Battle for donor dollars tightens among Conservative leadership contenders

Battle for donor dollars tightens among Conservative leadership contenders

OTTAWA — New data from Elections Canada offers a glimpse into the fundraising efforts of each Conservative leadership campaign — and how the battle for donor dollars has tightened leading up to the final results.

Second-quarter contribution numbers for the Conservative party show Erin O’Toole moved ahead of rival Peter MacKay to become the fundraising leader between April and June, bringing in $1.24 million in leadership donations.

But MacKay wasn’t far behind, raising $1.16 million over the same period.

In the first quarter of this year, MacKay had the most in donations with $1.04 million, coming in ahead of O’Toole, who raised $785,000.

Meanwhile, Leslyn Lewis, who is backed by many social conservative groups, more than doubled her fundraising totals compared to earlier in the year, raising $996,000 in donations last quarter, up from about $448,000.

Lewis also attracted more individual donors than the four other candidates this quarter at just over 10,000 contributors, compared to 8,900 donors for O’Toole and 6,800 donors for MacKay.

Some donors may have donated more than once, so these numbers are approximate.

Derek Sloan, who is also courting the social conservative vote, raised $329,000, down slightly from the $410,000 he raised in the first quarter of 2020.

The figures suggest the race remains a showdown between the two perceived frontrunners, MacKay and O’Toole, but they also show Lewis as a strong and surprising contender, says Conservative strategist Tim Powers.

“I don’t think she’s going to win, but of all the candidates, I think she’s the one who has captured the most interest among people in the campaign and maybe has positioned herself very well for future prospects in the Conservative party,” Powers said.

The fact that Lewis doubled her fundraising totals and put herself on a level playing field with the two frontrunners financially using a greater number of small donations is reminiscent of former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper’s rise to power, says Stephanie Plante, a political scholar and director of the centre for security, intelligence and defence studies at Carleton University.

“When Stephen Harper first jumped into the Tory leadership race, he kind of had the same argument as her, which is, ‘I bring all these $10 and $15 donations from all these people and you can’t sleep on that because those $10, $15 donations add up very quickly.’ And that’s what she’s proving.”

The numbers also show the Conservatives have been largely successful at maintaining a steady flow of political donations even during the height of lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is noteworthy at a time when millions of Canadians lost their jobs or were thrown suddenly into economic uncertainty, Powers said.

“It’s hard to break through that. No leadership campaign in the modern era has had ever to deal with something of this magnitude,” he said.

“The fact that they can still raise good amounts of money is a reflection, I guess, of Conservative supporters. But it’s not been easy.”

As seasoned campaigners, no one should be surprised that MacKay and O’Toole have been able to keep their fundraising numbers up, Plante said.

But without traditional chicken dinners and glad-handing events, thanks to COVID-19 restrictions, the Conservative candidates have shown they are using newer techniques to tap into their supporters’ pocket books, including text message and email blitzes.

And the WE controversy, which has the Liberals facing ethics investigations involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau, could be helping inch those Tory fundraising numbers up, Plante says.

“It’s all kind of piling on,” she said.

“I’m wondering if people are perhaps now taking a second glance at what’s happening in the Conservative race and responding financially.”

The winner of the Conservative leadership race will be announced later this month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 5, 2020.

Teresa Wright, The Canadian Press

politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s disaster risk assessment plan in poor shape, says auditor

Disaster costs have greatly expanded since 2003

Student art to represent Orange Shirt Day

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools project

Recovery plan inspires confidence but Canadians like working from home for now: Poll

Fear of a worse second wave may explain why workers want to work from home

Amazon sees its palm recognition tech in stadiums, offices

Palm recognition more private than other biometric technology

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Calgary man charged with assaulting Red Deer RCMP officer

Incident occurred after a traffic stop on Sept. 16

David Marsden: Molly Banister extension must be kept

‘It would be a mistake to take a sensible response to future residential development off the table’

Toronto Blue Jays won’t pitch ace Ryu in playoff opener against Rays

Toronto grabbed eighth playoff spot with a record of 32-28

The only debate moderator to return, Fox’s Wallace preps

Known as methodical, even-tempered and never showy

Steve Harvey talks show revival on Facebook Watch, NBC split

Launches new talk show ‘Steve on Watch’

Bubble hockey champs: Tampa Bay Lightning beat Dallas Stars 2-0, win Stanley Cup

Bubble hockey champs: Tampa Bay Lightning beat Dallas Stars 2-0, win Stanley Cup

Mahomes outplays Jackson to lead Chiefs past Ravens 34-20

Mahomes outplays Jackson to lead Chiefs past Ravens 34-20

Most Read