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Weekly Writ for Nov. 1: Poilievre's money-printing machine
Breaking down the latest fundraising figures, new polling on immigration and a seat to watch whenever New Brunswick drops the writ.
Welcome to the Weekly Writ, a round-up of the latest federal and provincial polls, election news and political history that lands in your inbox every Wednesday morning.
The Conservatives are raising a lot of money — certainly a lot more than the Liberals.
But not only does the overall fundraising haul by the Conservatives dwarf that of its rivals, the party is out-raising the Liberals in nearly every part of the country, echoing the polling lead the Conservatives have managed to build from coast to coast.
I’ll get into the fundraising totals from the third quarter a little further below, but first let’s take a look at how fundraising in 2023 has broken down by province and region — with one important caveat. Elections Canada only posts the names and postal codes of people who contribute more than $200, with the identity of smaller donors not being made public. That means we don’t have a complete picture of where money is coming from, but we can make inferences using the information we do have by assuming that the geographic profile of donors who give more than $200 is similar to those who give less than $200.
With that caveat in mind, here are my estimates of the fundraising totals for the major parties in each region of the country:
The Conservatives are out-fundraising the Liberals in every region except Quebec, where there is a three-way tie between themselves ($930,000), the Liberals ($1,034,000) and the Bloc Québécois ($811,000). The NDP raised around $191,000 in Quebec.
In British Columbia, the Conservatives have raised an estimated $4,225,000 so far in 2023, more than the combined fundraising totals of the Liberals ($1,325,000) and NDP ($1,172,000). The Conservatives have also raised more than five times as much money in Alberta ($5,809,000) than the combined fundraising of the Liberals ($772,000) and New Democrats ($313,000). Alberta provides the Conservatives with about 25% of all of their contributions, more than twice the province’s share of the Canadian population.
The Liberals and NDP are nearly tied in fundraising in Saskatchewan, but both trail the Conservatives by more than $1 million. It is closer in Manitoba, where the Conservatives raised $935,000 to the Liberals’ $607,000 and the NDP’s $157,000. In Atlantic Canada, the Conservatives have raised $955,000, more than the combined total of the Liberals ($594,000) and the NDP ($294,000).
Only in Toronto have the Conservatives not raised more than the two other parties combined, but nevertheless Pierre Poilievre’s crew is still ahead of the pack. The Conservatives have raised about $2,003,000 in Toronto, followed by the Liberals at $1,425,000 and the NDP at $586,000. In the Greater Toronto Area (actually the ‘L’ postal code, which includes the Niagara Peninsula), the Conservatives are well ahead with $3,412,000 raised to just $1,438,000 for the Liberals and $301,000 for the NDP. The numbers aren’t much different in the rest of the province, with the Conservatives at $3,684,000 to the Liberals’ $2,303,000 and the NDP’s $937,000.
Does money mean votes? Not necessarily. The Conservatives raised more money than the Liberals in every election year since at least 2006, and that includes their losing campaigns of 2015, 2019 and 2021. If we focus-in on the Greater Toronto Area, the Liberals raised 88 cents for every dollar raised by the Conservatives in 2021 yet won nearly all of the region’s seats.
But Justin Trudeau’s team is no longer as competitive. This year they have raised only 42 cents for every dollar donated to the Conservatives in the Greater Toronto Area.
That the Liberals are behind the Conservatives in fundraising is nothing new — they’ve been out-fundraised by the party in 69 of the last 75 quarters going back to 2005. But it is the size of the gap between the two parties that is telling, and the story being told is a very scary one for the Liberals.
Philippe and I will have new episodes of The Numbers and Les chiffres out this week, with the next episode of The Numbers hitting your inbox on Friday morning. You can get early access to both podcasts on Thursdays (as well as to the bonus episodes of The Numbers every two weeks) by joining out Patreon here. Thanks!
Now, to what is in this week’s instalment of the Weekly Writ:
News on third-quarter federal fundraising and how many members will be eligible to vote in the OLP leadership.
Polls show changing views on immigration and the same double-digit Conservative lead.
The Conservatives remain in majority territory if the election were held today.
Redistribution means a tougher test for the New Brunswick Green leader in this week’s riding profile.
Joey Smallwood succeeds himself in the #EveryElectionProject.
IN THE NEWS
Conservatives maintain huge fundraising lead
The fundraising figures posted to Elections Canada’s website continue to show the Conservatives raising far more money than any of the other parties.
In July, August and September, the Conservatives raised $7,064,000 from about 41,700 individual contributions. While that is a third consecutive quarter of decrease, this is still the best non-election Q3 for the Conservatives on record, and at $23.3 million raised in nine months the party has already topped its 2022 fundraising total over 12 months.
