Battling money woes, NDP will have to target ridings it can win: campaign co-chair

Facing a worrisome bank balance and troubling fundraising figures, one of the NDP’s campaign leaders says the party will have to be strategic in targeting ridings where it can do well in the coming election campaign.

Latest fundraising returns show the party struggling to raise funds

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh speaks to reporters in the in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on June 19, 2018. The federal New Democrats are trailing behind the Conservative party and the Liberal party in their fundraising efforts. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Facing a grim bank balance and poor fundraising figures, the NDP will have to be strategic in targeting resources at ridings where it can do well in the coming election campaign, says one of its campaign leaders.

"Obviously we aren't going to have the same scale of campaign that the Liberals and Conservatives will have," NDP campaign co-chair Marie Della Mattia told host Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House Friday.

"They've got lots of dough, they get that from lots of people."

According to the quarterly fundraising return posted to Elections Canada's website last last month, the Conservatives, Liberals and Greens all set new fundraising records in the fourth quarter of 2018.

But the New Democrats continued to trail their rivals, raising just $1,974,257 from 18,637 contributors. That's the party's lowest fourth quarter result since 2011.

It puts the total for the NDP at $5.1 million for the year — better than 2017, still below its fundraising numbers from 2011 to 2016. Heading into the 2015 election, when the NDP was still the Official Opposition, the party had raised $9.5 million.

"That will affect how we do [a national campaign]," said Della Mattia, who has been involved in more than 40 municipal, provincial and federal elections and has worked with five NDP premiers.

"We have to play to the things that we do well and we have to make sure we're connecting to people where it matters."

'We have to be creative'

Despite the less-than-stellar numbers, the longtime strategist said she remains optimistic, pointing out that the party is used to having a smaller war chest than either the Liberals or the Conservatives.

"I think we have to be creative about it. We know how to stretch a dollar because we've been doing it for a long time and we know how to get the most out of it. And that's what we're going to do this time," Della Mattia said.

That will mean playing to ridings where the party has its best chance of winning, she said.

"We want to hold, obviously, all our incumbent seats and we want to make sure that we're picking up seats where we have particular opportunity to build on our strengths," she said.

Money isn't the NDP's only problem going into the federal campaign; a handful of its longtime MPs have signalled they won't be running this year. The party also has been struggling in the polls — particularly in Quebec, where a large number of its incumbents are based.

On Friday, Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin said he's still mulling over whether to run again.

"I'm one of those people in the yet-to-be-nominated, yet-to-confirm category," Rankin told CBC News.

"I'm thinking about it. It's four more years. I'm not a spring chicken anymore. I've got to figure out with my family whether … taking me into 2023 of my life is something I want. All those things have to be sorted out. I am definitely thinking about it right now."

The ones taking a pass on 2019

Tom Mulcair gave up his seat in Outremont after he was ousted as party leader. Kennedy Stewart, the former NDP MP for Burnaby South, stepped down to launch a successful run for mayor of Vancouver.

Sheila Malcolmson, the former MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, gave up her seat to run as a B.C. MLA in Nanaimo, an election she won last month.

Erin Weir, the former NDP MP who now sits as a party of one for CCF, was kicked out of caucus by Singh a year ago after sexual harassment allegations were made against him.

Another six NDP MPs have announced they will not run in the next federal election: David Christopherson (Hamilton Centre), Fin Donnelly (Port Moody-Coquitlam), Linda Duncan (Edmonton Strathcona), Hélène Laverdière (Laurier-Sainte-Marie), Irene Mathyssen (London-Fanshawe) and Romeo Saganash (Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou).

Over the past month, three polls have put the NDP below the 12.2 per cent of the vote the party captured in Quebec in the 2008 federal election, when Mulcair was the province's sole NDP MP. The party now stands at 13.8 per cent support nationally in the CBC's Poll Tracker aggregate of federal polling.

With files from the CBC's Peter Zimonjic


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