Peter MacKay ahead in competitive fundraising race for Conservative leadership

Peter MacKay raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of 2020, edging out Erin O'Toole, his chief rival.

Conservatives raise most in first quarter of 2020, but all parties see drop in fundraising

Former cabinet minister Peter MacKay has raised the most money in the Conservative leadership race but, combined, his rivals have raised more. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Peter MacKay raised more than $1 million in the first three months of 2020, outpacing his rivals for the Conservative Party leadership.

Quarterly fundraising figures released by Elections Canada show that the former federal cabinet minister raised $1,045,851 in the first quarter of this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic put campaign fundraising on hold.

He was followed by Ontario MP Erin O'Toole, who raised $784,997. Despite the broad gap between the two, O'Toole received more individual donations than MacKay did — nearly 4,700 against 3,500 for MacKay.

Leslyn Lewis raised $447,646 from 2,900 individual contributions, while controversial Ontario MP Derek Sloan raised $410,263 from 2,981 contributions.

These are the four official candidates for the Conservative leadership. The party originally planned to name the winner of the race on June 27. That date was postponed to after August 21 due to the pandemic.

The numbers suggest MacKay is the front runner for the Conservative leadership but is far from an overwhelming favourite. He raised only about a third of all the money donated to candidates. If dollars are a proxy for votes — and past leadership races suggest they can be very predictive — these numbers suggest the race remains competitive, and the second-choice support of candidates like Lewis and Sloan could end up being decisive.

Jim Karahalios, who is taking the party to court after being rejected as a candidate, raised $294,522 from 1,700 contributions.

Other candidates who failed to meet the final thresholds for eligibility raised far less money: $94,734 for Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu, $35,598 for businessman Rick Peterson and $28,941 for Rudy Husny, a former Conservative candidate from Quebec. These figures include the $25,000 contestants were allowed to donate to their own campaigns.

The numbers also show that Kevin O'Leary continues to raise money to pay off his debts from his 2017 leadership bid. He raised just over $100,000 in the first three months of 2020.

Conservatives raise most as donations plummet

Over the first three months of the year, the Conservatives raised $3,811,694 from 26,446 contributions, more than any other party. The Liberals, who had raised the most money in the fourth quarter of 2019, raised $2,875,124 from 27,224 contributions.

Conservative and Liberal fundraising decreased significantly between the third and fourth quarters of 2019 due to a drop-off in donations after the October election. All parties also have experienced a decrease in the first quarter of 2020, when the pandemic put fundraising activities on pause.

And fundraising is on average about 40 per cent higher during an election year than in a non-election year. That makes the first quarter of 2016 a better point of comparison, as it was the first post-election quarter to follow the vote in 2015.

That comparison shows some of the impact from the pandemic: the Conservatives raised $1.7 million less in this most recent quarter than they did in the first quarter of 2016. Liberal fundraising is down by nearly $1.2 million compared to four years ago.

The New Democrats raised $963,924 from 12,060 individual contributions. With the exception of the first quarter of 2017, when the NDP was in the midst of a leadership race which would have diverted some donor money away from the party, this was the worst first quarter for the NDP since 2010.

It is also significantly down from the first quarter of 2016, when the NDP raised $1.35 million.

In the first three months of 2020, the Bloc Québécois raised $184,196 from 1,519 contributions.

Annamie Paul tops Green leadership fundraising

The Greens had an above-average start to the year, raising $576,644 from 8,215 contributions. That's more than the $452,000 the Greens raised in the first three months of 2016 and represents the party's best first quarter in a non-election year on record.

The figures also provide an early glimpse of how the race to name Elizabeth May's permanent successor as Green Party leader is shaping up.

Toronto lawyer Annamie Paul is the early front runner with $11,310 raised to the end of March, primarily from donors in the Toronto area. David Merner, who finished a close second in a B.C. riding in the October election, raised $7,020 from donors mostly in his home province and Ontario. Amita Kuttner, an astrophysicist from B.C., raised $3,040.

Toronto lawyer Annamie Paul has raised the most money in the early days of the race for the Green Party leadership. (Vedran Lesic/ Radio-Canada)

Paul, Merner and Kuttner are all official contestants for the Green leadership. With the exception of Nova Scotia's Judy Green, who raised $1,960, no other declared candidate who has yet to meet the party's threshold for eligibility raised more than $1,000 to the end of March.

Glen Murray, a former mayor of Winnipeg and provincial Liberal cabinet minister in Ontario, announced earlier this week his intention to run for the federal Green leadership. He is the only aspirant for the job with elected experience at either the provincial or federal levels.

The party will announce the winner in October.

Watch: CBC The National's At Issue panel looks at the Conservative leadership race (at the 9:35 mark)

The political gamble of reopening Quebec | At Issue

The National

1 year ago
The At Issue panel discusses why Quebec seems to be moving to reopen faster than its neighbouring provinces, despite having the most COVID-19 cases, and how much of a political risk this is for the premier. Plus in this extended edition, the panellists weigh in on the return of the Conservative leadership race. 16:16


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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