– and reasserts its cooperative heritage

Rachel Notley

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley

(May 6, 2015) Watching last night’s Alberta election results were at once surprising and inspiring – surprising because of the scale of the upset after 44 years of the same party in power.

Inspiring because the NDP victory under Rachel Notley builds on an Alberta tradition of cooperation and community development much deeper than the more recently discovered oil wealth of this province.

It was farmers in the poorest part of Alberta who first had their municipal government open hospitals and hire nurses and doctors to provide community medical services for their citizens.

The oldest retail cooperative in Alberta started west of Red Deer over 100 years ago.  The City of Calgary was the home of the forerunner of the NDP, the aptly named Cooperative Commonwealth Federation.  The Alberta Wheat Pool held its founding convention in Calgary.  With the support of Alberta grain farmers the Famous Five fought for the rights of women to be recognized as persons.

Alberta farmers also built an extensive network of cooperatives to provide everything from creameries, electrical services, rural telephone service, grain handling, home and auto insurance, as well as marketing boards for most agricultural commodities.  It was only with the oil boom of the late 1970s that these institutions came under attack and many were slowly undermined.

The cooperative tradition runs very deep in Alberta and Rachel Notley and her party hail from that rich tradition.  Albertans have taken courage into their hands and voted to build on that tradition.

Time will tell if the rest of the prairies also re-discover their own heritage of cooperation.  However, the outcome of the Alberta election shows that restoring the single-desk Canadian Wheat Board is no longer as distant or as difficult as it may have seemed yesterday.

One comment

  1. Norma Waddell

    My father, Ted Strain past NFU president from N. Battleford, sask, would be smiling down right now! So grateful my mother at 93 has lived to see this day of NDP resurgence! Hope for the future in this country!