A new political organization founded by members of the Alberta NDP faithful says it's time to consider a rebrand if they want to win the next election.
Alberta's Progressive Future says the provincial party's association with the federal NDP is a drag on support.
Organizers of the group, which launched Wednesday with the goal of getting a progressive government elected in Alberta, have research they say backs that up.
Polling commissioned by APF and conducted in mid-September by Janet Brown Opinion Research shows 50 per cent of the respondents think the federal party has influence over the provincial NDP.
The polling was conducted among 900 Albertans, with a margin of error of +/- 3.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
It's that 50 per cent number that Brian Malkinson, the director of the group and a former NDP cabinet minister, says is convincing enough to pitch a name change — though he doesn't know what it should be yet.
"All policies have always been made here in Alberta for Albertans, and I think we need a name and a brand that clearly communicates that," Malkinson said.
"So that when the next election comes around, it's being done on the merits of the policies we're putting forward to voters, not on some confusion whether our policies are made in Ottawa or not."
Notley 'proud' of the NDP name
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley doesn't feel the same need for change.
"I am very proud of the name 'NDP,'" she told reporters Wednesday, adding she's comfortable with the relationship her party has with its federal counterpart.
"We have a long record of standing up for Albertans regardless of what is happening in other jurisdictions."
While Alberta's NDP is not beholden to adopt the policies of the federal NDP, its constitution does declare it a branch of the national party, with membership in the former equalling membership in the latter.
The polling also showed 12 per cent said they could vote NDP but don't support the party right now. Another 12 per cent said they wouldn't likely vote for the NDP but would consider another centre or centre-left party.
Brian Malkinson, seen in this 2018 photo, was the Service Alberta minister in the last year of the NDP's term running the government (2015-19). He's now the director of Alberta's Progressive Future, which is dedicated to electing a progressive government. (Anis Heydari/CBC)
Malkinson sees it as a chance for a 24 per cent increase in available votes for a left-leaning party.
He's also convinced the amount of times the federal-provincial connection came up at the doors during the spring election campaign had consequences in tight races where NDP candidates lost by a few hundred votes.
Most of those close races were in Calgary in ridings like Calgary-North West, Calgary-North and Calgary-Bow.
"Some people have watched one too many UCP ads, but I don't believe that actually was a vote mover in the last election."
The connection between the federal and provincial parties was a common attack line from the United Conservatives during the election, with Premier Danielle Smith often referring to federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh as Notley's "boss."
The joint membership between New Democrat parties is something Malkinson says APF also wants the Alberta NDP to reconsider.
The NDP led the polls for a significant time leading up to voting day this May but came up short on election night. They took 44 per cent of the vote compared to the UCP's 52.6 per cent.
The federal NDP is sitting at 18 per cent support in Alberta, according to the national poll aggregator 338 Canada.
The APF group says it intends to explore why so many voters accessible to the NDP chose not to vote for the party. It will continue to study a potential rebrand.
Malkinson expects the party to at least hear them out.
"We're not trying to take over the party or anything like that," he said.
"If at any step along the way it becomes clear that this is not an issue or the party membership just doesn't want to go down this road, then we will stop and move our efforts elsewhere. But thus far, that's not the case."