The Liberals raised $3,010,000 from 29,500 contributions. Like the Conservatives, this is a third consecutive quarter of decline. Unlike the Conservatives, this is the Liberals’ worst Q3 since 2013, when Justin Trudeau was only a few months into the job as party leader. The year as a whole is not going terribly, however, as with $9.8 million raised so far the party is out-performing its fundraising at this point last year.
Compared to the Conservatives, though, it is going terribly. The Conservatives have raised $13.5 million more than than the Liberals over the first three quarters of this year. That is the largest margin between the two parties over the first three quarters of a year ever recorded (since 2005), beating the previous record of $11.2 million that separated the Conservatives from the Liberals over the first three quarters of 2008.
While the Liberals are struggling, the New Democrats appear to have their fundraising in higher gear than usual. They raised $1,576,000 from 16,200 contributions, making this their best non-election year Q3 since 2014, when the party was the official opposition. And with $4.2 million raised to date, the party is also on track for its best non-election year since then.
The Greens, meanwhile, raised just $343,000 from 4,300 contributions, marking their worst Q3 since 2012. The party is on track for its worst year since 2013.
The People’s Party raised $273,000 from 3,400 contributions, roughly on par with its performance in the same quarter last year. Overall, the party is slightly ahead of its fundraising pace from 2022.
Finally, the Bloc raised $248,000 from 1,500 contributions. While that is more than double what the party raised in Q3 2022, that quarter coincided with a Quebec election — and so many of the Bloc’s donors were probably directing their funds to the Parti Québécois. With $811,000 raised so far this year, the Bloc is on track for its best non-election year ever.
The Conservatives and the Bloc have the highest average donation, at $169 and $165, respectively. The Liberal and New Democrats are about even with an average donation of $102 and $97, while the Greens and People’s Party appear to be the small-donor parties. Both boasted an average of $80 per contribution.
Over 100,000 members eligible to vote in OLP leadership
Last week, the Ontario Liberal Party announced that the final tally of members eligible to vote in its December 2 leadership race is 103,206 — nearly three times the number who were eligible to vote in the 2020 contest that was won by Steven Del Duca.
The party also announced that they eliminated their $3 million debt from the 2022 campaign — assisted by the party’s cut of donations garnered from leadership contestants.
Elections Ontario reports only contributions of more than $100 in its real-time disclosure application, so we don’t have a complete picture of each contestant’s fundraising. But looking only at those donations of $100 or more, Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie continues to lead the pack with $1,019,000 raised, followed by Toronto Liberal MP Nate Erskine-Smith at $382,000, Ottawa Liberal MP Yasir Naqvi at $307,000, and Kingston Liberal MPP Ted Hsu at $306,000.
In fact, among those donating at least $100 Crombie has raised more than the rest of the field — combined.
Money is often a good predictor of the final outcome, so Crombie is within range of a first-ballot victory with these kinds of numbers. The contest is using a counting system that assigns equal weight to every riding, so the outcome could depend on where each contestant has their support rather than how much support they have across the province.
If we assume that endorsements suggest some organizational strength — a big “if”, as some MPs and MPPs might provide no more effort beyond the endorsement while others will put their local organization into high gear to deliver for their candidate — Crombie’s strength would be in Toronto and the 905, where she has a total of 12 sitting MPs and MPPs behind her, compared to only four for Naqvi and three for Erskine-Smith. Naqvi has more endorsements in eastern Ontario, while Erskine-Smith is the only one with endorsements from sitting MPs in southwestern and northern Ontario.
So, it is possible that the final outcome could be closer in points than actual votes if Crombie’s support is concentrated in and around Toronto, while other candidates do better in the further-flung parts of the province where membership numbers are low.
But as long as Crombie can score over 40% or 42% on the first ballot, it will probably be hers. Anything higher than that and her opponents have to hope for an anybody-but-Crombie vote that is implausibly monolithic.
THIS WEEK’S POLLS
Canadians souring on immigration as housing pressures rise
Polling by the Environics Institute shows a sharp uptick in opposition to immigration, primarily motivated by increased concerns over the availability and affordability of housing.
The Environics Institute does really valuable work because of how far back its tracking stretches. It is one thing to see how public opinion evolves over a few years. Environics looks at trends over a few decades.
Since around 2005, Environics had found that those agreeing with the statement “there is too much immigration to Canada” had settled down to around 30%, dropping from the 60% to 70% range of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. But its latest poll conducted in September found the number spiking to 44%, the highest since the turn of the century.
