Alberta Politics
NDP Leader Rachel Notley surrounded by campaign volunteers in 2015 shortly before she became premier (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Small donors, potential election volunteers, flock to Alberta NDP as disillusionment with Jason Kenney grows

Posted on April 24, 2021, 1:52 am
8 mins

Alberta’s New Democratic Party raised twice as much as the ruling United Conservative Party in the first quarter of 2021. 

And we’re not just talking about chicken feed here, people. 

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, leader of the United Conservative Party, as he is often seen – surrounded by flags (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

The first-quarter report on political donations by Elections Alberta shows the NDP, led by former premier Rachel Notley, raised $1,186,245.03 in the first three months of the year. 

By significant contrast, Premier Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party raised a little less than half of that, $591,597.71.

More than half of the NDP’s donations came from Albertans contributing $250 or less.

Less than 40 per cent the UCP’s donations came from small donors. 

As Big Valley resident Andy von Busse observed on social media last night, “elections are not only about money raised, but people who are the volunteers. With thousands more donating to the NDP, there are thousands of more people who are already invested in helping them in an election.”

This is a point that as far as I’ve noticed has been missed by the professional political prognosticators. Mr. von Busse, basically a small-c conservative, concluded: “The UCP is in serious trouble, and not only on the money front. They are losing the volunteers they need to run elections, and that will hurt them.”

The NDP noted in a news release that among the 13,700 donors in the first quarter who contributed to the Opposition Party were about 2,600 first-time donors. That tells something about Albertans’ current collective assessment of Mr. Kenney and the UCP too. 

Ms. Notley as Opposition leader (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

“I want to thank all the Albertans who made a choice to invest in their future and to bring their voices into Alberta’s Government,” Ms. Notley said in a news release yesterday. “We are just getting started. We have so much work to do to create jobs, diversify the economy, support public health care and education, and more.”

It will be pretty hard for the Kenney Government to spin this their way, but I’m sure the premier’s issues managers – and their name is legion – will do their best to try. 

Said Ms. Notley: “We have momentum and we are so humbled to see the support from so many people as we work to build Alberta’s future.”

That sense of momentum is a narrative the NDP will now be trying hard to establish in the minds of voters. It helps a lot that it seems to be true. 

Ms. Notley’s expression of humility in the face of success is another interesting contrast with what we’ve come to expect from the UCP. Mind you, failure doesn’t seem to have prompted feelings of humility on the part of the premier either. So at least, his supporters can argue, the man’s consistent. 

Andy von Busse (Photo: Facebook).

It’s always a challenge to list all the things the UCP has done to encourage this state of affairs since forming the government two years ago. There are just so many. And every day seems to bring a new crisis or scandal, not to mention the government’s ability mishandle important issues for weeks and months at a time – the war on doctors, the war on teachers, the war on mountains (a part of the larger war on the environment), the war in Trudeau, the pointless war on Biden, and the phoney war on COVID-19, just to scratch the surface.

As I wrote in this space not so long ago: it’s hard to recall ever seeing such negligence, incompetence, mismanagement and fatal malfeasance by any party in government in any province or in Ottawa.

Does this mean the chickens will come home to roost for Mr. Kenney and the UCP? At the risk of mixing metaphors, I would say the jury is still out on that. Unlike political donations, corporate dark money flows unvexed into pro-UCP political action committees for deployment at election time. 

Still, in my neighbourhood, and perhaps yours too, there are so many lawn signs decrying various unpopular UCP policies you’d almost think there was an election on right now: support for parks, opposition to open-pit coal mines, concern about health care, public education, post-secondary education, and more, all within dog-walking distance.

I haven’t seen anything like this since I walked along the residential streets of Democrat-leaning Washington D.C. in the middle of Donald Trump’s presidency. 

If you go by Elections Alberta’s figures, there really isn’t a third political party in the province any more. In other first-quarter party revenue reports, from most to least, the also-rans were:

  • Alberta Party – $48,194.09
  • Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta – $36,883.50
  • Pro-Life Alberta Political Association – $33,261
  • Alberta Liberals – $31,798.51
  • Green Party of Alberta – $5,010
  • Independence Party of Alberta – $1,559.25

This is not particularly good news for the nowadays small-c conservative Alberta Party, which has been dreaming of the breakthrough that never seems to come since it was created in 1985. 

It can’t be encouraging for supporters of the party to have a screwball separatist party created just last year breathing down its neck for third place. 

It’s very sad news for the Alberta Liberals, for many years the province’s credible Opposition party, one that legitimately could have been described as a government in waiting, to find itself unable to raise even as much as an anti-abortion-rights society made over into a single-issue political party!

