Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley speaks at the Alberta NDP convention in Calgary, Saturday, June 11, 2016.

Mike Ridewood/The Canadian Press

Whether they sit on the government benches or with the opposition, Alberta MLAs agree that in just over a year Rachel Notley's New Democrats have been one of the most activist governments in the province's history.

Since the Premier's rookie government tabled its first piece of legislation on June 15, 2015 – upending decades of political financing by banning union and corporate donations – the NDP has passed 33 bills and introduced thousands of pages of new regulations.

By the end of the government's first year in office, it had written hefty legislation at a pace not seen since the Klein Revolution of the early 1990s.

Story continues below advertisement

"There's lots of change going on, we're bringing Alberta from the back of the pack in terms of the environment, social and labour issues, to the head," NDP House Leader Brian Mason told The Globe and Mail.

He added with a chuckle, "there may be similarities to what [premier Ralph] Klein did, but we've gone in a very different direction."

Mr. Klein led his Progressive Conservatives on a series of deep cuts, dynamited hospitals and privatized government services, eventually slashing taxes and paying off the provincial debt.

Ms. Notley's break with the past has brought in a torrent of new laws that have left a mark on Alberta. Her party's loudest critics in the Wildrose Party say daily life in the province has changed.

"I can't think of a way in which Alberta hasn't been touched. There's been a move towards an NDP world view," said Nathan Cooper, the House Leader for the Official Opposition.

"There were certainly things that needed to be changed, but whether they needed to be done in a 12-month period is a question," Mr. Cooper said.

On further reflection, he added that Ms. Notley hasn't pushed large-scale justice reform yet.

Story continues below advertisement

That might be one of the only areas where she hasn't left a major NDP mark.

In the past year Alberta's flat income tax, one of Mr. Klein's legacies, was ditched and a progressive income tax introduced. Taxes on Albertans making over $300,000 have shot up by 50 per cent. Corporate taxes have also been hiked.

Once-sacred debt rules have been abandoned and the province will begin borrowing for day-to-day operations this year. In the process, the province's formerly pristine credit rating has been downgraded repeatedly.

And on top of that packed agenda, Ms. Notley's government has dealt with one of the most expensive disasters in Canadian history with the wildfire in Fort McMurray.

The formula for oil and gas royalties has also been rewritten. While Ms. Notley campaigned on plans to hike the royalties after arguing for years that oil and gas companies weren't doing their part, her government left the formula largely unchanged – one area where the New Democrats backed away from a clear promise.

Despite howls of protest, labour laws and workers-compensation rules have been extended to hundreds of farms and ranches. Tens of thousands of public servants have been given the right to strike. Strict payday loan rules have been brought in. A new municipal act could see the largest change to city government in a generation. And the government has clarified the rules around assisted dying.

Story continues below advertisement

The topic that has come to define Ms. Notley's first year is climate change. Despite little mention of the climate while campaigning to topple a 44-year Tory legacy, the Premier now says that her province has the toughest climate rules in Canada.

As of 2017 the province will have an economy-wide tax on carbon and the size of the oil sands will be capped. A new energy efficiency agency has also been established and billions will be set aside for it to reach into every home, office and factory in the province.

"If you look at the totality of what they've done in one year, if you roll back to the day before the election and look at what has transpired since, it's a different Alberta," said Duane Bratt, the chair of policy studies at Calgary's Mount Royal University.

While some items on Ms. Notley's wish list have been held up by the province's economic woes and exploding deficit – such as a subsidized daycare system – Mr. Bratt wonders whether the party can keep up the pace. "I don't know if they can keep this up; it's been extraordinary," he said.

According to Mr. Mason, the government's goal has been to modernize the province. It's not a rural, conservative place any more, he argues, and the demographics changed years ago.

Instead of running out of steam, Mr. Mason says he's had to hold back ministers. "There's a backlog," he said. "There's lots left to come."

Story continues below advertisement

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies