NDP raises most from deceased donors

The New Democrats have raised more money from estate donations than any other political party - $400,000 from 15 donors in recent years.

The last election breathed new life to the NDP's political fortunes, but for years the party has been raising actual fortunes from beyond the grave.

An analysis of political contributions by The Canadian Press found the New Democrats have raised more money from estate donations than any other political party.

Fifteen people have bequeathed the party more than $400,000 in recent years.

Half that came from the estate of Ruth Millicent Hass. The long-time resident of the small town of Kaleden in British Columbia's Okanagan valley died in April 2010 at age 89 and left the NDP a staggering $210,000.

Her estate left another $4,145 to the party in May, weeks after the New Democrats won a whopping 103 seats in the federal election and vaulted to the ranks of the official Opposition for the first time in the party's history.

Hass's online obituary says she was a long-standing member of the NDP.

Penticton city councillor Garry Litke lived next door to Hass for 15 years. He described her as "one of these cantankerous, old pioneer women," an original member of the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation, or CCF, which went on to become the NDP.

"Had strong, strong convictions and values. Really strong sense of what's right and wrong," said Litke, who ran for the B.C. New Democrats in 2005. 

"She came to every meeting. She wasn't always agreeable. Like I say, cantankerous. She would ask hard questions and make sure that people knew what they were talking about.

"She wasn't always happy with the answers that she got, but that's okay because she created debate and controversy. A very colourful character." 

Litke said that as far as he knew, Hass lived alone.

No limit on estate donations

While the law limits donations from living Canadians to $1,100 in a calendar year, the estates of people who have died can leave as much money as they like to political parties.

The exception does not apply where a party is named as the beneficiary of a life-insurance policy.

The New Democrats also got big chunks of change from the estates of Anne Murray Powell, of Toronto, who left the party $85,000 this year, and Barbara Armitage, of Duncan, B.C., who bequeathed $39,000.

After the NDP, the Conservatives have raised the most money through estate donations. Eight different estates have left the Tories $56,500.

The largest such donation to the Conservatives came last year from the estate of Gordon Bruce McLeod of Squamish, B.C., who bequeathed the party $20,000.

An obituary for McLeod says he worked at a British Columbia pulp mill and mentions his interest in politics.

"He also was a omnivorous reader with an interest in history while also looking forward to current and future science and politics," it says.

The estate of William Stewart left three big donations to the Communist party totalling $22,850. Stewart led the Ontario wing of the Communists in the late 1970s.

Deceased Canadians have bequeathed more money to the Communists than the Greens, who received a single donation of $21,537, or the Liberals, who received a pair of donations totalling $10,000.

The estate of Betty Hurson left $550 to the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada last year.

British Columbians have bequeathed the most money to political parties, leaving behind a total of $361,000 to the New Democrats, Conservatives, Communists and Greens.

Only donations of $200 or more appear in Elections Canada's online database of political contributions. Smaller donations are not published online, but the total number and amount of contributions under $200 are included in parties' annual filings.