The New Democratic Party has joined a growing list of organizations looking for federal support during the pandemic.
The party will submit an application to the Canada emergency wage subsidy program today to tap funds to help cover the salaries of its workers as political donations to all parties dry up.
The NDP employs 17 full-time staff with another 15 to 20 working part-time, including students, working mothers and new Canadians, who are tasked with fundraising, bookkeeping, administrative functions and running 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.
Rather than furlough employees and push more people onto the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), the party is opting for the wage subsidy to keep experienced employees on the payroll.
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 will offer 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.