By Rachel Emmanuel
The United Conservative Party (UCP) has seen an increase of approximately 11,000 memberships since the leadership contest began in May, True North has learned.
Three sources who viewed the membership list confirmed the increase in membership sales to True North. The spike represents memberships sold from the time the leadership contest began — when Premier Jason Kenney announced his intentions to resign on May 18 — to when former Finance minister Travis Toews was approved as the first official candidate on July 5.
Each time a leadership candidate is confirmed, the party prints a new membership list and distributes it to approved candidates. Right now, only the Toews campaign has access to the list, as he’s the only approved candidate currently.
The list provided to approved candidates includes names and phone numbers of UCP members. Contestants are not given access to the party’s email list. Candidates must send emails directly to the party to distribute to the list.
The number of members has undoubtedly grown since Toews was approved on July 5, but the new list won’t be printed until the next candidate is approved.
Party executives told True North they’re in the process of reviewing former Opposition Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith’s application. Both she and Toews will receive an updated copy of the membership list once Smith is approved.
The nine UCP leadership candidates have access to membership sales purchased through their candidate portals, referring to a URL where Albertans can purchase a membership directly from a candidate’s campaign.
By tracking membership sales, candidates can gauge their support — it’s probable but not guaranteed that party supporters who purchase a membership through a candidate’s website will also vote for that contestant in the leadership race.
Two sources told True North the Smith campaign did not have their portal set up until July 4-5 and instead sold memberships on the general UCP website, meaning they were unable to accurately track membership sales until 10 days ago. Toews had his portal on May 31 and Jean had a portal a couple days later.
Party spokesperson Dave Prisco told True North on Thursday all candidates now have portals.
UCP memberships can also be purchased directly through the party’s website and through paper documents which are sent to the party for registration.
UCP executive director Dustin van Vugt told True North most memberships are purchased through the party’s website, meaning campaigns don’t know the total number of memberships — except when a new list is printed for official candidates, but even that quickly becomes out of date.
Campaigns typically decline to share their membership sales for strategic reasons.
However, party executives said campaigns sometimes overestimate about how many memberships they’ve sold to create momentum for their candidate. They pointed to the ongoing federal Conservative party leadership race as an example. Pierre Poilievre claims he sold 312,000 memberships, now-disqualified Patrick Brown claimed more than 150,000 sales and Jean Charest said his team sold “in the tens of thousands.”
Membership sales will likely spike in the days leading up to the August 12 cutoff, the last day to purchase a membership to vote in the leadership contest. The results will be announced on October 6.