The New Math in Canadian Politics

Richard Albert

November 4, 2010 | 7 Comments

Numbers don’t lie. They just don’t. And what the numbers tell us is this: the Conservative Party is winning—and for the foreseeable future will continue to win—the fundraising battle against the Liberal Party.

This is not a passing moment that we can dismiss as a fleeting fancy. Quite the contrary, the Conservative Party’s dominance in fundraising is now the new reality in Canadian politics.

For years, the Liberal Party recorded fundraising totals that often rivaled what all other parties raised combined. That was before former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien’s Liberal Party passed a new law that changed the rules of the fundraising game. Since then, the Liberal Party has slowly but steadily seen its fundraising numbers erode to the benefit of the Conservative Party.

The last two years demonstrate just how deeply entrenched this new political reality appears to be. Consider two comparisons.

This first table below (compiled from data freely available at the Elections Canada website) compares fundraising totals, in millions, reported by the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party since September 2008:


September 2008—2.078—6.368
December 2008—2.305—6.346
March 2009—1.858—4.363
June 2009—4.054—3.958
September 2009—2.011—4.555
December 2009—2.198—4.895
March 2010—1.590—4.024
June 2010—1.661—4.124
September 2010—1.470—4.063

This second table compares fundraising totals, by the number of donors, registered by the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party:

Quarter—Liberal Party—Conservative Party

September 2008—15,027—47,315
December 2008—17,558—49,065
March 2009—15,230—39,432
June 2009—19,487—35,217
September 2009—17,810—39,785
December 2009—18,777—40,004
March 2010—15,255—32,466
June 2010—17,064—34,431
September 2010—16,619—36,744

This is not a pretty equation for the Liberal Party.

More donors—sometimes three times as many—are drawn to the Conservative Party than the Liberal Party. This has helped the Conservative Party raise consistently twice as much—and sometimes three times as much—as the Liberal Party.

What does the Conservative Party do with all this money? The Conservative Party pours it into its party infrastructure, makes disbursements to its riding associations, and invests it in candidate recruitment and development, all of which only lengthens the Conservative Party’s lead in institutional development over the Liberal Party.

With this new math, it is hard to see how the Liberal Party will return any time soon to the prominence it once enjoyed.


7 Responses to “The New Math in Canadian Politics”

  1. Tweets that mention The New Math in Canadian Politics : the Commons --
    November 4th, 2010 @ 2:40 am

    [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Richard Albert, The Commons. The Commons said: We've got a new post!: The New Math in Canadian Politics [...]

  2. Scott H. Payne
    November 4th, 2010 @ 10:31 am

    This is, perhaps, further evidence that a left of centre coalition between the Liberals and NDP is a necessary feature of future electoral prosperity.


  3. North
    November 4th, 2010 @ 11:08 am

    Money alone doesn’t make politics. I’m personally of the opinion that the existance of the Bloq sitting in the middle of what would otherwise be Liberal or further leftwing territory is a major reason why the party is having such trouble mustering a majority.


    Scott H. Payne Reply:

    Which is a point, of course, that Richard himself has made. But I guess the point here is that this dynamic doesn’t help, either.


    North Reply:

    Agreed there. I think my issue is with his last sentence rather than the article as a whole.


  4. Milan
    November 4th, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

    I would suspect that whichever party is in power tends to get the most donations. They are the ones with favours to give away, after all.

    Firstly, giving them donations improves your odds of grabbing some of the federal cash that gets sent out.

    Secondly, it makes them more likely to listen to you when legislating.

    Thirdly, donating heavily to the opposition is likely to mark you as hostile to the government.


  5. R. Mowat
    November 4th, 2010 @ 2:38 pm

    As Richard says, the 2004 changes capped donation limits from individuals or organizations.

    If you look at the numbers (conveniently crunched at Pundit’s Guide*), it’s clear that even when the Liberals were in power (2004-2006), they were far, far behind the Conservatives in their ability to raise money.

    Excluding the subsidy, in 2004 and 2005, when the Liberals were in government, here are the Tories and Libs fundraising totals:

    Grits: $33,537,921
    Tories: $45,868,042



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