Overheard at Rachel’s Cocktail Party

It was packed, absolutely packed, at Rachel Notley’s cocktail party at Hotel Arts in Calgary last Wednesday.

The event was billed as an evening of cocktails and conversation with Rachel Notley and her caucus.   Tickets were available with a minimum $250 donation and the place was jammed.

Ms Notley gave a short speech highlighting the good things the NDP government is doing for Calgary, including building the long overdue Cancer Centre, finishing the Ring Road and funding the Green Line.   She talked about the collapse of oil prices, the Fort McMurray fire, tariffs, and opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.  She described what her government had done to stabilize the economy and strengthen the social safety net in anticipation of better times which by all accounts are returning.

She praised Albertans’ resilience and said we’re ready to face the future with confidence and optimism.


But you don’t really care about all that do you, you want to hear the gossip…  


Wow, I didn’t expect to see you here!  Federal and provincial Liberals and long-time conservatives showed up in droves.  Had they abandoned their parties or simply realized that now is not the time for brand loyalty?  As one long time liberal put it, “A brand is something you wear on your backside.  I’m supporting Rachel because she’s accomplished a lot”.

Check out at all The Suits:  Business men and women in dapper suits came straight from work.  These were the same people who’d had a Defcon 1 meltdown when the NDP came to power in 2015, terrified about the loss of their long-standing relationships with PC politicians.  They’ve got new contacts now; the economy is improving and they’re not afraid to show their support for the NDP.

People ask me if I’m a socialist.  I’m a capitalist: A venture capitalist with significant holdings in Canada and the US explained why capitalists should support the NDP.  He said the focus should be on the size of the pie and how the pie is divided; he warned that a capitalist who fights to keep the last 10% of the pie (by opposing an increase in the minimum wage for example) risks losing the other 90%.  Look at the mess in the US, he said, not smart.

Trickle down economics doesn’t work:  If it did, both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan would have received a Noble prize for alleviating poverty.

The NDP message is divisive:  Really?  How?  It divides the rich from everyone else (said the superrich conservative).  If there’s a better way to describe the impact of Kenney’s 10% flat tax than saying it benefits those making more than $128,000/year while chopping the healthcare and education budgets by $700 million, we’d love to hear it.

Alberta needs a provincial sales tax:  Every other province in the country has a PST.  It’s a reliable and sustainable source of income.  Agreed, but it’s political suicide;  or to put it another way, Albertans are big babies and won’t stand for it.  Pity.

Some people will vote UCP no matter what:  True, but we don’t need all the votes, we just need enough to tip the balance in our favour.  What about the Alberta Party?  What about them, or the Liberals or the Greens?  It’s a two-party contest:  Rachel vs Kenney.  (Refer to the “Wow, I didn’t expect to see you here” comments).

Can the NDP can win in 2019?  You bet they can.  Forget the polls which are unreliable and premature.  Look at the energy and commitment in this room.  These people want Rachel to win and they’ll devote their money, time, and talent to make it happen.

It’s a wrap

The cocktail party was still going strong when Mr and Ms Soapbox called it a night. We’d stuffed ourselves with canapes, we’d chatted with Rachel and her MLAs and connected with more NDP supporters than we dreamed possible at an NDP fundraiser in downtown Calgary.

We were struck by one thing.  If Rachel’s cocktail party is an indication of things to come, we’d witnessed the start of a phenomenon.

It’s called the Orange Wave.

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47 Responses to Overheard at Rachel’s Cocktail Party

  1. Katie Pearlman says:

    I HOPE!

    • Sharee Boneham says:

      Me too! The ucp ideas scare the hell out of me

      • Katie and Sharee, I think there are a LOT of people who would echo your comments. The UCP’s ideas, such as they are, leave a lot to be desired. In today’s paper Kenney is quoted as saying while he doesn’t agree with everything the federal conservatives do they share the same position on the urgency of getting a coastal pipeline built, reforming equalization and opposing carbon taxes. The fact he can say this with a straight face given all the years he was in the federal government and failed to push a pipeline through to tide water and failed to reformulate the equalization formula shows he takes no accountability for his actions as a federal MP. Also he doesn’t oppose carbon taxes on large emitters so even that comment isn’t truthful.

