Conservative Software Project Went Into Production in 2013, Financial Statements Show
July 3rd, 2014
[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
|Net Transfers Out|
|# of Donors|
Selected Financial Metrics, by Party, 2013 Fiscal Year
|Net Transfers Out||$561K||$1.34M||$140K||-$36.9K||-$2.33M|
|# of Donors||71,655||39,218||14,500||4,146||80,135|