The Q2 fundraising numbers are in!
And if it's an election year, the numbers could be better for the Conservatives and Liberals
Our last glimpse of the fundraising data before a potential (likely? inevitable?) election call suggests that the parties had a pretty good take between April and June 2021.
But it also suggests that the Conservatives and Liberals might be operating with a little less cash on hand than they did in the last couple elections.
First, the numbers. The Conservatives raised the most in the second quarter — as they have done in 61 of 66 quarters since the beginning of 2005 — with $5,099,434 from 35,865 individual contributions (not contributors, as individual donors who donate multiple times per year are counted multiple times).
The Conservatives are, and have long been, good at raising money. And some of them, *cough* Pierre Poilievre *cough*, are so good at it that they are already investing heavily in pre-campaign advertisements.
The Liberals, as they often do, finished second with $3,299,260 raised from 36,495 contributions, followed by the New Democrats at $1,545,727 from 18,630 contributions, the Greens at $682,020 from 8,372 contributions and the Bloc Québécois at $311,923 from 2,300 contributions.
Since coming to power in 2015, the Liberals have had more individual contributions than the Conservatives in only nine of 23 quarters. Interestingly, however, they’ve managed to beat the Conservatives in five of the last seven quarters. Either they are starting to reach more people or they are increasing their list of repeat monthly donors.
Whatever the reason, the Liberals are still getting less money per individual donation with an average of $102.81 per contribution since the fourth quarter of 2015, compared to an average of $148.32 for the Conservatives. The Greens and NDP have each averaged under $90 per donation since then.
All in all, every party raised more than they did in the second quarter of 2021 than they did in the second quarter of 2020. But that’s to be expected, considering that donors (along with the rest of us) were hiding dollars under mattresses at the height of the pandemic and stock market collapse in the spring of 2020.
Looking more broadly at the first six months of 2021, the Conservative advantage over their rivals gets even starker, thanks in part to a monster first quarter:
As you can see, the Conservatives are nearly lapping the Liberals with $13.6 million raised so far in 2021. The Liberals have raised only a little more than half of that at $6.8 million.
Like a Russian doll, the pattern continues with the NDP raising a little less than half of the Liberals ($3.2 million), the Greens raising a little less than half of the NDP ($1.4 million) and the Bloc raising about half of the Greens ($685,000). You have to love that symmetry!
For the Conservatives, this is their best first two quarters of a year on record, with the exception of 2011, 2015 and 2019 — otherwise known as election years. It’s the same thing for the Greens and, with the exception of a good start for the new government in 2016, is also the case for the Liberals and the election years of 2015 and 2019.
But here’s the thing: 2021 just might turn out to be an election year. If it does, this actually a great start for the Conservatives, Liberals or Greens.
During the first half of 2015, the Conservatives raised $13.7 million, the Liberals $7.9 million, the NDP $6.8 million, the Greens $1.4 million and the Bloc $206,000. Only the Bloc is surpassing their 2015 marks in 2021.
During the first half of 2019, the Conservatives raised $16.5 million, the Liberals $8.9 million, the NDP $2.7 million, the Greens $2.2 million and the Bloc $729,000. Only the New Democrats are beating those numbers now.
So, the Conservatives, Liberals and Greens have less fundraising momentum than they did in either 2015 or 2019, while the NDP is in better shape than it was last time. (It’s perhaps unfair to compare the New Democrats to 2015 since they were the official opposition at the time.)
It’s an interesting tidbit for the New Democrats, who generally have gotten used to not looking to the fundraising stats for some good news.
Where in Canada the parties count on their fundraising
The quarterly filings with Elections Canada only require that parties disclose the names and locations of donors who give at least $200. That leaves out a whole swath of donors, but it does give us an indication of where each party’s donor base lives.
And we can probably assume that, broadly speaking, where the $200+ donors live is similar to where the less-flush donors live, albeit in worse parts of town.
So, let’s break down where the four national parties get their dough (I’ll let you have one guess which province provides virtually every dollar to the Bloc):
The Conservatives get their money disproportionately from Alberta and British Columbia, with Atlantic Canada and (especially) Quebec under-represented in their donor base. The bulk of their cash still comes from Ontario, but at 40% it is about even with Ontario’s share of the Canadian population (roughly 38%) and is lower than that of other parties. Ontario and Alberta, the top two provinces for the Conservatives, provide just under 64% of the party’s fundraising.
Ontario punches way above its weight for the Liberals, supplying 55% of their donations, more than any other party. Quebec is under-represented, but at 11% provides a significantly bigger share of the Liberals’ fundraising than it does any of the other national parties. For the Liberals, the rest of the country is roughly on par with its share of the general population. Ontario and B.C. are the biggest fundraisers for the Liberals, providing about 66% of their total, but the Liberals count on B.C. less than the other parties do.
The New Democrats rely more heavily on Ontario and B.C., which combined provide them with about 75% of their fundraising: 47% from Ontario and a whopping 28% from B.C., more than double its share of the population. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba are roughly where they should be, but just 1.8% of the NDP’s fundraising comes from Quebec, the lowest of the major parties.
