MONTREAL — Despite recently losing its high-profile leader, the Parti Quebecois has reasons to smile as the sovereigntist party has collected more donations so far in 2016 than the other major parties combined.
Between Jan. 1 and May 10, the PQ gathered $384,250 from citizens, more than double the amount the governing Liberals raised, which stood at $163,383, according to data from Quebec's elections office.
Quebec solidaire, a far-left party whose core support lies mostly in the Montreal area and which holds three seats in the legislature, has collected $69,126, $16,000 more than the right-leaning Coalition for Quebec's Future, which has 20 seats.
The fundraising results are not surprising at all for Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch and visiting professor at University of Ottawa.
He said that since Quebec reformed its electoral laws in 2012, the province has had the "international gold standard" of party financing, which benefits parties with closer ties to citizens as opposed to unions or large corporations.
When the PQ won the 2012 election, thanks in part to a series of embarrassing political corruption scandals involving the Liberals, it quickly reformed party finance laws.
The legislation that went into effect in 2013 slashed the maximum amount of money citizens could donate to political parties from $1,000 a year to $100, with some exceptions.
Additionally, the law bumped up the per-vote subsidy parties receive to $1.50 from 80 cents.
Taxpayers also match every dollar a party receives up to $20,000, per political party.
While the federal government, Alberta, Manitoba and Nova Scotia have banned corporate and union donations, their individual limits are much higher than Quebec's.
Alberta, for instance, has donation limits of $15,000 — 150 times more than in Quebec.
Conacher, whose group lobbies governments to make their financing and electoral laws more democratic, said the PQ and Quebec solidaire are able to raise a lot of cash because "they are more grassroots parties."
Upcoming race could raise even more money
"The Liberals (used to rely) on wealthier people for donations," he said. "And when you lower the limit to $100, someone who used to give $100 still gives the same amount while the person who was giving $1,000 is giving one-tenth so you're cutting your donation base 90 per cent."
The Liberals, however, have proven relatively resilient with regard to the level of donations they have collected since the reforms went into effect.
While they trail significantly in 2016, they outfinanced their rivals in 2015 and slightly in 2014.
And although the PQ lost its leader, media tycoon Pierre Karl Peladeau, when he abruptly resigned earlier this month, the upcoming leadership race might increase the party's visibility and allow it to collect even more money.
The Liberals, meanwhile, are atop the polls but voter dissatisfaction rates are high and the government's recent budget cuts have been unpopular.
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