Campaign filings shed new light on Toronto Centre byelection battle

Documents filed with Elections Canada provide a rare glimpse behind the curtain of last fall's byelection in Toronto Centre, the outcome of which is still causing consternation amongst some local Liberals. Kady O'Malley crunches the numbers.

Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland spent nearly $23K to secure party's nomination

Toronto Centre MP Chrystia Freeland was recently acclaimed as the party's candidate in the newly created riding of University-Rosedale for the federal election expected in 2015. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Chrystia Freeland spent just over $23,000 to win the right to run for the Liberals in Toronto Centre last fall, according to documents filed with Elections Canada.

That's more than five times what Linda McQuaig shelled out to secure the New Democrat nomination in the same race.

Freeland was also the only one of the three candidates vying to fill the Liberal slot on the ballot to come close to hitting the Elections Canada-imposed $18,000 cap on certain campaign expenses.

Her closest competitor for the Liberal nomination, community activist Todd Ross, racked up just over $12,000 in expenses subject to the limit, with Diana Burke coming in a distant third at $10,670.

By comparison, the New Democrat race was a veritable bargain for contestants McQuaig and Jennifer Hollett, whose total outlays amounted to just over and just under $5,000, respectively.

On the other side of the ledger, post-campaign reports reveal that, over the course of the nomination race, Freeland took in just over $21,000 in donations, compared to $4,169.93 for McQuaig.

McQuaig can at least lay claim to a deeper pool of potential supporters — 106 individual contributors compared to just 45 for Freeland, although 80 of McQuaig's donors kicked in $20 or less.

Nearly all of Freeland's backers — 42 out of 45 — gave more than $200.

Freeland defeated McQuaig in the Nov. 25 byelection.

Race still causing consternation for Liberals

The Election Canada reports provide a rare, if retroactive, glimpse behind the curtain of a contest whose outcome is still causing consternation for some local Liberals.

Despite having pledged to allow free and open nominations, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau intervened personally to bar former candidate Christine Innes from seeking the nomination in the still-undeclared Trinity–Spadina byelection over allegations that members of her team — including her husband Tony Ianno, himself an erstwhile Liberal candidate — had been bullying local party supporters.

Innes, however, has made it clear that she believes the move was actually a preemptive strike to stop her from challenging Freeland in 2015 in the redistributed riding of University–Rosedale, and has backed up her contention with a defamation lawsuit against Trudeau and other senior party organizers.

University–Rosedale will draw in parts of Toronto Centre and parts of Trinity-Spadina, recently vacated by the NDP's Olivia Chow for her mayoral run.

Last week, Freeland was acclaimed in University–Rosedale, and a few days later, Trinity–Spadina Liberals picked former Toronto city councillor Adam Vaughan as the party's best hope to beat New Democrat Joe Cressy — who also ran unopposed — when the byelection writ drops in Trinity-Spadina.

A separate set of financial reports reveals that, while the revenue gap between Freeland and McQuaig narrowed during the main event, over the course of the Toronto Centre byelection, Freeland still managed to raise more than twice as much as her New Democrat rival, with a total haul of $45,875, compared to $21,534 for McQuaig.

Freeland, McQuaig spent close to the limit

Once again, McQuaig was able to pull in cash from a longer list of supporters — 107 total contributors, more than a third of whom gave $200 or less.

Meanwhile, Freeland reported a total of 85 donors, 58 of whom chipped in more than $200.

Both candidates also benefited from generous transfers from their respective parties and local riding associations, which handed over a combined total of $95,000 to McQuaig, and $87,000 to Freeland.

When it came to counting up campaign expenses, both candidates came in just under the $101,000 limit, although Freeland's final tab was significantly higher than McQuaig's, rounding out at just under $145,000 after $43,000 in expenses not covered by the limit were added to the total. That compared to $117,371.55 for McQuaig, who also racked up an additional $15,570.41 in non-capped spending.

For both Freeland and McQuaig, the bulk of those outside-the-limit expenses were related to pre- and post-campaign spending.

Freeland also reported $5,207.78 in expenses related to travel to and within the riding. McQuaig spent $2,570.84 on transportation within the riding.

Elections Canada hasn't yet announced the spending cap for Trinity–Spadina.

About the Author

Kady O'Malley

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