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Looks like Armageddon for Tories and Wildrose Apocalypse for the rest of us

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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 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 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 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 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 David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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