.  The crowd didn’t care, it was busy waving signs and chanting NDP NDP NDP.

They get things done.  While the Opposition spent an inordinate amount of time cranking up the Angry Machine, the government moved ahead with a royalty review and the climate leadership plan and enacted legislation prohibiting corporate election funding, increasing the minimum wage, establishing a progressive income tax regime, increasing corporate taxes and implementing laws to increase farm safety.

Ms Notley’s first year at the helm brought about dramatic change.

The next three years will be equally challenging—the government cannot continue to borrow, it will have to balance the budget.  The economy may strengthen or it may not.  And while Ms Notley recognizes that the foundation of Alberta’s economy is energy and access to global markets is vital; she also knows she has to move ahead with plans to develop a more diversified, value-added economy (which includes renewable energy) in order to achieve a brighter economic future.

Ms Notley is confident she’ll get there because as she succinctly puts it, when new people are elected to form a new government they take a new look at tough problems.

It’s no coincidence that good things have happened.  Half of the new people in Ms Notley’s Cabinet are women.

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23 Responses to Rachel Notley and the Wonder Women

  1. Sky Weir says:

    I frequently told my clients that if we weren’t laughing, we weren’t working hard enough. The women understood.

  2. Claudette says:

    What a treat to get this inside glimpse at our provincial heroes. This made my day.

  3. GoinFawr says:

    “It’s no coincidence that good things have happened. Half of the new people in Ms Notley’s Cabinet are women.”

    Perhaps I am too delicate of a flower, but I am marginally offended by the way you phrased that; surely you’re not implying that gender defines ‘goodness’?

    I’ll have to assume you were channeling the spirit of Robin Williams:
    ‘If the world was ruled by women there would be no more wars, nations with differences would just be very cold to one another for awhile.’ ?

    Besides the complete awesomeness of Shannon Phillips, the accomplishments of the provincial NDP you’ve listed are indeed laudable; with the exception of the royalty review, which, in my opinion, was woefully ill timed, just like Steady Eddie’s in 2008: for whatever reason it also was released at precisely the moment that market bottomed.

    Which is a nice segue into:

    “The next three years will be equally challenging—the government cannot continue to borrow, it will have to balance the budget.”

    because extracting Alberta from the laughingstock of oil producing states when it comes to royalty rates could have been ‘job done’ in that respect. Or at least one giant leap in the correct direction.

    But that’s the real trick isn’t it? As foreign private interests’ pocketed ratings agencies are-indicating/will-always-indicate, you can’t lean ‘left’ unless you already have the money in their banks; Why? There are a number of reasons, but most are derived from the Basel Committee’s 1974 ‘recommendations’.

    Just ask Bob Rae, Greece, Africa, Central/South America, Eastern Europe, etc. etc.

    • GoinFawr, you did it again…just when I was getting my paranoia under control (TPP, CETA and One World etc) you tell me about the Basel Committee’s 1974 “recommendations” (which I had to look up because I had no idea who the BCBS was). And what do I find? Another international group focusing on “encouraging convergence” in banking supervision and that this esteemed group includes a sub-committee tasked with keeping its member countries abreast of the latest in advances in risk measurement and management and one of its member countries is the US who single handedly created the global financial crisis of 2008. You know what I think? These institutions charged with the responsibility of encouraging global convergence need more women on their executive committees because women are less inclined to try to take over the world….OK, that was a little over the top…but back to your point about my comment that good things are happening because half the ministers in Notley’s cabinet are female, I do believe that women bring a different perspective to the table (I’ve observed this in the corporate world and have no reason not to believe it holds true in politics as well) and think the gender balance is a factor however, it’s equally possible that the government’s policies are more attributable to a dedication to NDP principles rather than gender, so I take your point.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Here’s what I always try to do when expressing a generalization regarding gender: I swap the gender in the idea to see if the statement is then likely to evoke offense.

        Eg. In the following CBC interview of three provinces’ premiers, specifically engineered to discuss such issues, Christy Clark makes a number of suppositions about her perception of differences in respect delivered by her male colleagues to the Premier, depending on the gender of the person holding that position. One of her points is that, even though it really doesn’t bother her much, she ‘is often referred to as “Christy” rather than “Ms.Clark”‘, with the implication being ‘that would never happen to a man’. Well, to her great credit Ms.Notely (Raich’) pointed out that she wasn’t sure about that, because in her experience Mr.Klein was always ‘Ralph’:

      • GoinFawr: I noticed the same thing when I watched that interview and I’m glad Raich made her point about Ralph. For me the issue depends on the context in which the premier’s first name is used. Christie Clark said the NDP leader of the opposition always called her Christie. What wasn’t clear was the context in which he said it. It would be inappropriate if he said it with a “pat-on-the-head” put down tone or at an official event. It would be fine in an informal setting. Sometimes being called by your first name is a sign that you’re a well known personality. A number of well know people are known by their first names: Justin, Hillary and Bernie spring to mind.

