Exactly how strong was that Orange Wave in Quebec last federal election?
That surge New Democrats will fondly recall this weekend as they gather to crown a new leader?
At least six first-time MPs in Quebec got elected in May of 2011 without spending a cent on local campaign expenses, filings at Elections Canada show.
As New Democrats congregate in Toronto to pick their new chief, party faithful will be debating what it takes to win in Canadian politics.
Money is indispensable, of course – except, apparently, for a brief moment last year in a handful of Quebec ridings.
Beneficiaries of a tidal shift in that province’s political opinion during the election, a half-dozen NDP MPs filed campaign returns – records that have now been reviewed by Elections Canada – that show zero expenses.
This means the candidates spent nothing on lawn signs or billboards or the like.
The no-spenders include Ruth Ellen Brosseau, the former assistant campus pub manager in Ottawa who had not set foot in her riding, Berthier-Maskinongé, before the election.
Her return shows no expenses and an infusion of $22.50 from the New Democratic Party that apparently went unspent.
By comparison, Ms. Brosseau’s Bloc Québécois opponent spent more than $50,000 on election expenses. Her Conservative rival spent more than $26,000.
Another one of the NDP no-spenders is Philip Toone, a lawyer and a first-time MP for Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
“I had me and my orange tie,” Mr. Toone remembered, saying he relied on word-of-mouth to spread news of his campaign. “Miracles are rare.”
Mr. Toone didn’t put up lawn signs or billboards and recorded no campaign expenses – though he did make note of $12.50 in auditing work that was marked as received in August, four months after the election.
The NDP is quick to point out, however that its Quebec candidates were not completely without advertising support.
The national New Democratic campaign bought advertising – print and TV – that appeared in ridings across Quebec. These ads featured former leader Jack Layton and, or Quebec lieutenant Thomas Mulcair.
For many Quebeckers it was the suddenly popular “bon Jack” whom they were supporting at the ballot box last May – not the local NDP candidate.
Other NDP no-spenders include three McGill university students Matthew Dubé, Mylène Freeman and Laurin Liu, who all won seats but reported zero expenses for the campaign.
So did former Laval University student Alexandrine Latendresse, who filed a return showing no expenses and $30 worth of contributions that went unused.
» Mr. Dubé’s campaign in Chambly-Borduas reported a $112.50 transfer of cash from the NDP that also went unused.
» Ms. Freeman, who won in Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel, reported a $90 infusion from the New Democrats that was similarly untouched
» Ms. Liu filed papers showing a $270 surplus after a donation from the local Rivière-des-Mille-Îles riding association went unspent.
Mr. Toone, the MP for Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine, acknowledges the 2011 election was one of a kind for Quebec New Democrats.
“It would be very surprising that there’d be a wave again. Those things don’t happen every day,” he said.
“I certainly expect next time we’re going to be spending a larger amount of money.”