Alberta NDP fundraises double the donations of the UCP in first six months of 2021

·3 min read
So far this year, the Alberta NDP, led by Rachel Notley, right, are out-fundraising the governing United Conservative Party, led by Premier Jason Kenney, left. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)
So far this year, the Alberta NDP, led by Rachel Notley, right, are out-fundraising the governing United Conservative Party, led by Premier Jason Kenney, left. (Mike Symington/CBC - image credit)

The Alberta NDP has out-fundraised the governing United Conservative Party for the third consecutive quarter, new figures show.

It's a pattern one political scientist calls "remarkable" for a governing Canadian conservative party.

"These 2021 numbers are staggering," said Mount Royal University Prof. Duane Bratt.

For the first six months of this year, the NDP has pulled in about $2.7 million — more than double the UCP's fundraising of $1.3 million during the same time.

He said it's a noteworthy reversal from 2018, when the NDP was in government and UCP donations were twice as high as their political foes.

Conservative, governing parties tend to lead in fundraising, since many of their supporters are business people, who can afford to donate the maximum amounts allowed, Bratt said.

Political fundraising in Alberta

The governing party's challenges are numerous, Bratt said.

"They've got a problem in caucus," he said. "They're already removed two people. There remains some discontent. They've got a problem with the public, in public opinion polls, and they've got a problem with their donors."

No one with the UCP responded to phone calls or emails on Thursday afternoon.

Bratt says while some financial support may have migrated to the NDP, many disenchanted voters may just keep their wallets closed, he said.

Unpopular government policies prompt NDP donations

Last year, fundraising by the two parties was on par, with NDP donations surging near the end of 2020. Both parties brought in slightly more than $5 million each.

Although the NDP has had more lucrative quarters during the last four years, the party claimed the latest figures from Elections Alberta as a victory.

"I think that they show that Rachel Notley and the Alberta NDP have momentum and have sustained momentum," provincial secretary Brandon Stevens said. "And I think Albertans are seeing Rachel as a leader who's ready to be premier and who has a positive vision of where this province needs to go coming out of the pandemic."

Donations are growing on multiple fronts, he said. An unpopular policy or decision by the government will often prompt a rash of one-time, small donations from frustrated members of the public, he said.

Since being booted from government in 2019, the Alberta NDP has more than doubled the amount of money it brings in from monthly donations, he said. They also toned down fundraising efforts during the heights of the pandemic.

Stevens said the party is using the money to hire more staff, conduct research, invest in technological campaign tools, and save for the next provincial election campaign, expected in 2023.

In a distant third place for fundraising during the second quarter of this year is the Pro-Life Alberta Political Association, according to Elections Alberta.

With more than $124,000 in donations so far, the anti-abortion group has out-fundraised the Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta, the Alberta Party and the Alberta Liberals. The pro-life party declared no donations between 2018 and 2020.

Bratt said they are a likely beneficiary of people who feel disenchanted with the UCP.

He said the UCP can catch up on fundraising in the second half of this year, which is likely the goal of provincial tours this summer by the premier and cabinet ministers.

The governing party is aiming to win back support by re-opening the economy and dropping pandemic restrictions faster than any other Canadian jurisdiction, he said.

Bratt says what the public won't know until next year is how much money is flowing to political action committees — third-party political advertisers who can accept corporate and union donations, unlike individual politicians.

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