CALGARY - It's an unfamiliar sound in Calgary — cheering supporters chanting "N-D-P."
The southern city has been a Progressive Conservative fortress for decades, but the new leader of the Alberta New Democrats thinks her party is due for a breakthrough when voters go to the polls on May 5.
While the NDP has long managed to get people elected in Edmonton, it's been 22 years since a New Democrat last held a seat in Calgary.
"I'm here for a reason," Rachel Notley told about 200 people at a campaign event Wednesday.
"Calgary is a special place — it's a place of innovation. This is not a city where people simply accept the status quo. There's a feeling of change in the air — Albertans want a new premier, and I'm here to tell you that I'm applying for the job."
Support for the NDP in Alberta peaked in the late 1980s when the party held 16 seats provincially. It had four seats at dissolution.
The party lost its last two seats in Calgary in 1993.
Bob Hawkesworth held one of those. He said Notley has similar attributes to another famous Calgary politician.
"I see Rachel's ability to connect with voters is the same as Ralph Klein had," Hawkesworth said. "He was able to connect with ordinary voters in the same way."
Hawkesworth believes it was unaligned progressive voters that helped vault former PC premier Alison Redford into office over the Wildrose in the last provincial election. He said those voters are likely going to move to the NDP.
"Realistically this is a choice between what I would call Grim Jim and Radiant Rachel. It's a clear choice for Albertans and at the end of the day she will at least be the leader of the official Opposition," he said.
Notley told her supporters that the ruling PC government has used up its political capital and the latest budget puts all of the financial burden on the backs of working Albertans.
"We can repeat the mistakes of the past or we can chart a new way forward. People here in Calgary are taking a hard look at this PC government," she said.
"They're seeing a party that has let them down time and time again and now when many of you are worried about your jobs and family budgets Jim Prentice wants you to shoulder the burden of this PC government's failed priorities."
Notley said an NDP government would get the province off the roller coaster of up and down oil prices created by a PC government that never saved for a rainy day.
"Are they the guys that you trust to turn off the roller coaster? We don't have to keep riding this roller coaster."
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