Rachel Notley and Sarah Hoffman when they were Alberta's premier and health minister -- admit it, don't you wish they still were? Image: David J. Climenhaga

Alberta’s United Conservative Party, it turns out, is almost as bad at governing as it is good at campaigning.

That’s probably a better place to be from a political party’s perspective than the opposite, as could credibly said of the Alberta NDP, which with 20/20 hindsight looks as if it was pretty good at governing but not so great at the dark arts of campaigning.

Admit it, wouldn’t you rather be facing the global coronavirus pandemic with Rachel Notley as premier and Sarah Hoffman as health minister than with the occupants of Premier Jason Kenney’s clown car cabinet at the provincial steering wheel?

Well, to be fair, Kenney has his believers, and if there’s a silver lining to the cloud that darkens Alberta’s government today it’s that we don’t have to hear them shouting “Lock ‘er up!” as they blame Notley for personally inventing COVID-19 and smuggling it in from China in her handbag.

Every afternoon nowadays the chief medical officer of health, Deena Hinshaw, tells us that the surging rate of COVID-19 infections in Alberta is a “wake-up call” for all of us. “This needs to be a wake-up call,” she said yesterday of the 114 new cases reported in the province the day before. “I am very concerned by these numbers.”

And every morning, the UCP government sleeps through the alarm, dreaming of fun Twitter battles, beach parties at privatized parks, and beating the stuffing out of the Alberta Medical Association.

Well, as Hinshaw warned yesterday, the intensive care units are starting to get crowded, so maybe the government will find some courage today and do something about it. Or maybe they’ll slough off the problem on underfunded municipalities and grumble about them sotto voce for taking away our freedom to infect our neighbours.

It’s not just me that feels this way, apparently. There’s actual evidence in the political party financial disclosures published this week by Elections Alberta, which show that for the first time in 11 quarters Alberta’s New Democrats raised more money than the UCP.

The 2020 second-quarter report for April, May and June shows the NDP raised $1,032,796.85 while the UCP took in $642,677.29.

What do you want to bet a lot of those donations were made by disillusioned physicians in between sending out resumés to clinics in B.C.?

As blogger Dave Cournoyer observed, “this is almost the opposite of the first quarter of 2020, in which the UCP raised $1.2 million and the NDP trailed with $582.130.”

This may not be quite the horse race it seems, of course, since the UCP has access to plenty of dark money via PACs ready to campaign on the party’s talking points that is inaccessible to a party like the NDP — except for a very few labour unions, a source of money the UCP has legislative plans to unconstitutionally block and defund.

NDP donations also tend to be smaller even if this time they were more plentiful. As Cournoyer pointed out on his Daveberta.ca blog — “more than half of the donations to the NDP were in amounts of $250 or less, while almost two-thirds of donations to the UCP were in denominations over $250.”

The Alberta Party received donations of $20,851.40 in the quarter; the Alberta Liberals, $14,344.53; the Alberta Greens, $3,915; and the Wildrose Independence Party, 2,997.70. A few fringe-of-the-fringe parties received even more paltry sums.

Interestingly, mainstream media, which covered the UCP’s first-quarter fundraising success, seems to have been strangely silent up to now about this week’s Elections Alberta disclosures.

There have been recent news stories about the UCP’s supposed recent financial problems. It pitched its members in March by warning them it would have to cease operations if more money didn’t roll in — a highly unlikely story. And it ended last year with a deficit of $2.3 million and net liabilities totalling $1.1 million, according to Elections Alberta’s year-end disclosures.

The NDP, by comparison, ended 2019 in the black with a $748,548 surplus and a net liabilities of $376,977.

Shamelessly, in May the UCP also applied for — and got — funds from Ottawa’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to keep its party staff busy assailing the federal Liberals for not forking over more dough to the oil industry and less to working people left jobless by the pandemic lockdown.

But the alternative, UCP communications director Evan Menzies said at the time, would have been to have to lay off eight staffers, who would then have had to apply to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to keep body and soul together until their federal employment insurance came through.

The NDP chose not to apply for federal funds. Who knows? Maybe donors approved of that, too.

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. This post also appears on his blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Image: David J. Climenhaga​

David J. Climenhaga

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 with the Globe...