The Greens rely even more heavily on Ontario and B.C. for their fundraising, with fully one-third of the Greens’ dollars coming from British Columbia. Ontario also provides them with a lot of cash, but Alberta and Saskatchewan do not. Atlantic Canada makes up 6.7% of their fundraising, more than any other party, but that is about even with the region’s share of the Canadian population. It does not suggest the East Coast is a region of particular strength for the Greens.
Conservatives out-fundraising the field in most provinces
But how do the parties stack up against one another in each province?
That is harder to figure out. Not all parties get the same share of their donations from people donating $200 or more — these big-dollar-donors represent between 54% and 60% of fundraising for the Conservatives, Liberals, and Bloc, but only between 33% and 35% for the NDP and Greens.
If we adjust for those differences, however, and assume that the regional distribution of people donating less than $200 is the same as those donating $200 or more, we can estimate how much money each party raised in each province.
Here’s how it compares, looking at each party’s share of the total fundraising in each province:
The Conservatives’ dominance in fundraising is starkly laid out here. Not only did they raise the most money in all but three provinces, they raised more than all the other parties combined in all of Western Canada, as well as Prince Edward Island.
Not surprisingly, the Conservatives dominate fundraising in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, but it might be a bit of a surprise to see how well they do in British Columbia and Ontario, as well as in New Brunswick and P.E.I. Only in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador do the Conservatives come up second, while they trail in third in Quebec.
The Liberals raised the most money in Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador. They were solidly in second in Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, New Brunswick and P.E.I.
The New Democrats did no better than third anywhere, but are quite competitive with the Liberals in B.C. and Saskatchewan. A problem for them, however, is how far how back they are in Ontario and that they finished behind the Greens in New Brunswick and P.E.I. Their 3% share in Quebec is awful.
The Bloc comes up a solid second in Quebec.
The good news for the Greens is that they are doing best in the provinces where they are in contention for seats, but the bad news is that they are still well back of the leaders.
If we delve in more deeply into Ontario, the portrait in the Greater Toronto Area is not that different from the one for the province as a whole. The Conservatives raised an estimated 50% of the money donated in the GTA, followed by the Liberals at 34%, the NDP at 12% and the Greens at 4%.
In Quebec, the Liberals raised the most money in Montreal with an estimated $430,000, compared to $270,000 for the Conservatives and just $170,000 for the Bloc. In the rest of the province, however, the Bloc was on top with about $520,000 to $330,000 for the Liberals and $190,000 for the Conservatives.
So what are the big takeaways from this data? First off, having the most money doesn’t win elections alone — the Conservatives beat the Liberals in fundraising by a wide margin in both 2015 and 2019.
Nevertheless, there are some takeaways. The numbers suggest the Conservatives and Liberals have more than enough money to mount a campaign, and the NDP looks better funded than it usually does. As does the Bloc. But these aren’t abnormally big numbers — especially in what could be an election year.
The regional breakdown shows why the Conservatives need to retain their support in Western Canada for more reasons than just the seat count. The party raises a lot of money from that part of the country. Losing seats in Alberta hurts, but losing dollars to the People’s or Maverick parties could hurt more.
The regional breakdown also shows how the Liberals are still very much a party of Central Canada, and that their decent polling numbers in parts of Western Canada aren’t translating into grassroots support from Westerners willing to open up their wallets. The numbers also show how the New Democrats are increasingly a party of two provinces — Ontario and British Columbia — and that the poor poll numbers for the Greens aren’t hiding a real groundswell of support.
In Quebec, however, the Bloc is starting to put organizational heft behind its poll numbers. This is no longer the party that was in the wilderness between 2011 and 2019. How they will mount a campaign with some real resources for the first time in a decade will be something to watch — and, for the Liberals, something to worry about.
The Debt Report
One last thing before I finish up. In addition to the money raised by each party, the quarterly fundraising filings show how much money leadership contestants have raised.
And that includes when we’re outside of an actual leadership contest — because bills still need to be paid even after the voting is over.
This past quarter, 2020 Conservative leadership runner-up Peter MacKay was still raising tons of money, rustling up $344,000 over the last three months.
Those who donated the maximum of $1,650 include former Conservative cabinet colleagues Lawrence Cannon, Monte Solberg, Rob Nicholson, and Michael Fortier, current Ontario cabinet minister Caroline Mulroney, former Newfoundland and Labrador Progressive Conservative leader Ches Crosbie, former Wildrose Party leader Brian Jean, and former Nova Scotia premier John Hamm, along with a number of current or former MPs and senators.
(One caveat: it’s possible MacKay could be receiving donations from people who share the names and geographic regions of these well-known conservatives. The filings don’t exactly include photo IDs and social insurance numbers.)
No other past leadership contestant raised anywhere near as much as MacKay. Erin O’Toole, the man who beat MacKay for the leader, raised the next most at about $11,000, while Rick Peterson (who ran in 2017 and fell short of becoming an official contestant in 2020) raised about $10,000.
A few Green leadership contestants, including Annamie Paul who raised $2,425, also had a few donations over the last three months.
But MacKay is the one who seems to have the biggest bills left to pay — and he seems to be doing a good job at chipping away at those accounts payable, with a little help from his friends.