2011 Election Saw Record Fundraising Activity

August 4th, 2011

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The five major parties raised over $7 million from large donors during the five-week election period this past spring, setting a Canadian record in the process, according to their second-quarter financial returns filed with Elections Canada this week.

$1.8 million was raised from contributors over $200 in the campaign's first week alone, with another $1.3M raised from large donors in week 2, $1.6M in week 3, $1.0M in week 4, and another $1.3M in the final week of the 2011 campaign. These tallies do not include funds raised from the so-called small donors of $200 or less in each reporting period, as those donations are not reported by date.

While the 2005-06 election did see two million-dollar weeks and saw a total of $7.4M raised from large donors, that was over an 8-week writ period (rather than the 5-week minimum in effect for 2011); and also straddled two calendar years, allowing the parties to go back to their large donors for the maximum contribution twice during the election campaign. Also, the maximum annual contribution to a political party back then was $5,400, rather than $1,100 (soon to be $1,200) as it has been for later elections.

By contrast, the 2008 election (under the new contribution ceilings, and with the minimum 5-week writ period) saw just $4.6M raised from large donors by the five major parties. The fact that economic worries started to loom large during that campaign might also have had an effect.

[Click on image to open full-sized version]

Fundraising by Week, 2011 Q1-2, Donors over $200 only

The Conservatives won four of the five weeks in the 2011 campaign period in terms of fundraising, but it's the NDP who won the final week of the election, narrowly edging out both the Conservatives and Liberals for the highest take from large donors during the final week of the writ period ($436K vs. $409K and $379K respectively).

After setting year-to-date records in the first week of the campaign, the opposition parties' fundraising fortunes roughly tracked their polling fortunes during most of the rest of the writ period, with the Liberals falling steadily until their final fundraising push in Week 5, and the NDP falling after the first week, but then regaining momentum until they finally overtook their Liberal competitors in the final stretch. The Greens trailed off after their first big push as well, while the Bloc didn't seem to ramp up their fundraising efforts much until the third week of the campaign, but experienced declining returns as E-day grew closer.

The Conservatives, by contrast, dropped off somewhat in both of the last two weeks from their own previous benchmarks, though they had also ramped up two weeks pre-writ, putting them well ahead of their main competitors prior to the government falling on the late May non-confidence vote.

Note that both the Conservative Party and the NDP held their national conventions during this quarter, and of course convention fees are counted as political contributions as well. Moreover, conventions often feature ticket-based and other fundraising events. We can see the big post-election spike for the Conservatives, and a smaller one two weeks later for the NDP.


The final Liberal spike seems to have been associated with their email fundraising drive to finance a new interactive website.


In terms of their overall second-quarter results, the Conservative Party turned in another record performance in the second quarter of 2011; raising $8.2M from 52,805 contributors, with roughly half the take coming from small contributors ($200 or less over the quarter), and the other half from their larger donors (over $200 for the quarter). As compared with the last similar election quarter (2008-Q3), the party has increased the amount raised from the small donors by a bit over 10% (up to roughly $4.0M from $3.6M), but from the larger donors by nearly 50% (up to roughly $4.1M from $2.75M).

Another party that seems to have concentrated on intensifying its fundraising amongst the larger donors is the NDP, whose second quarter performance of just under $3.1M is not only an all-time quarterly record for that party, but contains an all-time record week for them as well during the final week of the election campaign. Compared to 2008-Q3, they raised about 30% more from smaller donors, but 120% more from large donors.

The Liberals basically doubled their fundraising performance from the quarter which included the 2008 campaign, and matched the level of fundraising achieved in the final quarter of 2005 (the first part of the 2005-06 campaign). The good news for them is that they also basically doubled their number of contributors from 2008-Q3 in the small donor category. They also continue to clobber the NDP amongst donors who max out their contribution limits, but are otherwise being matched more or less dollar for dollar in the other cumulative donation size categories to the end of Q2. (see cumulative analysis table below)

The Green Party also posted a record quarter for them at $769K, though they've always mustered their best fundraising performances during an election quarter. The Bloc also posted a quarter that was at par with their other election quarters at $438K. The story for those two parties will be how they do going forward, however.

