Hey big spenders

March 8, 2011 1:46 PM

New Brunswick's recently released election spending documents offer an interesting glimpse into the internal campaign financing decisions made by the province's main political parties leading up to the Sept. 27 election.

The Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals, having fielded candidates in every riding, were able to spend to a maximum of $916,213.76. However, neither of the parties came close to spending to the cap and, in what may be counter-intuitive to many political observers, the Tories outspent the Liberals. It may be counter-intuitive because the Liberals held a substantial fund-raising advantage when the election was called and with enough money in the bank, and a government hanging in the balance, it would have been reasonable to assume Shawn Graham would have spent as much as he could to win a few extra ridings.

The majority of the races saw the two main parties spend a roughly equal amount of money during the campaigns. It is often believed in politics that the parties or candidates that have the most money stand the best change at winning their ridings because they can funnel more cash into election advertising throughout the campaign and then roll out a robust get-out-the-vote machine on election day.

The Progressive Conservatives spent $815,470.47 compared to the $801,040.15 spent by the Liberals, according to Elections New Brunswick. The smaller parties spent a fraction on their campaign as the PCs and the Liberals: the NDP ($139,708), the Green Party ($15,828.68) and the People's Alliance ($2,735.90).

Liberal Roger Melanson earned the title for the biggest spender during the election campaign. Melanson shelled out $35,915 to earn back the riding of Dieppe Centre-Lewisville which had been a solid Tory seat since 1999. The Tories spent $25,123 in the hopes of regaining Cy LeBlanc's old seat.

Two northeastern ridings saw a massive infusion of political spending, driven mainly by the NDP's push to pick up a seat in the region.

Tracadie-Sheila saw a true three-way spending blitz. Tory Claude Landry spent $25,829 to hold onto his riding against NDP Leader Roger Duguay, who spent $23,726. The Liberals made a serious run at the riding as their candidate, Norma McGraw, spent $20,193 during the election.

The campaign disclosure sheet also reinforces how the NDP thought the northeast could be fertile ground for a breakthrough. The NDP outspent their two main rivals by a fair amount in Nepisiguit. Despite spending $23,036, Pierre Cyr placed third, almost 1,000 votes behind Tory Ryan Riordon. Riordon spent $19,401 during his campaign.

Although the Liberals were shut out in the Fredericton region on election night, the Elections New Brunswick release shows the party pumped a lot of money into the capital-area seats.

One Fredericton-area riding, in particular, saw the two main candidates spend near the cap for their local districts. Fredericton-Silverwood MLA Brian MacDonald spent $30,734 to wrestle away the seat from Liberal Rick Miles, who spent $32,068. NDP candidate Tony Myatt was one of the parties high-profile candidates and spent $10,353 during the campaign.

Miles won the distinction of spending the money on a campaign and failing to actually win the seat. Although Liberal Greg Byrne in the neighbouring riding of Fredericton-Lincoln also spent more than $30,000 and was unemployed after the election campaign.

When all the ballots were counted, the closest race was Saint John Harbour. Former Liberal cabinet minister Ed Doherty lost his seat to the Tory challenger Carl Killen. The campaign financing document shows he didn't go down without a fight. Doherty spent $20,370 compared to Killen's $12,783. NDP candidate Wayne Dryer made the race a three-way fight and spent $9,359. Killen also earns the title of the winning candidate who spent the least amount to get elected, narrowly beating Charlotte-Campobello Tory Curtis Malloch.

Finally, the one riding where the two candidates spent the closest to the cap was Nigadoo-Chaleur. Liberal Roland Haché doled out $27,450 to maintain the riding that he's held since 1999, but Tory Fred Albert spent $27,293 in an effort to unseat the long-time Grit MLA. The two campaigns could spend a maximum of $29,718.

(Spin Reduxit has included the full list of campaign expenses and would welcome any other interesting spending tidbits that may have been missed.)

-- Daniel McHardie

N.B. 2010 Election Spending

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