Source: Facebook

A new political opponent is setting his eyes on Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s throne. 

The Alberta NDP membership elected former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi to lead their party and Alberta’s Official Opposition in a resounding victory on Saturday.

Nenshi won the leadership contest on the first ballot with 86% of the vote.

He opened his victory speech by calling the United Conservative Party government small-minded.

“This extraordinary movement that we created together is an example of what is possible when we stop thinking small and start thinking big,” he told supporters on Saturday.

In December, the Alberta NDP had 16,224 members. That grew to 85,000 during the leadership campaign. 

Edmonton MLA Rakhi Pancholi previously dropped out of the leadership race, citing Nenshi’s success at selling party memberships. 

Nenshi’s opponents included former Notely-era cabinet minister Kathleen Ganley and Sarah Hoffman, as well as rookie MLA Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse. 

He was the only leadership contender without a seat in the Alberta legislature. 

In January, former leader Rachel Notley said announced her departure after the party lost its second election to the UCP.

Nenshi served as the mayor of Calgary from 2010 to 2021, and was the first Muslim mayor of a large North American city.

He was elected in the 2010 municipal election with 39% and was re-elected in 2013 with 74% of the vote. Finally, in 2017 he won a third term with 51% of the vote. 

He did not seek re-election in the 2021 election, and was succeeded by Jyoti Gondek.

Earlier this month, Alberta NDP MLA Shannon Phillips announced her intention to resign on Canada Day, opening a potential seat for Nenshi.