Conservative Software Project Went Into Production in 2013, Financial Statements Show

July 3rd, 2014

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[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

The Conservative Party's mysterious software project was no longer listed as an "asset under development", but rather full-fledged "computer software", in financial statements the party recently filed with Elections Canada for the 2013 calendar year.

This is one of several storylines to emerge from the 2013 annual financial statements just filed by Canada's federal political parties with Elections Canada.

At a total cost of $7.1 million into over the previous three years – $2.17M in 2010, $3.4M in 2011, and $1.74 in 2012, the custom software application – code-named "C-Vote" – ending up costing the Conservatives almost double what the NDP paid for its downtown Ottawa office building in 2004.

The CBC's Laura Payton reported on its precarious lifespan in October of last year, noting that C-Vote's existence as a replacement for CIMS was terminated on Monday, October 21, 2013. Other Conservative sources told John Ivison that it had gone 100% over-budget and still didn't work, though party officials later maintained in an internal email that in fact C-Vote would simply not be deployed to ridings, but would continue to be used centrally. The database's future was also part of former Executive Director Dimitri Soudas' presentation to the party's national council in February of 2014, a digital copy of which found its way to the Toronto Star's Tonda MacCharles.

The presentation makes clear the party has not yet given up on an effort to replace its famed computer-based “constituency information management system” or (CIMS) with a new system known as CVote. Now, it appears the party will try to upgrade the old system, and redeploy it while overlapping it and syncing it with the new one, CVote.

While the Conservative Party invested in software, the NDP retired nearly all of its 2011 election debt in 2013 (paying the remainder off in the first quarter of 2014), and the Liberal Party invested in new donor acquisition, boosting their number of donors to a record (for them) of 71,655, though obviously their average donation size dropped in concert.

This was done in large part through a seemingly endless firehose of email requests for $3 donations from the Liberals with clever, A-B tested email subject lines, which earned the party the derision of several otherwise friendly columnists. On the other hand, it worked. Note to self: do not ever put a political columnist in charge of anything at a political party.

The political parties all ended the year in the black, and with healthy balance sheets. Notably, the NDP which has most of its assets tied up in its building, is liquid for the first time since 2010. The Conservatives, meanwhile, have socked away an additional $5.87M in short-term savings certificates, on top of the $7.1M sitting in short- and longer-term vehicles since last year. The Liberals socked away $4.5M in short-term savings certificates in 2013, the Greens bought a $400K GIC, and the Bloc made a second annual transfer of $347K from out of its riding associations into their newly established "Election Fund". A $2M long-term savings certificate the Bloc purchased with its election rebate from 2011 also matured last month, giving new BQ leader Mario Beaulieu a good-sized war-chest for either election readiness or the promotion of sovereignty (given that his new caucus seems less inclined to contribute from their salaries to this purpose than he bargained for).

Time is ticking down to the next election, however, and ticking down on the public per-vote subsidy political parties will receive only until the first quarter of 2015. The parties just received the first of their final four payments today, which will amount to a final $2.98M for the Conservatives, $2.3M for the NDP, $1.42M for the Liberals, $455K for the Bloc Quebecois, and $292K for the Green Party over the next year.

Figuring that the national spending limit for the next election could be as much as $24 million, half of which is covered by rebates for parties who get 2% of the vote or more, parties will need to raise or finance $12M + pre-election expenses + funds to transfer to riding associations and/or candidates who need the help, in order to run a fully-funded campaign. So, the opposition parties better get hopping, because the Conservatives already have over $13M in the bank and ready to go.

Below I've taken (and updated and added to) last year's time series of financial metrics, and put the 2013 comparison table at the bottom.

