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NDP: Rakhi Pancholi makes campaign stop in Diamond Valley

Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud, is the first Alberta NDP leadership candidate to make a campaign stop in the Highwood riding.
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Rakhi Pancholi mingles with community members at The Stop Coffee House in Diamond Valley.

The race for leadership of the Alberta NDP is on.

Rakhi Pancholi, MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud, made a campaign stop in Diamond Valley on March 14 to meet with community members and stress the importance of rural communities to the party.

"You've heard a lot about how the Alberta NDP can win government by, you know, yes, we won all the seats in Edmonton. We can win a majority of seats in Calgary, and if we get there, we'll technically have enough numbers possibly to be government. I'm not looking to win by technicalities."

The event, part of the Highwood NDP constituency association's 'Meet the Candidates' series taking place over the next two months, saw 34 people fill The Stop Coffee House to meet Pancholi.

"We need to make sure that we're supporting with policies and positions that can demonstrate who we are in rural communities," she said. "I'm very proud, I take it very seriously that winning seats in rural areas is key, and I know rural is a big term to actually capture a lot of different things. It captures farming communities, but it captures small cities, mid-sized cities.

"So I know it's a big term to cover a lot of things, but we have a lot of things to offer as a party to meet the needs of Albertans from corner to corner. So we need to make sure that we're offering those things."

The coffee house was filled with community members, both NDP members and those who had not purchased memberships, and several asked questions, including Pancholi's thoughts on the UCP's healthcare policy.

"There is so much work to be done just to reverse the damage," she said. "Here's the thing: in the year since Danielle Smith has been premier, even the time before that, the 90-day promise to fix healthcare shows huge naivete about the understandings of our healthcare system.

"But there hasn't been any progress. All there has been is firing boards, reorganizations, which are going to cost millions and millions of dollars. But we know that the actual challenge around healthcare is making sure that we have a valued, respected workforce that is going to meet the demands of our growing population, both in terms of seniors, but also we have more people here than ever before."

She added that there needs to be a greater focus on community-based care because that is considered important in smaller communities.

Another attendee asked what Pancholi's thoughts were about former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi entering the race as a perceived outsider to the party.

"I am really thrilled to see that we have so many people putting their name forward," she said. "The promise of victory in 2027 is growing our party, and we grow our party and our movement by having lots of engagement and interest, and I really want an energetic exchange of ideas.

"I do think the approach that I bring is a little bit different because it's time for a fresh approach to politics. As I mentioned, I came into this role not tied to partisanship or ideology, but tied to the idea of developing good ideas and listening to as many people as possible and bringing them together."

Pancholi, who advocates for removing the requirement that members of the Alberta NDP automatically join the federal NDP, said, "I don't think there's any value in saying, 'is somebody, you know, true NDP or not?' We are growing, and I see that the supporters that we have seen, even in the last four years, I look around our caucus table and we have folks that come from all walks of life, all areas of expertise. That is how we grow our movement. So I think, for me, what's really important is bringing a fresh approach."

Pancholi is up against MLAs Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse, Kathleen Ganley and Sarah Hoffman, Alberta Federation of Labour leader Gil McGowan and Nenshi. 

The next Highwood NDP constituency association event will be with Calahoo Stonehouse at the Royal Duke Hotel Eatery & Pub in Okotoks on March 21 at 7 p.m.


Amir Said

About the Author: Amir Said

Amir Said is a reporter and photographer with the Western Wheel covering local news in Okotoks and Foothills County. For story tips, reach out to [email protected].
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