Xenophobia is not driving this. There has been no significant change over the last few years on the statement “there are too many immigrants coming into this country who are not adopting Canadian values” (48% agree, 45% disagree). Asking respondents who believed there is too much immigration why they felt that way, Environics also found that the number who (unprompted) said it was due to immigrants being a threat to the country’s culture, identity, language or values had dropped from 24% in 2022 to just 8% in 2023.
The big increase was among those who said immigrants drive up housing prices or make less housing available for other Canadians, rising from 15% to 38%. There was no other big shift (the next largest was a four-point increase, to 25%, of those who said immigrants were bad for the economy or took jobs away from other Canadians).
Another notable finding by Environics was how this broke down by party support. Among Conservative voters, the share who said that there is too much immigration jumped 21 points to 64%, a significant shift from earlier surveys. It increased by only nine points among New Democrats, 11 points among Liberals and 12 points among Bloc supporters.
Environics points out that views about the value of immigration are still broadly positive, as 74% of Canadians agree with the statement “immigration has a positive impact on the economy of Canada”, but that is down 11 points from last year. The number who disagree has increased eight points to 21%.
POLLING NEWS BRIEFS
Two more polls published over the last week give the Conservatives a double-digit lead. Pallas Data for 338Canada puts the Conservatives at 43%, the Liberals at 27% and the NDP at 16%. The latest four-week roll-up from Nanos Research (toplines un-paywalled) has the Conservatives at 38%, the Liberals at 25% and the NDP at 20%.
IF THE ELECTION WERE HELD TODAY
Not much change this week, with the Conservatives holding steady at 185 seats and comfortably in majority territory.
The following seat estimates are derived from a uniform swing model that is based on trends in recent polls as well as minor tweaks and adjustments. Rather than the product of a statistical model, these estimates are my best guess of what an election held today would produce, based both on the data and my own experience observing dozens of elections since 2008.
Changes are compared to last week. Parties are ordered according to their finish in the previous election (with some exceptions for minor parties).
RIDING OF THE WEEK
Fredericton Lincoln (New Brunswick)
Two leaders will be running side-by-side in the next New Brunswick election, as the Liberals’ Susan Holt and the Greens’ David Coon contest neighbouring ridings in Fredericton.
But only one of them will do so as the incumbent — sort of.
Coon was first elected in the riding of Fredericton South in 2014 and won re-election in 2018 and 2020, capturing 54% of the vote in his latest bid. He beat the PC candidate by 24 points.
He’ll face a stiffer test next time, however, as his old Fredericton South riding has been sliced in half. Everything east of Regent Street, which includes the University of New Brunswick, will form part of the new Fredericton Lincoln riding, which runs along the west bank of the Saint John River to encompass the community of Lincoln.
As Coon lives in this new riding, he has opted to run for re-election in Fredericton Lincoln rather than Fredericton South-Silverwood, where Holt will be running.
Coon won the polls east of Regent Street handily, but the new areas being added to the riding were not as good for the Greens. The party’s candidate won the polls in Forest Hills next to Coon’s riding, but it was the Liberals who performed best in the Southwood Park and Lincoln polls that are also being added to Fredericton Lincoln. The PCs also won some rural polls along the shoreline.
The net effect is that in 2020 the PCs won the most votes in the polls that will make up the new riding of Fredericton Lincoln. They took about 37% of the vote while the Greens captured about 33.5%. The Liberals finished third with 22%.
Coon will start out as the underdog in Fredericton Lincoln. He’ll need to capture that Liberal vote in Southwood Park and Lincoln, much as he did in his old riding of Fredericton South. When he first won it in 2014, the Liberals took 22%. Their share dropped to just 11% in 2020.
If Coon cuts the Liberal vote in Fredericton Lincoln in half, then he should be able to get himself to the 44% to 45% range that would deliver the riding easily enough. One wild card is the 6% earned by the People’s Alliance, a party whose support has virtually been all gobbled up by the PCs.
With a small drop in support for the Progressive Conservatives in recent polls and the Greens holding steady, Coon should probably be able to win Fredericton Lincoln if he gets enough support from past Liberal voters. But he’ll have to try a little harder to win this seat than he did his old one — and that means spending time and resources that the New Brunswick Greens could put to better use elsewhere.
ON THIS DAY in the #EveryElectionProject
Only Joey can replace Joey
November 1, 1969
Joey Smallwood, the man who led Newfoundland into Confederation in 1949, was approaching two decades as the premier of Canada’s newest province in 1968. His political dominance of Newfoundland had rarely been challenged over the preceding years, but signs of rebellion were starting to show in his kingdom.