  4. ronmac says:

    I got one! I got one!

    How many NDP’ers does it take to change a lightbulb?

    Quite a few actually. Six to actually change the bulb. One to ensure those changing the bulb accurately reflect the full diversity of Alberta society. One to ensure the new lightbulb is eco-friendly and up to green standards. One to assure everyone that hopefully this will be the last lightbulb to be changed in a long, long time thanks to the new climate action plan we’ll doing our work by candlelight.

    How many PC’ers does it take to change a lightbulb? None. They’ll just demolish the building and put up a new one, preferably one with more lavish furniture.

    How many Wildrosers does it take to change a lightbulb? Four. One to privitize the service out. One to track down a slightly used lightlbulb at an industrial surplus bargain bin somewhere. One to change the bulb. One to bill the gov’t $68,000.03.

    • GoinFawr says:

      You forgot one though: How many Liberals does it take to change a light bulb in the legislature?
      Just one, because Mr.Swann is the only Liberal with a seat to stand on in the assembly.
      Ba Dum Cha!

    • Ronmac, this was great! Based on Danielle Smith’s comments about the attempt to unseat Brian Jean as WR leader, I’d say that the number of Wildrosers needed to change a lightbulb is five–the four you’ve identified and a fifth one to kick the stool out from under the guy changing the lightbulb. Here’s a link to Smith’s comments. They’re fascinating. http://www.newstalk770.com/2016/06/10/129793/

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I love it – 🙂
        They created the recall so that they can change leader every quarter which seems to be the maximum time they can focus on any issue.

  5. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Susan, While you got into the NDP Convention– I note that many other citizens did not get into the NDP convention.


    Over 1,000 applicants rejected

    NDP member Mimi Williams told the Calgary Herald the party rejected over 1,000 membership applications believed to be from Albertans First supporters.

    Williams said she combed through social media posts and political donation histories of applicants to decide whether they would be accepted or rejected.


    I wonder why 1,000 people were refused membership? Is this a regular practice of political parties to pre-screen citizens and only allow them in if they have warm fuzzy feelings for the political party? I thought that political parties would accept all who came to them but it seems that this is not the case. This feels a tad antidemocratic.

    I also note that major issues for citizens such as fracking problems—were not given the priority position that we feel is required for these issues. Substantive issues such as health problems associated with fracking needed review early on and yet the party decided to leave this issue to the end.

    The NDP convention was fluff and positive spin in my opinion. There needs to be deliverables.

    Standing behind your leader may be a new thing in Alberta after Redford’s hammering but it means nothing to voters like myself. What I voted for was change and we haven’t got change in many areas. Surprisingly these are areas where our most vulnerable citizens are concerned. You would think that with more women in government–that they would initiate the work–that hasn’t been done in the male dominated governments of the past, but the increase in women MLAs hasn’t resulted in any positive changes in government accountability, transparency or performance.

    • Julie, the NDP Constitution says people who apply for membership must “accept and will abide by the constitution, principles and policies” of the party. The Wildrose, Liberals, Greens and Alberta Party have similar language in their constating documents. The PCs don’t state this principle the same way but say members can’t violate their governing rules which are set out in their constitution. Every political party has the right to expect its members to support their principles and policies. And while it’s unusual for a party to reject membership applicants on this scale, it makes sense when it’s clear that an applicant’s sole reason for joining the party is to destroy it. George Clark and Albertans First made many statements in the mainstream media and on social media indicating they don’t support the NDP. They’re not in favour of a democratic socialist government. They reject the ND government’s legislation and policies on farm safety and the carbon levy and they want Notley gone. So why would the NDP accept their application for membership?

      If Clark and Albertans First are confident Albertans want them and not the NDP in government they should devote their energies to building up the Wildrose instead of trying to blow up the NDP.

      With respect to your point on fracking, I suspect there were a number of NDP members at the convention who would agree with you.

      With respect to your comment on wanting to see substantive change, at the convention Notley said her government worked to “stabilize” education and healthcare and the focus now was to make them much better. The proof will be in the pudding. If she can deliver on these two fronts (and the economy settles down) the NDP may be back in 2019.

      Thanks Julie.

