You sent us your questions and we answered! In this edition of the annual Alberta politics Q&A episode, Daveberta Podcast host Dave Cournoyer and producer Adam Rozenhart dive into the mailbag to answer listener questions about provincial parks, the Heritage Savings Trust Fund, the reopening of schools in September, political party fundraising, how previous governments might have handled the COVID-19 pandemic differently, how the government could do a better job convincing more Albertans to wear face masks in public, and much more.
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Alberta’s political parties largely stopped in-person fundraising events since the COVID-19 pandemic began but they all continued with their traditional aggressive email and social media appeals.
The NDP held a number of Zoom fundraisers featuring musical acts and guest speakers during the pandemic but it is the actions of the UCP that likely helped boost the NDP’s cash flow.
While the UCP would still likely be re-elected if an election were held tomorrow, public opinion polls show that Albertans do not approve of the government’s handling of health care, education and post-secondary education issues.
The size of the donations received by the parties is also worth noting. More than half of the donations to the NDP were in amounts of $250 or less, while almost two-thirds of donations to the UCP were in denominations over $250.
One of the big successes of the UCP’s predecessor party, the Wildrose Party, was its ability to cultivate a large base of small donors, something that the UCP appears to have trended away from (the UCP received nearly 90 individual donations of $4,000 in the first quarter of 2020).
I am told that the NDP raised around $10,000 in small donations during an impromptu social media campaign encouraging supporters to donate to the NDP to celebrate Premier Jason Kenney‘s birthday on May 30.
While the UCP will likely recover their fundraising advantage or at least become more competitive with the NDP in future quarters, it does show that Kenney’s party faces some significant internal financial problems. And for the NDP, it shows that despite losing last year’s election the party under Rachel Notley‘s leadership has continued to maintain a strong base of donors during its first year as official opposition, and, presumably, as government-in-waiting.
Here is what the political parties raised during the second quarter of 2020:
Former Progressive Conservative MLA Jacquie Fenske stepped up to become interim leader of the Alberta Party in February 2020, replacing former PC MLA Stephen Mandel who resigned after failing to win a seat in the 2019 election. Fenske previously served as MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville from 2012 to 2015 and as a Councillor in Strathcona Country from 1995 to 1998 and 2004 to 2012.
Meanwhile, the UCP has scheduled its first major COVID-era in-person fundraiser on August 14, which will take the form of a horse race derby at a race track outside Lacombe.
Tickets to watch Kenney and UCP MLAs compete in a horse race, including a T-Rex race that will feature MLAs racing in “their t-rex dinosaur costumes,” start at $100 for the “MLA Cheer Team” and go as high as $3000 for the “Ralph Klein VIP Suite.”
The maximum annual donation to political parties was increased to $4,243 from $4.000 as of January 1, 2020.
UCP executive director joins lobbyist company
It appears as though the UCP will be searching for a new Executive Director. Brad Tennant recently left the position to become a vice-president with Wellington Advocacy, a government relations company co-founded by former UCP campaign manager and UCP caucus chief of staff Nick Koolsbergen shortly after the 2019 election.
Tennant replaced former UCP executive director Janice Harrington in May 2019. Harrington was later appointed as Alberta’s health advocate and mental health patient advocate by Health Minister Tyler Shandro in November 2019.
Political operations director Jeff Henwood is now acting executive director of the party.
Greens choose new leader
Jordan Wilkie was elected as leader of Alberta’s Green Party in an online vote on March 28, 2020. Wilkie earned 71.9 percent, defeating his only challenger, Brian Deheer. Wilkie is a professional firefighter and holds a Masters degree in Disaster Emergency Management. He is the party’s sixth leader in three years and succeeds interim leader Will Carnegie, who stepped into the role following Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes resignation after the 2019 election.
Evelyn Tanaka, who ran in the 2019 federal election in Calgary-Sheperd, has been appointed deputy leader.
The Green Party nominated 32 candidates and earned 0.41 percent of the vote in the 2019 election.
News from Alberta’s separatist fringe
The tiny far-right Wexit group and the Freedom Conservative Party will be asking their membership to support a merger and rebrand as the Wildrose Independence Party, according to media reports. As the Wexit group is not a registered political party in Alberta, it is likely the arrangement would result in the FCP applying to Elections Alberta for a name change.
