It takes many things to have success in electoral campaigns but it’s a cold truth that money is an important thing to have to run successful electoral campaigns. When you look at the stats you can easily see a correlation between the amount of money spent by a campaign and their end result. The fact is that while you can run a good campaign without deep financial pockets (Lord knows I’ve done that more than a few times in NDP campaigns I’ve been involved with), the truth is that the more money you have that you have at your disposal, the more options you have to get your candidate elected. Usually candidates who spend the limit in Canada do well, and better than those who can’t.
That’s one of the reasons why we tend to look at fundraising figures to see how the various parties are doing, who’s up, who’s down and what the trends are. But that conversation tends to focus solely on the national central party fundraising figures, which in Canada means that we tend to miss a big part of the fundraising story. While national parties fundraise, so do their local riding associations all across the country. Each of those 338 organizations have the ability to raise money too and have their own limits. So if you’re a donor you can give the limit twice basically; once to the party and another time towards riding associations.
Over the past decade fundraising in Canadian politics has been dominated by the Conservatives, both on the national and riding levels. This has given the Conservatives a big advantage and has allowed them to paper over regional weaknesses. While their central party has ruled the fundraising roost, their riding associations ran up huge fundraising numbers, far more money than any one riding could spend in a single campaign.
One of the biggest examples of this was former Conservative MP Jason Kenney’s Calgary riding, which raised over $460,000 in 2016 alone, enough to legally run four fully-funded local campaigns. But in their riding, they had the practice of sharing that money with others. In 2015 they divvyied up nearly $300,000 amongst more than 60 Conservative hopefuls in amounts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000, plus an additional $150,000 to the central party. That is a massive boost to a lot of people. All that money was raised outside of the national party limit and many other Conservative riding associations did the same.
All told, between their national fundraising advantage and this advantage at the riding level, this has long given the Conservatives a huge fundraising edge, one that the other parties have been trying to match. It was in that in mind that I took notice of a new story out from the Canadian Press on this topic, and it seems that someone has finally really started to close that local funding gap:
Credit where credit is due, the Liberals have managed to take a major bite out of that riding advantage, raising over $21 million, just three million shy of the Conservatives. This is a big development as it really increases the Liberals resources on the ground and allows them to potentially do the same thing the Conservatives have done for years; sharing resources from rich riding associations to those who need help. Considering where the Liberals were in 2014, where they only had $8 million at the riding level, this is a huge jump up going into this campaign.
This news also could help to re-enforce the narrative out there of a two-way race between the Liberals and Conservatives, as both the NDP and Greens are far behind both on this metric. The fact that the NDP didn’t have a riding association in the Top 100 in 2018 isn’t a good thing for sure.
But that’s not the big story here in my eyes; the big news is that another party has managed to seriously close that gap with the Conservatives. It’s been a long time coming but finally someone has managed it. This news by itself won’t decide this race but it will go a long way to help ensure that the Liberals have the resources to go toe-to-toe with Conservatives in a place where no one has for a generation; funding across the board. We’ll see what effect it has in October but this is notable and surely is something to pay attention to.