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Alberta NDP Leader Naheed Nenshi Draws Crowd at Calgary Stampede Breakfast

Alberta NDP Leader Naheed Nenshi Draws Crowd at Calgary Stampede Breakfast
Alberta NDP Leader Naheed Nenshi Draws Crowd at Calgary Stampede Breakfast

CALGARY — Newly crowned leader of Alberta’s New Democrats Naheed Nenshi drew a crowd at his first official Calgary Stampede breakfast, which surpassed the party’s pancake event last year. Veteran members say it shows momentum.

CALGARY — Newly crowned leader of Alberta’s New Democrats Naheed Nenshi drew a crowd at his first official Calgary Stampede breakfast, which surpassed the party’s pancake event last year. Veteran members say it shows momentum.

Speaking in a constituency that went to the NDP in the last election, Nenshi said he hears at community events that people have bought their first party membership for him.

“There is a real, real sense that the tide is turning and people are looking for something to believe in again,” he told reporters.

NDP party representatives reported that 4,000 people attended the breakfast hosted by the Alberta opposition party on Sunday morning.

Calgary MP Kathleen Ganley said the turnout was about two to three times the number of people who attended the party’s Stampede event last year.

“This turnout astounds me and I think it is a sign of good things to come,” said Ganley, who ran against Nenshi in the leadership race.

Nenshi doesn’t hold a seat in the legislature, so he didn’t get a spot in Friday’s Stampede Parade lineup alongside sitting members. But the 52-year-old estimates he’s been to every Stampede in his life, except a few.

The former Calgary mayor succeeded outgoing NDP Leader Rachel Notley in a landslide vote in June, receiving the support of 86 per cent of members.

With more than 85,000 voters after the leadership campaign, the party now has the largest provincial wing of the New Democrats in the country.

Days after his leadership victory, attack ads aired portraying him as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pick for Alberta. But Nenshi says the ruling United Conservative Party is grasping at straws.

“Let them waste their money,” he said.

After last year’s election, the UCP has money to spend. In 2023 and the first quarter of this year, it has millions more dollars in its war chest.

“We have this huge movement of people who are all super committed to talking to their neighbors, talking to their friends, to being involved now and all the way through the next election. The UCP has nothing like this,” Nenshi said.

Edmonton MLA Rakhi Pancholi, who dropped her own leadership campaign to support Nenshi and was named deputy leader last month, said the party’s Stampede event had “a lot of energy” last year but “was completely different this year.”

“I always think it’s a good sign when we show up to one of our NDP breakfasts at the Stampede and you can’t find a parking spot,” Pancholi said.

“I hear people are excited to be here, they’re excited about us, they’re excited about our team and the energy is really palpable,” she said, noting that the party is doing everything it can to meet potential voters in every corner of the city.

Sunday marked the first of three NDP caucus pancake breakfasts planned, but Nenshi isn’t the only politician organizing a marathon of community events since Stampede began last week.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith has a busy schedule as she hosts the annual Premier’s Stampede Breakfast on Monday morning.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 7, 2024.

The Canadian Press