While the Chief Elections Officer has some legal discretion to approve political party names, the Wildrose moniker became available last year when the UCP amended the province’s election laws to allow the formal dissolution of both the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservative parties. Before the change, election laws in Alberta forbid the dissolution of political parties with outstanding debt, which the PC Party still held following the 2015 election.
The province’s other fringe separatist parties, the Independence Party of Alberta, the Alberta Advantage Party and the unregistered Alberta Freedom Alliance, do not appear to have been invited to the merger.
The FCP nominated 24 candidates and earned 0.52 percent of the vote in the 2019 election.
Here are my quick thoughts on the latest fundraising numbers:
The United Conservative Party raised more than $1 million for the second quarter in a row, demonstrating the dominant conservative party’s ability to raise significantly larger amounts than any of the other parties. There is no doubt that the UCP is an impressive fundraising machine and will not be hurting for money when the next election is called.
The New Democratic Party raised $676,446.91 in this quarter, which is $237,000 more than the party raised in the same quarter in 2017 and a drop from the $856,960 raised in the last quarter. The NDP continues to lag behind the UCP in terms of total fundraising, but the governing party is around $500,000 ahead in total annual fundraising from where it was during last year’s third quarter.
The Alberta Party saw its fundraising totals drop by almost $100,000 compared to last quarter, leaving the third-place party with $28,915 in fundraising reported in the third quarter.
The total number of donations collected by Alberta’s political parties in 2017 and 2018 is somewhat complicated by the fact that donations collected during by-election periods from November 16, 2017 to February 14, 2018, and from June 14 to July 12, 2018 are counted separately from the regular quarterly reports.
During the by-election period that ended on February 14, 2018, the NDP collected $886,591.29 , the UCP collected $840,794.02, and the Liberal Party collected $61,662.19. The financial reports from the by-election period in June and July 2018 has not yet been released but will include funds raised by the parties during that period that might not be included in the third quarter financial disclosure released last week.
Pro-UCP PAC flush with car dealership cash
Not limited by donations laws banning corporate donations that apply to political parties, two pro-UCP Third Party Political Advertisers, known colloquially as Political Action Committees, are flush with cash.
The AAFund raised $261,500.00 in the third quarter of 2018 and a total of $915,454.77 in the first three quarters of 2018. Shaping Alberta’s Future raised $275,000 in the third quarter of 2018, of which at least $170,000 came from car dealerships across the province.
In his letter, Robinson noted Kenney would roll back personal and corporate taxes, freeze minimum wage and explore lower wages for young workers, and cancel all reforms the NDP have made the the Labour Code, Occupational Health & Safety and Workers’ Compensation Board.
Robinson wrote that the MDA board voted to solicit its dealer members to contribute to Shaping Alberta’s Future. The letter noted that the “MDA’s goal donation is $1,000,000.00” and that “each MDA dealership write a cheque in the amount of $5,000.00.”
The President of the MDA is Denis Ducharme, who served as the PC MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake from 1997 to 2008.
Speaking to Postmedia columnist Keith Gerein, Shaping Alberta’s Future executive director David Wasyluk denied that the UCP and the pro-UCP PAC have been collaborating. Wasyluk was until recently the spokesperson for the right-wing BC Liberal Party and a research officer for the BC Liberal Party caucus before that party was removed from government in 2017.
Elections Alberta disclosures also show that Edmonton philanthropist Stanley Milner is of the largest individual donors of the AAFund and Shaping Alberta’s Future, having donated around $88,000 to the two pro-UCP political action committees.
The primary contacts for each group are also provided by Elections Alberta. The primary contact for the AAFund is Edmonton lawyer and former Wildrose Party executive director Jonathan Wescott, who is the Principal of the Alberta Counsel lobby firm. The primary contract for Shaping Alberta’s Future is Douglas Nelson, who was previously listed as the Chief Financial Officer for Jason Kenney’s now defunct Third Party Political Advertisers, the Alberta Victory Fund.
Here are my quick thoughts on the latest fundraising numbers:
The NDP continue to demonstrate an impressive ability to raise money in Alberta. The NDP has raised the most of any party in the first three quarters of 2017.
