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Alberta NDP to name new leader to replace Rachel Notley Saturday

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In less than 24 hours, the Alberta NDP is expected to name its new leader.

Four candidates are running to lead the largest official opposition party in our province's history. The race saw the party grow by more than five times its size, within four months.

"This is far beyond my expectations," former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi said.

The last candidate to enter the bid, but first to garner national attention to the race, Nenshi says he was shocked to see the growth of the Alberta NDP and the excitement he felt from members to "do politics better."

For first term NDP MLA Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, that means focusing on the environment.

NDP leadership issues

When asked about her top priorities in an interview with CTV News Edmonton outside the Alberta legislature this week, Calahoo Stonehouse remarked, "Water, first and foremost." The only Indigenous candidate running to lead the party is focused on climate and resources.

"Water was a primary focus. Second to that is resources protecting our economy, and then thirdly, our children. They are our most precious resource. We must invest in them," Calahoo Stonehouse said.

"We need to build an economy that gives more to the middle class and to those who have less," former Justice Minister and Calgary MLA Kathleen Ganley said.

Ganley says her focus is on sharing a "left-wing" perspective on the economy and making life more affordable.

"An economy that works for everyone. Making sure people can sort of afford the basics and a couple of little extras," Ganley told CTV News Edmonton.

Former Deputy Premier and Edmonton MLA Sarah Hoffman has three top priorities.

"The vast majority of Albertans want to talk about health care, climate and housing and want to see bold solutions to help address these crises," Hoffman said.

Speaking with CTV News in a park in her riding of Edmonton-Glenora, Hoffman said the party doesn't need a new brand or a new face.

"I am not new, which I think actually lets people know that I am here for a good time, but also for a long time," Hoffman joked.

As the only non-MLA candidate vying to lead the party, Nenshi promises not to jeopardize its core values, adding it's "about a new burst of energy and fresh eyes to think about how we can indeed do even better and take government in 2027."

Nenshi says the number one thing he heard from Albertans during the campaign was concerns about confidence, honesty and ethics lacking in the current UCP government. Speaking of his former classmate Danielle Smith, the former mayor said, "We've known each other 30 years, but I think it's fair to say the person who is governing as premier right now is not only not the person I grew up with, it's not even the person who was in the Wildrose when I first became mayor."

Nenshi's sights are on winning in 2027 and taking down Smith, a goal the party's executive director supports.

"My message to Danielle Smith is, 'You are on notice, because Albertans are looking for change,'" NDP Executive Director Garett Spelliscy said.

NDP growth

Speaking with CTV News from the Alberta NDP head office in downtown Edmonton, Spelliscy gave insight into the party's recent growth. As of the NDP membership deadline of April 22, the party had 85,144 active members. In December, the party had 16,224 members.

"That probably makes us one of the largest provincial political parties in Canada," Spelliscy said.

Spelliscy is optimistic that growth translates into a high voter turnout.

"Hoping to get over 80 per cent participation and just really shows that people are excited about this race," Spelliscy said.

As of Friday morning, 68,718 -- or 80 per cent -- of votes had been cast.

Speaking to CTV News outside a hotel in downtown Calgary, outgoing Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley had this advice for her successor: "The views and the priorities of Albertans must be our 'north star.' And so, always do everything you can to find all the different ways to hear what matters to people."

The party plans to name its new leader Saturday afternoon in Calgary.