Unofficial political donation records published by Elections Alberta yesterday show that Premier Alison Redford‘s Progressive Conservative Association is not in the robust financial situation its leaders are accustomed to over the past four-decades in office.
At least not in 2012, when the Tory Party was eclipsed by its main rival in fundraising amounts.
Danielle Smith‘s Wildrose Party smashed political fundraising records in 2012, raising an incredible $5,916,565 over the course of the year. Contributing to the $5 million figure was $3,122,670 of revenue reported from the 2012 election and $2,793,895 raised outside the campaign period. In their non-campaign period, the Wildrose Party recorded a $175,133 deficit and $405,361 in net assets.
While the Wildrose Party attracted large donations from medium-sized oil and pipeline equipment companies, the large majority of that party’s donations came from individual donors. This trend suggests the Wildrose has harnessed a fundraising machine similar to the Conservative Party of Canada. With close ties to the federal party, it is no surprise that the Wildrose has chosen to mimic this successful fundraising goal.
The Conservatives under Prime Minister Stephen Harper were the first federal political party in recent history to succeed in effectively cultivating a large base of individual donors to fund their political operations. This energized base of individual donors helped free the Tories from having to depend on the large corporate donations that for decades fuelled the Liberal Party of Canada.
The test for the Wildrose Party will be whether they can sustain this level of fundraising in the years between election periods.
Meanwhile, Alberta’s PC Party reported a $3,055,621 deficit after last year’s election that had been whittled down to $794,767 in liabilities at the end of 2012. Relying heavily on corporate donations, the Tories raised $1,607,581 during the 2012 election and $2,331,592 in the non-campaign period.
The Tory fundraising numbers from the 2012 election are lower than expected and are somewhat misleading as many Tory candidates raised astonishing amounts of funds on their own accord. For example, Calgary-Greenway Tory Manmeet Bhullar‘s campaign spent $133,294, Fort McMurray-Conklin Tory Don Scott‘s campaign spent $110,955.44, Edmonton-Whitemud Tory cabinet minister Dave Hancock‘s campaign spent $121,233.35, and Calgary-West Tory candidate Ken Hughes‘ campaign spent $111,796.33.
Despite the old saying that Alberta’s PCs strived to always have enough money in their coffers to run two back-to-back election campaigns, the party is struggling with a smaller donor base and growing debt wracked up in last year’s election.
Brian Mason‘s New Democrats reported impressive revenue of $1,380,659 outside the campaign period in 2012, but remain strapped with a $554,883 debt from previous election campaigns. Raj Sherman‘s Liberals reported $478,795 in revenue in the non-election period and a $30,015 surplus in funds at the end of 2012.