New numbers posted on the Elections Alberta website show the NDP raised more money for its party’s coffers than the governing UCP did in 2020.
Buoyed by more than $2.3 million in donations in the fourth quarter alone, the NDP raised $5,061,979.02 last year compared to the $5,046,322.52 that the UCP received from its supporters.
“It is significant that the NDP raised more money than the UCP, particularly given that a surge of donations came in on the heels of questions about (Premier) Jason Kenney’s management of increased COVID(-19) case numbers and early news reports about UCP MLAs travelling abroad,” said Lori Williams, an associate professor of policy studies at Calgary’s Mount Royal University.
A cabinet minister, along with several UCP MLAs and staffers, were either demoted or fired earlier this month after news broke that they had ignored government advisories calling for people to refrain from non-essential travel over the holidays because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about Alberta politicians travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a news release issued Thursday, the NDP noted that of its 17,009 donors in 2020, 3,859 were first-time donors.
“Albertans are rightly frustrated and angry with Jason Kenney,” NDP Leader Rachel Notley said. “Jason Kenney and the UCP failed to take action to control the second wave of COVID-19, they have done very little to support people and businesses throughout this pandemic and they have no plan to recover our economy once this is all over.”
UCP president Ryan Becker said his party was “overwhelmed by the generosity from our supporters in 2020,” a year that consisted of “the most challenging circumstances any Alberta government has faced in generations with global turmoil, an oil price war and a pandemic.”
“Despite those obstacles, our supporters raised more than $5 million and put us in a very solid position as we look to the next election in 2023,” he said in a statement to Global News. “Our party was formed knowing that the NDP is a serious threat to form government every election unless all free-enterprise Albertans work together under one tent.
“We’re not taking anything for granted and the work is well underway to put our donor dollars to work now so we can win another majority government in 2023.”
Williams said 2020’s final fundraising numbers “mark the latest in a series of blows for Jason Kenney’s government, and their cumulative effect intensifies questions about Kenney’s leadership.”
“He has pledged to earn back the trust of Albertans, but that task is becoming increasingly difficult,” she said. “In order to assess whether a political shift is brewing, we’ll be watching for whether the polling and fundraising numbers translate into defections from the party, and particularly from the UCP caucus.
“A federal election is likely this year, and if the Liberals pick up support in Alberta, that will likely escalate pressure on Kenney’s leadership.”
She added that if the premier holds an equalization payment referendum during Alberta’s municipal elections in the fall, it could be another test for support for both him and his party.
“The prospect of a leadership review next year must be daunting,” Williams said.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about equalization payments.
She noted that Kenney’s decision to invest in the Keystone XL pipeline, a project that was killed Wednesday by an executive order from new U.S. President Joe Biden, has the potential to cause further problems for the UCP this year.
“Economic challenges and his questionable bet on Keystone XL likely have increased the gap in 2021,” Williams said.
Watch below: Some Global News videos about the Keystone XL pipeline.
Notley suggested she believes the latest fundraising numbers are an indicator of a shift in the political landscape in Alberta.
“Albertans are telling us that they want better from their leaders, and Jason Kenney isn’t measuring up,” she said.
Chaldeans Mensah, a political scientist at MacEwan University, said while it’s possible recent controversies have impacted financial donations to the UCP, he believes its clear that “the NDP has established itself as the alternative to the UCP based on the trends in financial donations, perhaps cementing its position as the voice of progressive voters in the province.”
“The Alberta Party and Liberals are currently not a serious threat to the NDP based on level of financial bets that voters are placing with their support,” he said.
“The UCP is facing a serious challenger in the NDP, and these shifts in campaign donations suggest that the supporters of the NDP are pushing to give their preferred party a firm standing for the political battles to come.”
The NDP and UCP received the lion’s share of monetary donations to political parties in the province last year. No other party was able to raise millions of dollars.
The party with the third-highest fundraising total was the Alberta Party with $126,233.42.