New Brunswick

Greener pastures: How one political party is separating itself in a 3rd-party race

The provincial Green Party raised more money from donors than the NDP or People's Alliance for the second year in a row in 2017.

The Green Party continues to raise more money than the NDP or People’s Alliance

The Green Party of New Brunswick has seen growth in fundraising totals and votes in the past decade, as it surpasses the NDP. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The provincial Green Party raised more money from donors than the NDP or People's Alliance for the second year in a row — an important political development as New Brunswick's assorted third parties prepare to fight for votes in September's election.

"I think it's pretty significant," said J.P. Lewis, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick about the Green Party's emergence as the best fundraiser among the province's smaller parties.

"You need to separate yourself from that pack. It's not a good sign if you can't raise money."

According to financial returns filed with Elections New Brunswick, the Green Party took in $93,491 in donations in 2017, 42 per cent more than the NDP at $65,485 — and more than double the amount raised by the People's Alliance at $42,903.

J.P. Lewis, a political scientist at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, said an inability to raise money isn't a good sign for a political party. (CBC)

None of the province's small parties have near the fundraising muscle of New Brunswick Liberals who took in $939,905 in donations in 2017 or Progressive Conservatives who raised $556,447.

However, the number of voters supporting third parties has been growing in New Brunswick and Lewis believes the one that stands out as the main alternative will have a significant  advantage this fall.

 "If you can clearly emerge as the alternative, I can see the Greens and NDP —especially — drawing from the same pool of voters," he said.

Voter growth

In the 2014, New Brunswick election 80,795 people voted for a third party, 35 per cent more than in 2010 and quadruple the number from 2006.

The NDP received double the votes of the Green Party in 2014, helped by its success raising more than twice as much money as its rival that year.  

But the Green Party elected its leader David Coon to the legislature, the only third party candidate to win a seat in 2014 and that helped trigger changes in each party's fortunes.

Since the election, there's been a steady decline in NDP fundraising results that has been matched, if not partially driven by Green Party gains.

Burt Folkins was in on the Green Party's founding in New Brunswick in 2008 and has been its treasurer and official agent since the first year when provincial records show it raised just $530 from four original donors.   

"I was there the day we started the party. I think it's tremendous," Folkins said of the Green Party's recent fundraising success.

"Certainly to have an MLA in the legislature, that's got a lot of exposure. We have people disaffected from the other parties and that doesn't just mean the red and the blue. They're also coming from the orange party and with that they bring supporters and we increase donations."

NDP troubles

The Green Party raised more money than the NDP for the first time in 2016, something it did again in 2017 but by a wider margin.

NDP executive director Andrea Bass did not immediately return a call asking about the party's fundraising issues, but its 2017 results are among the worst in its modern history.

Of the $65,485 it did raise, $17,700 came from trade unions and $47,785 from individual donors — the lowest amount it has attracted from individual supporters since 1990, nearly three decades ago.

Dominic Cardy resigns as leader of the provincial NDP party on Jan. 1. He is now running for the Progressive Conservatives in the upcoming election.

Part of the NDP's problems stem from a schism it suffered late in 2016 with then leader Dominic Cardy announcing on New Year's Eve he was leaving the party, although Greens had already surpassed the NDP in fundraising by the time that happened.

Lewis said the Green Party's recent success with donors, no matter the reason, will be a problem for its opponents.

"It can be a sign of enthusiasm from the core people who might donate money, who might volunteer, who might be organizing the local campaigns," said Lewis.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert Jones

Reporter

Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.

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