  2. MikeT says:

    Alberta doesn’t make political changes lightly, or briefly. Brace yourself Mr. Kenny!

    • I love your comment Mike T. Great reminder that it took Albertans 44 years to switch from the PCs to the NDP and many Albertans who voted for the NDP reluctantly have been pleasantly surprised by what they have accomplished.

  3. nandouglas says:

    Great post, Susan! On the ground reporting…..amazing!

    Sent from my iPhone

  4. jerrymacgp says:

    Amidst all the rhetoric and the anger, Alberta is experiencing something unexpected: good governance. Yes, they have messed up a couple of files: Bill 6 was poorly handled when it was first introduced and caused a major backlash that the right was able and delighted to stoke; and, IMHO, they chickened out on the whole child protection issue and failed to clearly state, in 85,000-point bold font, that first, last and always, THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN IN CARE COMES FIRST.

    But all things considered, they’ve done a good job. They took on predatory lenders and shoddy home builders; they protected a wilderness area in southern Alberta from being further torn up by OHVs; they modernized workplace health & safety, employment standards and labour relations legislation; they cleaned up our politics quite a bit; they took the first concrete, tangible action on the climate change fille in Alberta’s history; and they avoided the kind of slash & burn spending cuts we endured in the 90s, and that were once again being urged upon them by conservatives.

    Sadly, the right-leaning mainstream media and the Online Tory Rage Machine(™; apologies to David Climenhaga) have so torn up the government’s reputation that I fear their chances of re-election are slim to none, and slim is leaving town. If that stupid freakin’ pipeline ever sees actual construction, with machinery working and dirt being moved, with nought but symbolic resistance in BC, then they have the faintest of hopes of turning their electoral prospects around; if it doesn’t, or if BC obstructionism delays it further, they don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell.

    • Mohamed Mahdi says:

      Yeah. They are not a bad government even though I do wish they showed a bit more fiscal restraint or showed a plan to get the budget to balance. I find that they are also struggling to address certain issues/files like PDD and AISH. Not sure what is the hold up on addressing these two things and other various social issues that need their attention that people constantly spam the ableg feed about constantly.

      • Fair comment Mohamed…especially the points on PDD and AISH. I would hope those critical of the NDP’s progress on these files remember that Jason Kenney has taken the position that there is no such thing as a social issue, a little like Margaret Thatcher’s famous comment about there being no such thing as society. Thatcher said, “It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours.” That’s fine if those with lots of money are charitable, but falls to bits if they’re not.

    • I agree with you Jerry about the NDP’s accomplishments (plus your point that some things could have been executed better). They did an awful lot in a very short space of time, quite an achievement for a young government that, truth be told, didn’t expect to form government in 2015. And yes, it is going to be a battle in 2019, but I think they have a fighting chance. Surely Albertans have learned something from the Klein years and won’t want to live through the misery of another slash and burn conservative government. The challenge will be figuring out how to message this without turning people off. (I’m thinking about that bizarre comment from the rich conservative about how divisive the NDP message was re: rich people. Seems to me she was more than a bit defensive).
      PS. Based on what I’m hearing from my friends in the energy industry I’m convinced that “freakin’ pipeline” will be built. 🙂

  5. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan I agree with you for most of what you mentioned but I think typical of our Economicus species we tend to just concentrate on the economy and management.

    There is no doubt that this government, despite its inexperience, has done much better than any of the previous conservative governments going back quite a while. I am relieved that I do not have to read about another scandal and another Health Care big wig being fired for truly disgusting behaviour or total collusion with the private health care companies that could not wait to come and transfer our dollars somewhere else. That was stopped cold turkey. I see Sarah Hoffman is already focusing on these people’s crazy salaries. Even the right wing media could not avoid this fact. They love to report salary cut backs and lay offs. It is like a conservative ritual.

    The human factor, in my opinion, is what is going to determine the outcome of the next election.
    There is a reason why Jason and his goons are hard on the government regardless. He does not have a credible program, if any at all and so the way forward is to hammer people’s minds with lies and of course the old socialist/communist garbage. Unfortunately it works very well in Alberta. Since the second world war propaganda against anything left has been hard and false. Jason Kenney does not have a problem increasing that propaganda.

