Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith, on horseback, gazes at all that remains of Alberta’s once-mighty Alberta Progressive Conservative dynasty. Actual Alberta politicians may not appear quite so metaphorically. Below: PC Party Executive Director Kelley Charlebois. 

We can probably thank former Alberta premier Alison Redford for breaking the spine of the 43-year Progressive Conservative dynasty in this province. For, after not quite two and a half years of her leadership, broken it appears to be.

If you want proof this is so, look no further than the lamentable financial condition in which the party finds itself today.

We already knew the once-mighty PCs were having trouble raising money from their donors. Now we have the annual financial statements from Elections Alberta to show just how desperate the sad-sack ruling party’s financial situation has become.

Despite 2013 fund-raising revenue of close to $3 million, the PC Party’s Elections Alberta filing for the year shows it with a deficit of a little more than $136,000. But this is a deceptively small figure when you consider the party’s lingering debt of $946,015. Total liabilities incurred in the period were close to $1.6 million.

The party has dipped into its $1.6-million line of credit to the tune of $1.1 million.

And 2013 was not an election year! Nor is 2014 supposed to be, according to Ms. Redford’s increasingly foolish-looking fixed-election-period law, which says the vote must take place in 2016 and ties the hands of whomever is chosen to replace interim Premier Dave Hancock, who in turn took over from Ms. Redford after the mid-March caucus coup that unhorsed her.

But this year the PCs will have to find a way to pay for the cost of the contest and convention that will select their new leader. Notwithstanding hype about the large number of candidates testing the water now, it is said here the field will likely be small and undistinguished – an immediate problem with the party counting on their non-refundable $50,000 entry fees to pay for the race.

So the mighty Alberta PC Party – whose ability to raise and spend money was once legendary – is already all but broke in the sense most ordinary families understand the term.

And very soon it will have to finance an election campaign – which is presumably what party Executive Director Kelley Charlebois was fussing about when he wrote his famous email in February scolding party mucky-mucks for not being sufficiently generous with their contributions. That moment of candour nearly cost him his job.

How are the faltering PCs going to manage all this? Sure, they’ll press their shrinking base desperately for more donations, but where will billionaire Daryl Katz be now that they really need him?

Given this, realistically, the party is going to have to borrow more money. But what financial institution will lend it to them? 

After all, the only way they’ll be able to repay it is if they win. Betting on another PC victory would require a significant leap of faith in their next next lender, whoever that turns out to be. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Canadian financial institutions tend to be, umm, conservative in their lending practices.

Meanwhile, the Wildrose faction of the Alberta conservative movement led by Danielle Smith appears to be rolling in cash, thank you very much.

Not only did 2013 see it bring in more revenue – $3.07 million to the Tories’ $2.86 – but it finished the year with no debt and even a small surplus of $27,268.

Moreover, the contribution sources of both parties indicate rank and file conservative contributors have already made their move from the PCs to the Wildrose. Remember, while these people may not make up the bulk of PC voters, they are conservatism’s bedrock base, dependable even in hard times.

This strongly suggests that without a miracle – or at least a leader who can get the deep-pocketed petroleum industry back on side very quickly – it won’t take long for the Alberta corporate sector to reach the same consensus and flip to the Wildrose team.

Where did the PCs’ money go? Well, that’s a very interesting question.

Still unknown is how big Ms. Redford’s party “leadership allowance” was – a question that is finally starting to gain some traction in the mainstream media.

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt, musing in the pages of the Edmonton Journal that “the party was providing a stipend to Redford, nobody will say how much,” asked: “Is that one of the reasons?”

You’ve got to wonder. What an irony if, on top of Ms. Redford’s policy blunders and her betrayal of the progressive coalition that saved her in 2012, allowances and severance payments paid to her out of party funds end up contributing to the demise if the PC dynasty that once could say, Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

This, though, we will never know unless some public-spirited leaker within the PCs’ ranks takes measures to enlighten us.

Meanwhile, with the Alberta Liberals in disorder under the shaky leadership of former Tory Raj Sherman, Brian Mason’s Alberta New Democrats continue to tie their own hands in a quest for ideological fund-raising perfection.

Even so, the New Democrats raised $775,153 compared with the Liberals’ $447,827, Elections Alberta reported.

They need more because, as lots of research shows, Albertans continue to espouse social democratic values, even as they self-identify as small-c conservatives.

A majority certainly doesn’t back the Wildrosers’ Tory-like agenda of socialism for the petroleum industry and extreme market fundamentalism for the rest of us.

But if nothing changes in this regard by election day, the Tories will soon face their Armageddon. The rest of us, alas, will have to deal with the Wildrose Apocalypse that follows.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

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  1. Let’s have a little more expose on the local NDP David. I agree with you that the only party with even a smidge of commonality with most Albertans is the NDP. So let’s shake up the stodgy placeholder and get some traction on real policy and direction.

  2. re: the future under ” Wildrosers’ Tory-like agenda of socialism for the petroleum industry and extreme market fundamentalism for the rest of us.”

