The Conservative Party of Canada continued its long dominance of key political fundraising metrics in what were the final months of 2020 but also the first full quarter for the party with Erin O’Toole as leader.
For the fourth quarter of 2020, the Conservatives raised more money overall — $7.7 million — and more money per donor — $165.71 — than any of its rivals, according to a Global News analysis of the latest political financing data published by Elections Canada.
That said, the Liberal Party of Canada had its strongest fundraising performance in any quarter since 2007 outside of a writ period, hauling in $6.5 million.
The only metric in which the governing Liberal Party of Canada led its rivals was on the overall number of donors at 48,471. Still, with an average donation of $134.09, that was about $30 less than the Conservatives.
With a minority Parliament, all parties are building fundraising campaigns towards a general election campaign that could happen as soon as this spring.
The Bloc Quebecois had its single best quarter since 2007, the year in which fundraising rules and reporting requirements were introduced that most closely resemble those still in use now. Among other things, the Harper government in 2007 capped donations at an annual limit, building upon restrictions brought in by the Chretien government to limit political donations only to individuals while banning corporate and union donations.
The BQ, raising money mostly from donors who live in Quebec, pulled in $961,396 — almost doubling the party’s previous single-quarter record of $580,870, set in the fourth quarter of 2019. The BQ did that by finding 7,410 donors, another record for the party. And yet, the per capita donation to the Bloc dropped significantly in the fourth quarter at $129.74 from the third quarter of 2020 when it was at $164.20.
The New Democratic Party fundraising numbers have not shown tremendous growth since current leader Jagmeet Singh took over in late 2017 but the party did finish reasonably strongly in 2020 with $2.5 million raised from 20,877 donors, or $119.95 per donor. That was the best quarter outside of a writ period for the party under Singh’s leadership though the party routinely did better than that in quarters ahead of the 2015 election when Thomas Mulcair was leader.
As for the Green Party, under new leader Anamie Paul, the fourth quarter was easily the best of 2020 — for much of the year, the party and its donors would have been pre-occupied with the leadership race which concluded October — but the year overall did not build on any of the fundraising momentum established before the 2019 election under former leader Elizabeth May. The party raised $1.42 million from 12,004 donors or $118.16 per donor.
As Figure 2 shows, the Conservatives have dominated Canada’s political fundraising landscape compared to its rivals. The Y scale on each of the graphs — the scale that denotes total contributions in dollars — in Figure 2 are identical to allow comparisons of total contributions received by each party since 2015. Fundraising tends to spike in quarters with general elections or in quarters just ahead of general elections.
The data in Figure 3, on the other hand, shows the per donor or per capita revenue of each major party. Again, the Y scale for each graph remains the same.
Even on a per donor basis, the Conservatives have tended to be the most successful since 2015 although the Bloc Quebecois under its current leader, Yves-Francois Blanchet, has been steadily improving on that metric.
The following charts (Figures 4-8) show the total contributions received by each party since 2007 and each party has its own chart. For each of these charts, the X-axis is constant: It shows the years from 2007 to 2021. But the Y-axis on each chart will be unique to each party and reflect a different dollar range each party has achieved over time.
In the fourth quarter of 2020, the Conservatives raised $7.66 million, one of their top five quarters outside a writ period — the area shaded in yellow in Figure 4. The best the Conservatives have ever done in a non-writ quarter was in the second quarter of 2019, just ahead of that year’s general election when the party, then under leader Andrew Scheer, raised $8.5 million. The all-time best, writ periods included, was during the general election of 2019 when the party raised $10.1 million in just three months. All that money did not win the most seats but it did win the Tories more votes and the highest percentage of the popular vote of any other party. The low-water mark for Conservative fundraising was the third quarter of 2011 — the party had just won Stephen Harper his majority government — when it raised $3.07 million
When Justin Trudeau took over as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2013, he made fundraising a top priority. And, sure enough, as Figure 5 shows, the Liberals have, by and large, shown steady improvement in each quarter since then although, in almost every quarter since, the party still trails its arch-rivals the Conservatives.
In the final three months of 2020, the party had its best-ever non-writ period quarter raising $6.5 million, not far off its all-time best of $7.3 million during the long election campaign of 2015. The worst quarter for the Liberals came way back in the first quarter of 2007 when it managed to find just $531,000 in donations.
The NDP’s fundraising numbers (Figure 6) are a story of high hopes — and hopes dashed. In 2011, with Jack Layton as leader, the party became the Official Opposition. Layton would succumb to cancer shortly after that to be succeeded by Thomas Mulcair. With the fortunes of the Harper Conservatives fading ahead of the 2015 general election, Mulcair’s NDP pulled out all the stops for a win, raising an all-time high of $9.14 million in the third quarter of 2015 — that was about $1.5 million more than the Trudeau Liberals! — but it was all for naught as the Orange Wave succumbed to Trudeau Mania II. It’s been mostly a rebuilding effort ever since.
The best non-writ quarter for the NDP was $4.5 million in the third quarter of 2015. But the party has never raised more than $3 million in any quarter since Jagmeet Singh took over though it came close in the fourth quarter of 2020 at $2.76 million.
With just three MPs in the current House of Commons, the Green Party knows it has to use its limited parliamentary resources smartly to have maximum effect. The same is true of its financial resources. Current leader Anamie Paul, who took over at the beginning of the fourth quarter of 2020, is expected to continue the policy of her predecessor Elizabeth May and run Green candidates in every riding. But national campaigns can be expensive. Green donors put $2.6 million into the kitty during the election of 2019 — the all-time high for a quarter — but the all-time high for a non-writ quarter was right after the 2019 election when Greens raised $1.67 million. (Figure 7) The lowest in Green fundraising since 2007 was the quarter right after the 2011 election when the party scraped just under $152,000 from its donor base.
The BQ needs enough money, of course, to maintain operations and run candidates in one province, one reason why it has never even cleared the $1-million mark in any given quarter. (Figure 8) But it is alone among all parties in that its all-time high-water mark is a quarter outside of a writ period: The most recent one, 2020 Q4, when the party found $961,396 from its donor base. But some of its quarters have been just awful. The worst was the third quarter of 2014 — as the Orange Wave in Quebec was perhaps at its highest point — and the BQ could find only $17,689 from just 261 donors. It puts the recent fundraising accomplishments of the party in some perspective.