    Has Jerry mentioned the lack of a plan to a more balanced budget and even more important a plan to get us off the addiction on oil money could easily do them in. Furthermore the lack of interest on any democratic renewal completes a picture that is not bad at all but could be way better.

    I am not surprised that you found many Liberals and even Conservatives in the event you attended. People easily change their beliefs if the possibility of election is real enough. Furthermore, Rachel Notley is more of a Liberal than a social democrat and she can easily attract them.

    • Carlos, I just started to read a book called “Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?” It makes the point that in the post WW2 era finance was tightly controlled, currencies were fixed and financial products which create financial instability were illegal. The author says back then finance was the servant, not the master of society. But all this changed with the onset of deregulation and the acceptance of the neoliberal view that markets are good and state control is bad. While the NDP has made inroads in trying to protect the social safety net, ensure public services are publicly delivered and unions remain strong, they are fighting an uphill battle against the bilge (“socialist/communist garbage”) pumped out by Kenney and crew. As you say it works very well in Alberta, particularly given Kenney’s lack of concern with the truth. All we can do is continue to hammer them with the truth, or at the very least ask them to explain just how they’re going to bring nirvana to the province by cutting taxes without also cutting services.

  6. MaggieC says:

    Thank you so much for this post. It provided a sense of calm in these politically scary times.

    • MaggieC, I know exactly what you mean. Everywhere you turn there’s a disturbing story about someone trying to tear down our democratic institutions. I’m beginning to channel Churchill (“we shall fight on the beaches…”) but it’s hard to be in fight mode all the time. That’s why I’m glad Rachel Notley isn’t always shaking her fist in the air, demanding that we fight the UCP. Sometimes she’s like that Cyndi Lauper song “Girls just want to have fun.” If we learned anything from Rachel’s zip-line experience at the Stampede, it’s that woman really knows how to have fun. 🙂

  7. Tess Bratt says:


  8. Mitch Waldon says:

    A cocktail party in the middle of a city is all well and good. The thing that I am most concerned about is the rural/urban divide. I don’t see the NDP effectively dealing with that and addressing the real concerns of this constituency very effectively. Bill 6 has left a really bad taste in the mouths of many.
    Our cities are doing pretty well all things considered, but there are very few jobs and opportunities outside the major centers. I applaud their going after rural crime, but the UCP+ will argue about how it’s adding to the deficit, and how are they going to pay for all these extra boots etc.
    It’s an exceptionally conservative place outside the cities, at least typically. I hope they can find a way to show rural folk that the Government takes issues they care about seriously.

    I am encouraged that I see a lot more push back online when people spout off about how the NDP are wrecking the province. Lots of respectful, fact based invitation to conversation rather than simple naysaying. It’s the best thing that can happen!

    • Excellent point Mitch about the difference between the rural and urban experience. While I see the NDP doing things to help, like pushing agriculture as part of their diversification strategy, I’m not sure what any government can do to add jobs in rural areas when the trend seems to be toward the corporatization of the family farm and increased migration of young people to the cities. Your point about the rural crime bill is well taken. The fact the UCP managed to slide around the fact they voted against increasing the budget to add more police in rural areas tells me they have the rural voters wrapped around their little fingers.
      I agree with your point about push back online. I’ve started to push back in person when someone tells me the NDP is doing a bad job. I ask for examples and, if possible, provide facts to make the counter-argument. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

      • Mitch Waldon says:

        I think the idea of pushing back is not necessarily to win anything in the moment. It’s just to provide a reasoned counterpoint to the biased information bubble so many of us live in. SO much of what I noticed about the rise of Trump (and this new political environment we seem to be in) was about people just not taking him seriously and pushing back or speaking out when he said ridiculous things. I resolved to speak up after that.
        I am not sure that I have specifically changed anyone’s mind (I did have one person tell me that they realized that we actually seemed to want much the same thing, just in different ways- I took that as a good thing) but little bit by little bit respectful conversation can move us together. I know my views on a number of issues have been modified by conversations I have had with others.
        So much of this is driven simply by emotion. It’s good to have conversations about what people are specifically concerned about and then try to address those.
        Here’s to more sharing of different views and finding a way to meet in the middle!

