Long cam­paign favours Tory deep pock­ets: anal­y­sis

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

The im­mi­nent fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign will see more money splashed around than ever be­fore in Canada and the deep-pock­eted Con­ser­va­tives can claim a de­cided ad­van­tage — an edge that in­creases ex­po­nen­tially if Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper opts for a longer cam­paign than usual, new num­ber-crunch­ing shows.

While much as been made of the rul­ing party’s fundrais­ing prow­ess at the na­tional level, the big­gest im­pact of an ex­tended cam­paign will be felt by can­di­dates in lo­cal rid­ing con­tests.

An in-depth anal­y­sis by The Cana­dian Press of fi­nanc­ing at the grass­roots level shows that Con­ser­va­tive can­di­dates’ rid­ing-based war chests are flush with cash, dra­mat­i­cally out­pac­ing their po­lit­i­cal ri­vals in ef­forts to raise and stash away money.

A re­view of the most re­cent fi­nan­cial state­ments filed by rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tions to Elec­tions Canada this month show can­di­dates for the NDP, Lib­er­als, Greens, Bloc Que­be­cois and other smaller par­ties sim­ply don’t have the money to com­pete on a level play­ing field with Con­ser­va­tive con­tenders, whose lo­cal war chests are over­flow­ing.

Those 2014 fi­nan­cial re­ports in each of the coun­try’s 338 con­stituen­cies shows that Con­ser­va­tive elec­toral dis­trict as­so­ci­a­tions ended the year with net as­sets to­talling more than $19 mil­lion — more than the rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tions of the Lib­er­als, New Democrats, Greens and Bloc com­bined.

Lib­eral rid­ing as­so­ci­a­tions re­ported a to­tal of about $8 mil­lion in net as­sets, NDP as­so­ci­a­tions more than $4.4 mil­lion, the Greens at al­most $1.2 mil­lion and the Bloc at about $410,000.

Un­der the 2007 fixed-date-elec­tion leg­is­la­tion in­tro­duced by Harper’s gov­ern­ment, Cana­di­ans will go to the polls on Oct. 19. While the leg­is­la­tion spec­i­fies that the cam­paign must be a min­i­mum of 37 days, it does not spec­ify a max­i­mum length.

That’s im­por­tant be­cause the new Fair Elec­tions Act pro­vides that for ev­ery day be­yond the typ­i­cal five-week cam­paign, spend­ing lim­its for na­tional par­ties and their can­di­dates will in­crease by one-thirty-sev­enth, mean­ing ex­tra days on the cam­paign trail would ben­e­fit par­ties with hefty bank ac­counts.

That means a party run­ning a full slate of can­di­dates is en­ti­tled to spend al­most $25 mil­lion for a 37-day cam­paign, with ev­ery ad­di­tional day worth an ex­tra $675,000 to each party’s na­tional spend­ing limit and an ex­tra $2,700 for each can­di­date who is en­ti­tled to spend an av­er­age of about $100,000.

So, if Harper fires the of­fi­cial start­ing gun in mid-Au­gust, as widely spec­u­lated, that would boost each party’s spend­ing cap by a whop­ping $19.6 mil­lion and each can­di­date’s limit by $78,300.

At the na­tional level, the Lib­er­als and NDP have upped their fundrais­ing game con­sid­er­ably since the last elec­tion but they’re still be­hind the Con­ser­va­tives, rais­ing $15 mil­lion and $9.5 mil- lion re­spec­tively com­pared to $20.1 mil­lion for the Tories, based on Elec­tions Canada fi­nan­cial re­turns for last year. Still, for their na­tional cam­paigns, the New Democrats and Lib­er­als can bor­row money if nec­es­sary to spend the max­i­mum, or close to it.

Smaller par­ties, like the Greens, will have more trou­ble keep­ing up and banks are less likely to help them.

At the rid­ing level, how­ever, very few op­po­si­tion party as­so­ci­a­tions have built up war chests that would help their can­di­dates spend the max­i­mum for a 37-day cam­paign, much less for a longer one.

Fall­ing be­hind in the fundrais­ing wars will be more prob­lem­atic for can­di­dates this year than in pre­vi­ous elec­tions.

CP PHOTO

Prime Min­is­ter Stephen Harper speaks at the Cal­gary Stam­pede ear­lier this month. Anal­y­sis shows a long fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign might favour Con­ser­va­tives rid­ings which are flush with cash.

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