This is the United Conservative Party’s first-ever quarter of fundraising, and I expect the party will raise significantly larger amounts in the next quarter when it has a permanent leader and when annual contribution limits reset before the first quarter of 2018.
This was likely the final quarter that the Progressive Conservative and Wildrose parties will report any significant fundraising amounts. Both parties are now controlled by the board of directors of the UCP. Funds donated to the two parties in the third quarter cannot be transferred to the UCP or any other party.
The Alberta Party is attempting to position itself as a centrist alternative to the NDP and UCP, but it will not be much of a political force going into the 2019 election if it party cannot start raising significantly more funds than it has in the first three quarters of 2017. I would not be surprised if these embarrassingly low fundraising returns raise questions inside the party about the future of Greg Clark‘s leadership. I expect the influence of the Alberta Together group and the influx of former PC Party officials into the Alberta Party will force the issue at the party’s annual general meeting on November 18, 2017.
A number of third-party advertisers (frequently referred to by the media as Political Action Committees) raised significant amounts of funds in the third quarter. I hope to delve a little deeper in this issue in a future post.
Combined party and constituency fundraising results show the governing New Democratic Party in the lead in for the second consecutive quarter of 2017, having fundraised $553,733 between April 1, 2017 and June 30, 2017, a jump from $373,060 raised by the NDP in the first quarter of 2017.
The NDP have raised a combined total of $926,793 in the first two quarter of 2017, while the Wildrose raised $852,689 and the PCs raised $313,791.
This is the second fundraising quarter to fall under new political finance laws introduced by Democratic Renewal Minister Christina Gray in 2016, which lowered the maximum annual donation limits from $15,000 to $4,000. This followed reforms introduced by the NDP in 2015 that banned corporate and union donations to political parties and candidates.
Here is a quick look at the top donors for each of the five main political parties in Alberta in the second quarter of 2017:
Kathleen Feehan – $4,000
Allan Kettles – $4,000
Don Smith – $4,000
Tom Boyce – $2,718
Ericka Simonelli – $2,650
Anne McGrath – $2,407
Cheryl Wilei – $4,500
Paul Doucette – $4,000
Arlene Goodchild – $4,000
Sterling Goodchild – $4,000
Tasker Goodchild – $4,000
George Janzen – $4,000
Len McCullah – $4,000
Jennifer Swertz – $4,000
John Peter – $4,000
Stanley Milner – $4,000
Heather Shaw – $4,000
Deborah Wall – $4,000
Jeff Boyce – $1,500
Wayne Foo – $1,500
These totals are considerably less than what was raised by the governing and official opposition parties in the fourth quarter of 2016, when the NDP raised $1,985,272.00 and the Wildrose raised $2,063,737.63. Similar to previous years, political fundraising in the first quarter of the year is typically lower than the previous year’s final quarter.
Both the NDP and Wildrose Party fundraised less in this quarter than in the first quarter of 2016, when the NDP raised $398,843.71 and Wildrose raised $448,912.71. The PCs raised more than twice in this quarter than the $105,436.47 the party raised in the first quarter of 2016.
This is the first fundraising quarter to fall under new political finance laws introduced by Democratic Renewal Minister Christina Gray in 2016, which lowered the maximum annual donation limits from $15,000 to $4,000. This followed reforms introduced by the NDP in 2015 that banned corporate and union donations to political parties and candidates.
Here is a quick look at the top donors for each of the five main political parties in Alberta in the first quarter of 2017:
Jamie Kleinsteuber – $2,612.50
Amanda Nielsen – $2,287.50
David Mayhood – $2,015
Thomas Dang – $1,976
Brian Malkinson – $1,702.50
Roari Richardson – $1,570
Harvey Aarbo – $4,000
Gordon Elliott – $4,000
Gudrun Schulze Ebbinghoff – $4,000
Robert Such – $4,000
Larry Thompson – $4,000
Maria Binnion – $4,000
John Neudorf – $4,000
Constance Nolin – $4,000
Dennis Nolin – $4,000
Prem Singhmar – $4,000
Ebrahim Karbani – $4,000
Zulqurnain Abbas – $3,500
Tariq Hussain – $3,300
Israr Ullah – $3,300
Fazal Rehman – $3,000
Saifuddin Syed – $3,000
James Tererenko – $820.94
Patrick Baillie – $500
Aaron Blair – $500
Greg Clark – $500
Brad Grundy – $500
Brian Mahoney – $500
The NDP finished their fourth quarter fundraising drive with $798,165, compared to $511,667 for the Wildrose Party, $218,792 for the PCs, $85,930 for the Liberals and $32,612 for the Alberta Party.
