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Canada's Minister of State for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa February 4, 2014. Mr. Poilievre said his government is trying to keep “big money” out of politics. “We believe that funding for political activities should come from everyday Canadians who choose to contribute – not from corporations, not from unions, and not from government,” he said.CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

Canada's federal political parties are girding for the end of a per-vote subsidy that has padded their coffers in recent years and looking to cash in on last-minute donations at the close of 2014.

Fundraising pitches geared at boosting the parties' hauls ahead of the New Year do not mention the subsidy directly, but the shift away from guaranteed funding is putting added pressure on political parties to bolster their savings before the next federal election is called.

"We've actually been preparing for it for some time now, because the legislation to remove the subsidy came in shortly after the 2011 election and it was intended to be phased out over a period of several years," NDP national director Anne McGrath said. "So it's been at the forefront of our minds when we do financial planning and [make] fundraising plans."

Introduced by Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien, the per-vote subsidy provided an allowance of just over $2 per year for every vote a party received in the previous federal election. The federal Conservatives began reducing the value of the subsidy in 2012 and will eliminate it entirely in 2015.

Proponents of the per-vote subsidy say it was fair because money was doled out in direct proportion to the support parties received at the polls. Opponents, including the Conservative government, countered that parties should raise the money themselves from individuals who choose to donate.

Ms. McGrath said the NDP supported the Conservative government's earlier decision to eliminate political contributions from unions and corporations, but ending public financing as well is "worrisome to democracy," in part because wealthier people may be more likely to donate.

In a statement provided to The Globe and Mail on Tuesday, Democratic Reform Minister Pierre Poilievre said his government is trying to keep "big money" out of politics. "We believe that funding for political activities should come from everyday Canadians who choose to contribute – not from corporations, not from unions, and not from government," he said.

Darrell Bricker, chief executive officer of Ipsos Public Affairs, said the Conservatives have the most to gain from the subsidy's elimination because they are already masters of soliciting contributions from individuals.

Liberal Party national director Jeremy Broadhurst said the change means opposition parties in particular will need to put a greater emphasis on fundraising. "Everybody knows there's a gap that has existed for a number of years in Canadian politics between the Conservatives and the other parties in terms of how much was being raised. And that gives them a war chest that they can tap into," he said.

That additional funding may not directly affect spending during the writ period, when all parties have caps on how much they can spend. But it can play a big role in the campaigning that increasingly takes place outside that period.

With fixed election dates, parties often start preparing for the vote much earlier, lengthening the campaign period and ramping up pressure to spend, Mr. Bricker said. "Because the campaign becomes a much longer affair, the need to start spending earlier is stronger because you don't want to fall behind."

He said the Liberals and NDP likely expect the Conservatives to use their financial advantage in the New Year in an effort to define the upcoming campaign. "So what the other parties are trying to raise, outside of what they would spend in an election campaign, is enough money to be able to respond to that."

Mr. Broadhurst said the Liberals have learned from recent years, when the party lacked the financial resources to fight back against Conservative attacks on its past leaders. "For our party, we have seen the impact that can have when you don't have the ability to defend your leader and your party, and we've just made a commitment not to get into that position," he said.