Three other registered parties – the Alberta Advantage Party, the Communist Party of Alberta, and the Reform Party of Alberta – raised bupkes in the first quarter. 

15 Comments to: Small donors, potential election volunteers, flock to Alberta NDP as disillusionment with Jason Kenney grows

  1. Anonymous

    April 24th, 2021

    I clearly think the UCP is in peril. It is quite evident. If the UCP tries to get back into power, they will do so in a dishonest way, and those at Postmedia will be helping them. Don’t forget that the NDP outlawed union and corporate donations to political parties in this province. Cunningly, the UCP then allowed corporate donations to political parties in Alberta. The question still is out in the open for the current premier of Alberta. Where is his donors list? Why isn’t it available for people to see? I simply cannot and do not see the UCP ceasing to make major gaffes, which are costing Albertans a fortune. I cannot see any way of repairing the hefty damage the UCP has done. For quite a long time, Albertans let the Alberta PCs do the worst kinds of antics. The Alberta PCs should have listened to Peter Lougheed and followed along his trajectory. Alas, they did not, and Albertans are still paying for that. The Alberta PCs were finally shown the door in 2015. It should have been far, far earlier. Have Albertans learned their lesson and can they see that the UCP are absolutely good for nothing? Let’s hope so. These fundraising numbers by the NDP really say something. We, as the voters of Alberta must really get out and vote in the next provincial election. Also, we have to tell those we know to get out and vote. The UCP is ruining Alberta’s future. We can’t accept that.

    Reply
  2. Abs

    April 24th, 2021

    It has been very effective to let business owners who backed the UCP in the last election know that everyone can make choices. Just as certain car dealers can fund the UCP, voters who don’t agree with them can make their own choices. It’s not just about boycotts, but boycotts are important. Consumers can vote with their pocketbooks. Over time, even small donations add up. Life lessons.

    The lawn signs tell you these issues aren’t going away. Kenney, who rarely ventures out of his Sky Palace these days, is clueless. Every boy child a used car salesman? Look how well that’s working out. This is madness, with or without a pandemic. Albertans elected a man who hates Alberta and hates Albertans even more. This won’t end well. It never could.

    Reply
  3. Mike J. Danysh

    April 24th, 2021

    Two to one! The fund-raising differential is astonishing, in a traditionally Conservative, pro-business, anti-labour province. The UCP ability to shoot themselves in the foot, without ever taking it out of their mouths, is astonishing. They can’t even raise a laugh anymore, they take themselves so seriously. (That was Trump’s only redeeming quality–he was SO stupid, he was funny. At first.) Kenney never got even a chuckle. Now–he gets nothing but rumbles of outrage from former supporters.

    I’m surprised, and delighted, by the wide-spread resistance to Kenney’s Republican agenda. The man completely misread the attitude of Albertans in general. He appears unable to reach beyond the blinkered ideological (read “idiot-logical”) assumptions he learned in America. Hence the War on Doctors–and the loss of all the money doctors used to send to the Old Tories. Although, this being Oilberduh, the War on Labour hasn’t hurt Kenney nearly as much. The damfools still voted for him despite his promise to let the boss stiff them for overtime. It’s about the only policy that went right for the UCP. Think about that; I have to shake my head, in wonder and in sadness.

    Still, there are 2 years to go before Kenney (or his successor!) face the electorate’s choice of dance music. Don’t discount the power of inertia, mental laziness and fear of “Something Worse.” It’s always easier make people fear and hate, than to cheer and love. Kenney has a core of support as solid as the rocks in their heads–about 30% of this province will vote for Kenney despite anything he does. The Timid Alberta Party may yet swing the election… (“Omigod, I don’t know. Kenney is bad, but what if Notley is worse? She had that big deficit too….” yada yada yada.)

    The best news so far is that there’s no risk of a vote-split on the left. The Liberals and the Greens are irrelevant now. It’s Kenney vs. Noltey –and that’s weeds against the scythe.

    (MJD, a.k.a. Mike in Edmonton)

    Reply
  4. Gromster

    April 24th, 2021

    Over the past year the Trudeau Liberals have done much more for the average Albertan than the Kenney UCPs. Kenney is trapped by personality flaws that do not let him think outside of an ideological box that is limited and dated and his anti-Trudeau Liberal hatred that borders on religious fervour. Given who he is, I doubt he can adjust his ideology nor can he try to work with the Trudeau Liberals. It is too bad that Albertans have to put up with this petulant priktator.

    Reply
  5. Just Me

    April 25th, 2021

    Judging by the revelation by Don Braid of a secret letter circulating among the UCP riding associations, where individuals who intend to remain nameless are demanding Premier Crying & Angry Midget resign immediately, permitting a new premier be installed, pending a leadership convention. It seems that the UCP rules handbook, which only allows for a leadership review six months before the next election, is more than an inconvenience — it’s a suicide pact.