Selected Financial Metrics, by Party, 2010-13 Fiscal Years

Party 2010 2011 2012 2013 2010-to-13
Net Assets
Cons $7.31M $5.80M $12.0M $16.31M + $9.00M
Lib $4.59M $5.05M $7.96M $9.43M + $4.84M
NDP $5.67M $958K $2.88M $5.88M + $210K
Grn $164K $469K $1.25M $2.62M + $2.46M
BQ $2.09M $1.53M $2.14M $2.42M + $330K
Working Capital
Cons $4.50M -$128K -$1.44M $6.83M + $2.33M
Lib $3.83M $4.33M $7.33M $8.81M + $4.98M
NDP $711K -$5.09M -$2.31M $1.34M + $629K
Grn $137K $453K $1.24M $2.21M + $2.07M
BQ $2.09M $1.53M $2.14M $2.42M + $330K
Total Revenue
Cons $29.22M $46.90M $28.31M $26.45M - $2.77M
Lib $15.76M $31.46M $15.87M $19.5M + $3.74M
NDP $9.73M $29.13M $16.8M $13.8M + $4.07M
Grn $3.25M $4.26M $2.70M $3.04M - $210K
BQ $3.61M $4.18M $2.00M $1.55M - $2.06M
Annual Budget
Cons $22.35M $48.41M $22.08M $22.17M - $199K
Lib $14.18M $31.0M $12.96M $18.04M + $3.86M
NDP $7.48M $34.03M $15.1M $11.0M + $3.52M
Grn $2.52M $3.96M $1.92M $1.67M - $850K
BQ $1.74M $4.74M $1.28M $1.16M - $580K
Operating Surplus
Cons $6.87M -$1.51M $6.22M $4.29M - $2.58M
Lib $1.58M $460K $2.92M $1.46M - $120K
NDP $2.43M -$4.89M $1.93M $2.99M + $560K
Grn $723K $305K $782K $1.37K + $647K
BQ $1.11M -$557K $605K $281K - $829K
Debt Outstanding
Lib $3.78M
NDP $696K $5.12M $3.09M $490K - $206K
Grn $23K - $23K
Net Transfers Out
Cons $2.23M $3.39M $1.82M -$2.33M - $4.56M
Lib $315K $3.34M $1.68M $561K + $246K
NDP $791K $2.02M $859K $1.34M + $549K
Grn $315K $587K $364K $140K - $175K
BQ $620K $1.53M $5.6K -$36.9K - $657K
Cons $17.42M $22.74M $17.26M $18.1M + $68K
Lib $6.40M $10.12M $8.17M $11.29M + $4.89M
NDP $4.36M $7.43M $7.67M $8.16M + $3.80M
Grn $1.29M $1.71M $1.70M $2.21M + $1.02M
BQ $642K $789K $434K $417K - $225K
# of Donors
Cons 95,010 110,267 87,306 80,135 - 14,875
Lib 32,448 49,650 44,466 71,655 + 39,207
NDP 22,807 37,778 43,537 39,218 + 16,411
Grn 8,961 12,590 9,532 14,500 + 5,539
BQ 5,685 7,056 4,292 4,146 - 1,539
Avg Contrib
Cons $183.32 $206.21 $197.67 $225.88 + $42.56
Lib $197.31 $203.82 $183.66 $157.60 - $39.71
NDP $191.3 $196.6 $176.19 $208.13 - $16.83
Grn $144.15 $136.17 $178.09 $152.55 + $8.40
BQ $112.86 $111.89 $101.18 $100.59 - $12.27

Selected Financial Metrics, by Party, 2013 Fiscal Year

Metric Lib NDP Grn BQ Cons
Net Assets $9.43M $5.88M $2.62M $2.42M $16.31M
Working Capital $8.81M $1.34M $2.21M $2.42M $6.83M
Total Revenue $19.5M $13.8M $3.04M $1.55M $26.45M
Annual Budget $18.04M $11.0M $1.67M $1.16M $22.17M
Operating Surplus $1.46M $2.99M $1.37K $281K $4.29M
Debt Outstanding $490K
Net Transfers Out $561K $1.34M $140K -$36.9K -$2.33M
Contribs $11.29M $8.16M $2.21M $417K $18.1M
# of Donors 71,655 39,218 14,500 4,146 80,135
Avg Contrib $157.60 $208.13 $152.55 $100.59 $225.88


7 Responses to “Conservative Software Project Went Into Production in 2013, Financial Statements Show”

  1. Shadow says:

    I’m just glad CPC didn’t roll out their new software right before election day like Mitt Romney did.

    What was it called, Orca ? Then again the healthcare website was also a huge flop.

    As someone who knows nothing about software development I find it curious that political parties and government agencies seem to run into tremendous difficulty and expense when using technology.

    Does this happen to private companies all the time and we just don’t hear about it ? Or are they doing something better ?

  2. Most large software projects fail or go massively over-budget, Shadow. Most organizations like a political party will not commission more than one or two software projects of this size in their lifetime, and they’re not experienced at this kind of procurement, or managing the requirements (and expectations of all their internal users).

    In last year’s post on the financial statements, I looked up the stats on the percent of these projects that fail, according to the literature.

  3. Westmounter says:

    Where would legal bills be disclosed?
    Given all of the Conservative Party issues with Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Nigel Wright, Dimitri Soudas, Dean Del Mastro, Robo calls, Helena Guergis, Elections Canada, etc I would expect this cost to be enormous.
    Fasken Martineau and Guy Giorno can’t be cheap!

  4. Under the “Professional Services” line item, I would expect. It’s actually down to $1.5M in 2013 from $3.5M in 2012.

  5. Steven Megannety says:

    No one has yet to convince me that House of Commons and GofC resources are not being used to populate CIMS or any of the other databases that are being for election purposes. Who inputs the info into the database from constituent contacts. Are end raising lists enhanced by positive feedback to subsidized 10%ers and householders?

    If the idea is to have subsidization of the permanent campaign, fine, say so and stop this silly charade of a firewall between government and politics.

  6. Observant says:

    When the average Canadian voter is asked what they think of the political parties, they give you their impression of the leaders.

    - Trudeau — pretty boy but…
    - Mulcair — the guy with the beard
    - Harper — ho-hum prime minister

    It’s meme-season post election and the Cons are planting seeds of doubt, discontent and derision against leader-in-training Justin. The “in over his head” meme is intended to fester in the minds of voters and emerge during the 10/15 election campaign. Meanwhile the Cons are filling their attack ad arsenal with more juicy stuff to be unleashed when appropriate. Stay tuned…

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