The opposition New Democratic Party has out-fundraised the United Conservative Party for the first time since 2017, according to political party financial disclosures released by Elections Alberta.
The NDP raised $1,032,796.85 between April and June 2020, almost twice as much as the governing UCP, which raised $642,677 in the second quarter of 2020.
This is almost the opposite of the first quarter of 2020, in which the UCP raised $1.2 million and the NDP trailed with $582,130.
The UCP raised $7.37 million in 2019 but has has been feeling financial strain after the conservative party racked up a $2.3 million deficit and was forced to apply for the federal wage subsidy program in order to keep its staff on payroll. The party also saw significant turnover in its staff leadership as it hired its third executive director in three years when Dustin van Vugt was hired to replaced Brad Tennant, who left earlier this year to join Nick Koolsbergen’s lobbyist company.
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.
I haven’t had a chance to thoroughly look through the list of individual donors, but I would not be surprised if the very public fight between Health Minister Tyler Shandro and the Alberta Medical Association means there are less doctors showing up on the UCP’s list in this quarter.
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:
- NDP – $1,032,796.85
- UCP – $642,677.29
- Alberta Party – $20,851.40
- Liberal Party – $14,344.53
- Green Party – $3,915.00
- Freedom Conservative Party – $2,977.70
- Independence Party of Alberta – $980.00
- Alberta Advantage Party – $368.00
- Communist Party – $150.00
The Pro-Life Alberta Political Association and Reform Party of Alberta reported no donations during this period.
The maximum annual donation to political parties was increased to $4,243 from $4,000 as of January 1, 2020.
Parties move to virtual conventions
The UCP and the Alberta Party have both announced plans to forgo their annual in-person conventions, opting to hold the meetings online this year.
The UCP’s virtual AGM will be held on October 16, 17 and 24 and will feature policy debates, board and executive elections and the traditional MLA bear-pit session.
The Alberta Party’s virtual annual general meeting is scheduled to be held on August 29 and will include board elections and likely discussion around the process to select a new leader.
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.”