    Kenney’s paths to political survival are running out and the UCP’s thinning bank accounts and membership rolls are beginning to tell the tale of a government in crisis.

    I believe this means is that there will not a federal election before 2023. Why should PMJT hand Kenney his only exit strategy? A coming federal election would surely hand Kenney a ready-made excuse to bolt Alberta, win a nomination in a certain riding in Saskatchewan, and declare he’s on a mission to save Canada. The Czar of Alberta is deposed and Captain Canada returns.

    We’ll see how many lives the “Bumbler” has left.

    Reply
  6. Bob Raynard

    April 25th, 2021

    I think ABS has a very valid point with regards to boycotts. When the labour group (AFL?) released the list of donors to the UCP, there weren’t a lot of businesses for retail consumers to boycott, as most of them were companies offering services like trucking and oil field servicing, that are pitched to other companies. What the action did do, however, was given a chill to any business that tried to appeal to retail consumers. I certainly have no intention of ever patronizing the particular Canadian Tire franchise that was on the list.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      April 25th, 2021

      Bob: Yes, it was the AFL the published the list of donors. DJC

      Reply
  7. Athabascan

    April 25th, 2021

    Remember Alberta you voted for this.

    Astonishingly, support for Kenney is still at about 26%-30%, depending on which poll is used.

    To me that is too high. It signals that Albertans, or at least the ones that bother to vote, haven’t suffered enough.

    When suffering becomes intolerable, the population does something about it. Until people rally for a province -wide general strike more suffering is on the horizon. When you’ve suffered enough you don’t have the luxury of waiting 2 more years for the election.

    The choice is clear: Act now via general strike, or wait two more years.

    Every Albertan should ask, “Can I wait two years?”

    Reply
  8. brett

    April 25th, 2021

    I am certainly not happy with the Kenney Government. It has been one fiasco after another. I cannot recall ever seeing so much incompetence across so many portfolios and files at one time from any Government-Federal or Proviincial.

    I do think that Kenney has a huge challenge within the UCP membership. He has managed to achieve the impossible. Two halves of the party membership are upset with him for entirely different reasons.

    He can handle half of the Party being unhappy with him at any one point in time however two halves that make a whole is an entirely different kettle of fish.

    I do not believe that Kenney possesses the political skills to deal with this. I do not believe that he has capable political advisors. OR…if he does then it is apparent that he is not heeding their advice.

    Kenney has to pick. Act for the best interests of the voters or act for the best interests of half of his UCP party members. Pick one.

    Reply
  9. Scotty on Denman

    April 25th, 2021

    Rachel Notley’s NDP is no one-hit wonder: it is beneficiary of a process which began with the deKlein of the ProgCon party.

    Arguably, the Dippers enjoyed a default win in 2015, the year the federal HarperCons were turfed, a year when Albertans were in such a bad mood as to punish the provincial PCs after four decades in power. The socialist NDP win shocked because, in fact, the Wild Rose province had been governed by right-wing parties—just two of them—for eight decades.

    For a moment it seemed a plausible analysis of a probable anomaly in circumstances most Albertans considered improbable and, at worst, temporary. There might have been a tell the way those electoral cards were played, particularly that the hitherto, presumably centrist Liberal government-in-waiting sitting somewhere on the spectrum between PC and NDP was passed over—that is, that the surprise switch from right to left more underscored voters’ instinct to punish the PCs than their ideological calculus. And, presumably when that thrashing was done, everything would get back to normal, lesson learned.

    But it can’t be discounted that ordinary Albertans, employees and small business people, chose the party most inclined to protect social services when economic storm clouds indicated those services would soon be in particular demand. Today, two retrospections glean from that 2015 flash-in-the-pan Dipper win: the NDP acquitted itself well by keeping its promise to protect social services during difficult times, and tackled Alberta’s central dilemma, low economic diversity magnified by the sudden decline in its dominant bitumen industry, in a way that could fairly be called “common sense”—which, remind, used to be a conservative slogan, now tuned around; the second retrospection is that the UCP has totally bungled both these important files, causing an affectionate nostalgia for the good old NDP days to blossom. Memories are fresh enough: it’s only been six years since the demise of the PC government and party, only two since the UCP government has provided a comparison with its socialist predecessor, and, like midterms, the conclusion is starting to gel.

    Can the UCP turn its flagging popularity around in time for 2023? Covid’s no excuse: Alberta fares poorly compared with most other provinces while Kenney keeps insisting his “balanced” non-approach is best—only to piss off everybody, including his own constituents and a significant chunk of his caucus. Any kind of contrition seems unlikely but, if it happens that Kenney confesses his poor leadership on the Covid file, it’s just as unlikely to resonate with voters unless both bitumen prices rebound and he commits to funding public services and infrastructure.