This was the second consecutive quarter where the NDP raised more than the opposition Wildrose. Over the course of 2016, the NDP raised $1,985,271 in donations from individual Albertans, more than then $1,758,377 raised by the Wildrose Party.
THE INCREDIBLE IMPLODING TORIES
Despite lawsuits, fines, complaints by former MLAs, and having a campaign strategist kicked out of the party, Jason Kenney’s single-focused campaign to dissolve the PC Party and merge it with the Wildrose Party appears to be on track to win a landslide at the party’s delegate convention on March 18.
And despite claims that the party remains viable, and that its constituency associations hold more than $1.7 million in the bank, none of the three candidates claiming to support the “renewal” of the current party appear to be contenders.
In a bombshell rebuke to the party’s elected executive, interim party leader Ric McIver publicly defended Hallman and some members of the party’s youth wing publicly appointed him as their honorary chairman the day after he was suspended. At least three members of the youth wing executive – Sierra Garner, Kyle Hoyda and Natalie Warren – tweeted they were not informed of the decision to give Hallman the honorary chairmanship before it was announced (I am told this is also a violation of the PC Party’s rules, as Hallman is no longer a party member).
It is unclear whether the blowback from McIver and Kenney’s supporters in the youth wing will convince the party executive to rescind the suspension order.
Less than two years after being reduced to third place in the last provincial election, the party that led Alberta for almost forty-four uninterrupted years feels like a shell of its once mighty self. Once Kenney wins the leadership, there might not be anything left to merge with the Wildrose Party. Maybe that was the plan?
As AlbertaPolitics.ca blogger David Climenhaga notes, potential candidates to replace interim leader David Swann include include outgoing St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse, former Calgary broadcaster Nirmala Naidoo, and Calgary lawyer David Khan.
“There’s an opportunity right now in the middle of that political spectrum for a kind of common sense, pragmatic solution to some of the challenges we’re facing right now,” party President Karen Sevcik told CBC Edmonton. “We think there’s some room, there’s opportunity, there’s change, and when there’s change, there’s opportunity.”
Elections Alberta has released the results of political party fundraising from the third quarter of 2016 and it shows that the Alberta NDP raised more money than the Wildrose Party for the first time since the second quarter of 2015. This marks the second best fundraising quarter for Rachel Notley‘s NDP since the party was elected to government in May 2015.
2016 Third Quarter Fundraising from July 1, 2016 to September 30, 2016 Alberta Liberals: $39,187.98 Alberta NDP: $425,437.9 Alberta Party: $15,511.5 Green Party: $2,127.5 PC Party: $48,209.16 Wildrose Party: $330,666.45
The results for the Wildrose Party represent a significant drop in fundraising for the official opposition party. This is the first time since the third quarter of 2015 that the Wildrose Party has raised less than $400,000 in a quarter.
With Wildrose supporter Jason Kenney a contender for the Progressive Conservative Party leadership, it will be interesting to see whether traditional Wildrose donors have decided to shift their financial support.
And in the midst of a leadership race, the PC Party increased their fundraising income to $48,209.16, up from $27,376 in the second quarter of 2016. The PCs have struggled to raise funds since the NDP banned corporate donations to political parties in 2015.
Here is a breakdown of political party fundraising in Alberta in the first three quarters of 2016:
Elections Alberta released the results of this year’s second quarter of fundraising for provincial political parties this week. Following the release of the disclosures I took a closer look at last quarter’s results and what they could mean for the parties.
New Democratic Party
The Alberta NDP raised ten percent less than they did in the first quarter of 2016, which marks the third best full quarter fundraising results since the party formed government in May 2015. The NDP have never led party fundraising but they appear to have developed a healthy and significant base of individual donors. Note: The NDP do not register donations to individual constituency associations, so all funds raised are disclosed through the central party.
