Monday, June 13, 2011

How much will killing per-vote subsidy stack odds in Tory favour?

Though an election campaign can turn on a dime, they are not won in a day. Years and years of work is put in by every party, and the stellar breakthrough of the NDP in Quebec was due, according to the party itself, to their years of hard work in the province since Jack Layton became leader. But laying the groundwork for a future election win costs money, and the abolition of the per-vote subsidy is likely to put the Conservatives in a tremendously advantageous position.

You can read the rest of the article on The Globe and Mail website here. A condensed version with infographic is also featured in today's print edition of the Globe.

This is a little bit of a thought exercise that translates the difference in funding into seats. Obviously, the Conservatives have a major advantage.

What is really something is the number of individual contributions the Conservatives received in 2010, EDIT: when adding the four quarterly returns together (in that way, contributors who donate multiple times per year could be counted more than once). See below for more clarification.

In 2010, the Conservatives had 145,410 contributions to their national fundraising when combining their quarterly returns. That is more than the other four parties combined. The Liberals had 69,055 total individual contributions in their four quarters, the New Democrats 52,208, the Greens 13,583, and the Bloc Québécois 6,807. (Note that with the Bloc, they make more of an effort to raise funds at the riding level.)

UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments section below, this should not be taken as a total number of contributors. Nor was it meant to be taken as such - but it is an indication of how the parties compare to one another in terms of individual contributors. When their annual reports are filed we will have a better idea of how the parties compare. The Bloc, which has already filed their annual report, had 5,855 contributors in 2010 to their national headquarters.

In fact, a better way to look at this until all of the annual reports are filed would be the average number of contributors per quarter: 36,352 for the Conservatives, 17,264 for the Liberals, 13,052 for the New Democrats, 3,396 for the Greens, and 1,702 for the Bloc. 

So for the opposition parties it isn't about getting people to pony up more cash - it is about finding more people willing to part with their hard-earned dollars.


  1. Éric, you are completely mistaken. The Conservatives have not posted their annual 2010 return yet, and the way the reporting works, you can't just add together the quarterly contribution counts together for an accurate count of contributors.

    But in neither case is it the number of contributions. It's the number of unique contributors per reporting period, whether quarterly or annual.

  2. How is that different from what I wrote above?

  3. Reading the Elections Canada site, I can see that my mistake was assuming monthly donations would count for 12 contributions, when in fact it would count for four when adding the quarterly returns.

    A simple mistake, doesn't change our ability to compare party to party with the data we currently have available.

  4. Made some edits that should clear things up, hopefully. Thanks.

  5. AverageCanuck13 June, 2011 11:45

    This is dangerously incomplete.

    As you point out in the article it doesn't include EDAs.

    They're not just a drop in the bucket. For a party like the BQ they're a substantial percentage of their income.

    Net effect of including EDAs ?

    Subsidy is less % income per party, change in subsidy has less impact than article suggests.

  6. Percentage of income is not the focus. Unless parties are raising funds at hugely disproportionate levels from their EDAs, the net effect on the Conservative advantage is no different.

    The Bloc does raise a lot of money at the riding level, but in the future we can expect that to no longer be the case considering only four ridings now have Bloc MPs.

    In any case, the article is written from a national campaign perspective and transfers from the EDAs were included.

  7. As a Green I can tell you what a difference the national campaign makes. Locally the NDP was dead pre-election, pretty much begging to find a candidate. They were sub-10% for the last provincial and federal elections, while Greens were over provincially and barely under (less than 100 votes) federally. Then the Greens were excluded from the national debate and ignored post-debate. Locally the NDP didn't put up one sign, didn't attend debates, didn't door knock while Greens spent at least 6 times what we've spent in any election before with lots of door knocking and positive feedback. But in the dying days of the election the NDP was getting tons of free advertising (national news) mixed with lots of TV ads while the Greens were ignored completely nationally (good coverage locally) and couldn't afford a massive TV campaign.

    We ended up being top 20 for votes for Greens but with our worst local result in years. The NDP, despite being torn apart locally in the media and doing nothing, almost passed the Liberals for 2nd place.

    National campaigns matter. A lot. If the Conservatives can outspend all the other parties combined next time we can write off democracy and just accept one party rule until something changes as most go based on TV ads rather than digging in a bit themselves (many people I know have stated ad campaign slogans even after those slogans are shown to be false or misleading as they don't watch news, don't read papers, don't care).

    I do give the Conservatives a lot of credit though. They saw the system and how people vote and have worked it well with a focus on winnable ridings (although the NDP might have changed that definition last time) rather than overall vote percentage. A focus for years on grassroots fundraising, knocking down the other parties in an effort to get people who are willing to donate (about 1% of the public) to shell out more. Keeping things quiet as possible overall though as that keeps Joe Public sleeping and voting based on ads rather than on ideas.

    Trying to avoid sour grapes (thus why I have avoided posting much for awhile) but the per-vote funding was one of the few things that made voting worthwhile in the majority of ridings (your vote had some meaning) and that was some disincentive against 'strategic voting' (also known as a waste of time as it rarely works - I remember Reform & PC voters trying it in the 90's, which failed as well).

    In 2015 my riding will see nothing but wasted votes as we all know Michael Chong will be re-elected baring a major, major shock. Voting in all but a few ridings in Alberta will be a waste of time as well. Same for many others. Sad really.

  8. AverageCanuck13 June, 2011 12:56

    One of the CPC EDAs that does the most fundraising doesn't even have an MP. Its just there to suck up Montreal money.

    So the fact that the BQ only has 4 members won't change the fact that its EDAs do a lot of fundraising.

    From your pre-amble:

    "...years of hard work in the province since Jack Layton became leader. But laying the groundwork for a future election win costs money..."

    That hard work is done by EDAs. Which contradicts your point that this is just "a national campaign perspective".

    Something to think about in the future as this discussion is dangerously incomplete without factoring in EDAs.

  9. To be fair, voting was still basically a waste of time, as the marginal impact of your $2/year is effectively zero.

    That said, it did seem to give people a sense of accomplishment. I expect removing the per vote subsidy will reduce voter turnout.

    Now, as it happens, I like a lower turnout. I would rather the election be decided by Canadians who genuinely care about the issues, rather than by the public at large. This is why I strongly oppose mandatory voting.

  10. Incidentally, I love this analysis. It reminds of an old baseball metric from Nate Silver's first career which would calculate the marginal cost of marginal wins.

  11. We all saw how valuable EDA's were in Quebec with many winning who didn't campaign at all. Oh yeah, that proves the opposite.

    I love how Eric has shown that it takes a lot for a local campaign to overtake national trends though. Greens had a star candidate (leader) and tons of money put into one riding and were able to win it. Conversely the NDP gained momentum and swept Quebec despite many campaigns having only paper candidates.

    I know locally it will be even harder to get people to door knock or do anything in 2015 for any party as no one will see any point to it outside of bragging rights (Liberals trying to stay in 2nd, NDP might actually do more than run a paper candidate to try to claim 2nd, Greens could try again to reach the magical 10% level). With per-vote funding you felt like you were at least helping the party nationally when it was a 'no hope' riding. Now what is the incentive?


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