Canada's corporate leaders are abandoning both Joe Clark's federal Progressive Conservative Party and the Liberal Party of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, pulling out their chequebooks instead for Alliance leadership candidate Tom Long.
The Globe and Mail, which surveyed hundreds of major contributors to the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, unearthed repeated examples of corporate executives who traditionally support the federal Progressive Conservatives, but who now are behind Mr. Long's bid to become the first leader of the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance. The Globe called everyone who donated more than $2,000 to the Ontario Tories during the 1999 provincial election campaign, a list more than 220 names long.
They include executives from some of Canada's most blue-chip companies, such as Onex Corp., CIBC World Markets, RBC Dominion Securities, Dominion General Insurance and Barrick Gold Corp., along with former stalwart Tory families such as the Eatons.
And Mr. Chrétien should also start to worry about the support Mr. Long has drawn from corporate Canada. Executives who have been identified with the Liberal Party, frustrated with what they see as the continued apathy of the Prime Minister to business concerns and his unwillingness to retire in favour of Finance Minister Paul Martin, are quietly switching their support to Mr. Long.
A senior banking executive with close Liberal ties, who asked that his name be withheld, said he would be making a "significant" contribution to the Long campaign.
"I will be strongly supporting Tom Long," the banker said. "I believe he understands the reality of what Canada needs," he added. "I still deal with the Liberals. I like Paul Martin. But for whatever reason, he's not doing enough for Canada."
Corporate executives are being pitched by "anti-Chrétien Liberals" who argue that the Alliance under Mr. Long would be the best bet for business.
Mr. Long is also drawing on ties to Brian Mulroney, as key aides to the former Conservative prime minister -- including Stanley Hartt, chairman of Salomon Smith Barney Inc. and Mr. Mulroney's former principal secretary, Nigel Wright of Onex -- lobby associates on behalf of Mr. Long's campaign. In fact, many of the individuals who helped to oust Mr. Clark as leader of the federal Conservatives in 1983 and replace him with Mr. Mulroney are now hard at work in the Long camp.
Mr. Long's senior strategists, while refusing to discuss the details of their fundraising strategies, maintain that Mr. Long's courting of corporate Canada represents a major advance for the Alliance.
"Tom Long's candidacy expands the base not only of members but of fundraising capacity for the Canadian Alliance," said Long campaign manager Leslie Noble. "The party is going to be stronger in terms of its financial ability to wage an election. More manpower, more money, more members."
Because he entered the race late, only announcing his intentions to seek the leadership in late April, Mr. Long needs to raise about $2-million, according to Ms. Noble -- mainly to finance a phone- and mail-based membership-recruitment drive.
Unlike the other major candidates for the Alliance leadership -- former Reform leader Preston Manning and Alberta Treasurer (on leave) Stockwell Day -- Mr. Long has refused to release the list of donors to his campaign. But calls to major investment firms, brokerage houses and Canadian-owned industries indicate that Mr. Long has been making personal pitches to major investment houses and brokerage firms on Bay Street, with gratifying results.
Phil Evershed, who leads CIBC World Markets' merger and acquisition team and is former chief of staff to former federal Tory finance minister Donald Mazankowski, said he plans to twist colleagues' arms to build the candidate's war chest and may bring Mr. Long in for a meeting with senior investment bankers. Dan Nolan, another senior CIBC World Markets investment banker and former aide to senior Tory cabinet minister Michael Wilson, is also working for the cause in both Ontario and New Brunswick.
Tony Fell, chief executive of Royal Bank subsidiary RBC Dominion Securities, introduced Mr. Long to senior partners of the firm, in order to impress on them what Mr. Long's supporters believe is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring to Ottawa an administration dedicated to low corporate and personal taxes, balanced budgets and strong support for ever-freer international trade.
Across the street at Scotia Capital, the investment banking arm of Bank of Nova Scotia, several of the firm's senior executives are both raising money and attempting to sign colleagues up as new members of the Alliance. An executive at one U.S-owned investment house said he decided to work the Street for Mr. Long and is extracting cheques ranging from $100 to $10,000.
"Raising money for some candidates is a layup. Tom is a layup," said one former federal Tory fundraiser who is no longer volunteering his time for the party.
One of the most significant donors to the Long campaign is Peter Munk, head of Barrick Gold. According to York University Professor Robert MacDermid, who has traced the contributions of donors to the Mike Harris Conservatives through corporate and family connections, Mr. Munk donated $121,000 to the Ontario Tories in 1999, making him that party's biggest single contributor. Now at the federal level, he has become an Alliance supporter and is expected to back Mr. Long.
"Peter Munk is a big supporter of Premier Harris and the provincial Conservatives and will likely be supportive of Tom Long," said Barrick vice-president Vincent Borg, who was a key aide to former Ontario premier David Peterson. Mr. Borg added, however, that "we may be supportive of another candidate as well. We just don't know."
Fredrik Eaton, part of the family that started the now-failed retailing empire and Canada's High Commissioner to Britain during the Mulroney era, said he is giving money to Mr. Long and two other Alliance leadership candidates.
Hal Jackman, former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, chairman of Dominion of Canada General Insurance Co. and a prominent Alliance supporter, is also backing Mr. Long.
"I'm supporting him in a very, very quiet way," he said in an interview.
Mr. Eaton, Mr. Jackman and Mr. Borg, on behalf of Mr. Munk, refused to divulge the size of their contributions.
Belinda Stronach, vice-president of auto-parts giant Magna International Inc., announced the company would be donating $50,000 to Mr. Long, as well as to the Alliance and to another, unnamed candidate. Magna founder and chairman Frank Stronach, her father, ran for the federal Liberals in the 1988 election.