It didn’t help when he strong-armed his own Liberals to back Pierre Trudeau in that year’s federal leadership contest. Many of them preferred Robert Winters, but once Smallwood had decided that Trudeau would be his candidate he brooked no dissent.
One of those who was upset was John Crosbie, a young minister in his cabinet, and he quit over a dispute with Smallwood over a questionable loan the government was proposing to give to a developer. He was joined in his resignation by Clyde Wells.
Hailing from a distinguished family as Crosbie did, Smallwood was proud to have him serving in his cabinet. But that pride was not reciprocated. According to Richard Gwyn, writing in Smallwood: The Unlikely Revolutionary,
“For a full year before he quit, Crosbie left little doubt of his dissatisfaction as he mocked Smallwood, with astonishing indiscretion, round the St. John’s East cocktail circuit. The stories all found their way back to Smallwood, but he took no action. He could not afford to. As Minister of Municipal Affairs, and later of Health, Crosbie came to dominate cabinet. A glutton for work, he won arguments by force and sheer dogged persistence. At the same time, outside the cabinet, investors and businessmen looked to him for leadership and sanity. As the government’s financial troubles deepened, Crosbie became that rarity in any Smallwood cabinet, the almost indispensable man.”
But not only was Smallwood’s control over his cabinet starting to fray. In the 1968 federal election, Newfoundlanders shocked Joey when they elected six PC MPs — nearly as many in one election as had ever been elected in Newfoundland over the previous seven. It was an embarrassing rebuke, and Smallwood announced that he’d call a leadership convention for the next year.
John Crosbie threw his hat into the ring, as did Fred Rowe, a senior minister in Smallwood’s cabinet. But Joey hoped that Don Jamieson, the leading Liberal MP from Newfoundland in Ottawa, would quit federal politics to take up the mantle.
Jamieson, however, would not definitively make up his mind. And as Crosbie toured the province criticizing the work that Smallwood had done over the last 19 years, Smallwood seethed. He couldn’t risk handing over the keys to his province — and it was his, of course — to a rogue, a “rat” like Crosbie. When Jamieson refused Smallwood’s entreaties one last time, the premier threw his own hat into the ring, and Rowe meekly stepped aside.
The campaigning between Crosbie and Smallwood was an all-out civil war, with Smallwood relying on his traditional backers in the outports who had decided for Confederation, Crosbie on the young and the well-heeled. Incredible sums of money were spent by both candidates, with total spending on this leadership race topping $1 million. Both Crosbie and Smallwood spent more money trying to win the leadership of the Newfoundland Liberals in 1969 than any candidate did to try to become the national Liberal leader in 1968.
The battle came down to fighting for delegates in each district across the province, but as the delegates were being elected it became clear that Smallwood would have a big advantage — an insurmountable one — at the convention in St. John’s. The old levers Smallwood could always pull within the Liberal Party were working in his favour, even if Crosbie’s campaign was more professional and modern.
But it was an ugly fight. So ugly that Alex Hickman, another member of Smallwood’s cabinet, joined the race in its late stages in the hope of being a consensus candidate between the two polarized wings of the party. (Three other candidates, Randy Joyce, a university student, and businessmen Peter Cook and Vincent Spencer, were running but had little support.)
The money kept flowing when nearly 1,600 Liberals gathered for the convention. Alcohol was readily available at the Crosbie and Smallwood hospitality suites (Hickman’s coffee and sandwiches weren’t nearly as popular) and the Smallwood campaign rented some passenger train cars to supplement the over-booked hotels in the provincial capital.
The result went just about as expected after the delegate elections had so heavily favoured Smallwood. He took 62% of the delegates’ votes, followed at length by Crosbie with 26% and Hickman with 11%. It wasn’t a resounding, convincing victory — nearly two out of every five delegates had voted against the only leader the party had ever known — but it was a victory nonetheless. Smallwood wouldn’t give up his grip on his province so easily.
But the campaign had deeply divided the party. After the results were announced, Crosbie’s supporters booed and nearly rioted in the hall once Smallwood had exited, chanting slogans and spitting on a cabinet minister, all in front of the media’s cameras.
Smallwood’s vengeance was swift. Crosbie was booted out of the party and Hickman and the sole minister who endorsed him didn’t return to the cabinet table. Karma, however, would come back to bite Smallwood. In 1971, both Crosbie and Hickman would stand as PC candidates in the election that would ultimately end his premiership — for real this time.
That’s it for the Weekly Writ this week. The next episode of The Numbers will be dropping on Friday. The episode will land in your inbox but you can also find it on Apple Podcasts and other podcasting apps. If you want to get it early on Thursday, become a Patron here!