Politics

Liberals, Conservatives see drop in donations during height of COVID-19 pandemic

Canada's two main federal political parties took in less money from individual donations during the second quarter of this year compared with the same time in 2018 — the last non-election year — as the financial slowdown caused by COVID-19 continues.

Smaller parties take in more contributions compared with last non-election year

Federal political parties in Canada saw their donations decrease during the second quarter this year compared with the same period in 2018, the last year without a federal election. The drop coincides with the period when the economy came to a virtual standstill due to COVID-19. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

Canada's two main federal political parties took in less money from individual donations during the second quarter of this year compared with the same time in 2018 — the last non-election year — as the financial slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

According to financial returns released by Elections Canada this week, the Liberals and Conservatives together raised more than $6.2 million in donations between April and June of this year, which is almost $3 million less than they raised during the same period in 2018.

Donations are always highest during election years, so comparisons with 2019 would not be relevant.

The drop in donations coincides with the period when the economy came to a virtual standstill as Canadians stayed home to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

The Conservatives led the pack by pulling in donations from individuals totalling more than $3.5 million in the second quarter of 2018. The party also received about $436,000 in transfers from candidates in its ongoing leadership campaign, for a total of just over $4 million. The party raised more than $6 million from both donations and transfers during the same period in 2018.

The Liberals pulled in $2.6 million in individual donations this year, compared with just under $3.1 million in 2018.

The three smaller parties, meanwhile, saw their donation totals increase compared with 2018.

The New Democratic Party received $1.3 million this year compared with just $872,000 two years ago, while the Bloc Québécois received $131,000 in donations, up from a meagre $42,000 two years ago.

The Green Party took in more than $633,000 from individuals and more than $87,000 from its leadership candidates for a total of slightly more than $721,000, up from $572,000 two years ago.

The numbers offer the first significant look into how the pandemic has affected the fundraising efforts of federal political parties.

The $8.2 million raised by all parties from individual donations between April and June is a slight decrease from the approximately $8.4 million they raised during the first quarter between January and March. A CBC News analysis found that March 2020 — when the novel coronavirus began to shut down businesses and schools in Canada — appears to have been the worst March for fundraising in Canada since March 2006.

Parties alter fundraising efforts due to COVID-19

Parties had to halt their in-person fundraising events in March after the country went into lockdown. Emails and other messages soliciting money from donors were also temporarily suspended or altered to encourage people to pitch in only if they could.

"We know that not everyone is in a position to give right now, and that's OK. Your involvement means the world to our whole team and we're so grateful to have you standing with us no matter what," one Liberal party email sent in May told supporters.

"If you're able, though, please show your support and chip in $5 today to support our progress for Canadians (or whatever amount feels right for you at the moment)."

These messages have shifted in recent weeks to more traditional pushes for support as pandemic restrictions have lifted and businesses have started reopening.

The Conservatives have also begun asking party faithful to chip in to an "early election fund," with the message that the Liberals "could call an election at any time."

About the Author

Ryan has chased stories for CBC News across the country in Toronto, Vancouver, Yellowknife and Ottawa, filing for web, radio and TV. You can reach him by email at ryan.jones@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @helloryanjones.

With files from The Canadian Press

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