Stephen Harper joining Conservative Fund as director

The Conservatives spent $42 million on last year's election campaign, just slightly more than the victorious Liberals and well short of the limit, Conservative Fund chairman Irving Gerstein said Friday. He also announced Stephen Harper would join the fund in June as a director.

Party is debt-free after spending $42M in the last campaign, fund chair Irving Gerstein says

Retired senator Irving Gerstein, chair of the Conservative Fund of Canada, told party members in Vancouver Friday that the party has already paid off its loan from the 2015 federal election. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Stephen Harper has given his farewell address to Conservatives as he readies to leave Parliament, but he isn't going far from the party.

The former prime minister and Conservative Party leader is joining the party's fundraising arm, the Conservative Fund, as a director.

"I am very honoured and pleased to announce to you today that at the next fund meeting in June, the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper will be appointed a director of the Conservative Fund Canada," fund chairman Irving Gerstein told delegates to the party's convention on Friday.

Irving Gerstein announces Harper's new party role

6 years ago
Duration 1:00
Conservative Fund Chairman Irving Gerstein tells party convention that former prime minister Stephen Harper will be a director of the fund.

Harper will join the fund as it works to bolster the party's war chest before the next election.

The Conservative party spent $42 million during last year's election campaign that saw it reduced to Opposition status in the House of Commons.

That's $12 million less than the $54 million cap allowed by Elections Canada.

"I have heard no one suggest that we lost the election because we did not spend enough money," Gerstein said in his financial update to the convention.

Party is debt-free after last campaign

The party went into the campaign with $15 million in the bank, the result of saving three years of the per-vote subsidies that the Tories eliminated while in power.

They topped that up with a $28 million loan to finance the historic 11-week campaign but that debt has now been paid off using a combination of tax and Elections Canada rebates and party fundraising, Gerstein said.

So far in 2016, the party has raised $5.7 million — a record first quarter amount for the Conservatives in a non-election year, he said.

Gerstein said the party aims to go into the 2019 campaign with at least $10 million in the bank, as the election period is expected to be far shorter than last year's.

I have heard no one suggest that we lost the election because we did not spend enough money.- Irving Gerstein

To build that war chest, the party will need to cut its expenses, he said.

Gerstein has been involved in political fundraising for decades and was appointed to the Senate by former prime minister Stephen Harper in 2009.

He noted that appointment was not without controversy, with many referring to him as a party bagman.

That's not a slur, he said.

"The job of raising funds for the Conservative party or for that matter any party is both necessary and honourable," he said.

The transparency of party finances is a sore spot with some members of the party and Gerstein was heckled during his remarks by someone who demanded to see the actual paperwork to back up his claims.

There are several resolutions potentially up for debate at the convention that would change the way the fund is managed.

Former prime minister Stephen Harper, who gave a farewell address to the convention on Thursday, is joining the Conservative Fund as a director, Gerstein told convention delegates Friday. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

with files from CBC News