Kathleen Wynne's Ontario Liberal fundraising machine was working at full throttle in 2015, outpacing both the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats by millions of dollars, according to new financial statements obtained by CBC News.
The documents show donors gave the Liberals $9.2 million in 2015, more than double what the PCs raised and more than triple the amount of the NDP.
This puts the Liberals in the financial driver's seat heading towards the June 2018 election, as pending reforms will make it much harder for the parties to raise large sums, starting in January 2017.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne speaks to Liz Plank onstage at the 2016 Liberal Biennial Convention in Winnipeg, Saturday, May 28, 2016. (Photo: John Woods/CP)
The figures are revealed in the parties' 2015 financial statements, submitted this week to Elections Ontario. The documents are not yet available online, and can only be viewed at Elections Ontario headquarters in Toronto.
Preliminary figures compiled by CBC News in April had suggested the Liberals were millions of dollars ahead in the fundraising game. The newly-filed financial statements confirm their lead.
The documents show the Liberals raised a total of $9,155,173 in donations in 2015, including fundraising during byelection campaigns in Sudbury and Simcoe North. Contributions to the PCs for the year totaled $4,360,600, while the NDP amassed $2,836,614 from donors.
Better financial shape than rivals
Wynne's party continues to outpace its rivals at fundraising in 2016. Data from Elections Ontario compiled by CBC News show the Liberals have declared $3.3 million in donations so far this year, the PCs $1.7 million and the NDP $613,000.
The Liberals' 2015 fundraising efforts have helped the party whittle away the deficit the party ran up during the 2014 election campaign, putting them in better financial shape than the opposition parties.
The documents show the Ontario Liberal Party's deficit at the end of 2015 as $2.9 million. The PCs' shortfall stands at $6.1 million and the NDP's at $4.9 million.
The new financial statements show the Liberals spent much more than their rivals to keep their party machinery afloat in 2015, a non-election year. The party's expenses totaled $8.4 million, including $1.8 million on salaries and benefits and $1.1 million on advertising.
The PCs spent $4.6 million, including $684,000 on salaries and benefits and $215,000 on advertising. The NDP's expenses totalled $3.1 million, with $954,000 on salaries and benefits and just $2,800 on advertising
After controversy over high-priced fundraising events offering access to cabinet ministers for donations to the Liberal party, the Wynne government put forward legislation that would ban companies and unions from donating to all Ontario political parties.
The bill, currently before the Legislature, would also reduce the maximum amount an individual can donate to any one party annually or during a campaign period from the current limit of $9.975 to $1,550.
The legislation also proposes a taxpayer-funded subsidy to the parties that would total some $10.5 million annually, split according to the proportion of votes the parties received in the last election.
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