Shorting Justin Trudeau's fundraising ability - Macleans.ca

Shorting Justin Trudeau’s fundraising ability

Did the Liberals just have their best quarter since 2005?

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Justin Trudeau enjoys a spring weekend counting money:

On Twitter, where the collective wisdom is what it is, everyone’s debating the Liberal leader’s pants. I’m struck by the numbers. Since he became Liberal leader, about three weeks ago, the party has raised “over a million dollars” from 14,000 donors, of which, apparently, 6,000 are donating for the first time. That sounds impressive.

How impressive is it? The excellent Pundits’ Guide site features searchable records for contributions to political parties since 2005. Assume (a hefty assumption) the Trudeau Liberals’ opening burst can be sustained over the 13 weeks of a budgetary quarter. The Liberals’ current pace puts them on track to take in something like $4.3 million from about 60,000 people.

That would be their best quarter since at least 2005, and probably in much longer: In Q2 2009 they made about $3.9 million, and in the last quarter of 2012 they received contributions from nearly 30,000 people. (Why was Q2 2009 such a good quarter? Because that’s when the Conservatives started running negative ads against Michael Ignatieff. The Liberals fundraised off the ads, as they always do when they are getting knocked silly. It produced the results it produced.)

The NDP peaked, so far, at about $3.1 million during Q2 2011 — the moment of Jack Layton’s election triumph — and maxed out at 24,000-ish contributors in the last quarter of 2012.

The Conservatives provide perhaps the most interesting comparison. They had nearly 60,000 contributors in the atypical election-campaign fourth quarter of 2005. Since then they’ve hit nearly 51,000 contributors in Q4 2006 and about 49,000 in Q4 2008. They raise prodigious amounts of money during election periods — $6.3 million in 2008, $8.2 million in 2011 — but they’ve never raised less than $3 million in a quarter since Stephen Harper became prime minister. In Q4 2012, when both the NDP and Liberals hit their largest-ever number of donors, the Conservatives still managed to raise $5.1 million from 39,000 donors.

The numbers Trudeau described today are nothing to sneeze at. But if sustained over the long term, they would merely put the Liberals back in a game they have been losing, more or less by default, to the Conservatives for as long as Harper has been leading that party.