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CEO Brett Oland of Bow Valley Credit Union, in Calgary, on Dec. 15, 2023.Todd Korol/The Globe and Mail

Alberta’s Bow Valley Credit Union, which is targeting customers who say they’re tired of meddlesome governments, has recorded a burst of growth after it sponsored right-wing media personality Tucker Carlson’s appearances in the province last month, according to BVCU’s chief executive.

During BVCU’s annual meeting Tuesday afternoon, Brett Oland said the credit union signed up 91 new members since the provocateur addressed crowds in Calgary and Edmonton on Jan. 24. Mr. Oland provided the statistic as he and board chair Kevin Karpovich defended BVCU’s high-profile involvement in Mr. Carlson’s tour.

BVCU is focused on luring new customers anxious over government involvement in their lives, with worries ranging from vaccine mandates to a hypothetical central bank digital currency. This target market overlaps with people who are fans of Mr. Carlson’s bluster, which in Alberta included calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “a weird little cross-dresser” and the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, D.C., “fraudulent.”

Mr. Oland said BVCU’s participation was about marketing rather than traditional sponsorship such as giving money to a local hockey team or women’s shelter. Thousands of people went to Mr. Carlson’s speeches in Calgary and Edmonton, and BVCU provided tickets to some of the attendees.

“This was a direct marketing tool,” Mr. Oland said. “This Tucker Carlson event provided a lot of the check boxes that we were looking for in our new demographic.”

BVCU described its “new demographic” as people who want more control over their lives and finances and have “perhaps different thoughts, beliefs and ideals than others, who have felt left out in the cold by the big banks and ATB,” according to a slide BVCU shared with members during the AGM. ATB refers to ATB Financial, the Alberta-based institution.

BVCU has added 497 new members since Nov. 1, 2023, when it started a new fiscal year, Mr. Oland said. It now has 10,272 members across Alberta, he said.

“Since the Tucker event, we’ve added 91 new members,” Mr. Oland added. “That’s important to note.”

BVCU declined to provide The Globe and Mail with a link to the online AGM; The Globe monitored the meeting using the dial-in number given to members. One of the members provided The Globe with images of the AGM’s slides and group chat, where members sparred over whether it was appropriate for the credit union to back Mr. Carlson’s visit. The Globe is not identifying the person because they feared personal and professional ramifications.

The credit union’s roots stretch back to 1953. It had around 9,500 members in 2010, and dipped to about 7,500 a decade later, according to a graph shared during the AGM. The trend line showed a sharp incline after 2021 and BVCU’s target for the end of fiscal 2025 is 11,160 members.

The institution had about $569-million in assets at the end of fiscal 2023, according to its financial statements.

Lynn Meadows has been a member for 59 years, joining the credit union when she was 13. She is pulling her money out because of BVCU’s support of Mr. Carlson’s events in Alberta, which included him interviewing Premier Danielle Smith on stage in Calgary.

“I’m voting with my feet,” she said in an interview Wednesday. “I used to be so proud to be part of the credit union. It was like family.”

She is moving her assets to a chartered bank, starting with a cashier’s cheque this week. BVCU, she said, is disrespecting members who have supported it for decades.

Mr. Oland said he made the decision for the credit union to back Mr. Carlson’s visit and said BVCU’s board was aware of the plan. Mr. Karpovich, BVCU’s chair, said the board approved BVCU’s strategic plan to increase membership and the Carlson event aligned with that effort.

“The exposure was fantastic,” Mr. Karpovich said during the AGM.

BVCU last year sponsored Take Back Alberta’s event with James Lindsay, another right-wing commentator. When asked how much the sponsorships for Mr. Tucker and Mr. Lindsay were worth, Mr. Oland in January told The Globe: “The ability for Canadians to have free speech and to protect our children? Priceless.”

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