Filings show Conservatives ended 2018 with big financial edge over Liberals

The Liberals had a better fundraising year than they did in 2017, but the Conservatives still have a wide financial edge over Justin Trudeau's party.

Conservatives ended year with $9.9 million in the bank, compared to $2.3 million for the Liberals

Andrew Scheer's Conservatives ended 2018 with more money in the bank than the Liberals. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

The Conservative Party appears to be in rude financial health as it heads toward the 2019 federal election with more cash in the bank than the Liberals, according to annual financial returns filed with Elections Canada.

Those returns show the Conservative Party raised $24.2 million from 104,138 contributors in 2018 — up from the $18.8 million the party raised the previous year and its best non-election year on record.

The detailed accounting breakdown of the party's financial standing shows the Conservatives had an operating surplus of $3.6 million, net assets of $5.1 million and $9.9 million in cash at year's end.

The Liberals, meanwhile, had only $1.7 million in net assets and $2.3 million in cash at the end of 2018. They posted an operating surplus of just over $4,000 — an improvement over the previous year, when the Liberal Party ran a deficit of about $426,000.

Liberal fundraising for the year totalled $15.9 million from 66,192 contributors, an increase of about $2 million over the party's performance in 2017.

The filings show the Liberals spent a little less than $800,000 in advertising last year, compared to over $2 million spent by the Conservatives, including $1.2 million spent on television ads. The party launched ads last year with the aim of introducing leader Andrew Scheer to Canadians.

As was the case in 2017, the Conservatives spent more money on fundraising activities than the Liberals did. The Conservatives booked $8.5 million in fundraising expenses, compared to $3.4 million for the Liberals. That means the Conservatives raised just under three dollars for every dollar spent on fundraising, while the Liberals got a return of almost five dollars for every dollar spent on fundraising.

One source of revenue the Liberals do not have is membership fees, which the party abolished in 2016. The Conservatives earned about $2.4 million from membership fees in 2018.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, campaigns with Richard T. Lee, left, the Liberal candidate in the Burnaby South byelection, in Burnaby, B.C., on Sunday February 10, 2019. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

The Liberal filings show the party took out two loans totalling $1,340,000 last year, both of which were paid off.

The sums raised by the national parties only tell part of the story. Most riding associations also have filed their annual returns for 2018.

The Liberals reported the most fundraising at the riding level, raising $4.6 million from the 201 riding associations whose filings were posted to the Elections Canada website as of Wednesday morning. The Conservatives raised $4 million from the 262 riding associations that have reported so far.

On average, Liberal riding associations have raised about 50 per cent more than their Conservative counterparts.

Greens raise $3.1 million in 2018

The Greens posted $3.1 million in fundraising in 2018 from 16,719 contributors, their best non-election year on record. The party ended the year with $1.2 million in net assets and $1.1 million in the bank.

The New Democrats were granted an extension until Sept. 3 to file the national party's annual return. The party also was granted an extension last year. When it was eventually filed, the return showed the party deep in the red.

The party raised $642,000 from the 278 riding associations that have reported so far. Quarterly filings show the national party raised $5.1 million in 2018.

Some of the smaller parties that do not need to file quarterly also submitted their financial statements for 2018. The Animal Protection Party showed revenues of $259,000 from 1,050 contributors, the Marxist-Leninists raised $107,000 from 240 donors and the Marijuana Party raised $1,675 from two contributors.

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Éric Grenier

Politics and polls

Éric Grenier is a senior writer and the CBC's polls analyst. He was the founder of ThreeHundredEight.com and has written for The Globe and Mail, Huffington Post Canada, The Hill Times, Le Devoir, and L’actualité.


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