04/18/2016 10:05 EDT | Updated 04/19/2017 05:12 EDT

Trudeau Liberals Spent $700K Targeting 4 B.C. Ridings In 2015 Election

How the West was won.

OTTAWA — The Liberals pumped almost $700,000 into four B.C. ridings in the last election, dethroning two Conservative incumbents and one New Democrat, and losing to the NDP in the hotly contested riding of Vancouver East, election spending data show.

The money to help four Liberals get elected included $225,415 to help Pam Goldsmith-Jones defeat Conservative John Weston in the B.C. riding of West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country, and $213,638 in Surrey-Newton where Sukh Dhaliwal defeated  NDP MP Jinny Sims.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau arrives with local candidate Pamela Goldsmith Jones prior to making an announcement in West Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, Sept, 10, 2015. (Photo: Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Those amounts, the highest to any riding the central party helped financially in the last election, were targeted in areas where the Liberals expected to be in tight races in a region all three parties considered a key campaign battleground.

The transfers from the national party down to the four local candidates were part of more than $4 million in financial help the party doled out before, during and after the election to help Liberal candidates get elected on Oct. 19.

The spending was more than the combined total funding transferred from the top down to the riding level by the Conservatives, NDP, and Green party combined.

In all, the four big parties that ran candidates across the country sent almost $8 million in cash, goods and services to help local candidates, based on a review by The Canadian Press of some 6,000 transactions filed before the end of March by about 1,500 candidates in the last election.

Liberals knew where to focus funds

Some 200 candidates had yet to file returns by the end of the month, representing thousands more transactions.

Also missing from the data is how much the associations shipped up to the national parties themselves, each of whom had could have spent up to $54.5 million during the 78-day campaign.

The Liberals — like the Conservatives and NDP — used detailed data analytic tools to figure out where they should focus their efforts, although they kept the information to themselves.

The details of the transfers parties made to their candidates, and candidates between themselves, give a glimpse into where the parties felt they had the best chances of winning, or the local races that needed extra dollars to give one party an edge.

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Of the top 10 spots the Liberals transferred money, seven were in British Columbia. The Liberals gained 15 seats in that province, more than many Grits would have expected one month out from election day, said Mario Canseco, vice president of public affairs with research firm Insights West.

"It's not as if they have ever set the world on fire in B.C.," Canseco said. "It was almost like a pleasant surprise and I think this is why they decided to spend the money."

Canseco said fortunes changed for the Liberals heading into the last weeks of the campaign as many immigrant voters soured on the Tories over talk of a hotline for ethnic crimes. That gave the Liberals an opening to focus money into seats now open to them, Canseco said.

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The figures also provide some insight into work the Liberals have before them to help their associations pad the local war chests for the next election in 2019, said Kathy Brock, a politics professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont.

A previous analysis by The Canadian Press found Conservative riding associations were flush with cash at the end of 2014, the most recent numbers available, with about $19 million available to help candidates across the country and the national campaign. That amount was more than the Liberals, NDP and Greens combined.

"This would raise the question of how strong are the Liberals on the ground. If the fortunes start to turn against them, do they have the strength to maintain their position and be competitive in the next election? Or are we seeing a fundamental weakness for them?" Brock said.

The amount of money associations bring in is an indicator of the support a party has, Brock said. If the association coffers are drying up, it means people aren't happy, Brock said.

The spending figures show the Conservatives transferred more between associations than either the Liberals or NDP.


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