The Wildrose Party maintained its fundraising lead over the NDP by raising the most funds of any party the second quarter. This is a good sign for leader Brian Jean, who’s position as leader of Alberta’s conservatives is being challenged by federal Conservative Member of Parliament Jason Kenneythrough a hostile take-over bid of the PC Party. Not counted in the chart above is the funds raised by constituency associations in the second quarter, including Highwood which raised $17,545, Strathmore-Brooks which raised $8,350 and Calgary-Foothills which raised $8,100.
Drumheller-Stettler Wildrose MLA Rick Strankman and his wife Diane Strankman donated $1,500 to the Vermilion-Lloydminster Wildrose Association, that constituency association’s largest donors in the second quarter. The constituency is represented in the Legislative Assembly by PC MLA Richard Starke.
Gary Bikman, an MLA who crossed the floor from the Wildrose to the PCs in December 2014, donated $500 to the Wildrose association in Cardston-Taber-Warner. He represented the constituency from 2012 to 2015 and was defeated in his bid to become the PC candidate in 2015.
Progressive Conservative Party
Long gone are the days of secret trust funds and overflowing campaign war-chests. This was a dismal second quarter for the former governing Progressive Conservative Party, which raised only $27,376. This was the party’s second worst quarterly fundraising result in recent memory, which is not a good sign as the PCs are set to begin a leadership race on October 1, 2016. But the poor showing by the central party is somewhat deceiving as some local PC constituency associations raised a significant amount of funds in the second quarter: $11,090 in Calgary-Hays, $10,166 in Vermilion-Lloydminster, $10,100 in Calgary-West, $9,386 in Calgary-Northern Hills and $8,277 in Grande Prairie-Wapiti.
For the Alberta Liberals, the good news is they increased the quarterly fundraising by 97 percent, the bad news is that they only raised $57,561.04, which is less than their highest quarter last year (they raised more than $110,000 in the first quarter of 2015). Worth noting is a fundraising reception the Liberals are holding on July 21 at the Mayfair Golf Club that will be hosted by Marc de La Bruyere, chairperson of MacLab Enterprises and a well-connected businessman (he also donated $5,000 to the PC Party during the 2015 election).
After the election of their first elected MLA in 2015, the Alberta Party appears to still be struggling to develop a sustainable base of donors. Unlike the other parties, the newish party is without an already established fundraising network, which takes significant time and resources to develop.
Here is a list of the top donors for each of the five parties, including donations to constituency associations, in the first two quarters of 2016:
New Democratic Party
Harinder Rai: $15,000
Pavan Kumar Elapavuluri: $5,000
Tim Foster: $5,000
Jamie Kleinsteuber: $3,653.75
Jason Rockwell: $3,407.50
Trevor Horne: $3,051.25
Darshan Brar: $3,000
David Eggen: $2,773.75
Mary Williams: $2,730
Alayne Sinclair: $2,643.75
Arnell Gordon: $29,000
Tom Goodchild: $15,000
Maurice Swertz: $15,000
Arlene Goodchild: $7,000
Robert Such: $6,050.00
Iris Kirschner: $7,587.50
James Brown: $5,000
Ryan Crawford: $5,000
Alexander Soutzo: $5,000
Frances Jean: $3,962.33
Progressive Conservative Party
Marcel Van Hecke: $15,957.50
Dave Bissett: $15,000
Scott Burns: $15,000
Stanley Milner: $15,000
Bradley Shaw: $15,000
Celine Belanger: $5,000
Ric McIver: $2,940
Chris Warren: $1,020
Elizabeth Henuset: $1,000
Franklin Kernick: $1,000
Grant Dunlop: $5,600
Karen Sevcik: $5,300
Ian Cartwright: $3,306
Peter Poole: $3,000
Raj Sherman: $2,000
Dan MacLennan: $1,520
Dan Hays: $1,500
Rowland Nichol: $1,500
Catherine Ryan: $1,260
David Swann: $1,000
On the final night of second quarter fundraising period for Alberta’s political parties, I thought it would be useful to take a look back at the past year in political party fundraising. There has been a seismic shift in our politics in this province since last year when the Progressive Conservatives were defeated in the general election and Albertans elected their first new government in 44 years.
