The New Brunswick Liberal Association continues to hold a substantial lead in cash reserves among the province’s five political parties even though it is being out-fundraised by its chief rivals.
The Liberals were voted out of office two years ago, but the party still had $1.3 million in cash on June 30, 2012, according to the latest numbers made available by Elections New Brunswick.
By contrast, the governing Progressive Conservatives have $371,557 in cash and the Green Party has $12,512.
The New Democratic Party may be riding high in the polls, but the party had only a meager $1,435 in cash at the end of June, the lowest of the five registered political parties.
Even the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick, which had zero per cent support in the latest political poll covered in the financial reporting, had $4,624 in the bank.
'That’s all we’re focusing on, is getting election ready and a portion of that is cash on hand. We like we where we have been and where we are now.' — Jason Stephen, PC Party president
While the Liberals may be awash in cash, the party was outhustled by its two main political rivals in the first six months of the year when it comes to donations.
The Liberals only raised $59,261 from individual and corporate donors, compared to the Progressive Conservative Party’s $637,971 and the NDP’s $71,329.
The NDP is the only party to raise money from unions in the first half of 2012. Trade unions sent $10,000 to the party.
The province’s two smaller parties were only able to raise less than $1,000 during the first half of the year.
The Green Party raised $960 and the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick raised $275.
Britt Dysart, the president of the Liberals, said his party is careful to watch its expenditures so it can maintain a healthy balance sheet.
Dysart said the party’s fundraising was down in 2012 because it was also organizing a leadership campaign.
"I think our fundraising in that period, would be depressed as a function of the fact we had three leadership candidates in the field raising money to fund their campaigns. That is normal," he said.
The party president said the Liberals planned for a weaker fundraising period in 2012.
PCs lead in 'real-time numbers'
Jason Stephen, the president of the PC Party, said the Liberals have a built-in fundraising advantage going back to the days of former premier Frank McKenna.
He said it is more important to look at recent donations, which the Tories have a clear advantage in.
"We are looking at real-time numbers and certainly our ability to raise funds when we are in government, which is not easy because when you are in government you have to make tough decisions," he said.
Stephen said the party is already starting to focus its fundraising goals on preparing for the 2014 election.
"That’s all we’re focusing on, is getting election ready and a portion of that is cash on hand. We like where we have been and where we are now," he said.
"The next two years are crucial to build up the war chest."
NDP unfazed by low cash reserves
The NDP is not worried about the fact it has the smallest bank account of the registered political parties.
"Political parties aren’t banks, we are not trying to carry a large balance, we are trying to win elections and change the province," NDP Leader Dominic Cardy said on Friday.
He said the party spent a lot of money on the Rothesay byelection on June 25, where Cardy finished third, after PC Ted Flemming and Liberal John Wilcox.
Political financing figures show the NDP transferred $19,620 to the Rothesay district association between May 27 and June 23.
Cardy said the party's strong finish in the Rothesay byelection shows the New Democrats are gaining traction, even in ridings where they once were not considered competitive.
"We are showing we are a progressive alternative to the old line Liberals and Conservatives, which is what is helping us raise more money than the Liberals," he said.
"So that is allowing us to hire more organizers and hire more staff."
Those extra staff members are allowing the party to recruit additional members, which will lead to future donations, Cardy said.
PCs, NDP carrying debt
The Liberals may be falling short on fundraising but the Grits are not carrying the heavy debt levels of the Progressive Conservatives and the NDP.
The Tories have $526,000 in various loans and lines of credit.
The largest debt is $375,000, which is owed to Vaughan Properties Inc. That loan is for the house the party purchased to operate out of in Fredericton.
The PC Party president said the house shows up as a debt, but he said the house is considered "good debt."
The political financing documents also show the party received four loans of $37,500 between Aug. 28 and Sept. 13, 2010, which was during the last election campaign. But Stephen said those election debts have been paid off in recent months.
The NDP, meanwhile, has almost $92,000 in various loans. The largest — $66,666,67 — is owed to the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, the Steel Workers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
Cardy said those debts pre-date his time as party leader. In fact, he said the debts are so old that there is very little paperwork to account for them.
"It’s book debt," he said. "We’re working with Elections NB and the unions to sort it out.
"The unions haven’t been asking for the money back," he added.