Meet Gil McGowan

The Alberta NDP leadership race is heating up.I recently wrote and offered some background on Naheed Nenshi as many people may have forgotten how bad he was as Calgary’s mayor and what sort of political tactics he used.

Now I will profile the next top contender for the NDP leadership. Ol’ Gil McGowan,

Gil isn’t as well known as Nenshi. He has been active in Alberta political circles as the president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL) for nearly 20 years. It’s a nice gig as the AFL takes a bite from the union dues of workers in many unions, but doesn’t actually have to do the work that unions do with things such as collective bargaining and representing workers. The AFL can then dedicate resources to lobbying for things such as opposing pipeline construction and boycotting Alberta businesses. The AFL also has a spot at the NDP party table guaranteed by the party constitution. Ol’ Gil doesn’t even have to run for an NDP board position. He has one built for him.

Nenshi is a complicated character who makes strategic decisions and plans.

By comparison, Gil McGowan is a simple man. There aren’t many layers to him. That is characterized by his thuggish, in-your-face tactics such as when he assailed a reporter while crashing a demonstration in support of the Alberta Sovereignty Act. Gil is an old-school union type who prefers intimidation over nuance.

One thing Gil and Naheed have in common is thin skin. That can be seen on X where Gil likes to have explosions. He is quick to get upset, especially if one pokes at his simple nature. McGowan is a bit self-conscious of that.

Now just think of how well the debates will go when Naheed Nenshi who self-characterizes himself as the smartest man in the room raises his face to the sky, closes his eyes, and offers Gil the condescending type of pat on the head he loves to offer opponents. I hope the podiums are far apart.

Gil has a realistic shot at the leadership. He has the ear of the labour unions, and the NDP party loyal. Not every NDP member is enamoured with Nenshi barging in and telling them he plans to save them from themselves. The four women running for the leadership who have now been pushed into the also-ran category by Nenshi and McGowan will likely direct their voters toward McGowan as a second choice. Nenshi will doubtless sell many new memberships, but if he doesn’t win it in the first ballot, he could be in trouble. It’s a very competitive race.

If Gil wins the leadership, he will keep the NDP true to its socialist, labour roots. The party will remain ideologically pure, and will remain unelectable. McGowan’s shallow, belligerent nature won’t win support from common Albertans.

If Nenshi wins the race, Gil will return to the AFL and to his seat at the NDP table on the party executive. He will have some seriously ruffled feathers and Nenshi is going to have a tough time calming McGowan and garnering his support after the race. The NDP is going to be quite divided.

The race is just warming up and will prove to be politically entertaining even if not productive. The contrast between Nenshi and McGowan is outstanding and potentially explosive.

Party leadership races can build parties and they can rip them to shreds. The risk of the latter is great with the current NDP leadership race. I am investing in popcorn to see how it all unfolds.

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