Maxime Bernier's donor base is bigger and broader than Kellie Leitch's

Maxime Bernier nearly caught up to Kellie Leitch in Conservative leadership fundraising in the most recent quarter for which data is available. But the regional distribution of his support suggests he has a big advantage.

Quebec MP's distribution of donors gives him edge over Conservative leadership rivals

Which Conservative leadership candidate has raised the most money?

7 years ago
Duration 7:24
The CBC's polls analyst Éric Grenier crunches the numbers ahead of the next leadership debate.

The most recent set of fundraising data for the Conservative leadership race put Kellie Leitch narrowly ahead of Maxime Bernier in total dollars raised. But an analysis of where these contributions came from suggests Bernier has a bigger and broader base of national support within the party — and that puts him in a much better position to win than Leitch. 

Between April 1 and Sept. 30, the latest data available from Elections Canada, Leitch raised $450,421.56, a little more than Bernier's $427,508.72. Ontario MP Michael Chong raised $208,913.72, while Alberta MP Deepak Obhrai raised $1,100.

The other 10 contestants either launched their campaigns after Sept. 30 or had no contributions to report prior to that date.

Taking into account individuals who made multiple contributions and counting them only once, Bernier raised his money from 1,788 individual contributors, compared to 1,049 for Leitch, 370 for Chong and two for Obhrai. In other words, Bernier received money from 56 per cent of all donors to the race in this period, compared to 33 per cent for Leitch and 11.5 per cent for Chong.

Broad base for Bernier

But over and above Bernier's advantage in the number of donors, he has a superior regional distribution of that support than does either Leitch or Chong.

And that's a decisive factor in the Conservative leadership race.

​The rules of the Conservative voting system award equal weight to all 338 of Canada's ridings, meaning a riding in Quebec with 100 members is worth as much as a riding in Alberta with 1,000 members. This makes support in every part of the country essential for any leadership hopeful.

According to a CBC analysis of the postal codes of each individual donor, Bernier's support in the second and third quarters of 2016 was broad, with 38 per cent of his donors coming from Ontario, 21 per cent from Alberta, 16 per cent from B.C. and 15 per cent from Quebec.

Leitch, the Ontario candidate?

The data shows Leitch's donor base was largely limited to Ontario — and only a few parts of Ontario at that.

Fully two-thirds of Leitch's donors call Ontario home. In fact, a quarter of them came from central Ontario, where the MP's seat is located. Another 20 per cent of her donor base was in Toronto. In terms of dollars raised, three-quarters came from Ontario, and three-fifths from central Ontario and Toronto alone.

Another 13 per cent of her donors were in Alberta and 10 per cent in B.C. Just two per cent of Leitch's donors were in Quebec, which will be worth 23 per cent of all points awarded in the party's voting system.

Chong received the bulk of his donations from Ontario. Just over four-fifths of his donors were Ontarians, and 87 per cent of dollars raised came from Chong's home province.

Like Leitch, just two per cent of his donors were Quebecers.

Michael Chong speaks during a leadership event in south Ottawa last month, with rivals, from left to right, Chris Alexander, Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer, Erin O'Toole and Lisa Raitt. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

Bernier beats Leitch, Chong in most regions

While Bernier's donor base was broader than that of Leitch or Chong, it was also bigger in almost every region of the country.

Bernier received donations from 59 per cent of donors in Atlantic Canada, beating out Leitch's 35 per cent and Chong's six per cent.

In Quebec, Bernier dominated with a 90 per cent share of donors. Leitch, with seven per cent, lagged well behind. Bernier had 95 per cent of donors in eastern Quebec, 93 per cent in western and northern Quebec, and 83 per cent in and around Montreal. That was the strongest region in the province for Leitch and Chong, who claimed nine and eight per cent of donors there, respectively.

Kellie Leitch has raised the most money so far of the Conservative leadership candidates, with most of it coming from supporters in Ontario. (Liam Richards/Canadian Press)

Leitch narrowly beat out Bernier in Ontario, with 42 per cent of contributors to his 40 per cent. Chong was in third there, with 18 per cent.

Bernier performed better than Leitch in eastern and northern Ontario, where he had 64 per cent of donors, but trailed in the rest of the province. Toronto was Leitch's strongest region, with 47 per cent of donors to 33 per cent for Bernier and 20 per cent for Chong.

Bernier, the contestant some labelled the "Quebec candidate," also took the greatest share of donations in Western Canada. He got the nod from 65 per cent of donors in the Prairies and 71 per cent of donors in Alberta, including 74 per cent in Calgary. And in B.C., Bernier had the support of 68 per cent of donors, compared to 24 per cent for Leitch.

Impact of Bernier's better distribution

These regional leads have a big impact. Bernier's national edge over Leitch in share of donors — 23 points — increases to 33 points when weighted by province to take into account the party's leadership voting rules.

But while Leitch trailed in total donors, she raised more money than Bernier. She raised 41 per cent of all money donated to leadership contestants, compared to 39 per cent for Bernier and 19 per cent for Chong. But if these dollars are weighted by province, Bernier's share increases to 52 per cent, compared to 34 per cent for Leitch and just 14 per cent for Chong.

If donors and dollars are reflective of a contestant's support, those are big numbers for Bernier.

Still, we won't know how Bernier's support base compares to the entire field of contestants until after the next quarter's financial reports are published early next year.

But after the first six months of the race, the MP from Beauce has positioned himself as a serious contender from coast to coast.


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.