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What do would-be MPs pay their campaign managers?

International Co-operation Minister Julian Fantino in his office on Parliament Hill, Monday December 3, 2012.

Fred Chartrand/The Globe and Mail

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In a closely fought election race, what are good staff worth to a candidate?

Canadian election campaigns are run overwhelmingly by volunteers. But aspiring MPs are entitled under Elections Canada rules to pay their campaign staff, should they choose to, with the caveat that the total is counted against their overall spending limit.

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Some pay hourly rates to door-knockers or people setting up signs. Others pay larger honorariums to senior staff, like a campaign manager – a candidate's top adviser.

Documents filed with Elections Canada outline total salary and wage payments made by candidates. Hard-copy Elections Canada files, as per Elections Canada rules, also include copies of the contracts and salary agreements.

Together, the documents provide a glimpse into what certain Conservative, New Democrat and Liberal staff were paid during the 2011 federal election campaign. Here's a far-from-exhaustive sampling.

Toronto was a focus for the Conservatives, and gains in the region helped push the party to its majority standing. Toronto-area Conservative MP John Carmichael paid his campaign manager, Gordon Moore, a $10,000 fee during the campaign, part of $129,737 in total campaign spending reported to Elections Canada.

Vaughan MP Julian Fantino, presently the Veterans Affairs minister, paid only one campaign worker: Stephen Lecce, who earned $2,000 and now works in the Prime Minister's Office. Ontario Conservative MP Jeff Watson paid staffer Nancy Jahn a fee of $5,000, the largest payment among $14,200 in wages reported by Mr. Watson's campaign. Conservative candidate Priti Lamba paid her "personal campaign manager," Sandra Pavan, $2,500 in her campaign in Etobicoke North, a riding ultimately claimed by the Liberals. That was among $21,757.67 in expenses that Ms. Lamba's campaign asked permission to pay late, citing "lack of funds." That file remains under review from Elections Canada.

Meanwhile, in the central Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, former Liberal leadership contender Gerard Kennedy paid his manager John O'Leary $4,000, documents show. Incumbent York Centre Liberal MP Ken Dryden's campaign paid his aide, Jenna Grossman, a total of $3,000 over the campaign, in which Mr. Dryden lost his seat.

In Manitoba, NDP candidate Rebecca Blaikie paid small sums to a range of volunteers, but drew a salary herself from the party – a pre-tax total of $5,742.75, according to her Elections Canada file. A party spokesman said the party pays its candidates in certain cases, including when they take time off work as Ms. Blaikie did. Her Elections Canada file suggests two others on her campaign were paid by the national party. Ms. Blaikie has since become the party's national president.

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Heritage Minister Shelly Glover's campaign paid two aides for half-time work: Lisa Rowson earned $1,515.55, while Patricia Rondeau earned $2,692.20. Ms. Glover's campaign later tried to retroactively lower the fees – dropping their pay to $10 an hour, saving $2,182.35 – in an effort to stay under the spending limit. Elections Canada fought that, saying she couldn't retroactively roll back salaries of her staff. Ms. Glover's campaign only paid one other staffer, Myrrhanda Novak, who earned $2,289.50.

In Saskatchewan, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz's campaign paid a total of $6,000 to Judy Ritz, the candidate's wife, for campaign work – $2,500 to serve as office manager and $3,500 as campaign manager.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's own campaign reported $1,250 in staff wages, while Employment and Social Development Minister Jason Kenney's 2011 campaign reported no money spent on salary and wages – though neither faced a serious campaign threat in Alberta, which elected Conservatives in 27 of 28 seats. The lone exception was the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona, where Conservative campaign manager Julian Martin was paid a $1,000 fee. The riding was won by the NDP.

In B.C., Green Party Leader Elizabeth May – who won her party's only seat – paid a total of $21,158.95 to 11 staff, none of whom earned more than $4,000. Conservative MP Colin Mayes paid $3,750 each to his campaign co-chairs, while James Moore – now Industry Minister – paid $7,483 to Barbara Haidn and $4,000 to Jean Farnsworth.

Quebec Conservative candidate and former cabinet minister Josée Verner paid $12,000 to staff on her campaign. She lost and was appointed to the Senate. In a campaign to retain his Quebec seat, Conservative cabinet minister Denis Lebel paid a total of $5,650 to two campaign workers.

Thomas Mulcair's campaign – before he became NDP leader – paid a total of $17,208 in wages to 16 staff. Justin Trudeau's campaign – before he became Liberal leader – paid staff a total of 4,778.50.

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Candidates who finish with at least 10 per cent of the vote and have their financial filings approved by Elections Canada are eligible for a refund of 60 per cent of eligible campaign expenses – in effect, a taxpayer subsidy. That includes salaries.

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