    Baseline data on petro-socialism losses – royalty/revenue – here:

    AB: “less than one-tenth what Norway collected on its petroleum volume that same year. ”

    Our *owner’s* share!, i.e. the citizenry, in AB’s corporatist GoA joint-venture with Big Oil.
    So much for AB political leaders favorite ‘strong leaders – mavericks’ brand. More like collaborating GoA leaders putting the public purse on the table and ask Calgary’s petro-oligarchy for permission if we might keep a bit for AB’s public needs.


    excerpt: “Out-lousying the nation: Alberta”


    “Since our country has an every-province-for-itself negotiating strategy, job strapped jurisdictions are not only contending with immensely powerful outside forces, but their own angry electorate every few years. It’s hard to drive a hard bargain when voters can be maneuvered to take up industry’s negotiating position. Nothing motivates a politician quite like the prospect of electoral defeat, and voters have become enlisted as unwitting allies in the billion-dollar brinksmanship of industry to access resources at ever-cheaper prices.”

    “This long-term strategy is bearing some very lucrative fruit. The incumbent Conservatives almost lost the last Alberta election because they were allegedly demanding too much from the oil sector. For the record, Alberta produced about 1.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent in the calendar year 2012 and collected $6.13 billion in non-renewable royalties. That works out to a measly $4 per BOE — less than one-tenth what Norway collected on its petroleum volume that same year. ”

    excerpt: “The incumbent Conservatives almost lost the last Alberta election because they were allegedly demanding too much from the oil sector.”

  3. Oh lighten up David. A Wildrose majority with an NDP opposition would probably be this province’s best situation for 2016.
    Actually, anything is better than a rotten and corrupt party like the PC’s…even an even more conservative option.
    The left needs to assemble a big tent and create a better option for Albertans. Brian Mason and Raj are just not quite there. The fledging Alberta Party seems like a good vehicle, but it’s basically an astroturf organization. It’s a Facebook link and an online poll.

    Where are the left-of-centre volunteers and donators? Why do old ladies separate twenty bucks from their purse in order to support Wildrose, but the NDP is lost without Unions? What about all these latte liberals that hate conservatives? Why don’t they spend some time on the phones or payout $5 a month to the Liberals?
    It seems ironic that left-wingers are the greedy, selfish ones purporting to support all this social justice and whatnot, while right-wing parties are the ones running on voluntary donations and people working for free.

  4. The ideological handcuff you refer to in regards to the NDP is refusing to take large corporate donations. The best case scenario if that changed, would be corporations still not donating much to the NDP. The worst case would be if they DID donate significantly.

  5. “Wildrose Apocalypse” Perfect. Now I know why all the fundamentalists support Wildrose. They EMBRACE the Apocalypse as outlined in Revelations blithely believe that they’re on the right side of history.

  6. Perhaps now is the time to create a preferential voting system to replace the first past the post system which has given us decades of authoritian single party rule. It worked so well in the Canadian Wheat Board elections that Ottawa took it away from farmers.

    A “Preferential Ballot” allows a voter to mark the candidates running for office according to his or her preference in a 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. sequence. The candidate with the most number 1s wins the election; however, he/she cannot claim victory until he/she has received at least 50% plus one vote of the total votes cast in the constituency election. If, on the first count, no candidate achieves 50% plus one of the total votes cast, the bottom candidate (the one with the least number of 1s, or first preferences) drops off. His/her remaining votes (second, third and fourth choices, or 2s, 3s, 4s) are redistributed to the three remaining candidates according to the voters’ preference. This redistribution of votes and the lowest candidate dropping off continues until one candidate receives a minimum of 50% plus one of the total votes cast. In other words, no candidate is elected unless he/she is the choice of the majority of the voters.In other words, no candidate is elected unless he/she is the choice of the majority of the voters.

  7. David you need a hug from a Liberal you used to be one, remember? I think your temporary days as a dipper are going to be few, as the titanic sinks, rats will be be looking for a new home, hardcore coins will goto the WR, bleeding heart lefties to the Dippers and NORMAL middle class voters with tax paying families with working people will vote Liberal. Most voters are working middle class families that are NOT dipper minded and they are traditional middle class tax paying families that normally vote PC. As that Tory raft contracts, they will most likely be ideologically progressive and centrist, like Liberals. Irregardless of your irrationally entrenched hatred and disdain of your prior life as a Liberal, the fact remains, irrregardless of who is Leading the Liberals, that is where a fair amount of the Tory progressive vote will go. We can certainly say that the Tories have reached a ceiling or limit shall we call it, unless another $430,000 illegal donation miraculously appears again.

  8. Time to resurrect “Corporate Welfare Bums” from the 70’s as I recall.
    The people of Alberta do want and support a strong public education and healthcare system but for some strange reason feel Wild-Rosie is the defender of the system. A sign of how poorly the Regressive Conservatives have done. As well as how difficult it is to get Albertans to look beyond the name Liberal or NDP. A minority Wild-Rosie with the NDP/Liberals holding the balance of power. Our best hope.

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