Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives lead their rivals in fundraising and candidate selection ahead of the 2015 federal election, key early advantages for the incumbent party.
The Conservatives have nominated more candidates, are raising more money and already have more cash in both national and local coffers, a Globe and Mail review of Elections Canada records shows.
The election is scheduled for Oct. 19, and Mr. Harper and his officials have repeatedly said they have no plans to call an earlier vote. The Conservative campaign war chest offers one incentive not to do so. While there are limits to spending during the official campaign period, the Conservatives are free to advertise extensively leading up to an election actually being called.
The Conservatives have continued this year to lead their rivals in fundraising, with $13.5-million in contributions through the first nine months of 2014, Elections Canada figures show. The Liberals received $9.9-million and the NDP $5.8-million, although the New Democrats say they're on track to raise $1-million in December alone. All three parties traditionally have also received government subsidies based on how many votes they received in the previous election. That funding has been phased out, with the final payment due Jan. 1.
Nationally, the Conservative Party ended last year with $16.3-million in net assets, ahead of the Liberals' $9.4-million and the NDP's $5.9-million. The Conservatives also have more money at the local level. The party's electoral associations ended last year with $15.8-million in net assets, while the federal party's 2013 annual report said it had another $4-million being held on behalf of its local electoral associations. Liberal riding associations had a collective $8.1-million in net assets, while NDP associations had $4-million.
The federal Conservative Party's 2013 annual report said it had another $4-million being held on behalf of its local electoral associations. Liberal riding associations had a collective $8.1-million in net assets, while NDP associations had $4-million.
Meanwhile, the Tories have nominated 187 candidates, ahead of the Liberals at 156 and the NDP at 96, Elections Canada records show. However, the parties say those records are often delayed – the Liberal website, for instance, lists 182 nominated candidates, while the NDP say they have 104.
"Our fundraising totals show that Canadians have been responding and donating so the Prime Minister can continue his strong, dependable leadership," Conservative Party spokesman Cory Hann said in a recent e-mailed statement.
Despite Tory assurances that the vote won't come until late 2015, both the New Democrats and the Liberals are preparing for an early election call, with the NDP booking a plane for both spring and fall.
The early Conservative preparation puts them well ahead of the other parties, particularly the NDP, who are the Official Opposition but regularly poll in third place. However, NDP national director Anne McGrath brushes aside the concerns, saying the party will be ready.
"I remember, going into the last election, the common narrative was the NDP wasn't ready, that we didn't have the money," Ms. McGrath said in an interview this fall. The NDP ended up surpassing the Liberals in that election and, while trailing their major rivals, are debt-free. The party measures itself against its past election, not against the other parties, Ms. McGrath said. "We run on our timeline and we know what things we need to get ready by what time, and we're in very good shape."
Liberal spokesman Olivier Duchesneau acknowledged the persistent fundraising gap with the Conservatives. "We don't deny the fact the Conservatives raised a lot of money, locally and nationally. We have a lot of work to do and that's what we're doing," he said in a recent interview after third-quarter figures were released.
Of the nominations in place for all parties, the Liberals have had the most votes, rather than seeing candidates run unopposed. Sixty-one of the 156 Liberal candidates, or 39 per cent, won contested votes, according to Elections Canada records. By comparison, 27 of the 187 completed Conservative nominations, or 14 per cent, required a vote, as did 15 of the 96 NDP nominations, or 16 per cent, the records show.