Mr. Long is also exploiting personal loyalties forged during his early years as a right-wing student activist. Young bucks fresh out of university, who campaigned with him on behalf of Mr. Mulroney to unseat Mr. Clark as Progressive Conservative leader in 1983, and who now head some of the largest financial organizations on Bay Street, are rallying to the cause.
Mr. Wright, a principal with Onex, once roomed with Mr. Long and worked in the Mulroney organization with him. Now Mr. Wright is supporting Mr. Long's leadership bid.
"Tom is starting to resonate in the business community," said Mr. Wright. "We are seeing a quiet kind of movement from the corporate sector toward him."
Support for Mr. Long's campaign extends beyond traditional conservative business circles. Just as many Ontario voters support Mr. Harris's Conservatives provincially and Mr. Chrétien's Liberals federally, so too, have many corporate executives split their support between the two parties.
That Liberal support is starting to erode. Impatience with Mr. Chrétien's perceived indifference to the brain drain of talent, high tax rates, the low Canadian dollar and the gap in productivity between Canada and the United States has the corporate sector increasingly disenchanted with the federal Liberals, especially now that Mr. Chrétien appears determined not to retire before the next election.
The executive from the U.S. investment house, a long-time Liberal supporter, said he began campaigning for Mr. Long after deciding that Mr. Chrétien could no longer be trusted.
Even lifelong Liberal Gerry Schwartz, chairman and chief executive officer of Onex, is becoming increasingly excited about Mr. Long and the Alliance.
"I think the Alliance has the right idea and I think Tom Long is a very attractive candidate," Mr. Schwartz said.
While he is not yet prepared to abandon his support for Mr. Chrétien, he pointed out that "for the last eight years, the Liberals have had so much strength that there has been almost no opposition in Parliament." He predicted that a strong Alliance opposition in the House of Commons would be "good for the country."
Ms. Noble, Mr. Long's campaign manager, maintains that much of Mr. Long's financial support comes from small donations from grassroots supporters of the Ontario Premier.
In fact, Ms. Noble insists, the Long campaign doesn't even have a formal fundraising organization.
"There isn't really any committee or one person or people who are in charge of it," she said in a recent interview. "There just isn't enough time for that kind of structure."
Those close to the Long camp tell a different tale. They cite Gord Walker, a lawyer and former cabinet minister in the Ontario Tory government of Bill Davis, and Hollinger Inc. newspaper executive Peter White, as the heads of the fundraising arms of the campaign. Neither Mr. Walker nor Mr. White returned repeated phone calls.
Mr. White's boss is Conrad Black, owner of the National Post and other Southam and Hollinger newspapers. The chattering classes love to speculate that Mr. Black's money is underpinning the Long campaign.
Ms. Noble acknowledges that the names of Conrad Black and Hollinger would likely appear on the list of contributors. But she insists the contribution is expected to be minimal.
"Tell them we'd love to have the kind of donation everyone says they're giving us," she laughed. "Frankly, we don't understand why there has been so much media speculation on a subject that must have occupied about two minutes of his [Mr. Black's]attention." CAMPAIGN RULES When the Reform Party transmogrified into the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance in March, the new party decided that leadership candidates would not be required to disclose contributions made directly to that campaign.
But former Reform leader Preston Manning then announced that, following the conclusion of the leadership campaign, he would release the names of all direct contributors, although he would not be saying how much they donated.
Not to be outdone, Alberta Treasurer (on leave) Stockwell Day then pledged to release both the names of direct contributors and the amount they contributed, although contributors who wish to remain anonymous will not be named.
Mr. Long has pledged only to follow the party rules, which is to say, not to disclose. Long strategists accuse the other campaigns of manipulating the media by first setting rules and then breaking them.
Donors who contribute directly to the Canadian Alliance, directing that the money go to one of the leadership campaigns, will be eligible for a tax credit up of to $550, but their names will be published in Elections Canada's annual report of contributions to political parties.
Donors who contribute directly to a leadership campaign will not have their names published in the Elections Canada report, but their donations will not be eligible for a tax credit. In either case, there is no limit to what may be donated. MEMBERSHIP Money matters, but votes are what count in the race to lead the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance.
Sources report that corporate supporters of leadership candidate Tom Long are focusing at least as much on signing up their friends and colleagues to the Alliance as on soliciting financial contributions. This is because Mr. Long's forces must sign up an estimated 100,000 new members to the Alliance if he is to become the party's first leader.
Any citizen who pays the $10 membership between now and June 17 will be eligible to vote for an Alliance leader on June 24. If no candidate wins 50 per cent of the vote, the first- and second-place finishers will face off in a second round two weeks later.
The Alliance inherited about 75,000 members from the former Reform Party, most of whom are expected to vote for former Reform leader Preston Manning, with most of the rest thought to be committed to Alberta Treasurer (on leave) Stockwell Day.
Mr. Long must sign up enough new members in populous Ontario to squeeze past Mr. Day and take second place on the first ballot. Mr. Long will then devote much of his campaign budget and organization to contacting and wooing Day supporters, pushing past Mr. Manning on the second ballot.
But to survive the first ballot, Mr. Long must sign up an average 10,000 new members a week. Long organizers maintain the campaign is on track. THE BACKERS Nigel Wright: Believes Tom Long is 'starting to resonate in the business community.' Henry (Hal) Jackman: Lending his support 'in a very, very quiet way.' Tony Fell: Introduced Mr. Long to senior partners of Royal Bank subsidiary RBC Dominion Securities. Frederik Eaton: Giving money to Mr. Long and two other Alliance leadership candidates. THE OPPONENTS Stockwell Day Preston Manning