    By 2023, it will have been nine years since bitumen prices collapsed. Never say never, but the wind turbines appear to be blowing unfavourably for a return to bitumen heydays. The UCP’s victims will not have forgiven its deep goring of health and other public services over the next two years— even if bitumen prices doubled tomorrow. One big factor in the NDP’s popularity is the pervasive sense that the UCP is an irredeemable failure —at least in the time left before facing the electorate.

    Or: so many doctors, nurses, teachers, and other public sector workers, along with ordinary Albertans and small business people who depend on stable economy and social safety net, up and leave the province that Kenney’s shrinking support becomes, by default, sufficient to wring a win in 2023. It’s remarkable that such a far fetched scenario is one of the only ways to rationalize UCP polices. One has to assume it’s a last resort—right behind praying for a bitumen-price miracle which we know the UCP touts as a viable approach.

    On the dimly bright side, it’s likely Kenney’s favourite whipping boy, Justin Trudeau, will still be Prime Minister and available as UCP scapegoat by 2023. For insurance, as looks needed, Kenney can also look forward to the opportune concurrence of the 2024 US election which will be just getting into campaign mode in 2023. An apparent creature of bad habits, Kenney will probably avail the tender rhetoric of division we’re going to witness—again or still—amongst our southern neighbours—just like he has since starting his march toward the premiership. No problem throwing a bit of separatist sabre rattling in the mix—it’s easy, costs nothing in the immediate, and would blunt UCP competition from the right. It’s remarkable that the neo-right plague of the last four decades has wound up compelled to invite more and more extreme factions into its wagon laager—a definite symptom, I’m convinced, of moribundity and demise.

    But, for the NDP, the narrative arc is very easily read: Alberta voters once riding high made sure their resentments were heard by electing a socialist government in the most traditionally conservative province in Canada in order to punish the long-ruling PC government (it worked—maybe too good!—the PCs were scattered like a leaves in a gale), insisting the NDP was merely a one-off cudgel; but they were surprised when the Dippers did pretty well under Rachel Notley’s capable leadership as she came to grips with myriad problems; but, as fortunes turned for federal conservatism of which Alberta and Saskatchewan were once the heartland, resentments boiled over again as former HarperCon and would-be Alberta premier Kenney turned the reactionary heat way up to beat the one-term Dipper government; but, in government, the UCP blew the considerable political capital of its victory on an odiously spiteful and futile campaign against the winds of change until voters said: “ya know, them Dippers ain’t so bad after all!” Thus the decline and climax of UCP throes begins to write itself in the minds of voters.

    By 2023, we look forward to climbing back out of the Covid hole, but, because of a series of misfortunes which the UCP made worse, Alberta will likely still be mired—and for all to see. Only the most partisan, ideologically blind will be prepared to do battle thus encumbered. Unfortunately for them, the NDP will stand in the docket with exactly the same amount of governing experience as the UCP, easy comparison sharpened all the more. The most positive aspect—and Albertans crave positive right now—is that Notley doesn’t have to parry will ultra partisan ideology: refreshingly, her approach is pragmatic, centrist, Albertan and common sense.

    It’s a process and it ain’t done yet.

    Reply
  10. Dave

    April 25th, 2021

    While it is true there is a lot of PAC money out there, so the UCP’s spending will not necessarily be constrained in the next campaign, this is more a sign of how things in general are for the UCP than a financial problem for them at this point. Even their well off supporters are starting to pull back.

    I wonder if there is a semi organized donor strike until Kenney either goes or changes course in a number of areas. Now, Kenney is a particularly stubborn one, so I doubt even such a thing as this would force him to change course. However, others in the UCP who have increasing concerns about their popularity and financial position may also put pressure on him.

    It does seem like things are closing in on Kenney and if he can’t turn things around soon, he may have to go. Their party financial supporters seem to be giving him a very strong message here which is similar to that already given by voters and even some of his MLAs and party members.

    Reply
  11. Bret Larson

    April 28th, 2021

    Nice arc you are throwing there, however, if you collect more than double it still means that the NDP are now the party of the rich people. And with the pandemic, and how government jobs are teflon to it, its not hard to understand this piece of data.

    Government employees are doing well. They still get paid and are rewarding their boys, and girls for pushing their interests.

    Congrats on pushing Alberta to the brink of financial ruin.

    Reply
    • Bedoich

      April 29th, 2021

      This is just plain goofy. I will say however, I don’t buy David’s analysis (yet) completely either. My anecdotal evidence indicates a very aggressive NDP fundraising strategy compared to usual.

      Reply

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