After several years of receiving no donations at all, Pro-Life Alberta is reporting a spike in political cash – placing it third behind only the NDP and UCP.
More than $216,000 has been claimed by the party so far in 2021, a rise one of its leaders attributes to “neglect” from the province’s big political parties.
“It’s to their political detriment that they ignore pro-life views,” said Richard Dur, executive director of Pro-Life Alberta Political Association (PAPA).
“Obviously there are strong feelings pertaining to right-to-life issues, and those are being neglected.”
PAPA was once the Alberta Social Credit Party, before the name was changed in 2017.
The registered political party reported just $300 in donations over four years.
Then the bank account started filling up in 2021, with more than $200,000 raised with a full quarter left to go.
“It’s obviously coming from people who supported the UCP previously, and prior to that, who supported the Wildrose,” political scientist Lori Williams said in an interview with CTV News Edmonton.
“There is a branch of conservatives who are much more focused on principle, then on pragmatic things like winning elections.”
Dur acknowledges his party has no chance of winning a provincial election in 2023, and his team isn’t trying to.
He describes his group as having a “single-plank platform,” and their issue is abortion.
JUST 60 VOTES IN 2019
PAPA ran one candidate in the 2019 vote, and Lucas C. Hernandez received just 60 votes in Calgary Currie.
The cash the party has collected is still relatively small, compared to the NDP and the UCP, which both spent more than $5 million in the last election.
Dur suggested he’d rather have a home in a mainstream party like the UCP, but he doesn’t like that party’s stance on abortion.
Premier Jason Kenney said he wouldn’t bring any changes to abortion legislation, while running for election in 2018.
“As an organization we are holding out hope that perhaps the current UCP government would be doing something in the way of advancing pro-life public policy, but unfortunately that’s not been the case,” Dur said.
William believes that’s because the vast majority of Albertans don’t want to have an abortion debate.
“Even in reputedly conservative Alberta, there isn’t a lot of appetite for restricting abortion significantly,” she said.
But Dur disagrees, and one of PAPA’s stated objectives is to bring the debate back into the mainstream public conversation.
“Our goal is to engage the culture, and we’ll see as to what the best means to engaging the culture are,” he said.
Ultimately, Dur said PAPA wants Alberta to defund abortion services.
But he’s also happy to talk about increasing supports for adoption, “counselling” for people who are considering abortion and he wants to add to an emergency allowance for mothers escaping domestic abuse.
PAPA has spent some of its money on radio ads, and Dur is not ruling out running more candidates in the next election.
Williams suggested that is unlikely to result in PAPA candidates being elected, but it could hurt the UCP.
“In the next election this party could make a difference in terms of splitting off or syphoning off votes from the UCP. So we’re seeing people defecting from the UCP booth on the left and on the right,” she said.
PRO-LIFE ALBERTA’S RISE IS ‘ALARMING’: IRWIN
To Alberta’s NDP opposition, Pro-life Alberta’s agenda is “alarming” and a threat to the healthcare rights of citizens.
“There are still folks out there who wish to reopen the abortion debate, it shouldn’t even be a debate at this point,” MLA Janis Irwin said Thursday.
She referenced a private members bill brought by a UCP MLA, Bill 207, that sought to make changes to conscience rights for doctors.
After an outcry, the bill failed to pass a committee vote in 2019, but Irwin said it’s an example of conservatives trying to chip away at the abortion issue.
“It’s just a call to action to remain vigilant and to keep speaking out about the importance of reproductive rights,” she said.
Irwin doesn’t foresee PAPA winning any seats either, but she worries party leaders will use their money to influence UCP MLAs to push a pro-life agenda.
CTV News Edmonton contacted the premier’s office for a UCP perspective on this story, but a response was not received.
As for what’s next for Pro-life Alberta and it’s money, Dur said “we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Chelan Skulski
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