Vancouver's Non-Partisan Association has already raised more money two months before the civic election than it did in the entire 2008 campaign, the party's campaign chair says.
In the past 25 years in Vancouver municipal elections, victory almost always has gone to the party that spent the most. With coffers already bulging, the centre-right NPA – reduced from a governing majority to just a single councillor in the 2008 election – will be able to aggressively challenge Vision Vancouver and Mayor Gregor Robertson.
Peter Armstrong confirmed that the NPA, a party that has governed Vancouver for much of its 75-year existence, already has pledges and money in the bank totalling more than $1-million from donors who are giving hefty cheques in the tens of thousands of dollars.
Those big donors are coming from sectors that haven't traditionally stepped up in city elections before, he said, including mining and forestry.
"We're getting interest from a number of sectors and I'd say we're moving outside the traditional norm," said Mr. Armstrong, the founder and chair of the luxury-vacation train service Rocky Mountaineer.
He said he is hoping to raise at least $2-million overall for the Nov. 19 election.
Mr. Armstrong, who has been a strong fundraiser in the past for the Chrétien Liberals and who worked earlier this year with Kevin Falcon's leadership campaign team, said the party is getting those kinds of donations because people are frustrated with the Vision Vancouver city government.
"These are people who have a passion for the city and they're giving because of how disappointed they are. The parks are shabby, the community centres are rundown," Mr. Armstrong said.
The party's fundraising chair is Rob Macdonald, a developer who has criticized the Vision government sharply over the past three years for its management of the Olympic village, and for the imposition of separated bike lanes on Hornby and Dunsmuir Streets. He owns buildings on Dunsmuir – and is donating office space in those properties to the NPA for its campaign activities.
People both inside and outside the NPA say Mr. Macdonald and Mr. Armstrong are proving to be a formidable team that is pulling large cheques or commitments out of the city's business elite.
That kind of effort means that this election is likely to top all previous records for spending in a city where spending on municipal elections is already high.
For the 2008 election, Vision Vancouver spent $1.9-million on its campaign after raising about $1.7-million for the party and all its candidates.
According to the city's campaign-finance reports, the NPA raised and spent $1-million, while its candidates raised and spent a couple of hundred thousand more.
With one exception – when COPE and Larry Campbell swept to victory in 2002 – elections have been won in Vancouver for at least the past 25 years by the party that spent the most money.
In 2002, COPE didn't spend quite as much as the NPA, but it broke the $1-million mark for the first time, which was a dramatic increase from its usual spending.
Vision Vancouver will have to try to match the NPA's efforts this year, Vision's executive director Ian Baillie said.
"When campaigns are competing, you try to stay within a certain percentage of the others. It becomes a question of keeping up, even though our preference has been to not spend that kind of money," said Mr. Baillie.
However, he said it will likely take Vision fundraisers longer since they are raising money from individuals and small businesses, not just corporate donors, which is more time- and labour-intensive.
As well, Vision doesn't have a couple of powerhouse fundraisers like the NPA does, but relies more on direct mail and a group of people in the party to solicit money.
Both parties have scheduled major fundraising dinners for the fall.