4 storylines in the federal parties' annual financial reports

Political financing data geeks, start your spreadsheets: As of today, the 2013 financial reports for all major federal political parties have been posted on the Elections Canada website. Kady O'Malley checks the fine print to see what the new numbers say about the political landscape.

Reports shed light on how political parties make - and spend - their money

Once again, the Conservatives managed to raise more than their political rivals, raking in more than $18 million in donations from grassroots supporters. Even so, the latest financial reports suggest the Liberals may be catching up. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

Political financing data geeks, start your spreadsheets.

The 2013 financial reports for all major federal political parties have been posted on the Elections Canada website.

While the annual financial filings don't tend to offer much in the way of new numbers — fundraising totals, donor numbers and other data is released throughout the year via the quarterly reports — they do make it easier to spot trends.

The yearly reports also provide some insight into how, exactly, all that money is being spent.

A few highlights from the latest batch:

Tories still on top, but Grits catching up

When it comes to convincing supporters to chip in a little hard-earned cash to top off the party coffers, the Conservatives remain the undisputed champions in two key areas: total revenue and number of donors.

But the latest numbers suggest the Liberals are slowly but surely starting to close the gap.

According to the annual reports, in 2013 the Conservatives raked in $18.1 million — an increase of nearly $1 million from their haul in 2012 — but their number of contributors dropped to 80,135 from 87,306.

The Liberals, meanwhile, managed to boost both their raw intake (by nearly $3 million, to $11.3 million in 2013 from $8.2 million in 2012) and their donor base, which jumped to 71,655 contributors from 44,665 in the previous year.

As for the New Democrats, while they, too, reported increased revenue — to $8.2 million in 2013 from $7.7 million in 2012 — the number of individual contributors fell to 39,218 from 43,537.

Finally, while the Green Party continued to lag far behind its adversaries on both fronts, they, too, can claim an improvement in 2013 — $2.2 million from 14,500 contributors compared to $1.7 million from 9,532 donors in the previous year.

Grits spent most on TV, but Tories own radio

#SawAnAd? Seen an ad paid for by a federal political party on your television screen? If so, there's a good chance it was brought to you by the Liberals, courtesy of the $1.5 million the party budgeted for last year's TV ad campaigns.

Another $100,000 in ad money went to "other" platforms, which usually refers to online advertising, but just $6,206 was set aside for radio play.

By contrast, the Conservatives shelled out a comparatively modest $1.2 million on TV ads, but poured $326,211 into its radio campaign and $19,316 into "other" modes of selling their message.

The New Democrats booked just $3,017 for advertising on TV and radio combined, and just over $100,000 on "other" media, while the Green Party spent $33,037 on all advertising.

Conservatives set up $4M starter fund earmarked for newly created ridings

In anticipation of the (now official) redrawing of Canada's electoral map — and, in particular, the addition of 30 new ridings — the Conservative Party collected just over $4 million from more than half of its existing electoral district associations last fall to make sure that the local Tories in those freshly formed ridings wouldn't have to start from zero.

The top 5 contributors:

  • Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox-Addington MP Scott Reid's riding association ($314,255.33).
  • Employment Minister Jason Kenney's riding of Calgary-Southeast ($289,994.65).
  • Nepean-Carleton, home base for Minister for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre ($170,512.).
  • Calgary Nose Hill ($162,208.03).
  • Abbotsford ($150,448.29).

According to the party's financial statement, the money went straight into a designated bank account, and was expected to have been fully redistributed by June 2014.

From the conspicuous absence of any reference to redistribution in the reports filed by the other parties, it appears the Conservatives may be the only party thus far to set up an internal equalization system to provide startup funds to new riding associations.

The Liberals reported receiving just over $282,000 from 217 riding associations, most of which gave less that $3,000, with the biggest single contribution coming from Toronto Centre, which handed over $80,000 last October.

Meanwhile, just 42 New Democrat riding associations transferred a grand total of $6,599 back to the party.

Libel lawsuit could drain Liberal war chest

Buried in the fine print of the Liberal Party's annual statement of assets and liabilities is a somewhat ominous warning about the potential future financial impact of a lawsuit filed against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and "a representative of the party" by an unnamed "nomination contender" claiming libel and slander damages of $1,500,000.

On June 2, it notes, a "related party" filed a second statement of claim — also alleging libel and slander — seeking an additional $1,500,000 in damages.

The statement confirms that the party is footing the bill for the defence, but notes that "an estimate of potential liability, if any, cannot be reasonably determined at this time."

Interestingly, the Conservatives also acknowledge in their statement that the party is "involved in certain claims and lawsuits for which the outcome is not readily determinable at this time," but offer a more optimistic outlook, noting that they "do not believe the outcome will significantly impair its operations, or have a material adverse impact on its financial position."

Mobile users: Read the parties' annual statements here:

About the Author

Kady O'Malley

Kady O'Malley covered Parliament Hill for CBC News until June, 2015.


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