12/19/2014 12:59 EST | Updated 02/18/2015 05:59 EST

'Wildrose For Wildrose' Crowdfunding Site Set Up For Laid Off Staff

EDMONTON - A crowdfunding website is raising money for Alberta Wildrose caucus staff who already have or could lose their jobs after their leader and eight others crossed over to the Progressive Conservatives.

A party official says at least two people have already been laid off and others in the Edmonton caucus office are in limbo while the party determines how much legislative funding it will get and whether the workers will be allowed to follow their bosses to the government.

"It just kind of spurred our outrage," said Lisa Hansen-Zacharuk of Drumheller, who set up the page Thursday night on after learning about the layoffs.

The town councillor and restaurant owner has been a Wildrose member and volunteer for the last four years. She said she isn't aware of the exact number of laid-off workers, but she knows a few. And four are expecting babies in the next few months.

The fundraising page, called "Wildrose for Wildrose," had collected more than $11,000 by Friday afternoon.

Dozens of people have so far donated to the site, including supporters of other political parties. Even former NDP leader Brian Mason pitched in $500.

"The timing of this whole affair is about the Grinchiest, Scroogiest thing I can fathom during the holiday season," Jayme Hopkins wrote on the page next to a $40 donation.

Hansen-Zacharuk said the cash will be kept until there's an official list of who has been let go. "Then we'll hand deliver a bit of a Christmas thank you for all the hard work they put in with their former MLA bosses."

Former Wildrose leader Danielle Smith and eight of her caucus mates bolted to Premier Jim Prentice's team on Wednesday. They said it makes no sense to fight a premier who shares their ideology. The move gutted the Opposition party, which now has just five seats.

The Liberals, who also have five members, have said they plan to ask the Speaker to name their party the new official Opposition.

The Wildrose party executive has denounced the floor-crossings and said the party will continue on and fight in the next election, slated for 2016.

"It's a pretty bad deal to have happen to you, of course, when the MLA you worked for crosses the floor and then puts their employees out of work, just before Christmas," said Wildrose president Jeff Callaway.

He said there will be no layoffs of party staff in other offices around the province. He also said he doesn't know for sure how many caucus employees have lost their jobs, but confirmed that Smith's personal assistant and a photographer are now out of work.

He said there are likely to be more. Caucus staff funding depends on the number of elected members of the legislature and, if the Wildrose loses its Opposition status, it could decline even more.

Callaway said former Wildrose house leader Rob Anderson promised caucus staff would be able to jump over to the Tories.

"What has ended up happening is those job offers are not there, or, if they are, they're just temporary sort of fill-in positions at a vastly reduced rate," Callaway said. "If there's any job losses, it's strictly because those floor-crossing MLAs didn't come through on their promises."

Anderson said he did not promise any jobs with the Tories, because he doesn't have the power to do so.

"Those things were not my decisions to make. I don't run the government," he said.

Efforts are still underway to try to get the staff transferred, he added.

"There definitely has been and will be best efforts to accommodate new staff members from the Wildrose into the PCs, but there was never any promise or commitment given."

Hansen-Zacharuk said some staff are still waiting to hear if they'll have jobs on the other side. Some have already been in touch to thank her for the fundraising effort.

"They're still in shock and figuring out what they're going to do."

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