Parties rake in millions in donations despite pandemic, padding campaign war chests

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a news conference in Ottawa, Monday June 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand

Federal parties appear to have seen a drop in their fundraising in 2020, a year when the pandemic dented donations of all kinds and made parties rethink some of their traditional fundraising tools.

The Conservatives' return shows the party pulled in more than $20.6 million from almost 91,000 donors in 2020, down from the over $30.8 million contributed by nearly 124,00 people one year prior.

Party spokesman Cory Hann says the party still ran a surplus of nearly $4.5 million by year-end despite the difficulties COVID-19 presented for fundraising, one year after running a nearly $7-million deficit in the 2019 election year.

"As Erin O'Toole has said, he's going to focus relentlessly on getting Canada's finances back on track, and he's setting that example for Canadians to see firsthand by leading the party into the same strong fiscal position he will bring our country," Hann said in a statement.

The ruling Liberals roped in just under $15 million in donations in 2020 from 64,541 donors, down from the nearly $20.6 million the party pulled in from just over 86,000 donors to fund a re-election campaign in 2019 that saw Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government returned with a minority mandate.

The party also ran a surplus of over $3.8 million, one year after posting a $1 million deficit.

"Driven by strong (fourth quarter) grassroots fundraising performance and prudent management, the party now also holds its best net-asset position since 2014 -- a testament to how the work of our grassroots movement powers everything that we can do next to keep Canada moving forward," said party spokesman Matteo Rossi.

The Bloc Quebecois brought in nearly $1.6 million in donations from over 10,100 donors last year, slightly down from the $1.8 million given by nearly 12,600 donors a year earlier.

The party also ran a surplus of almost $107,000 last year, smaller than the $512,000 surplus in 2019, which helped pad the party's bottom line as it prepares to run a slate of candidates only in Quebec.

Party spokesman Julien Coulombe-Bonnafous said the figures show the Bloc's finances are in excellent health, with no debt and enough money to run the next federal campaign.

"This past year has been a record year in terms of popular funding for the Bloc, despite the pandemic," he said. "We are grateful to our members and proud to be the only federal party not to have taken advantage of the wage subsidy."

Returns for the New Democrats and Greens are not yet available, though the Greens suggested the figures may be available next week.

The parties are also finalizing donation figures for the second quarter of 2021, which ended June 30.

It's not out of the ordinary to see fundraising fall the year after an election year when parties mobilize their supporters to donate in anticipation of having to spend millions on national and local campaigns.

But the annual returns filed with Elections Canada give a window into how well stocked the parties are should Trudeau pull the plug on his own government and call an election.

Trudeau has not ruled out kick-starting an election campaign after his minority government easily made it through a confidence vote on its budget in the House of Commons last month.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2021.

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