POLITICS
07/06/2011 09:17 EDT | Updated 09/05/2011 05:12 EDT

Conservative Fundraising: Tories Trounce Liberals By $10 Million

Flickr: Diego3336

THE CANADIAN PRESS — OTTAWA - When the Conservatives are kicking your butt by $10 million in fundraising each year, it might be time to try something new.

For the Liberals, that something new is ripping a page — or rather a letter — right out of the Conservative play book.

Liberal Leader Bob Rae said Tuesday his party is going to start more targeted appeals for contributions.

The Tories have perfected that strategy over the years by sending out letters to party members and others, asking them for support in pushing specific policy issues.

For example, they've used the threat of a political coalition on the left, their campaign for the abolition of the gun registry, as well as a distinctly pro-Israel foreign policy, to gather cash.

Rae said the Liberals are turning themselves into a "professional fundraising organization," and following the example of successful parties inside and outside Canada.

"The one clear message that we get from everybody is that dollars follow message and dollars follow commitment and dollars follow particularly things that people are engaging in," Rae said.

"And that's really where we have to strengthen our capacity to connect with Canadians, and say, look if you're really interested in protecting health care, if you're really interested in ... having a set of policies which take a different view to the lock 'em up, throw away the key that's being presented by Mr. Harper, then help us to do it."

The Liberals collected more than $150,000, according to Rae, in a campaign during the last days of June — just before the end of the second quarter. That one was based on the party's efforts to rebuild. He also said that the party raised more money in the last election than the last three election campaigns.

But the Liberals still have a long way to go.

The annual financial returns of the federal parties, posted Monday and Tuesday on Elections Canada's website, show there is still a chasm between the Conservatives and their competitors.

Last year, the Tories collected more than $17 million in contributions and donations, versus the $7.3 million collected by the Liberals.

The NDP's numbers were not yet available, but the Bloc Quebecois posted $834,548 in contributions. The Green party said it collected $1,296,206.

All parties showed balance sheets in the black. The Conservatives went into the 2011 election year with a healthy $14 million on the ledger.

Interestingly, the party spent far less on advertising than the year before — only $37,012 in TV ads in 2010 versus $4.3 million in 2009.

The "Just Visiting" campaign that hobbled former Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff was launched in 2009, amid threats of a fall election. Even with less anti-Iggy propaganda on the airwaves last year, Ignatieff still led his party to a third-place finish in the May 2nd election.

Rae also announced Tuesday that he and his Liberal caucus colleagues would be visiting all provinces and territories over the summer as part of the continuing rebuilding exercise within the party. He said the key to attracting people to the party will be clearly articulating what it stands for.

"Whether you're first, second or third is frankly irrelevant because anybody who knows anything about politics knows those numbers change all the time," Rae said of the party's fortunes.

"If the last few elections have not taught us anything, they should teach us one thing, and that is that both victory and defeat are pretty temporary, and anybody who thinks they're first or second and therefore life is changed forever and permanently ... is deluding themselves."

By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press