Guest Post: The UCP’s Paper (Membership) Tiger

UCP Website

Paper Tiger – A person or thing that appears threatening but is ineffectual[1]

Part of the UCP’s narrative about merging the two conservative parties is that all the small-c conservatives came together to fight the socialist hordes running the government and ruining the province. It makes for a great story on the surface.

At each of the merger meetings in July 2017, the old PC and Wildrose Parties voted 95% in favor of merger (let’s leave the utter coincidence of the exact same outcome alone for now). It should be noted that approximately 49,000 members total, between the two parties, voted at these meetings. There is no way to verify how many people held memberships in both parties.

The number of the new UCP memberships was in the self-reported 125,000 range at the time of their May 2018 founding meeting. That number has been steadily growing, with their nomination contests, to around a self-reported 149,000 by the end of 2018. It’s important to note the self-reported because there is no way for the media to confirm this until the annual financial reports come out in May 2019 (presumably after the election).

While the overall numbers look good and strong, let’s make note:

Sandra Jensen tweet[2] – Ms. Jensen, who was a long time PC member and PC MLA, considered running for the PC leadership before joining the NDP Caucus. She left the PCs before the UCP was even created. By her own admission, she was never a member of the UCP

Joe Anglin letter[3]  – Mr. Anglin has been involved with several parties… the Alberta Greens as Leader, the Wildrose as an MLA and then the PCs briefly in 2015 to seek the nomination. By his own admission, he was never a member of the UCP

Calgary East[4] – Accusations of forging identities and fraudulently signing up members for a nomination contest

Edmonton Mill Woods[5] – We have claims that 1,200 memberships were purchased by a nominee on behalf of residents.

When you start connecting all of these dots, you start seeing a trend here…

  • While 51,000 members voted in 2017 regarding merger of the PCs and Wildrose, the actual number of memberships per individual is unknown as memberships were encouraged for each Party.
  • UCP self-professed membership grows to over 100,000 in less than a year. As mentioned above, some members publicly denied holding memberships.
  • UCP self-professed membership grows to nearly 150,000 in the two years since formation yet this growth is tainted by scandals of fraudulent and bulk purchases.

The reality is that the old PC Party had a ton of memberships and lapsed memberships from their repeated leadership races over the last decade. Over 130,000[7] voted in the 2011 PC leadership race alone and at its height had over 200,000 according to longtime supporters who had membership access. By taking over this party, the UCP now had access to the contact information of well over 200,000 Albertans. 

It’s not to say there aren’t good UCP nominees out there making a solid effort to sell memberships in a Party they believe in. What needs to be said is the number the UCP keeps promoting is inflated.

The reality is the number of people who honestly and truly purchased a UCP membership may be more like 25,000 to 40,000. Still an impressive number… it’s just not 149,000.

This post contains both fact and opinion and was submitted to This Week in AB for publication.  Mark Taylor is a former PC youth member, Green Party of Canada federal board member, Alberta Party provincial board member, Wildrose Constituency Association President, Alberta Party Candidate for Calgary-Foothills and is currently the Executive Director of the Alberta Party. 

Mark Taylor