Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi named Alberta NDP leader in landslide victory

Alberta’s New Democratic Party has found a new leader in former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi.

A little more than 62,000 members selected Nenshi as the new leader Saturday afternoon, ending a months-long leadership race between Edmonton MLAs Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse and Sarah Hoffman, and Calgary MLA Kathleen Ganley.

Nenshi, who won the leadership race with 62,746 votes, becomes the first from Calgary to lead the New Democrats, securing the win with roughly 86 per cent of the vote on the first ballot of the party’s biggest and most competitive leadership contest.

Calahoo Stonehouse received 1,222 votes, Ganley received 5,899 votes and Hoffman received 3,063 votes.

Out of the 85,144 members eligible to vote, 72,930 people voted in this leadership race, which was a record voting turnout, according to Amanda Freistadt, the Alberta NDP’s chief returning officer.

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Nenshi lost no time in launching attacks against his newest political foe, using his victory speech to describe Premier Danielle Smith’s United Conservative Government as small-minded.

“This extraordinary movement that we created together is an example of what is possible when we stop thinking small and start thinking big,” he told the crowd on Saturday.

Nenshi said Saturday’s large voter turnout means party members are here to stay.

“We need to convert this movement into something that is going to build and build and build and build,” he said.

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“We need to co-create a vision for Alberta with our neighbours in big cities, in midsize towns, in small rural communities everywhere in this province … to create the vision of the Alberta that we all want.”

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While Nenshi becomes leader of the Official Opposition, he doesn’t hold a seat in the provincial legislature.

Notley announced in January she would step down to make room for a new leader after the NDP won 38 of the 87 legislature seats in the 2023 election, forming the largest Opposition in provincial history.

Premier Danielle Smith took to social media on Saturday afternoon to congratulate Nenshi.

“Serving as opposition leader is a great honour and I look forward to the dialogue we will have on how best to serve Albertans,” she said.

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In a social media post, Calahoo Stonehouse congratulated Nenshi and assured him of her support and commitment to uniting the party and its caucus to “defeat the UCP.”

“It has been an honour to be the first-ever First Nations person to run for the leadership of the Alberta NDP,” she said.

“While I may not have won this election, I am incredibly proud to have made history. I know that many First Nations and Indigenous people see this achievement and will be inspired to follow in my footsteps.”

Calahoo Stonehouse said her campaign, rooted in Indigenous teaching, focused on the well-being of Albertans, reaching out to those who “often feel unseen and unheard in politics.”

“As an Indigenous candidate, I did not have the same access to resources as some others, and I believe our party needs to address the high cost of entry to ensure growth and inclusivity,” she said.

“We have so much more to do together, and I am confident that we will form the next government with the issues that matter most on our agenda.”

Hoffman, in her own social media post, said she looks forward to working with Nenshi and the rest of the party to prepare for the next provincial election, which is slated for 2027.

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“Many Albertans have told us that they want the next provincial NDP campaign to focus on solutions to the health, climate and housing crises in Alberta,” she said.

“I proudly offer my support and our ideas to Naheed as our work to win the next election starts now.”

Nenshi made international headlines in 2010 after being elected mayor of Calgary, serving as the first Muslim mayor of a large North American city. He served three terms before bowing out ahead of the 2021 municipal election.

Prior to winning the party’s leadership vote, he said his progressive values align with the party’s core principles.

Party membership ballooned from 16,224 in December 2023 to more than 85,000 for the vote, spiking after Nenshi joined the race.

Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, told Global News prior to Nenshi’s win that he will have to “try to use his connections within the party, the folks he was up against in this leadership race, and try to bring those folks into the fold.”

“His other task is going to be to enlarge the tent to generate a little bit more support for his party and for his vision, something that will be more appealing to a broader range of Albertans,” she said.

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— with files from The Canadian Press and Cameron Green, Global News

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