Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc end 2020 with record-breaking fundraising quarter

A global pandemic did not prevent Canadians from opening their wallets and donating to political parties.

After a drop in donations in the first six months of 2020, fundraising surged at the end of the year

Erin O'Toole's Conservatives and Justin Trudeau's Liberals set fourth-quarter fundraising records for their parties to close out 2020. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Despite a global pandemic putting a damper on fundraising activities, the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc Québécois all posted record-breaking fundraising figures to close out the year, making up for much of the shortfall these parties experienced in the first months of 2020 when donations dried up.

According to quarterly filings posted to Elections Canada's website, the Conservatives raised the most money in the last three months of 2020 with $7,661,755 from 46,234 individual contributions.

This marked the best fourth quarter by any party — ever — breaking the Conservatives' previous record of $7.3 million raised in the fourth quarter of 2018. This was also the best quarter for any party outside of an election year, when parties typically put their fundraising activities into high gear.

The Liberals finished second in the fundraising derby with $6,499,668 raised from 48,282 contributions. This is the best fourth quarter for the Liberals on record, narrowly surpassing the $6,467,000 raised at the end of 2015, when the Liberals first came to power with a majority government. Like the Conservatives, this was also their best quarter outside of an election year.

In total, the Liberals raised $15.1 million in 2020, their lowest annual figure since 2017. With the exception of that year, 2020 marked the Liberals' worst fundraising year since 2013 when Justin Trudeau first became party leader.

The Conservatives raised $20.7 million throughout the year. That is a lower take than in both 2018 and 2019, but is higher than in 2016 when the Conservatives raised $18.3 million the year after the 2015 election.

Separate from the money raised by the party, contestants for the party's leadership raised a combined $11.4 million throughout 2020. Erin O'Toole and Peter MacKay each raised $3.5 million for their leadership campaigns, while Leslyn Lewis raised $2.1 million and Derek Sloan raised $1.5 million.

NDP posts best non-election year since official opposition days

The NDP had a strong quarter as well, raising $2,504,279 from 20,877 individual contributions.

That represents the party's best quarter — both in terms of money raised and number of contributions — outside of an election year since 2014, when the New Democrats still formed the official opposition. It is less than what the NDP raised in the last quarter of 2019, however. Both the Conservatives and Liberals raised more in the fourth quarter of 2020 than they did in the fourth quarter of 2019.

The NDP's haul for the total year comes in at around $6.1 million. That's less than the $8.1 million raised in 2019, but outside of that election year, 2020 marks the most the party has raised since the 2015 federal election that cost the New Democrats their official opposition status.

Record-setting quarter for the Bloc

The Bloc Québécois raised $961,397 in the final three months of 2020, the most the party has ever raised in a single quarter; beating by a significant margin their fourth quarter record of $581,000 set in 2019. The party's total of 7,410 individual contributions was also a record for the Bloc in a single quarter.

Yves-François Blanchet's Bloc Québécois raised nearly $1 million in the final three months of 2020, the party's best quarter on record. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

That did not entirely compensate for a slower start of the year, however. In total, the Bloc raised $1.6 million in 2020, below the party's record of $1.8 million in 2019. Nevertheless, this marks only the second time the Bloc Québécois has raised more than $1 million in one year.

The Greens raised $1,418,418 from 12,004 individual contributions, down slightly from the fourth quarters in 2018 and 2019. The party raised $3.4 million throughout 2020, their highest total outside of an election year. Candidates for the party's leadership also raised nearly $900,000 with now-leader Annamie Paul raising the most at $234,000.

Pandemic pent-up donor demand?

On the whole, fundraising for the year does not seem to have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Conservatives' fundraising this year matched their average annual take since 2005, while the Liberals were on par with their average fundraising since 2013. The NDP had a slightly better fundraising year than their average since the 2015 election.

But the pandemic does seem to have had an impact on when donations were given.

Both the Bloc and Conservatives raised more of their money in the last half of the year than they usually do; 80 per cent for the Bloc and 64 per cent for the Conservatives. That's much higher than their average of 66 and 50 per cent, respectively, raised in the last six months of every year since 2005.

While the difference was smaller, both the NDP and Liberals also received more of their 2020 donations in the last six months than they usually do in an average year.

This suggests that the donations that helped set fourth quarter records for the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc might have been donations that, in a normal year, would have been spread out a little more evenly over the calendar.

Donations dropped significantly in the first and second quarters of the year when the pandemic was taking hold. Over the first six months of 2020, the five major parties raised the least amount of money to start a year since 2010. Over the last six months, they have raised the most outside of an election year since at least 2005.


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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