The country’s three largest political parties have joined a growing list of organizations looking for federal support during the pandemic.
Spokespeople for the Conservative Party of Canada, the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party told CBC News that they all have applied to the Canada emergency wage subsidy program to help them cover their employees’ salaries as political donations dry up.
The Liberal and Conservative parties say they’re receiving the subsidy already, while the NDP submitted its paperwork today.
The Liberals employ about 100 people outside of an election. The Conservatives have roughly 60 full-time and part-time employees.
Since mid-March, most these party staffers have been working remotely from home, which can add to costs.
“We’re doing our best to adjust to this new reality. This has meant incurring unexpected expenses that ensure our staff have the ability and technology to work remotely for an extended period,” said Cory Hann, a spokesperson for the Conservatives.
“We have applied and been accepted for the federal wage subsidy, and with staff across Canada that have young and extended families that all rely on our organization, we want to do everything we can to maintain regular operations and continue to avoid layoffs.”
Braeden Caley, a Liberal Party spokesperson, said the party also has met the eligibility criteria for the subsidy — organizations have to show a dramatic drop in revenue to qualify — and is receiving financial support from the federal government.
The NDP employs 17 full-time staff, with another 15 to 20 working part-time — including students, working mothers and new Canadians. They conduct fundraising, bookkeeping and administrative functions and run the party’s digital platforms.
“We think it’s really important to stay active and functioning. To do that includes paying the bills and paying our workers,” NDP national director Anne McGrath said.
The wage support program is designed to discourage companies and non-profit organizations from laying off workers at a time when social and economic life has ground to a halt, crippling nearly every sector and pushing millions onto government income replacement programs.
‘It’s the responsible thing to do’
The federal government offers a 75 per cent wage subsidy to entities that have lost a considerable amount of revenue as a result of the pandemic.
“That’s what the program is there for. It’s there for organizations who have staff and it’s to prevent layoffs and that’s what we’re doing. I think it’s the responsible thing to do and I want to protect the jobs,” said McGrath.
In 2018, the last year for which data is available, the NDP booked about $2.5 million in salaries and benefits.
The party has had trouble raising money in recent years.
McGrath said there was a bump in donations after the last election — which saw the party outperform expectations — but those funds have dipped considerably since Canadians started experiencing the economic effects of the pandemic.
While official tallies aren’t yet available, McGrath said 2020 fundraising figures for March and April are lower than they were last year.
In May 2019, the party raised $400,000. It’s projecting just $280,000 for the same month this year.
“The good news is that the monthly donors have stayed strong and those few who have had to cancel their monthly donation for financial reasons have pledged to come back when things change,” she said.
The party hasn’t been fundraising in person because of physical distancing measures.