Under the Dome: Some of UCP aides will be working there thanks to the federal government (Photo: Alexscuccato, Creative Commons).

In case you were wondering if Alberta’s United Conservative Party was also going to apply for funds from Ottawa’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to keep party staff employed, that question has now been answered.

Of course they are!

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: Justin Trudeau/Flickr).

The UCP trotted out the same excuse as its federal counterpart for the decision to apply for federal cash from the CEWS: political donations have dwindled, what with the pandemic lockdown, social distancing and all that.

“Our fund-raising opportunities have been restricted during the pandemic and we have lost fund-raising events in our 2020 calendar due to the restrictions on gatherings,” UCP Communications Director Evan Menzies told Global News.

The alternative, according to Mr. Menzies, would have been — quelle horreur! — to have to lay off eight staffers and make them apply to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to keep body and soul together until their federal Employment Insurance came through.

UCP Communications Director Evan Menzies (Photo: Facebook).

Although Mr. Menzies didn’t mention this in his conversations with media, that would obviously be unacceptable because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals would get the credit. Presumably the UCP staffers might also have had to stop churning out tweets and memes attacking Mr. Trudeau while they looked for work on EI.

Not to worry, though. There remains a legion of political appointees including issues managers, press secretaries, tour managers and the like — 19 of them in the Premier’s Office alone — paid lush salaries financed directly by your provincial taxes to serve members of cabinet. Their comfortable employment was never at risk.

So the UCP’s daily stream of vituperation directed at Mr. Trudeau and his Liberal Government for not forking over more dough to the oil industry will not be impacted, even as staffers in the party office are paid by the feds.

One might have thought the UCP would have found other cuts it could make to its spending to save the jobs — after all, aren’t these the people always telling us, when it comes to Ottawa, “there’s only one taxpayer”? Apparently not.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro (Photo: Government of Alberta).

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up!

Observers like Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt called it “a horrible idea” for political parties to use Ottawa’s program for a bailout. “It looks really bad politically,” he told Global.

But Dr. Bratt diplomatically forgets that the United Conservative Party has, literally, no shame. Anyway, the UCP’s favourite excuse is also literally true in this case: No rules were broken.

For its part, Alberta’s New Democratic Party Opposition told Global News it had met its fund-raising goals and wouldn’t have to apply for federal help to keep its eight party staffers on the job.

Mount Royal University political scientist Duane Bratt (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Meanwhile, as far as anyone knows, Alberta’s low-paid health care aides, doing dangerous and essential work on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, are still waiting for the $2-per-hour top-up Health Minister Tyler Shandro promised them on April 20.

When the modest payment Mr. Shandro told them to expect more than a month ago failed to show up on their paycheques last Thursday, Albertans learned the money has been given to their private-sector and not-for-profit employers, who for some reason have not passed it on to their front-line workers. (For reasons never clearly explained, aides working for public sector long-term-care providers Carewest and Capital Care were not included in the top-up promise.)

This raises an interesting question: Which group of aides will see their money first?

  • UCP party staff relying on Ottawa to keep attacking the federal government?
  • Or Alberta health care aides relying on the UCP for a modest top-up while they risk their lives to keep their patients safe from COVID-19?

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said CEWS when it should have said CERB. You all knew what I meant, though. DJC

Join the Conversation


  1. “This strongly suggests, to borrow a phrase from somewhere, that the UCP doesn’t have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem!”

    Somebody had to say this–and it wouldn’t have been anyone from Postmedia.

    1. Alas, upon overnight reflection I realized this witty line isn’t technically true — since the federal wage subsidy is tied only to a decline in revenue, not to spending — I have regretfully removed it. Call it sober second thought, although I didn’t have a celebratory beer until the piece had been filed. I’ll leave your comment to memorialize this bit of wit. I have replaced it with another ironic bon mot. DJC

    Jason Kenney and the UCP embrace “socialism” to stay politically relevant and financially afloat.

    Me: WTF
    UCP: Deal with it, you Commie b*stard!

    1. That was done because at the time the Conservatives were doing very well in receiving donations from their corporate and well heeled members and could get along without it. It was really designed to hurt the Liberals and New Democrats.

      Now the shoe is on the other foot and Trudeau and the Liberals are likely doing well with an 8 point lead in the polls possibly helping them fund raise. Though they too have applied for assistance.

      1. The Liberals have far more than an 8-pt lead, if you take a look at poll aggregator P J Fournier’s site, 338Canada.com (https://338canada.com/). Nationally, it’s more like 11%, and the Liberal lead is even greater if you take Alberta out of the equation. My math isn’t sophisticated enough to extract the popular vote projections for TROC (the rest of Canada), but I plugged his seat projections into a spreadsheet, alongside the results of the October election.

        If an election were held now, Mr Fournier’s projections would see the Liberals win 198 out of the 304 seats outside of Alberta, to the Cons’ 62. In comparison, in the current Parliament the Liberals hold 157 of those 304 seats, and the Cons hold 88. So, with Alberta out of the calculations, the Liberals would hold a 5-seat majority.

        The Conservative Party of Canada is not really a national party at all; it’s an Alberta rump with little appeal outside this province’s borders.

  3. The article by Nikiforuk in the Tyee yesterday about Alberta suspending all environmental monitoring has me enraged. Tell me again why Canada is sending Alberta money merely for kenney to flout all decency and common sense? No wonder the Norwegian Pension fund pulled out of tarsands investment. Why contribute to some ideological and cunningly deviously run right wing dystopia?

    So penny ante cheap he isn’t passing on the $2/hr increases for health care aides paid for by Ottawa, and now getting his party workers on federal CERB money, kenney shows the moral and ethical compass he possesses — NONE whatsoever. Of course, with no independent general media in Alberta for the average citizen to access (I mean who reads blogs but the really interested?), Albertans don’t know the travesties being committed in their name. Post Media Global Bell isn’t going to tell them, and the CBC is a bunch of commies, right?

    Cut off the federal aid to Alberta for propping up the dilbit miners and that coal stripper from Oz until kenney restores environmental monitoring. Period. No excuses accepted until Alberta wakes up.


  4. Evan Menzies?

    I wondered what happened to him.

    Seems he never did escape that bad crowd he ran with.

  5. The corporate state, the revolving door, blurred lines, and back to the future:

    “Robin Campbell is a former Alberta environment minister and current president of the Coal Association of Canada. He says everyone in the industry that he has spoken with has been “quite pleased” by the province’s move.”



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