      • Well said Mitch. You’ve provided an excellent template for others to follow. Thanks!

    • Jocelyn says:

      A great way to show that they support rural Alberta is to throw some of the carbon levy towards a rural transportation service. New news is Greyhound is no longer an option. We don’t have the same services out here as urban areas do and many people need them – like medical specialists. Moving away from an oil and gas lifestyle has just been made even more impossible in rural areas. Give us a bus service. Run it as a non-profit. Make it green and affordable. We deserve services too. Transportation is an essential service. It is not cheaper to have every single person drive alone in a single vehicle.

      • Excellent point Jocelyn. Given Greyhound’s decision to cancel all but one route in western Canada, the NDP’s decision to add $1.4 million to the spring budget for a pilot project to connect mid-sized cities and smaller communities seems prescient. Camrose will get funding for bus service between Camrose and Edmonton as well as a ride-sharing service; Grande Prairie will provide connections to Sexsmith, Clairmont, Wembley, Beaverlodge and Hythe; and Spirit River will expand the existing Family and Community Support Services Transportation program van service to Rycroft and Grande Prairie from 1 day/month to 3 days/week. It’s not as comprehensive as it could be but it’s a start. Here’s the announcement https://www.alberta.ca/release.cfm?xID=56218C56C1313-E384-A4B7-F67A0C31C2C0731D

  9. Dwayne says:

    Susan: I think there are still people who do not like that the NDP defeated the Alberta PCs in 2015. They are afraid of change and think the NDP are a boogyman. They are mistaken. We removed the Alberta PCs from office in 2015, for sound reasons and do not need a repeat of the scandalous practices and neglect we had for decades with the Alberta PCs, (excluding Peter Lougheed’s government). Thans for another great blog.

    • Dwayne says:


      • You’re welcome Dwayne. Your reference to Peter Lougheed was interesting. Just the other day a conservative friend of mine said Rachel Notley was the best premier to come along since Peter Lougheed. That could be because both of them were strategic pragmatists who did what they thought was best for the province regardless of ideology.

  10. ronmac says:

    Oddly enough I heard this same theme years ago whenI heard a Bay Street type claiming how the NDP were really the party of free enterprize while those other two were carrying the mail for the money boys.

    • Ronmac, yesterday’s Globe and Mail carried a story about the evolution of our understanding of socialism which moved from state control of all the means of production to state control of critical means of production to wherever we are now. The author pointed out the lunacy of people supporting Trump who acts more like a socialist than a capitalist when he subsidizes the dying coal industry and goes after Harley Davidson for moving some of its operations offshore after “I’ve done so much for you, and then this.” The world has become a topsy turvey place.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I laughed because it is so true. The free enterpriser still subsidize oil at a rate of 3 billion a year but claim and scream that wind and solar to compete should survive on their own. It is so ridiculous that it is hard to even discuss.

      • Good point Carlos. I’ve heard a variation on this theme which goes like this: It’s wrong for the government to subsidize certain industries (renewable energy for example) because subsidization means the government is “picking winners and losers”. And yet these same people argue it’s OK for the government to subsidize oil and natural gas. What I take from this inconsistency is it’s OK for the government to pick winners and losers as long as the CEOs and their shareholders are the ones who are winning, not losing. Government is supposed to manage the economy in a way that will benefit the state in the long term, unfortunately too many governments take a short term what-will-make-my-donors-happy perspective. The fact Alberta is fighting its way out of yet another recession illustrates why this is misguided.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Susan I have to correct you as far as Trump because he does not act like a socialist. He acts like an idiot.
        Socialists are smarter than that. 🙂 🙂

      • You’re right Carlos, Trump acts like an idiot because he is an idiot. He’s at the NATO talks today. I can’t imagine what it would be like for people like Angela Merkel to be lectured by that man. He’s lucky if she doesn’t make him stand in a corner wearing a dunce cap. In related news, I’m looking forward to seeing the Trump big baby blimp in London later this month. 🙂

      • Carlos Beca says:

        You are right Susan he is an idiot but an elected one so he has a special status.

