UCP outspends NDP in 2020, AMA tops third-party political ad spending: Elections Alberta

The governing United Conservative Party (UCP) outspent the Opposition last fiscal year, while the Alberta Medical Association led the way in third-party political advertising, according to Elections Alberta.

Released on Thursday, the annual report for Elections Alberta summarized the fiscal year 2020-21, including activities the Chief Electoral Officer completed, enforcement actions taken, political contributions, and the budget the independent provincial office used. 

POLITICAL PARTIES AND THIRD-PARTY ADVERTISERS

In the fiscal year, the NDP raised more than $5.1 million in contributions. The UCP garnered more than $5 million in total donations, including party and constituency association fundraising.

According to audited financial statements submitted to Elections Alberta, the NDP began the fiscal year with $251,046, while the UCP had a negative balance of almost $1.1 million.

The NDP was outspent by the UCP, with the Opposition spending around $2.7 million while the governing UCP spent more than $3.1 million.

The UCP ended the fiscal year with $470,760 in net assets while the Official Opposition had more than $2.6 million.

The Alberta Liberal Party started the year with an opening balance of negative $3,079 and finished the year with a closing balance of $36,596.

The Alberta Party, Green Party of Alberta, and Wildrose Independence Party of Alberta ended the year with more than $30,000.

The Pro-Life Alberta Political Association (PAPA) ended fiscal year 2020 with $32. In 2021, the party has received more than $216,000.

The other four registered political parties in the province ended the year with less than $5,000 in net assets.

In terms of political third party advertising, the top spenders included:

  • Alberta Medical Association $1,193,006
  • Health Sciences Association of Alberta $990,036
  • Alberta Federation of Labour $413,526
  • Fair Alberta Injury Regulations $347,948
  • Society of Albertans Against Equalization $130,039
  • Public Interest Alberta Society $71,442
  • Alberta Victory Fund $69,440

ELECTION COMPLAINTS

During the fiscal year, Elections Alberta says it concluded 78 complaints without an investigation.

The agency reviewed 133 complaints that warranted an investigation. Sixty-nine were related to unauthorized voting, and 26 examined party and candidate activities.

Other registered investigations examined 14 complaints about violations of the Local Authorities Election Act, 14 third-party advertising complaints, 13 complaints about government advertising, eight overcontributions, and seven prohibited contributions.

Elections Alberta says there were no prosecutions, injunctions or compliance agreements issued in 2020-21. Nearly half of the concluded investigations determined that no violations of the Election Act occurred.

Approximately 15 per cent of investigations uncovered Elections Alberta had "no jurisdiction," and 10 per cent provided "advice to future conduct."

ELECTIONS ALBERTA SPENDING

Elections Alberta spent more than $6.8 million during fiscal year 2020-21. Seventy-eight per cent of that, or about $5.4 million, went towards salaries, capital assets, contracted and technology services.

Approximately $822,000 was invested toward the next provincial election, and $532,000 went towards compliance activities. In 2019-20, Elections Alberta spent more than $509,000 on compliance activities.

The senate nomination and referendums Albertans voted on during this fall's municipal elections cost taxpayers approximately $72,000, with "additional costs" expected to be incurred next fiscal year.

Elections Alberta has 31 full-time staff outside provincial general elections. During a provincial election year, that number swells to more than 20,000, including returning office staff at all 87 electoral divisions and election officers who work at polling stations.