OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives showed off their fundraising prowess during the first three months of the year, raking in almost twice as much as the governing Liberals despite being in the midst of a leadership contest that could be siphoning off potential donations to the party.
When the leadership contestants' money haul is added in, the Conservatives raised more than three times the Liberal take.
According to financial returns filed with Elections Canada for the first quarter of 2017, the Conservative party pulled in $5.3 million from almost 42,500 donors, compared to just $2.8 million from 31,812 donors who gave to the Liberals.
Tory leadership contenders took in another $4.6 million, with front-runner Maxime Bernier raking in the most: $1.031 million, just barely ahead of celebrity candidate Kevin O'Leary, who pulled out of the race last week and threw his support to Bernier.
O'Leary raised $1.029 million. Kellie Leitch was a distant third with $536,418, followed by Erin O'Toole with $424,346, Andrew Scheer with $403,014 , Michael Chong with $283,978, Pierre Lemieux with $237,693, Lisa Raitt with $208,368 and Brad Trost with $120,893.
The other five contenders each pulled in less than $100,000.
The NDP continued to lag well behind the Conservatives and Liberals, raising just less than $909,000 from 13,404 donors.
New Democrat leadership contenders raised an additional $252,664. Of the four declared candidates so far, Charlie Angus led the pack with $110,765, followed by Niki Ashton with $65,521, Guy Caron with $57,235 and Peter Julian with $19,143.
Since winning power in 2015, the Liberals have been giving Conservatives, long the undisputed fundraising champions, a run for their money. They've virtually matched or slightly exceeded the Tory donations in most quarterly fundraising reports.
The first quarter results for 2017 appears to signal renewed interest in the Conservative party as its leadership race heads for the finish line later this month.
In the past, leadership contests have been known to siphon off money that would otherwise have gone to party coffers. But that certainly doesn't appear to be happening this time.