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Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters following weekly caucus meetings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau speaks to reporters following weekly caucus meetings on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 12, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Tories lead in fundraising, but Liberals closing in Add to ...

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives once again led Canada’s political parties in fundraising last year, though a surge by Justin Trudeau’s Liberals narrowed the gap.

The Conservatives brought in $18.1-million in donations in 2013 to emerge as the top fundraising party, financial documents published Thursday by Elections Canada show.

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The Liberals brought in $11.3-million, the NDP $8.2-million, the Green Party $2.2-million and the Bloc Québécois just $417,000. The fundraising figures exclude other revenue from government transfers or leadership races.

The Conservatives also had the largest pool of supporters paying to back the party – 80,135 donors. The Liberals had 71,655, the NDP had 39,218, the Greens 14,500 and the Bloc 4,146.

“The total donations and the amount of donors show that more Canadians know we’re better off with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada,” party spokesman Cory Hann said in an e-mail.

The Conservatives raised more money from more donors in 2011, the last election year, and have since seen both sink by at least 20 per cent. The party has nonetheless consistently has the deepest pockets, and had by far the most assets at the end of last year.

The Liberals are rebounding – the party saw a 48-per-cent jump in contributions from 2012, recording its best year since 2003, the last year before new elections finance rules banned corporate donations. Its total donations and number of donors are up since 2011.

“We’re very proud with our results,” spokesman Olivier Duchesneau said in an interview. “… We’re in an extremely healthy financial position. We see the result of the hard work the Leader is doing on the ground to meet Canadians and invite them to our movement.”

The NDP, which broke through in the 2011 election to become the Official Opposition, pointed to their debt-free status and modest gains in donations, and numbers of donors, in the last three years.

“We’ve continued to grow. We had another record year last year,” party spokesman George Soule said, adding the party is diligently pushing to grow its fundraising operation and its donor base.

“With all that work, we’re seeing results, which makes us optimistic for the future,” he said, later adding: “there’s nothing new about the other parties using their big machines, their well-connected friends and their bagmen in the Senate to raise money.”

The Conservative financial filing documented transfers of riding associations that are being overhauled to comply with a new electoral map, offering a glimpse of which MPs’ associations had the most money in the bank.

Ontario MP Scott Reid led the list, with his riding association transferring $314,255.33 to the national party. Employment Minister Jason Kenney’s Calgary riding association was second with $289,993.65, while Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre’s Ontario riding was third with a transfer of $170,512. More than $4-million in riding money will be redistributed among the new riding associations this year, the Conservative financial document said.

The Conservative Fund is headed by Senator Irving Gerstein, who emerged as a key figure in the scandal over a cheque written by Mr. Harper’s ex-chief-of-staff, Nigel Wright, to cover expenses of Senator Mike Duffy. RCMP documents have alleged Mr. Gerstein sought to intervene in an audit of Mr. Duffy’s claims and was aware of the repayment plan, of which Mr. Harper has disavowed early knowledge. However, Mr. Harper has stood by his top fundraiser throughout the scandal while instead pointing a finger at Mr. Wright and Mr. Duffy. Mr. Gerstein has regularly declined interviews about the Senate scandal.

Follow on Twitter: @josh_wingrove

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