Conservatives had a better fundraising year in 2017 than Liberals, filings show

The Conservatives out-fundraised the Liberals last year, finishing the year with a surplus and emerging with more money in the bank.

Conservative Party ran an operating surplus in 2017, while the Liberals ran a deficit

Andrew Scheer's Conservative Party raised more money than Justin Trudeau's Liberals in 2017. (The Canadian Press)

Annual filings with Elections Canada show the Conservatives had a better 2017 than the Liberals on the fundraising front, ending the year with more money in the bank and a surplus on the year's balance sheet.

The filings show that the Conservatives raised $18.8 million over 2017, a small increase over the party's performance in 2016. The contributions came from 94,786 individual donors, helping the party end the year with a $3.5 million operating surplus and over $4.8 million in cash in the bank.

The numbers for the year are better for Andrew Scheer's opposition party than for the governing Liberals. The Liberals raised $13.9 million from 64,444 contributors over 2017 — a sum that's down about $3.3 million from the party's performance in 2016 and represents its worst fundraising year since 2013, when Justin Trudeau became leader.

In all, the Liberals had revenues of $14.8 million but expenditures of $15.2 million in 2017, leaving the party with a deficit of about $426,000 for the year and with just $1.6 million in cash left in the bank.

The filings still show that the Liberals are in the black overall, with net assets of $1.7 million, compared to $1.5 million for the Conservatives.

Part of the fundraising shortfall can be traced to the Liberals' decision in mid-2016 to abolish membership fees. Last year marked the first in which the Liberals did not take in a single dollar for membership fees — a source of revenue that brought $2.2 million to the party in 2015.

The Conservatives earned $3.5 million in membership fees alone in 2017, along with over $7 million related to the leadership campaign that ended with Scheer's victory.

Spending money to raise money

But the Liberals spent far less on fundraising than the Conservatives did. The Liberals spent about $2.7 million on fundraising in 2017 — about 19 per cent of the money that was actually donated to the party throughout the year — meaning the party earned about $5.14 in contributions for every dollar it spent on fundraising.

The Conservatives reported spending $7.2 million on fundraising activities — about 38 per cent of the total money raised. So the Tories had a return of $2.62 for every dollar spent on fundraising. After subtracting fundraising expenditures from total contributions, the Conservatives' net funds raised dwindle to $11.7 million, narrowly edging the Liberals' net of $11.2 million.

But party fundraising is about more than just about money. It's also about maintaining and building a roster of committed supporters who can be called on for future fundraising campaigns and volunteering during election campaigns. The filings show that the Conservative roster is much bigger.

The Liberals also spent less on advertising than the Conservatives — though they didn't have a new leader to introduce. The Liberals reported $669,000 spent on advertising in 2017; the Conservatives spent $906,000. But the Liberals did spend more on public opinion polling than the Tories did, by a margin of $142,000 to $91,000.

According to Elections Canada, the New Democrats asked for and received an extension on their own filing, giving them until  July 31. Quarterly reports throughout 2017 suggest the NDP raised just under $5 million over the year, which would be the party's worst fundraising performance since before the 2011 federal election.

Greens raised $2.5 million

The Greens reported $2.5 million in contributions in 2017 from 14,773 individual contributors and ended the year with a surplus of about $65,000. The party also had $1.3 million in cash at the end of the year, only slightly behind the Liberals. But their expenditures were on a much smaller scale; the Greens spent just $15,536 on advertising over the year.

Both the Greens and Bloc Québécois spent about half of their revenues on salaries and benefits for staff — a higher percentage than the other major parties reported. The Bloc raised just over $700,000 from a little more than 6,000 contributors in 2017 and also ended the year in the black. The numbers suggest the Bloc got the most bang for its fundraising buck, raising about $17 for every dollar reported spent on its fundraising campaign.

Among the parties that are not represented in the House of Commons but did get their annual filings in on time, the top performer was the Animal Protection Party, which raised $246,000 from just over 1,000 contributors.

The Communists raised $86,000, while the Marijuana Party — bereft of an issue now that recreational cannabis use will be made legal — took in just $1,675 from two contributors. (But the Marijuana Party did end the year with about $250 in the bank — enough to buy around 25 joints when marijuana is legal for sale on Oct. 17.)


  • This story has been updated to incorporate information about the two major parties' net assets.
    Jul 04, 2018 5:29 PM ET


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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