Immediately after their election, the New Democratic Party government implemented one of their key election promises to ban corporations and unions from donating money to political parties. This change had a significant immediate impact on the PC Party, which had relied heavily on large donations from corporations to sustain its operations and fill its large campaign war-chest. The shock of the election loss and severing of its access to corporate donors led the PC Party to raise only $15,575.50 in the third quarter of 2015, it’s lowest fundraising period in decades.
The PC Party appeared to have somewhat recovered by the fourth quarter of 2015, when it raised $221,959.50.
The NDP and Wildrose Party faired better and adapted much quicker to the changes due to their already substantial base of individual donors. Both parties rely heavily on individual donors contributing amounts under the $250 reporting threshold.
All the major political parties have been soliciting donations in advance of tonight’s deadline. The NDP and Wildrose Party in particular have been flooding their supporters and past donors inboxes with email appeals for donations over the past week.
Here is a sample of what has hit my inbox over the past few weeks:
“Help us defeat the NDP in Q2!” was the subject line of one email from Wildrose executive director Jeremy Nixon on June 24, 2016.
“We’re publicly measured against our opponents, and we’ve got just five days to match the Wildrose dollar for dollar.” was the lede of one email from NDP Provincial Secretary Roari Richardson on June 25, 2016.
“The NDP are now charging you $5.1 million to advertise their carbon tax plan that is putting 15,000 jobs at risk and taking $1,000 a year out of the typical Alberta household.” was the start of one appeal from Wildrose environment critic Todd Loewen on June 21, 2016. (The Wildrose Party paid Ezra Levant‘s Rebel Media to send this letter to its list of supporters).
“It’s 2016 – yet the opposition seems to be stuck in the stone age. Countries around the world are working to address climate change. Yet Wildrose leaders continue to deny basic science.” was the lede of an email from NDP Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman on June 28, 2016.
“We need to send a strong message to the NDP, and to all Albertans, that Wildrose is the only party ready to govern in 2019.” wrote Wildrose House Leader Nathan Cooper on June 30, 2016.
“We ended 44 years of Conservative rule, reversed devastating cuts to education. We’re leading Alberta’s future with our forward-thinking Climate Leadership Plan. We can’t go back to the days of tax giveaways for the wealthiest and less support for hard working families.” was the end of an email appeal from Premier Rachel Notley on June 30, 2016.
The results of the second quarter fundraising will be released in July 2016.
Wildrose Party raised $1,572,159.26 in the first two quarters of 2014, slightly down from their $1,625,290.94 raised during the same period in 2013. The PCs, despite their recent internal turmoil, are claiming $1,406,924.81 raised by the party in the first half of 2014, up from the $1,237,607.50 raised in the same period in 2013.
As the Edmonton Journal’s Graham Thomson wrote in his column yesterday, “[t]he issue here is not that the PCs are bad at raising money, it’s that the Wildrose party is proving particularly good at raising money.”
Not included in these numbers are funds raised at the constituency level, where the Tories raised more than the Wildrose. This should not be a surprise, as the PC Party has 59 MLAs who form the government. That the Wildrose Party has only 17 MLAs and has continues to be successful at party level fundraising remains troubling for the long-governing PCs.
While the Tories continue to show heavy reliance on large corporate donations to fill their coffers, a significant percentage of Wildrose funds come from individual donations in amounts less than $250.00.
The Tories continue to show signs of weakness in constituencies represented by Wildrose MLAs. The Medicine Hat PC Association has not raised any funds since 2012 and the Innisfail-Sylvan Lake Tories claimed $300.00 in the second quarter of 2014, its first revenue since 2012.
Meanwhile, the Wildrose Party appears to be dormant in two important northern constituencies – Fort McMurray-Conklin and Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo. According to financial disclosures, the two Wildrose constituency associations have not raised any funds since 2012, when PC-turned-Wildrose MLA Guy Boutilier was unseated by Tory Mike Allenin Fort McMurray-Wood Buffalo.
Looking at the other parties, the NDP showed positive growth as their fundraising numbers increased by more than $26,000 from last year to $273,214.50 in the first half of 2014. The Liberals continue to be stuck in fourth place in the fundraising department, only raising $181,385.56 in the first half of 2014.