Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party is outpacing its rivals in fundraising, raking in more than $4.7-million so far this year.
Premier Doug Ford’s party raised more than 2½ times the NDP’s $1.7-million and more than five times the Liberals’ $845,000, according to recent data on Elections Ontario’s website.
“It is clear that Doug Ford’s vision for Ontario is resonating with Ontarians; this is reflected in the fact that we continue to outperform the NDP and Liberals in fundraising,” Ontario PC spokesman Marcus Mattinson said in an e-mail.
Officials from all parties expect 2019 donation figures to continue to climb because December is typically their strongest month. Parties’ internal totals are higher than Elections Ontario’s figures because contributions of less than $100 are not included in real-time disclosures.
A Globe and Mail analysis found that Mr. Ford’s debt-free PC leadership campaign raised $321,885 in 2019, funds that were transferred to the central party. The leadership donations represent almost 7 per cent of the party’s overall total of $4.7-million.
Mr. Ford accepted contributions to his leadership bid until the May 9 deadline, despite not carrying a debt from his campaign to lead the PCs early last year. Under Ontario law, donations to a debt-free leadership bid must be turned over to the party.
In addition, more than half of the donors to Mr. Ford’s leadership campaign in 2019 also gave money to the central party. The Globe reported this year that PC fundraisers were asking supporters to double up on donations to both entities, a little-known practice that is permitted by law but is seen as a way around contribution limits.
Of the 220 supporters who donated to Mr. Ford’s leadership campaign this year, 127 also gave to the PC Party – and 37 of them made maximum donations of $1,600 to both entities, according to Elections Ontario data.
Mr. Mattinson did not respond to questions about the party’s doubling up of donations.
Many of the PC Party’s top donors are from the worlds of real estate development and finance, including several executives from the same companies. For instance, the four brothers who run developer Conservatory Group – Corey, Jay, Mark and Sheldon Libfeld – each donated the maximum of $1,600 to both the PC Party and Mr. Ford’s leadership bid this year, for a total of $12,800, according to Elections Ontario records.
Ontario political financing rules allow individuals to give up to $1,600 a year to a political party and, in the case of parties with leadership races, an additional $1,600 to each candidate annually during the contest period. Supporters can also give another $1,600 to riding associations, but 2019 data does not have to be reported until next spring. Corporate and union donations are banned. Parties must report donations exceeding $100 to Elections Ontario within 10 business days of depositing the funds.
While Elections Ontario data show total NDP contributions of $1.7-million, the party says its internal tally is $2.15-million when all donations are accounted for, including those of less than $100. The party says it has received contributions from more than 85,000 people, for an average donation of $25.
“It’s been our strategy to essentially ensure that we make the ask of everyone,” said Mary Rita Holland, president of the party. “It’s part of who we are that we have such a wide reach.”
The Liberal Party, which was devastated in last year’s election and now has only five MPPs, declined to provide internal fundraising data, saying a financial update will be presented to members in the spring.
“This is what rebuilding looks like. I mean, we have five people sitting in the Legislature right now,” said Brian Johns, the party’s president. “Rebuilding doesn’t happen overnight.”
Mr. Johns said the Ontario Liberals’ continuing leadership campaign has resulted in lower donations to the central party because some members are giving money to candidates.
For its part, the Green Party of Ontario has reported donations of $588,000 to Elections Ontario so far but has raised more than $750,000 when all contributions are accounted for, president Ard Van Leeuwen said.
“The proof is in the pudding. Our fundraising and our membership is doing very well and I think it augurs well for the future of the party,” he said.
All the major political parties’ fundraising totals so far in 2019 are lower than last year, which is to be expected given that 2018 was an election year.
Last year, the PCs raised $5.7-million, followed by the NDP at $3.7-million, the Liberals at $1.7-million and the Greens at $1-million, according to statements filed with Elections Ontario.
As of Jan. 1, Mr. Ford’s PC government raised the maximum political donation to $1,600, up from the previous limit of $1,222.
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