Pre-election, election, and convention-related fundraising has now put both the Liberals and Conservatives within 10% of what they raised in all of 2010 (according to their annual returns), after just the first two quarters of 2011. The NDP is actually 15% ahead of where they were at the end of last year (though in their case, I'm working with the sum of the four quarters rather than the annual data, as their 2010 annual return was given an extension for filing and is not yet available).

Cumulative distribution of donations and contributors by total donation, by party, first two quarters of 2011 (quarterly reports)

$ Amt of donations
# of donors
Lib NDP Cons
$ Amt Num $ Amt Num $ Amt Num
TOTAL $6,271,352
(% of
NDP is
(98.0%)   (114.9%)   (89.4%)  
<=$200* 2,675,203
<=$400 1,124,314
<=$600 737,440
<=$800 191,104
<=$1000 209,948
<=$1100 1,260,536
>$1100 72,807


* <=$200 count includes counts reported to Elections Canada for both the categories “<=$200″ and “<=$20″ in each of the first three quarters; other counts calculated by totalling contributions for each donor (i.e., for each unique combination of firstname + middlename + lastname), and then counting by total contribution size for each donor.

17 Responses to “2011 Election Saw Record Fundraising Activity”

  1. Thank you for this wonderful blog. Any prediction(s) for balance in 2011 on fundraising by major parties?

  2. Dave Hodson says:

    If $1,100 is the current max donation, what does the category on your chart for donations >$1,100 represent? It says the NDP received a total of $120K from 21 donors. That’s over $5,700 per donor?

  3. Dave, Let me double-check my data on that one; I was typing the last of those at 4:30 AM. In general, the methodology is not perfect, because it wouldn’t be able to catch cases where there are two people by the same name (John Eaton and John Eaton). There’s also the fact that during an election and convention period, it’s possible that someone accidentally gave more, in total, than the maximum (e.g., they bought tickets to a fundraiser that wound up putting them over, after their election contributions), in which case the party refunds the excess at the end of the year, which is reported on another section of their annual financial return.

    However, I’ll have to double check my typing. Thanks for the reality check.

    CS, I think it’s going to fall off for everyone in Q3, as their supporters will be tapped out and their fundraisers will be tired. Then in the fall, provincial elections are going to take priority, I’d have to think.

  4. Ah, I just checked for you Dave, and realized the other exception to the contribution: bequests. It looks like the NDP again had several large bequests, including one for $85,000, another around $6,500, one for just over $4,000, and one of $2,500. The only other bequest in the second quarter was one of $1,000 to the Conservatives (they’re listed as coming from the “Estate of” person x).

    The rest look like duplicate names, or people who might have fallen into the inadvertent over-contribution by election contribution/convention fees/fundraiser tickets. It was once explained to me that sometimes people don’t believe they’ve over-contributed to the national party, because they gave some of the funds to a local riding association or candidate. However if one of those entities was raising money through the national party’s Paypal or Moneris account, it gets added to the national side rather than the local side.

    FYI, there is an $1,100 contribution limit to each national party, and another $1,100 contribution limit across all party riding associations/candidates, plus a maximum of $1,100 can be given to each independent candidate. These returns only reflect contributions to the national parties, of course.

    Hope that answers your questions, Dave, and thanks for getting me to notice the large bequests.

  5. George Pringle says:

    It will be interesting to see the Liberal donations in the post election. Prior to the watershed election, (the ND gains and the Lib fall, not the steady Tory gains) Lib supporters believed that the status quo would be restored and donated/voted accordingly. Like my PC friends in 1993 who believed their disaster scenario was 50 seats but after the harsh reality of 2 seats, the party died.
    I see the same thing with the Libs who will fall much further.
    But the ND Quebec situation has given the Libs a glimmer of hope. The ND will learn that you can have seats in Quebec or seats in the West. We have seen that Quebec is not necessary to form a govt and the upcoming redistribution will make Quebec less relevant.
    It would be interesting to see where the ND donation status by province and how that changes in the next year.

