Conservatives fundraising. Seriously?

So, if you want to run for the leadership on the Conservative Party, you need to come up with $100,000. To us that sure sounds like another way to ensure that only the rich or well connected people make it to any level of power. With 16 people looking at putting their hats into the ring, that’s $1.6 Million for the party.

We haven’t checked on the liberals, but we have no doubt it’s very similar.

Once again, this is another item that the CVP will not be doing. We believe that the best person for the job should be doing the job, not based on how much fund raising they can do, but how in touch they are with the needs of everyday Canadians. Of course there are other deciding factors, but money will NOT be one of them.

With more than a dozen Conservatives expected to seek the party’s top job, no candidate is likely to win on the first ballot and one of the most challenging parts in the ongoing contest is to raise money in the crowded field, say Conservative MPs and a former senior party strategist.

“Every campaign will tell you they’re looking for victory on the first ballot, but the reality is that it’s going to be very difficult,” said rookie Conservative MP Alex Nuttall (Barrie-Springwater-Oro-Medonte, Ont.), who is supporting Conservative MP Maxime Bernier’s (Beauce, Que.) leadership bid.

Mr. Nuttall added, however, that if there is anyone in the race who can win on the first ballot, that person is Mr. Bernier.

“I happen to be supporting a candidate who I believe can win on the first ballot.”

As of last week, 16 Conservatives were known to be interested in seeking the party leadership or had officially entered the contest. Of those, six are registered candidates including Conservative MPs Michael Chong (Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont.), Kellie Leitch (Simcoe-Grey, Ont.), Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.), Mr. Bernier, Deepak Obhrai (Calgary Forest Lawn, Ont.), and Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.). Four potential candidates, as of last week, had declared their intention to run but had not officially entered the race, including Conservative MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-University, Sask.), former Conservative MP Pierre Lemieux, Manitoba physician Dan Lindsay and Toronto communications consultant Adrienne Snow.

Conservative MPs Steven Blaney (Bellechasse-Les Etchmins-Lévis, Que.), Lisa Raitt (Milton, Ont.), and Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.); former Conservative MP Chris Alexander; businessman and TV personality Kevin O’Leary; and Vancouver venture capitalist Rick Peterson are also expected to enter the contest.

The leadership race officially started in early March and will take place on May 27, 2017. Each candidate is required to pay $100,000 to the party—$50,000 for registration and a $50,000 compliance deposit. The spending limit for the ongoing leadership race is $5-million. For the leadership contest, each electoral district association has 100 points and the voting will take place using the preferential ballot system.

In the 2013 Liberal leadership convention, the party’s set spending limit was just $950,000 per candidate and the 2012 NDP leadership convention spending limit was $500,000.

The Conservative Party has organized five leadership debates between November and April 2017 with the first English debate to take place in Saskatoon on Nov. 9. The second will be a bilingual debate and will be held in Moncton, N.B., on Dec. 6. Dates and locations of the remaining three debates were not known last week.

In early August, Elections Canada released fundraising numbers for the second quarter (the first since the start of the leadership campaign) for Mr. Chong, Ms. Leitch and Mr. Bernier, who were the only registered candidates at the time. In total, the three had raised $376,000. Of this, Ms. Leitch had raised $234,000, Mr. Chong $84,600, and Mr. Bernier $56,900.

The Conservative Party held its last leadership convention in 2004 when the then-newly-merged Conservative Party elected Stephen Harper (Calgary Heritage, Alta.) as party leader. In 2004, Mr. Harper spent $2.07-million on his leadership campaign, Belinda Stronach $2.4-million, and Conservative MP Tony Clement (Parry Sound-Muskoka, Ont.) spent $826,807. Mr. Harper led the party to a minority victory in 2006 and won every subsequent federal election, including a majority government in 2011. However, he lost last year’s federal election to the Liberals.

This is the Conservative Party’s second leadership contest since merging and the first to run under the strict leadership campaign contribution limits brought into effect first in 2004, implemented by former prime minister Jean Chrétien before he left in 2003. It limited individual political contributions to $5,000, and corporate and union donations to $1,000. After Mr. Harper became prime minister in 2006, he banned corporations and unions from making donations to political parties and individual contributions were capped at $1,100.

Currently, according to Elections Canada, the individual maximum contribution limit allowed to a leadership contestant per leadership cycle is $1,525, and a candidate is allowed to give a maximum of “$25,000 in contributions, loans or loan guarantees to his or her leadership campaign.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Nuttall told The Hill Times fundraising is one of the toughest challenges for all the leadership candidates. However, he said Mr. Bernier is doing well in raising funds.

“You’re slicing up the pie more and more and more,” said Mr. Nuttall, who until recently was the Bernier campaign’s fundraising chair and said he has helped the campaign raise more than $350,000. “However, we’re lucky enough to have a candidate that resonates very well with our Conservative family and outside our Conservative family, and people are stepping up to the plate.”

Mr. Nuttall recently left the position of national fundraising chair and has taken over the responsibilities of national membership chair. Conservative Sen. Nicole Eaton (Ontario) has now been appointed as the Bernier campaign’s national fundraising chair.

Conservative MP Peter Kent (Thornhill, Ont.), who is supporting Mr. Chong, agreed that fundraising is a major challenge for all candidates and also that no one is likely to win on the first ballot, if all 16 officially entered the race and stay until the last day. He speculated that not all candidates may stay in the race until the end, and some declare their support to someone else.

“The realists among the candidates will move to those who look most likely to prevail,” said Mr. Kent.

Conservative MP Marilyn Gladu said that to raise more funds, the leadership candidates will have to expand their base and reach out to Canadians who are not regular donors of the Conservative Party.

“They’re going to have to get outside of their base to raise funds,” said Ms. Gladu.

Mr. Obhrai told The Hill Times that, based on his 20-year political experience, money is important but is not a deciding factor in the outcome of leadership campaigns. He said that a successful campaign needs to have a message that resonates with Canadians.

“Money never makes you win,” said Mr. Obhrai, who was first elected in 1997 as a Reform Party Member and has been re-elected in every subsequent election since. “It is the idea, the ability to reach to people, the ability to get your message out. That’s the key.”

He declined to say how much money he expects to raise.

Political party leadership campaigns are expensive exercises to take part in and it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to run a viable campaign. A serious candidate would try to organize in all 338 ridings, hire dozens of paid staffers across the country, pay candidate and staff travel, hire a pollster, and coordinate a national get-out-the-vote effort on the leadership election day.

Keith Beardsley, former deputy chief of staff to Mr. Harper when prime minister, said that fundraising potential is one of the most important indicators how a candidate will perform in a leadership contest. He said that with more than a dozen candidates asking for money from the Conservative donors at the same time, it’s no surprise the candidates are facing an uphill battle. He said another barrier is that the Conservatives are in opposition and it’s harder to raise funds when a party is not in government.

“When you’re in government, it’s a hell of a lot easier to have your followers cough up money,” said Mr. Beardsley. “It’s just the atmosphere, it’s just the energy the party has. When you’re recuperating from defeat mode, people are not as willing to provide the money that you’re looking for.”

Mr. Beardsley said that some of the candidates who are interested in running for the leadership are positioning themselves for a future political position in the shadow cabinet, or even a cabinet position if the party wins the next election. These candidates, he said, may pull out of the race before the leadership election day and declare their support for someone else.

“A lot of them are playing the game of, ‘I can throw my support behind someone who has a chance of winning and therefore I can get more prestige,’ positioning for the shadow cabinet in this case, or down the road in a government, maybe become a minister,” said Mr. Beardsley.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s