Alison Redford's Progressive Conservative Party is pledging to overhaul its fundraising strategy after ending 2012 in debt and on shakier financial footing than its top rival.
Financial records filed this week with Elections Alberta showed the PCs' net assets at the end of last year as a debt of $784,767 – the worst position of the four major parties. The Official Opposition Wildrose Party, meanwhile, finished with the year with $403,361 in net assets, and was the only party without net debt.
That's largely because Wildrose out-raised every other party, and Ms. Redford's PCs, long the province's runaway fundraising champions, had a fall from grace. Executive director Kelley Charlebois said the party is looking to change its approach.
"I'd go so far as to use the word 'complacency' – that we've been complacent on the fundraising side as a political party," he said, adding that the Conservatives are considering new tools, such as an option for supporters to set up monthly donations.
The documents filed this week cover all of 2012 except for last year's spring election campaign, for which figures had already been made public. In the non-election period of 2012, Wildrose raised about $2.8-million, followed by the PCs at $2.3-million, the NDP at about $1.4-million and the Liberals at about $480,000.
Combined with the election period – in which Wildrose raised twice what the PCs did – Wildrose raked in about $5.9-million, with the PCs garnering about $3.9-million, the NDP about $1.9-million and the Liberals at $600,000. The numbers also suggest Wildrose has broader support among small donors, as it received a much larger proportion of its money in contributions of less than $375. In the non-election period, Wildrose got 40 per cent of its cash in such small sums, totalling $907,359; just seven per cent of PC donations were in small sums, totalling $156,634.
The PC total in small-sum donations trailed the NDP ($325,032) and was just ahead of the Liberals ($134,097).
"I think the numbers speak for themselves," Wildrose president David Yager said. "I'm just not sure I'd want to be a Tory fundraiser on commission right now. I might go hungry."
Mr. Charlebois said his party needs to improve its figures in smaller donations. "I don't think we're giving individual members enough of an opportunity to donate to the party. And we've got to up our game," he said.
Of donations above $375, a threshold at which the donor must be identified, the PCs raised nearly $2-million. Wildrose had $1.3-million. Individuals provided 27 per cent of that PC total, with 73 per cent from corporations. Wildrose's major donations were 71 per cent from individuals and 29 per cent from corporations.
It suggests corporate Alberta backs Ms. Redford's governing party. "Corporate fundraising hasn't been easy," Wildrose's Mr. Yager acknowledges. Mr. Charlebois stressed that his party is "incredibly fortunate" to have such corporate support.
The PCs have also taken out a $1.6-million line of credit, using their investment fund – the TAPCAL Trust – as collateral. As of Dec. 31, the party had drawn $646,383 of that line of credit. The PCs also gave back $28,375 in prohibited donations last year.
The PC party isn't yet considering layoffs – its 2012 non-campaign staffing costs were double that of Wildrose – but is under a hiring freeze, Mr. Charlebois said.
The party's filing also notes that it's under investigation for a donation from Daryl Katz, owner of the Edmonton Oilers. The Globe and Mail has reported Mr. Katz wrote a single, $430,000 cheque to the party during the election campaign, which was split up among several entities for receipt purposes. The PCs argue this is allowed, and its financial statement didn't anticipate a penalty or repayment order.