  6. I know what you mean, George, but any analysis of the fall is going to get complicated by the provincial elections, and then there will be one (please god not a second) federal leadership race to factor in.

    As to the NDP’s Quebec vs West situation, remember that the Conservatives ran ads against the NDP in BC in the final days of the campaign to that effect. The relative impacts of negative versus uplifting ads haven’t been sifted out yet in that context, but I know the NDP has probably considered how to play those trade-offs from a number of angles already.

  7. George Pringle says:

    Ads are ads. I refer to the fundamental political culture of the West and to a lesser extent Ontario. But it is BC that counts since they have more MPs here than the other 3 western provs together.
    The sound of Nicole Dion and her halting english and her far left Quebec first voice is what will be seen day after day on the news.
    The ND will fight against our seven seats in the bill that changes redistribution numbers using Quebec’s egotistical whine. Shades of Meech and Charlottetown.

  8. Wilf Day says:

    George, I have seen nothing to suggest the NDP will oppose BC getting seven more MPs, and Alberta seven more, and Ontario 18 more. No doubt they will move an amendment to give Quebec 10 more, to maintain Quebec’s weight, which will be defeated. The question is, will Harper himself give Quebec five more? That would make Quebec’s average population per MP 99,470, and with 345 MPs, Canada’s average population per MP would be 99,563, as close a match as can be had. His other option is to shave a bit off the increased numbers of new seats for Ontario, BC and Alberta. Stay tuned.

  9. George Pringle says:

    “Christopherson said the NDP doesn’t support giving Quebec 25% of the seats in perpetuity, but it does support guaranteeing Quebec 24.4%, which is the percentage the province had in 2006″

    Wilf, if the ND were to vote against this bill, they are voting against BC’s 7 seats and their rationale that Quebec is not being treated fairly will not be seen in any way but pandering to Quebec as to hurt BC.

    You cannot grants new seats to provinces who have declining population share in order to protect their seat-share without negating the gain of seat gain for provinces that have under represented for decades.

    Really, there should be a cap of 300 MPs established in the Bill and the seats allocated purely by rep by pop.

  10. George, that might be your ideal solution, but it would require constitutional amendments to remove the senatorial clause and the grandfather clause (ones that would require 7 provinces representing 50% or more of the population). Those clauses are what keeps the seat counts going up, and PEI at 4 seats. If the government expends political capital on that rather than the economy right now, it would be off-message by anyone’s standards — probably including yours.

  11. George Pringle says:

    So we have to settle for not making the situation worse by giving more seats to provinces that have declining population.
    Maybe there will a day a Bill like Mike Harris’ “Fewer Politicians Act” comes federally, Would a federal referendum pass if in the grand Canadian tradition, money is promised conditionally on the change or perhaps in the Atlantic Region there could be a move to merge into one province and cut the anchor of the excessive politicians and civil servants that keeps them down.

  12. It will have to be a constitutional amendment to change those two provisions, no matter what they call the Act. And it will have to be adopted by both Houses of Parliament and 7 provincial legislatures.

  13. George Pringle says:

    I hate thinking that says something is permanently impossible. You are thinking about tomorrow when I think at the new few decades or more. The change to the formula is not just for next spring but will apply again in ten years and so on. The more the have provinces grow in population while Que and East are not will create a situation where a full restructure is more plausible.

  14. Well, I’d have to agree that we shouldn’t be slaves to short-termism. So long as you understand the steps involved, and the trade-offs that would be required to pull it off.

  15. Wilf Day says:

    Sorry, PG, but the senatorial clause cannot be changed just by seven provinces. S. 41 of the Constitution Act says that would require unanimous consent of all provinces. Even less likely to happen. And given the fact that any proposal for a constitutional amendment would trigger multiple additional proposals all of which would be contingent on each other before some provinces would consent to any, no one suggests the time is ripe for this. That’s why, for example, the Law Commission of Canada proposed a proportional representation model that would not require a constitutional amendment.

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