SASKATOON — Federal Liberal officials say the ruling party is in good shape as it approaches the one-year countdown to the next election — even if the Conservatives have raised more money and nominated more candidates.
Azam Ishmael, the Liberals' national director, and party president Suzanne Cowan gave a report on the party's election readiness Wednesday to Liberal MPs attending a caucus retreat ahead of next week's resumption of Parliament.
A note prepared by the party says the Liberals' online fundraising scored its best July ever and its best August in a non-election year.
Moreover, the party now has more monthly grassroots donors than at any time in its history, and more than 15,000 people have signed up recently as volunteers. Over the summer, the party organized 579 "summer of action" events across the country, knocking on doors and talking to voters.
The grassroots mobilization is proceeding "at a faster pace than we've ever seen this far ahead of an election campaign," the note says.
As well, 25 Liberal MPs, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have been nominated as candidates for the next election, plus one new contender.
By contrast, the Conservatives have nominated some 100 candidates for the country's 338 ridings thus far.
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And while the Tories continue to rake in money hand over fist — $12.1 million in the first six months of 2018, compared to $6.4 million pulled in by the Liberals — Ishmael says those comparisons are misleading.
"I think you need to look at the actual truth on fundraising. It's not about the gross amount of dollars that are raised, it's about what's left in your pocket," Ishmael said in an interview.
The Conservatives, he said, are spending twice as much to raise twice as much as the Liberals. In terms of money available to spend on pre-election organizing, he said the real gap between the two parties is just $500,000.
Similarly, Ishmael said the nomination numbers are misleading.
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The Liberal party has declared that all 183 of its MPs will be acclaimed without having to win nomination contests in their ridings — provided they meet certain fundraising, membership and voter engagement targets by Oct. 1. Ishmael said the vast majority are expected to meet those targets, so their nominations are effectively formalities.
Some MPs, he added, are deliberately holding off on their nominations, choosing to time their acclamations closer to the election for strategic reasons.
"We're feeling in good shape, our team is in good shape, both on the ground and here — our caucus team," said Cowan.
"So, I'm feeling very optimistic about where we're at."