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Small donors flock to Alberta NDP as disillusionment with Jason Kenney grows

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Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley surrounded by campaign volunteers in 2015 shortly before she became premier. Image credit: David J. Climenhaga

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.

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 the same class of small donors.

As Big Valley resident Andy von Busse observed on social media, "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. 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 Kenney and the UCP too.

"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," Notley said in a news release. "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 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.

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.

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 to 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 on Trudeau, the 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 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.

David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions at The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald.

Image credit: David J. Climenhaga

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