POLITICS
04/30/2018 17:59 EDT | Updated 04/30/2018 17:59 EDT

Conservatives Have Fundraised More Than Liberals, NDP Combined

Tories have raised more than $6 million from 40,000 donors so far.

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Andrew Scheer reacts after being the elected leader of the Conservative Party of Canada in Toronto on May 27, 2017.

OTTAWA — If money equals momentum, the federal Conservatives appear to be chugging along with a strong head of steam heading into next year's federal election.

New fundraising numbers show the Tories raked in nearly twice as much cash as the Liberals during the first three months of 2018 en route to one of the best first quarters by a federal party in a non-election year.

The Conservatives raised more than $6 million from 40,000 donors between January and March, far outpacing the 29,000 donors who gave $3.3 million to Justin Trudeau's Liberals.

Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press
A video screen shows the image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as he delivers a speech at the federal Liberal national convention in Halifax on April 21, 2018.

The federal New Democrats came a distant third with nearly $1.4 million raised from 16,000 donors followed by the Greens at $533,000 from 7,393 donors.

The Bloc Quebecois, which is in disarray under embattled leader Martine Ouellet, reported having raised only $101,000 from fewer than 1,000 donors.

While money is essential for a modern political campaign, fundraising numbers are also seen as a rough way to gauge how much support a political party enjoys.

Tories better at tapping public mood: expert

The latest figures come as some polls have suggested the Liberals are in a mid-mandate slump, thanks in part to Trudeau's disastrous trip to India, anger over the Kinder Morgan pipeline and steep deficit spending.

"My guess is the Conservative party was able to tap into the public mood of frustration that was evident in the polls during the first quarter of 2018,'' said political strategist Tim Powers, vice-chairman of Summa Strategies.

The result also represents good news for Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, who took the helm last May and has now posted two strong quarters on the fundraising front, though the party is still off its record in terms of total donors.

My guess is the Conservative party was able to tap into the public mood of frustration that was evident in the polls during the first quarter of 2018.Tim Powers

The Tories reported nearly 42,500 donors in the first quarter of 2017, which remains the high-water mark since the Conservatives' election defeat in October 2015.

Not that it was all bad news for the Liberals, as the $3.3 million raised by governing party between January and March represented a $500,000 increase from the same period last year.

The party also saw consistent growth from one quarter to the next through all of last year, unlike the Conservatives who saw a strong start and finish to 2017 with declines in the middle. The Tories still raised more than the Liberals during those quarters despite the declines.

But one cause for concern among Liberals, aside from the fact the Conservatives continue to raise more money, is the fact that there were fewer donors during the last quarter than at any point in the last three years.

Liberal spokesman Braeden Caley played down such worries, saying the donor numbers were consistent with where the party sat at the same time leading up to the 2015 federal election.

"And we're encouraged to see further growth from last year's (first quarter) after being the only party to see growth in fundraising support from one quarter to the next throughout 2017,'' he added.

Some encouraging numbers for the NDP

Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, meanwhile, appears to have stopped his party's slide into fundraising purgatory as the $1.4 million raised between January and March was $450,000 more than the same period last year.

It was the third straight quarter in which the NDP raised more than $1 million.

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NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh pauses while speaking during an interview in Ottawa on Dec. 7, 2017.

The party similarly saw more donors, with more than 16,000 people having contributed during the first quarter of 2018 compared with nearly 13,500 last year, the same number as in early 2016.

Yet former NDP national director Karl Belanger said the party has a long way to go before it catches the Conservatives and Liberals, a task made all the more important with the looming election and the party's $3 million debt from the last election.

"This is a good sign. Turning things around is important and the fact they're going up and in the right direction is encouraging,'' Belanger said. "But there's still a lot of work to do if they want to compete for government in 2019.''

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