        I heard a comment this afternoon on the CBC that, in my opinion reflects exactly what is going on. The comment was that the world is trying to figure out how to deal with this man and we are certainly getting better at it. Soon, if he does not blow the world to pieces because he wants a party in his name, he will be ignored. Right now in Europe he is seen as a clown and to me worse than that.

        Angela Merkel has been extremely composed about it. She must have been well trained. If I was in her position I do not think I could take it even if trained 🙂

        Justin Trudeau, surprisingly, has done well and he had taken some good shots at Trump. Good for him. Each of those shots makes me proud of being Canadian.

      • ronmac says:

        About this NATO business and Trump’s push to get Europe to pay more for its defense it turns out Obama was saying the same thing in an April 2016 speech in Germany. Except when Trump says it all of a sudden the interatioal order is falling apart.


      • Ronmac, you’re correct in saying that some of the things Trump is pushing for have been done by his predecessors, however his predecessors did so with more diplomacy and common sense. The Obama speech at the link is a wonderful illustration of this point. Obama covers a lot of ground in that speech. He makes the point that all NATO members must do their share. The strongest language he used is this: “So we’re going to have a NATO summit this summer in Warsaw, and I will insist that all of us need to meet our responsibilities, united, together.” In his speech he gave examples of the kinds of support that are appropriate. These include providing trainers, troops, military advice in addition to monetary support. Trump on the other hand insults key leaders before and during the NATO meeting, then holds a press conference saying he pushed the other countries into upping their financial contribution to “levels…they never thought of before”, which is immediately denied by other key political leaders such as Macron who referred reporters to the official NATO communique which recommitted NATO members to the 2014 pledge to spent 2% of national GDP on defense by 2024. Macron said “The communique is clear. It reaffirms a commitment to 2% in 2024. That is all.” This is a far cry from Trump’s claim to have pushed the other countries to levels they’d never thought of before.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Ronmac you are right about the issue but there are many different ways to convey the message other than treating others as subservient to him.

        Did you like him calling Justin Trudeau dishonest and weak? Telling Angela Merkel that they were controlled by Russia? Imagine if she had told him the same? He definitely does not have any respect for women and is openly trying to get her and Theresa May out of the political game.

        This from a man that has been dishonest all of his life and has something like 3 thousand litigations unresolved. It is pathetic, rude and typical of an egomaniac of the last order. He may be right on some issues but he surely will never have my respect. I do not waste my time with bullies.

      • Carlos, I agree with your comments, especially the points about Trump’s lack of respect for women, the way he treated Theresa May during his London visit was appalling and his so-called apology isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Trump intends to meet with Putin alone next week. The problem here isn’t that no other US president has ever met one-on-one with a political leader, but that (a) those who think Trump colluded with the Russians to win the election see this as a further evidence of collusion and payback and (b) even if Trump didn’t collude with the Russians there’s nothing to stop Putin from “recording” what Trump said and using it against Trump at a later date even if Trump didn’t say it. It’s a lose/lose situation.

    • ronmac says:

      This is indeed a “topsy-turvy world.” Every time you turn around you see left-leaning liberal types extolling the virtues of NATO. (NATO’s last two wars in Afghanistan and Libya were disasters). Or they’re upset Trump is meeting with Kim and Putin. For crying out loud wat’s wrong with having a little dialogue to reduce nuclear tension. This Russiagte witchhunt hs produced nothing but wild allegations the public is supposed to trust without evidence (you see we can’t show you the evidence because that could endanger national security)

      Maybe the reason the Europeans are reluctant to spend 2% is because they are not nearly as worried about the Russians as our ester media islleading us to believe.

