Federal NDP leadership hopeful Jagmeet Singh's fundraising lead might not be as wide as it looks

With more money raised in six weeks than any of his rivals in four months, Jagmeet Singh is the NDP leadership front-runner. But just how wide is his lead?

Ontario MPP has the fundraising edge in the leadership race, but his donor tally trails his dollar haul

Jagmeet Singh raised more money than this three NDP leadership rivals combined in the second quarter of 2017. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Jagmeet Singh is the undisputed fundraising king in the race to be the next leader of the federal NDP. But an analysis of the fundraising data published by Elections Canada this week suggests Singh's advantage may not be as wide as it appears.

Nevertheless, having raised more money in less than seven weeks than any of his competitors did in four months, Singh's candidacy is a formidable one — and he now seems to be the one to beat.

After launching his campaign on May 15, halfway through the second quarter's reporting period running from April 1 to June 30, Singh raised $357,000. That put him well ahead of his rivals, who combined raised $241,000 in the quarter.

Charlie Angus was his closest competitor with $124,000 raised, followed by Niki Ashton's $70,000 and Guy Caron's $47,000.

But Singh's dominance was largely due to the money he raised in one province. The Ontario MPP led the field with $279,000 coming from Ontario donors, representing 65 per cent of all funds raised there. Angus, who represents a northern Ontario riding in the House of Commons, came second with $96,000 raised in Ontario. 

Both Singh and Angus raised a little more than three-quarters of their money from their home province.

Singh also raised the most money in British Columbia ($37,000, or 57 per cent of the money raised in B.C.) and Quebec ($28,000, or 65 per cent).

But he was beaten in others parts of the country. Ashton was the fundraising leader in Alberta, Saskatchewan and her home province of Manitoba. Angus raised the most money in Atlantic Canada. 

And while Singh raised 60 per cent of all money taken in by the four leadership contestants in the second quarter, his 1,681 individual donations represented just 37 per cent of the total. While that was still enough to put him at the top, he was only nine points ahead of Angus (1,285 donations, or 28 per cent), who had the second-most individual donations.

Singh will not get the chance to face off against his biggest rival in Wednesday's leadership debate in Victoria. Angus will not be attending due to the illness of his sister.

Fundraising matches leadership tours

An analysis of the cross-country leadership tours suggests that where the candidates have visited plays an important role in where fundraising comes from — or vice-versa.

Nearly half of Singh's leadership events have taken place in Ontario, while he has spent a greater share of his time in B.C. than any other candidate. Angus has also focused his visits on Ontario and B.C., the two provinces with the most members, and has spent a disproportionately low amount of time in Quebec, where members are few and far between.

Even within Ontario, the two candidates have stuck more to their own stomping grounds: Singh has spent a lot of his time in the Greater Toronto Area, where he holds a seat, and in Southwestern Ontario. Angus has held many of his events in northern Ontario.

Ashton has been spending more of her time than her rivals in Alberta and the Prairies, while Caron has spent more of his time in Quebec — and has generally been spreading his visits around the country evenly. 

As the leadership race will be decided via a one-member-one-vote system, candidates are wise to spend most of their time where the members are. In the second quarter of 2017, 58 per cent of all donations came from Ontario and another 17 per cent came from British Columbia. No other province hit double digits.

1 member, 1 vote

Though Singh has raised the most money in the race so far — even Angus has raised just $234,000 since the beginning of his campaign — he does not have the most unique donors.

Donors can contribute to a campaign multiple times, as long as they stay under the $1,550 annual limit. Elections Canada counts these multiple donations as individual contributions. But a donor's vote will only count once, no matter how much money they have contributed.

On that score, Angus is the leading candidate in the race. So far in 2017, he has the most unique donors at 1,733, followed by Singh's 1,518 donors, Ashton's 1,210 and Caron's 654.

As a share of all donors, Angus takes the top spot with 34 per cent, compared to 30 per cent for Singh, 24 per cent for Ashton and 13 per cent for Caron.

Singh doesn't have the most donors in any part of the country. Angus has the most in Ontario, while Ashton has the most in Western Canada and Atlantic Canada. Caron has the most individual donors in Quebec.

Singh gets more dollars per donor

That Singh could be ahead in fundraising while second in unique donors is due to the higher per-donor contribution Singh has received. The average unique Singh donor has contributed $235, compared to $135 for the average Angus donor, $121 for the average Caron donor and just $92 per donor for Ashton.

Singh's donors are also far more concentrated than any of his rivals. Fully 32 per cent of the money his campaign has raised has come from Brampton alone, at an average donation of $317 per contributor. Another 23 per cent has come from Toronto and Mississauga.

If these donors represent just the tip of the iceberg of the new members Singh has signed up — his campaign claims that 75 per cent of his donors are contributing to the NDP for the first time — then he could win the leadership outright on the first ballot.

If instead his fundraising figures simply represent having donors willing to plunk down more money than any of his rivals, then his showing in the vote tally may not be nearly as impressive.

What is impressive, however, is that Singh has managed to raise so much more money than his competitors in such a short period of time. It is a signal to his rivals that he is a serious candidate and the front-runner in the race. He clearly has the momentum.

But we won't know from fundraising data if Singh will sustain this momentum through to when voting begins on Sept. 18. The next set of numbers will be released by Elections Canada after the race is over.

Only on Oct. 1, when the results of the first round of voting are announced, will we see if Singh's dollars will be backed up by votes.


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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