Friday, February 3, 2012

Tory fundraising lead narrows

The Conservatives remain Canada’s best funded political party, but for the first time in five years they are no longer taking in most of Canada’s political donations.

Financial reports posted on the Elections Canada website this week show that the Conservatives raised $4.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. While this was more than any other party, it was the worst fourth quarter result since before Stephen Harper became prime minister. 

You can read the rest of the article on The Huffington Post Canada website here. It takes a look at how this fourth quarter of 2011 compares to others in the past.

Compared to the Conservatives' $4.1 million raised, the Liberals raised $2.8 million, the NDP $1.6 million, the Greens $383,000 and the Bloc Québécois $162,000. What does that mean in electoral terms?

Let's try to find out. In the second quarter of 2011, which happened to include a federal election, the Conservatives raised $8.2 million, more than the other four parties combined. The Liberals raised $3.6 million while the New Democrats raised $3.1 million. The Greens raked in almost $800,000 while the Bloc took in almost $600,000.

What did it get them? For the sake of this exercise, let's assume that money raised during the second quarter of 2011 is related to the number of votes each party received. How much money did each party have to raise to get one vote?

$1.41 per vote - Conservatives
$1.34 per vote - Greens
$1.31 per vote - Liberals
$0.69 per vote - New Democrats
$0.64 per vote - Bloc Québécois

With these numbers, let's "buy" votes using money raised in the fourth quarter. The end result, in total vote share (and with difference from the 2011 election result in brackets), is:

36.6% - Conservatives (-3.0)
29.5% - New Democrats  (-1.1)
27.0% - Liberals (+8.1)
3.6% - Greens (-0.3)
3.2% - Bloc Québécois (-2.8)

This actually looks quite similar to the some of the polls that we've seen recently. But what it does put into context is that this was a very good quarter for the Liberals. Of course, the Conservatives still raised the most money but their advantage over the Liberals and, to a lesser extent, the New Democrats has been reduced. It almost appears that the Liberals and NDP have kept their fundraising machines ticking while the Conservatives have taken their foot off the gas a little.

It should come as no surprise, however, that the Bloc Québécois would be having such a hard time of it after the May 2011 debacle. Adding to their trouble is that Quebec is heading towards an election, meaning the average Bloc donor is probably giving his or her money to the Parti Québécois, if at all. Translating that 3.2% in our exercise means a drop to about 12.5% in Quebec - absolute disaster for the Bloc. But the party tends to raise a lot of its funds at the local level, so perhaps this isn't as disastrous as it appears.

Also released this week were the fundraising totals of the NDP leadership hopefuls. Glen McGregor has a very neat graph here and the CBC has the actual details here. Brian Topp and Thomas Mulcair top the list, with Topp raising the most money but Mulcair having the most donors. Peggy Nash and Paul Dewar came in third and fourth, rounding out the top four. But surprisingly, Nathan Cullen pulled in the fifth most amount of money, coming up less than $8,000 short of Dewar's total. Cullen may be a much more important factor in this race than previously thought, as both he and Dewar have raised around $90,000 despite Dewar having the far greater national profile.

Martin Singh comes up with almost $50,000, while Roméo Saganash and Niki Ashton each raised less than $20,000.

These totals tell a slightly different story of the race than, for example, my endorsement rankings. Brian Topp is still in first, but Thomas Mulcair is very close and well ahead of both Nash and Dewar. Though those are the four frontrunners, Nathan Cullen is very much in the race and Niki Ashton is very much at the bottom. However, we don't know how much was raised in January and there is still more than a month before the convention, so these numbers could change dramatically before the end of March. But these totals do paint a portrait of the race that is easily the most objective and quantifiable information that we've seen so far in this campaign.