Should the Alberta NDP accept corporate donations?

Alberta NDP MLA Caucus
The Alberta NDP MLAs Brian Mason, David Eggen, Rachel Notley, and Deron Bilous in last year’s Edmonton Folk Music Festival program book.

With vibrant progressive campaigns winning on the municipal-level in Calgary and Edmonton, it is difficult to understand why there is not be a progressive party, or even a non-conservative party, able to compete on the provincial-level in Alberta.

Alberta’s progressive political parties are being left in the dust by the large fundraising machines of the province’s two main conservative parties, according to Elections Alberta reports.

The Alberta NDP declared $775,152 in revenue in 2013, roughly $2.2 million less than the Wildrose Party. Most of the NDP donations came from that party’s impressive individual donor base, and less than 10% from labour unions. The NDP accepted a small amount of donations from small-businesses, but shies away from larger corporate donors.

With the conservative parties eagerly tapping into a wealth of corporation donors in Alberta, is the NDP handicapping itself by refusing to accept larger corporate donations?

Party purists would argue that the NDP should stick to its social democratic principles by not accepting corporate donations, which would corrupt the party’s morals. Many of the same purists would argue that principles alone win elections. The Alberta NDP’s historically small real-estate in the opposition benches would suggest this is not a winning strategy.

If a party is not seeing consistent growth in funds and votes, then it should change tactics.

In other provinces, like British Columbia, the provincial NDP accepted $2.1 million in corporate donations during last year’s election. While that party did not win that election, it has formed government in the past and remains competitive on a provincial level.

A political party cannot be effective in the long-run if it is not  competitive in fundraising. In Alberta, the NDP is falling short of being able to raise the funds  necessary to compete with the Progressive Conservatives and Wildrose Party on a province-wide level.

The next provincial election presents a very real opportunity for a progressive political party to make gains by providing an alternative to the two main conservative parties. That progressive party would also need the funds and resources to compete on a province-wide level, which would require more money than the NDP appears able to raise without accepting corporate donations.

13 thoughts on “Should the Alberta NDP accept corporate donations?”

  1. Dave, I think you have confused the NDP with a party that actually wants to form government.

    Sincerely,

    Roger

  2. Roger, totally agree! If I was a corporation, I would be donating to the Liberals instead of Tory and Dippers. Their leader and party philosophy is more in line with main stream family voters. The Liberals are the natural choice for mainstream moderate progressive voters.

  3. Dave disappointing to see that you didn’t even mention the Alberta Liberals here.

    Dave why did you not mention the Libs? They are still a party with 5 seats and have done excellent work in the Legislature.

  4. The problem is too much money in politics. The excess is used to confound democracy, not promote it. Most of that money goes towards negative advertising and other aspects of politics that most people despise.

  5. “The next provincial election presents a very real opportunity for a progressive political party to make gains by providing an alternative to the two main conservative parties. ”

    What gains are possible, when the last provincial election was won by a person whose “progressive” bona fides were unmatched? How well did having the most progressive premier in the Province’s history work out for all of us? I do not perceive that her downfall was in any way attributable to Albertans thinking she was not progressive enough – there’s only so many times you can go to Davos for the World Economic Forum, after all.

    And what exactly is the progressive playbook to solve the Province’s woes, anyway – send even more people to Davos? Bring in the PHS people from BC to run everything and purge the whole “culture of entitlement” thing for good?

  6. Interesting comments, Dave. I would be opposed to the NDP accepting donations from large corporations, and I’m certainly not someone who believes principles alone win elections (though I realize you weren’t saying the two groups always coincide).

    My anecdotal experience has been that NDP constituency associations are getting much better a local fundraising, and in Edmonton at least, I think the NDP has shown that it has better organization on the ground than any other party (again anecdotal, and I realize that organization has been focused mainly on priority seats).

    So while I will of course agree that fundraising is one of the most important parts of campaigning, I think focusing on grassroots fundraising is a smarter thing to do. If Alberta does ban corporate and union donations (which both the NDP and Wildrose have pledged to do), it will pay off in the long run anyway. That’s what the Reform Party got good at while corporate and union donations were still legal at the federal level, and that’s a big reason why the federal Conservatives are so much better than every other party at grassroots fundraising today.

  7. Dave, the bigger issue is why do we still have a divided progressive front in this province. If the Liberals and the NDP could come together, I believe it’s a 5 + 4 = 15 or more type of scenario, vis-a-vis seats in the Legislature.

    Rumour mill has it the NDP will be looking for a new leader of their own come this summer. I’m hopeful that a “unity” candidate of some sort will emerge.

  8. Let’s look at the Liberals, shall we? They willingly accept corporate donations ($2,500 from Cenovus; $3,000 from Encana; $1,200 from KPMG; and so on), and yet their fund-raising totals are significantly lower than the NDP’s, which doesn’t. If you were to remove corporate contributions from their numbers, their contribution totals from individuals would be even lower. This shows just how moribund the Liberals are as a political force in this province.

    As for union contributions, the NDP has since its inception been the political voice of labour, and organized labour’s support of the NDP has always been intended to act as a counter to the tremendous power of the corporate sector in our polity. But if corporate contributions were banned altogether, as was done federally, the NDP would gladly forego union contributions to achieve that levelling of the playing field. (Organized labour would then just have to contribute in other ways, like recruiting volunteers to work on campaigns).

  9. greatwallsoffire: In what world is Alison Redford a “progressive” with “unmatched bona fides”? She “might” be a “progressive” conservative, but on an absolute scale, she’s not “progressive” in any realistic sense of the word.

    And Neal, the reason that we don’t have a united progressive front in Alberta is because the Liberals are NOT progressive. They are very much a party of capital, just like the conservatives.

  10. @Bob

    The Alberta NDP most assuredly has received corporate donations. In 2008 I distinctly recall having to mark a rather sizable donation from Imperial Oil ‘return to sender’.

    Companies like Imperial will happily hedge their bets, and the Cenovus and Encana donations to the Liberals that jerrymacgp referred to are likely unsolicited and are simply part of their political action dollars that they send to whoever will accept it.

    Sadly, although we could’ve most certainly used that cash, I was instructed to send it back. As a fundraiser, I had mixed feelings about it for sure.

    Good piece Dave – Bob, would you prefer Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or the more traditional ketchup with that hat of yours?

    – Jeff.

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