      • GoinFawr says:

        “Every time you turn around you see left-leaning liberal types extolling the virtues of NATO”
        could you cite me an example please? Well, better make it a list of examples, lest you believe the exception proves your broadly brushed strokes.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        I respect your opinion but why do we always have to blame the left leaning liberals.
        You know at the end of the seventies everyone was up in arms with a stagnated economy the so called welfare state was being stoned for its horrible chaotic consequences, its detrimental permisssiveness and on and on. In come the people that believed in lower taxes and that society does not exist and greed is good …etc.. Only 30 years later and we are worse than ever before except for the Trumps of the world that own 80% of everything and the CEOs taking all the raises the other employees never get. There has never been a more dangerous possibility of war other than during the Cuba crisis and our leaders continue pushing the envelope and claiming that we are on the right track.

        Anyway to be honest I really never heard of many left leaning liberals too excited about NATO. They are outdated and I would not bet on them. Do you think for example that if Turkey was attacked by Russia, NATO would jump to fight on their side?

        Also no one is upset about the President of the US talking with Putin. People are scared rather than upset about what an idiot like Trump can damage by meeting Putin. That is quite different. In fact the results are mind boggling. I am still trying to digest what happened.

        To be very honest with you I am more concerned about what Trump can do to the world than I am of Putin. Both are dangerous in my opinion but Putin takes medication 🙂 🙂 – they love drugs in Russia.

      • Carlos, you nailed it with that last comment about Trump…I’m still trying to get a handle on what he wants us to think he said when he “misspoke” himself while on the podium with Putin. Was he saying Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 election? Russia interfered but Putin didn’t interfere because Putin’s a good guy? Russia couldn’t interfere because the US is “foolish”? Russia did interfere but Trump didn’t collude with Russia to win the 2016 election? Russian interfered and someone colluded but it wasn’t Trump? Can anyone figure out what’s going on in that spaghetti brain of his?
        Words matter and the words of the president of the most powerful nation on the planet matter the most so Trump had better get it together before he accidentally starts WW3 by misspeaking himself.

        GoingFawr: I agree.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        You are right and the Republican party pretends nothing is happening. People do not answer questions, facts are ignored, Donald Duck continues to insult everyone and anyone and it is as if we are the ones that have a problem.
        I am curious to see how this charade is going to end. Bill Clinton and Nixon are looking pathetic compared to this.

  11. GoinFawr says:

    While my definition of a successful mixed economy definitely requires responsible capitalists who don’t flinch at paying their employees a living wage or their taxes, Alberta certainly doesn’t need a sales tax which will hurt the poorest the most (as usual), it needs a non renewable natural resource royalty regime that isn’t the laughingstock of the oil producing world… that and/or a state owned and operated refinery to pay the bills.

    But many thanks for attending and giving us such an excellent review of the evening Susan.

    • Carlos Beca says:

      GoinFawr I like your optimism on the capitalists these days 🙂

      I agree with you on the changes to the royalty regime but that is what caused the fall of Ed Stelmach and I am sure politicians in Alberta realize fully well that they are not in command when it comes to decisions that deep. Alberta is a captured province by the oils industry and it will take a radical to change that situation. I certainly do not see Rachel Notley as one. She is a liberal and as far as I understand, happy with the way things work.

      Increasing royalties has been tried and it created the addiction we have to oil money in order to balance the budget. I would prefer a sales tax and let all the royalty flow into the Heritage Trust Fund just like they do in Norway. The people with low income would get money back just like it is done with the GST.

      Good luck with having good capitalists. It took them 30 years to get where they are now and it is going to take us another 30 to reverse this sick ideology that prevails and continues to prepare us to the slaughter house.

    • You’re welcome GoinFawr. It was a very upbeat evening. Rachel Notley topped the cocktail party with a pancake breakfast that was attended by 4000 people. Brian Malkinson, the NDP MLA for Currie, held a pancake breakfast in his riding that was attended by over 1000. These are record turnouts for the NDP in Calgary. Hopefully this means more than people will sell their souls for flapjacks. 🙂

      • Carlos Beca says:

        ‘Hopefully this means more than people will sell their souls for flapjacks. ‘
        LOL Susan – free food always works even in politics. 🙂

      • Carlos, I made a point of providing food whenever I called a work meeting which was scheduled for 2 hours or more (as a regulatory lawyer our meetings went on for days!). As you said free food works…in politics and in the workplace. We’re such basic creatures aren’t we. 🙂

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