After the NDP Win: 5 reasons political engagement is (still) key for progressive organizations

The NDP's win in Alberta is profound. At Solidarity Media we've watched it from the ground and followed the hashtags, memes and Beyonce-inspired YouTube videos calling for Alberta to move to the left. Progressive organizations in the province have witnessed policy advocacy goals shift from boundary-pushing proposals, into attainable wins. But it's no reason for anti-poverty groups, students unions, or public sector workers to turn away from engaging in politics.

Admittedly, there are reasons to be excited. 

Changes already made by the new Rachel Notley government in the last 4 days have addressed the improvements some progressive organizations have been calling on for years, even decades. For example, Alberta has been without a formal voice for the status of women in the Legislature for almost 
twenty years. Notley changed all that last week by appointing Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips as the Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.

Notley’s $15 minimum wage promise is also good news for anti-poverty advocates and labour unions who have been calling for a provincial minimum wage that  allows people to meet the basics (like 
housing, public transportation and adequate, nutritious food)*.

Alberta’s school boards and the grassroots parent groups that organized on Facebook against cuts to K-12 budgets were able to celebrate Notley’s Thursday announcement that K-12 budgets would get a boost.

The NDP have also promised to review 
how much Alberta charges corporations that cash-in on publically owned natural resources. The new Premier also campaigned on a platform of ending tax giveaways to corporations and high income earners. These shifts in revenue policy shifts were informed by years of work and well-founded research by small but mighty non-partisan research groups like the Parkland Institute and Public Interest Alberta.

Expectations in the province are understandably elevated. There are even grounds to want to sit back, and dial down your organization’s involvement in the world of politics and policy-shaping.

Here are five reasons that would be a huge mistake:

1. A large portion of your members are still voting against their own interests.

Just because you’ve helped vote out a bad government, doesn’t mean all of your members were part of the movement. There’s still work to be done.

Recent Abacus Data polling found 21% of public sector workers polled voted for the Alberta Progressive Conservatives this past election, a party that led the nasty attack on the retirement savings that they had personally paid into. The same party also released a budget with serious job cut implications for these voters. And yet, it safe to say a considerable segment of Albertans that would be impacted actually voted for the status quo.  The same polling – the result of 1,000 Albertans being surveyed – tells us that almost a quarter of Alberta’s non-profit workers also voted for the party that slashed the province’s charitable tax credit and starved their organizations’ fundraising revenues.

2. Political engagement is an ongoing competency, no matter what party is in government.

If your organization’s goal is to support any party that advocates for good jobs and good policy, then your work also involves raising awareness about harmful, unfair policies as well as ballot options that hurt the people and movements you represent**. That work doesn’t stop now.  

Anti-union groups, employer lobbyists, and those promoting the privatization of government services certainly haven’t stopped organizing post-election

3. Promises are just that, promises. 

to raise the provincial minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2018. 
full day kindergarden - pilot projects





Expectations, therefore, are understandably elevated.

There are grounds to want to sit back, and dial down your organization’s involvement in the world of politics and policy-shaping.

Here are five reasons that would be a huge mistake: