EDMONTON - If at first you don't succeed, run, run again.

Alberta has historically been somewhat infertile ground for the federal NDP, but leader Jack Layton is hoping that "perseverance and determination" will lead the party to improve on its one-seat standing in the next federal election.

Layton was in Edmonton on Tuesday to see former Alberta NDP leader Ray Martin and aboriginal activist Lewis Cardinal acclaimed as the party's candidates in Edmonton East and Edmonton Centre.

Cardinal is new to the federal party. And despite Martin's long service as a member of the Alberta legislature - he led his party to win 16 seats in the 1986 provincial election - he has tried and failed to be elected in three different federal votes dating back to 1997.

That doesn't discourage Layton, who remains upbeat about NDPer Linda Duncan's squeaker of a win - by a 463-vote margin - over four-term Tory incumbent Rahim Jaffer in 2008.

"We often find that our candidates run two, three times before they win," said Layton, noting that Duncan's victory came on a second try.

"We think that Linda Duncan's breakthrough in the last election was the start of something big."

He said that last time around, there might have been a sense among Alberta voters that NDP candidates wouldn't have a chance, so why waste the vote?

"Now that Linda has won a seat, I think that's changed. And I think people will now say, 'Look at that. We can elect a federal NDP member to stand up for us and that's a good thing and we're going to get behind them.' It's a growing process."

Layton isn't the only opposition leader laying the groundwork for a breach of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's big blue juggernaut - every seat in Alberta except Duncan's is held by the federal Conservatives.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has spent time in the province recently, suggesting that Albertans are disgruntled by Harper's policies and ready for a change.

Layton said that's only going to happen if voters reject the "old-line parties."

"There's not really much to distinguish so far between the policies of the Ignatieff Liberals and the Harper Conservatives," he said. "Mr. Ignatieff has been supporting their budget, which hasn't got the job done, in our view, and has left a lot of people behind."

However, there's one old-line politician Layton is happy to reference when discussing his party's opposition to the rapid pace of oilsands development in Alberta.

He notes that former Alberta Conservative premier Peter Lougheed has called for limits to the pace of growth; Ignatieff, on the other hand, has made it clear he intends to stand behind the massive and controversial fossil-fuel resource.



"We've supported this growing movement in Alberta to say there shouldn't be more (oilsands project) approvals until there are well-conceived, thorough plans in place to determine how the consequences will be addressed," he said.

"You'll have the Liberals and the Conservatives supporting what appears to be a kind of untrammelled approach to as rapid development of the tarsands as possible, whereas you'll have our party calling for a different and more responsible approach, thinking more about the long-term legacy for Albertans and Canadians and the environment."

Asked if that stance might be unpopular with voters in a province that has reaped significant economic benefit from the oilsands, Layton pointed out that Alberta has also been a leader in the development of wind power; that Edmonton has been a leader in municipal recycling; and that Calgary has used wind-generated electricity to power its transit trains.

"I've often found that Albertans are far more thoughtful than the eastern press gives them credit for," he said.

"I don't accept the proposition that Albertans are simplistically just gung-ho about pushing the foot down all the way on the accelerator for the tarsands and the consequences be damned."