  6. carlosbeca says:

    I have a bit of a hard time making a comment about your post this week because I have never been one to get too overly excited about this kind of issue.
    To me everyone is equal and I do not really care if the person I happen to be dealing with is a man or a woman or whatever. I think we should have laws that protect us all and then leave it alone. I have seen abuses by both men and women and I do not really believe that in the same circumstances women are less aggressive than men as it is always painted to be. I am not even sure that if the world had been run by women rather than men we would have less wars…..etc.
    That is all just speculation. I do think we are all capable of a lot when faced with different situations. I am concerned that this belief is already causing some problems the other way around. Women are as capable of discrimination and if we are not careful this could all backfire and be counter productive.
    The government does not have to be 50% women and 50% men. The government should be competent and if after one election that means 80% women so be it. I really do not understand the exaggerated concern about this. Rachel Notley made a comment about this in the NDP convention and I have to say that I did not particularly liked it because the way she said it ‘lets keep women in power’ sounds to me too simplistic. Her government seems fine and I am happy that she was able to get 50% of capable women but that should not be a quota like it seems to be turning into. I know that this comment is going to upset some ultra feminists but I am sorry this is the way I look at it. Exaggeration is a sign of lack of self confidence in my view. Competent women do not need quotas or parades to confirm it.

    • This is a fair comment Carlos. I can only speak to my experience and the experience of my female peers in the legal/corporate world. I articled at the largest firm in Calgary. It hired 10 articling students, 8 were men and 2 were women. This scenario played out in all of the big firms in the city–notwithstanding the fact that women made up 50% of the graduating class. I articled in the 1980’s and am dismayed to see that same under-representation of women in the upper echelons of business and politics three decades later. You have to wonder what’s going on. The old argument used to be that there weren’t enough women coming up through the ranks to make it to the executive ranks. This isn’t true. So what’s the answer? I agree with your concern about quotas and targets, sometimes they work but other times they backfire (the men feel an undeserving woman got the job that rightfully belonged to them, whether she was better qualified or not).

      I also agree that women can be just as aggressive and unreasonable as men so gender alone doesn’t guarantee a kinder gentler smarter government. Just compare how Redford and Notley reacted to the provincial premiers who don’t support pipelines. Redford all but called BC Premier Christie Clark an idiot, whereas Notley is trying to find a mutually satisfactory solution with both Clark and Ontario premier Wynne.

      Having said all that I don’t think you’d ever see a baby in a male dominated Cabinet meeting!

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Your comment is also very fair and I agree with you that discrimination against women has gone on far too long but it is up to all of us to achieve that balance.
        I have to say that I do not remember, within my working circles, the last time I heard a discriminatory comment against women. I am very happy to tell you that it is not even an issue for us. I have no doubts that it is still a problem but the improvement has been very dramatic. I wish I could feel as positive about our future in general as I feel about this particular issue.

      • Carlos, there has been improvement…because of enlightened men like you and my husband. When Roy worked in city planning over half of his staff were women, not because he was trying to achieve a quota but because in his opinion they were the best candidate for the job. It’s great when bosses see beyond stereotypes and select people based on merit, but there still seems to be a lingering bias, perhaps even unconscious, which gets in the way.
        Now as far as feeling optimistic about our future in general…that’s a very worrisome topic!

  7. Elaine Fleming says:

    I have to agree, Susan, that I like the energy and conviction of this cabinet, and their commitment to pretty decent values. It is encouraging to see their “can do” attitudes.

    I think a point that needs to be made is that the optimism and strength of the women ministers is commendable given the threats, mysogyny and puerile hostility they have faced from a small minority of Albertans.

    I had deja vu all over again- remembering the cynicism over the last government’s patronage of their “friends”- when I read about the conduct of the “Agricultural Financial Services” board that was recently dismissed by the Notley government for their abuse of public trust and of course, public funds.

    If you have been in Alberta as long as I have, you know this is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of past cronyism and revolving-door access to various positions of power, and with that taxpayers’ money, by a select, loyalist group of individuals. As far as “gender bias”, they were known as you may remember, “The Old Boy’s Club”.

    Can you believe this story was news just over a year ago? http://www.inews880.com/2015/04/06/liberal-mla-worried-about-lack-of-women-in-alberta-politics/

    • Elaine, your point about the threats and misogyny directed at the female MLAs is well taken. A U of C prof, Melanee Thomas, talked about abuse directed at Rachel Notley on social media. Thomas points out that Notley’s government’s Facebook page includes the typical “be respectful” rule but also asks contributers to “stop using pornographic language”. Thomas asks “which men in politics ever [have] to deal with that?” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/rachel-notley-death-threats-1.3363938 This issue came up over lunch at the NDP Convention last week. Someone said they’d attended the Bill 6 public information sessions hosted by Oneil Carlier and Lori Sigurdson. They said that Carlier got a lot of guff from the audience when he spoke but that when Sigurdson took the stage the vile stuff being thrown at her from the males in the audience was unbelievable. This is just wrong.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        These men that behaved the way you describe in your post should have been expelled from the room period. That is just despicable.
        It is unfortunately still very common and sometimes it is hard to believe that anyone can behave in such extremes. When you think that centres for battered women are always full and we still are in need of more spaces, makes me feel embarrassed. In so many cases there are so many children involved. It is shocking. The psychological trauma that these cases cause is irreversible in most cases.

      • I agree Carlos. The fact that some men think they can get away with this kind of behavior is astounding.

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