Monday, October 01, 2012

Conservative Party machine still dominates the Canadian political space

The Conservatives have maintained their muscular advantage over both major competitors in fundraising  in 2011:

The Liberals raised $10,119,908.62 from 49,650 donors last year, according to their annual financial return. The NDP raised $7,427,060.63 from 37,778 donors, according to the party’s annual return which was filed late with Elections Canada…

The Conservatives, meanwhile, out-fundraised all parties, which it has consistently been doing for the past five years. According the party’s annual return, the Conservatives raised a record $22.7-million in 2011, from 110,267 donors.

The Donor Pools:

The key lies in the number of donors, and the Harper new Tories had almost twice the number that the Liberal Party had, and almost three times as many as the NDP.

In fact, the number of Conservative donors was larger than those of the Liberals and NDP combined. This just shows the long road both opposition parties have to travel in order to level the playing field.

In politics, money is power. As Will Rogers put it: A fool and his money are soon elected.

The elimination of the per-vote subsidy has simply increased the Conservative advantage in fund raising and outreach. The per-vote subsidy injected 37% of total funds raised by all the federal political parties before it was ended ($27 million out of $73 million) in its last year.

Per vote subsidy chart

The Key Figure:

The key figure is the number of donors, because this translates into more money, and is the most reliable indicator of the success of a party’s outreach efforts and election-readiness.

The Conservatives have built a machine that today still far outstrips the machines of the LPC and NDP:

Mr. Sears said parties’ fundraising activities are not necessarily a good barometre for who’s doing well or will gain more support. 

However, he said, it’s an indicator of the “wealth and vitality and organizational muscle” which is very important.

“If a candidate, a riding, a party, can’t get a significant number of their supporters to give them money, there’s a political message in that,” Mr. Sears said. “People vote with their feet and with their cheque book. If they’re not giving you money, it’s either because you’re too stupid to ask, which is frequently a problem, or because they’re not all that committed despite you having asked. Whichever one that is, that’s not good.”

The Harper Conservatives never rest:

So says Tom Flanagan:

“Harper’s team never rests,” University of Calgary professor Tom Flanagan, a former Conservative campaign manager and former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest, Alta.), wrote in How Canadians Communicate IV: Media and Politics, edited by David Taras and Christopher Waddell. “A campaign manager reporting directly to the Conservative leader, not to a committee, is always on the job. Voter identification linked to fundraising goes on 363 days a year (Christmas and Easter excepted). With the cash flow from such aggressive fundraising the party can afford to spend millions on advertising, even years in advance of the writ, and to train candidates and workers, especially in the use of the potent Direct Voter Contact program and the Constituent Information Management System (CIMS) database.

The new Liberal leader will have to push for more members and supporters, and more donations, if he or she wishes to avoid being turned into mincemeat by the Conservative attack machine.

The silver lining:

There is a silver lining for both the LPC and the NDP: the ceiling on the number of donors for both these parties is probably not as low as that of the Tories. This, in my view, allows more room  to grow for them than for the Harper new Tories.


  1. I'm a Liberal myself but unfortunately these fundraising numbers make it look like the Conservatives can never be beaten.
    Do you think the Conservatives can ever be beaten or will their massive money advantage mean that the Conservatives will be in power forever?

  2. BluegreenbloggerOctober 01, 2012 3:57 pm

    Of course not. The Liberals have in the past been plain lousy at fundraising. Based on the past, only rubber chicken dinners can raise money. Events may pull in the $$ in fair sized chunks, but it is hard to get people accustomed to the habit of donating if you cannot be a bit more innovative, and reach them a lot more frequently. This is one area where the CPC should be emulated. Direct outreach, and excellent database, with ever-improving data are the keys to long term viability now. Identification of issues or interest to each individual elector lie at the heart of the CPC`s success.

  3. BlueGreen, have you any anecdotal evidence about the ability of Liberalist and the LPC's use of Liberalist to identify issues of interest to each individual elector?

    Has anyone else any anecdotal evidence?


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