CALGARY — Alberta’s NDP raised more than double that of the governing UCP in the first quarter of 2021, according to numbers released Friday by Elections Alberta.
Totals show the NDP raised $1.186 million from January to March of this year compared to $521,589 by the UCP.
The Alberta Liberals raised $31,798 and the Alberta Party reported $43,394.
“I think it means the NDP has established itself, that it wasn’t a flash in the pan as everyone assumed in 2015,” said Doreen Barrie, an associate professor of political science at the University of Calgary.
“It isn’t surprising that they’re fundraising successfully because I think Albertans consider them to be the best challenge to the UCP in the next election.”
The NDP surprised many political observers when they formed government following the 2015 provincial election, winning 54 seats compared to 21 for the Wildrose Party and nine for the Progressive Conservatives.
The Wildrose and PCs then merged to form the United Conservative Party, which retook power in 2019, relegating the NDP to Opposition status.
In a statement, UCP party president Ryan Becker said the total in the first quarter of 2021 is the result of limiting fundraising activities.
“With the onset of new restrictions, our party has taken measures to respect and moderate our fundraising activities in the first quarter, but we remain incredibly grateful for the generous support of conservatives from right across the province with nearly $600,000 raised for the party and our constituency associations,” he said.
“We are saving resources toward our Campaign Victory Fund now and believe that with a successful vaccine rollout around the corner, we can start revving up our election readiness and fundraising machine later this year to pre-COVID levels as we build towards the 2023 election.”
In a statement, NDP leader Rachel Notley thanked her supporters.
“We are just getting started,” she said. “We have so much work to do to create jobs, diversify the economy, support public healthcare and education, and more.”
NDP officials say that of their 13,700 donors, 2,600 did so for the first time.
“We have momentum and we are so humbled to see the support from so many people as we work to build Alberta’s future,” said Notley.
With the next election two years away, the result is largely a “psychological benefit,” said Barrie.
“Having that money is really an advantage to a party because it’s a symbol of support and that’s what they want, but anything can happen between now and the next election,” she said.
Premier Jason Kenney’s approval has tumbled in recent months, dropping from a high of 61 per cent following the 2019 election to 40 per cent in late 2020.
He is also facing a caucus revolt of sorts, with 17 UCP members signing an open letter saying they didn’t support a return to Phase 1 of restrictions earlier this month.
Kenney also demoted a number of MLAs and fired his chief of staff when it was revealed they had travelled over the Christmas holidays, against the advice of health professionals and even the party’s own messaging at the time.
The next provicial election is slated for between March and May 2023.