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Rachel Notley 'considering' her role as Alberta NDP leader following 2nd-straight election loss

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New Democrats in Alberta may have a new leader heading into the next election, after all.

Rachel Notley revealed on Tuesday morning that she is taking time to consider her future as the face of the Alberta NDP, a role she's held since 2014.

"I don't have a clear timeline. But what I can promise you is that when I've engaged in what I think is a responsible level of consideration, I'll be sure to let you know," she told reporters in Edmonton.

Notley said with a laugh that she'll tell her husband Lou first and then call reporters.

In her concession speech two weeks ago, Notley vowed to "get right back down to work."

She suggested she wasn't going anywhere, just minutes after it was projected that her NDP would win 38 seats and fall short of forming government for a second straight election.

"I think it's good leadership to consider your role leading up to an election and to consider your role after an election," Notley said Tuesday.

"I did that in 2015, I did that in 2019, I did that leading into 2023 and of course I'm doing it now. When I've concluded that consideration, I'll let people know."

Notley was first elected in 2008 as the MLA for Edmonton-Strathcona. Her party had just two seats at the time.

The NDP caucus grew to four seats the next election, and after Notley won the leadership in 2014, she became Alberta's first-ever New Democratic premier in 2015, winning 54 seats.

Her NDP then lost 28 seats as she was defeated by Jason Kenney's UCP in 2019. Danielle Smith led the party to reelection on May 29, although Notley's party flipped 14 seats.

"Twenty-six hundred was the difference between us being in government and the other folks being in government," Notley said of close races in several Calgary ridings.

She promised a shadow cabinet next week and said she is proud that her party will form the largest Opposition caucus in the province's history.

Notley said the NDP will fight for the hiring of thousands of teachers, a stop to tuition increases, and a cap on utilities, as well as an investigation into high prices.

As she did on election night, Notley again took responsibility for the election loss and said her party will do a deep dive into where it fell short.

Notley said she is looking forward to spending some time with her family this summer, as she ponders her future.

"A lot of folks, in a lot of different jobs, have to balance family responsibilities with their career and their work and so being in the job that I've been in is no different than any of those," she said.

'THERE WILL BE SOME TEARS'
 

Notley is not being forced out of the party and if she walks away it will be her decision, believes three-term NDP MLA Deron Bilous.

He served as a cabinet minister in Notley's government but didn't run for his seat this time, instead taking a position with Counsel Public Affairs.

"I think the party will give Rachel as much time as she wants. Let's be honest, Rachel polls above the party in Alberta," Bilous said.

"By no means will the party be pushing her out, the way we've seen other parties do. I think membership would be happy if Rachel decides to run again. There will be some tears if she decides to step down, just because of all that she's accomplished."

Bilous called Notley a "pragmatic, moderate leader" but acknowledged that some in the NDP probably do want a fresh voice to lead.

He's aware that some NDP MLAs are interested in taking over, but didn't want to name any out of respect for them and the process.

Bilous also thinks it's possible some centrists outside of the party are interested in leading the more-moderate NDP that Notley has created.

Both former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and PC deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk endorsed the NDP in the last election.

"I think having a robust leadership race, if Rachel decides to step down, I think would be a good thing for the party. And it would result in a really good debate. I think that's needed," Bilous said, adding he won't run.

But political scientist Lori Williams feels a person with no record of leadership may be a benefit to the NDP, given the resume-focused attacks both parties launched in the last election.

"I think somebody without a record to defend might be in a better position to lead whatever form the NDP takes between now and the next election," she said.

Williams wasn't surprised to see Notley pondering her future after 15 years in the legislature but can see it being a tough decision with upside to both paths.

"She made gains in this election. There are certainly strengths that she brings as a leader. I think she's one of the most capable, certainly female leaders, we've seen historically," Williams said.

"But it may be that something new is required going into the future in order for the NDP to be successful."

The UCP government of Danielle Smith appointed a new cabinet on Friday.