January 31, 2017 4:48 pm
Updated: February 1, 2017 9:31 am

Conservative leadership race: Maxime Bernier well ahead in fundraising

Leadership candidate Maxime Bernier speaks during a Conservative Party leadership debate.

THE CANADIAN PRESS
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Conservative leadership hopeful Maxime Bernier raised over half a million dollars in the last quarter of 2016, putting him well ahead of his rivals.

Kellie Leitch was in second place, with $322,000 raised in the quarter, followed by Andrew Scheer with $297,000.

Fundraising totals through the end of December for the Conservative leadership race were released Tuesday by Elections Canada.

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Bernier’s fundraising seems to show a wide base of support in the party, with 3,853 donations, against 1,808 to Leitch’s campaign and 994 to Scheer’s.

Leitch relied on fewer, larger donors than Bernier: his average donation was $137, while hers was $310.

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“It’s indicative of a strong campaign,” says Robert MacDermid, York University political science professor who is an expert on political fundraising.

“It also indicates that he’s been able to broaden his base of support and sell more memberships, which is a huge part of winning a leadership race.”

READ: Kevin O’Leary: ‘If I don’t deliver a majority mandate in 2019, fire me’

The data doesn’t include totals for Kevin O’Leary, who entered the race on January 18.

It also doesn’t show how candidates’ fundraising was distributed across the country.

“We don’t have an indication of where the money came from, unfortunately. It would be interesting to know. Did it all come from Quebec?”

“You would say something different if you knew that all those small contributions came from Quebec and he didn’t get any money from outside.”

Tony Clement, who left the race in October, raised only $33,000, and from a small number of only 44 donations, 23 of which were for over $1,000. (Ironically, Clement had the highest average donation among the leadership contenders.)

READ: Kevin O’Leary officially enters Conservative leadership race

Five hundred and sixteen people gave the maximum donation of $1,550. Bernier got the largest number of these donations (95) followed by Erin O’Toole (78) and Lisa Raitt (55).

But Bernier also did well among Tories with less money to spend. He got the largest number of donations between $20-$25, with 382, followed by Leitch (132) and former public safety minister Steven Blaney (111).

READ: Maxime Bernier under fire at Conservative French-language debate

Conservatives will elect their new leader on May 27.

We will see one more release of fundraising data before then, on or around April 30. That will give us our only look at O’Leary’s fundraising before the vote.

Conservative leadership fundraising, 2016 Q4:

Maxime Bernier $529,908.74
Kellie Leitch $322,011.58
Andrew Scheer $297,090.95
Erin O’Toole $237,814.33
Michael Chong $212,583.81
Lisa Raitt $168,751.40
Andrew Saxton $122,582.50
Brad Trost $122,304.83
Chris Alexander $107,256.40
Pierre Lemieux $106,348.80
Deepak Obhrai $97,499.70
Steven Blaney $85,426.80
Rick Peterson $64,206.00
Tony Clement (withdrawn) $33,815.70
Dan Lindsay  (withdrawn) $26,622.00
Totals are those actually received by leadership candidates. The Conservative Party takes a small cut of donations to candidates.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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