Christine Elliott and Patrick Brown, the two contenders for the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership, are both claiming war chests of more than $1-million with less than two weeks before voting begins.
As of the end of March, Mr. Brown, the MP for Barrie, considered the outsider in the race, has raised $902,456.57 – and set a campaign record, raising $301,796.84 in March, according to campaign manager Bob Stanley. He says the campaign is on track to raise at least the same amount in April.
"It's gratifying to see people realizing what is transpiring here and supporting it," Mr. Stanley said.
Ari Laskin, Ms. Elliott's campaign manager, told The Globe that her campaign has raised "over $1-million" so far.
"We look at it as any amount of money that we're able to raise to help boost the party is good for us and it's good for the party," he said, "after all, this is a matter of ensuring that the Ontario PC Party is able to form government in 2018."
The party requires that the leadership contestants contribute 20 per cent of what they raise as a tithe to the party. For example, the Brown team has so far given over $150,335 to the party.
PC members have two days – May 3 and May 7– to cast their ballots. The results are to be announced at a leadership event in Toronto on May 9.
Leadership candidates can spend up to $1.2-million on their contests, but there is no limit on how much an individual or company can donate. No tax credits are given for these donations.
This is in contrast to federal leadership campaigns, where donations to candidates are limited to $1,500 and tax credits are given. Jean Chrétien's Liberal government brought in a new political fundraising law in response to the cynicism about the political system, and the perception that politicians were being swayed by big money. (This was provoked, in part, by the sponsorship scandal.) The law, passed in 2003, bans donations from corporations and unions and limits the amount an individual can donate. It was made even more restrictive by the Harper government.
Both Ms. Elliott, the MPP for Whitby-Oshawa, and Mr. Brown have several $25,000 donations.
Mr. Laskin notes that of the more than 2,600 donors to her campaign, 2,200 people have donated $100 or less and most of those are coming from rural areas and smaller towns.
"The only people that Christine is beholden to from this campaign, to be perfectly honest with you, are the people of Ontario, the members who have supported her," says Mr. Laskin.
Mr. Brown's campaign, meanwhile, claims it has signed up more members than Ms. Elliott's. She is considered the establishment candidate, and was the frontrunner going into the race.