OTTAWA - The Conservative party fundraising machine has gone into overdrive while New Democrats and Liberals seem to have stalled during the first quarter of an election year.The latest financial reports filed with Elections Canada show the governing Conservatives raked in $6.3 million in the first three months of 2015 — up almost $1.7 million over the same period last year.The number of donors to the party also jumped by almost 10,000 to 41,161.By comparison, the Liberals pulled in $3.9 million — only slightly higher than the first quarter of 2014, while the number of donors dropped slightly to 34,508.The NDP's haul actually dipped by $200,000 to $2.3 million, although the number of donors to the party increased by more than 6,000 to 28,060.For more than a decade, the Conservatives have been the undisputed federal fundraising champions.The Liberals and NDP had been steadily catching up over the past couple of years but now, with an election just six months away, the Conservatives are once again increasing their money advantage.However, both opposition parties say their numbers are better than they appear at first glance.The Liberals say their first quarter results in 2014 were artificially boosted by the party's national convention. A portion of the convention fees paid by some 2,500 delegates counted as donations, adding almost $1 million to last year's take.Take the convention revenue out of the mix and, Liberals argue, they actually increased their fundraising haul this year by almost $1 million.New Democrats say their first quarter numbers last year were boosted by just over $1 million the party received in estate gifts — which are now illegal, thanks to legislation passed last year by the Conservative government.If the estate gifts are taken out of the mix, the NDP argues its fundraising haul has actually increased by 50 per cent this year.Conservative party spokesman Cory Hann has a different take on the latest numbers."The results show that Canadians are continuing to donate more to the Conservative Party because they know the tough job of being prime minister requires a strong, serious leader," Hann said."They're rejecting the high-risk, high-tax, high-debt schemes of (Liberal Leader) Justin Trudeau and (NDP Leader) Thomas Mulcair."
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