Justin Trudeau rakes in $1.3M for Grit leadership bid

OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau has pulled in $1.3 million so far in the Liberal leadership contest, burnishing his credentials as a political money magnet.

That’s triple what Tom Mulcair raised during the whole of his successful bid for the NDP leadership last year.

And it’s doubtlessly miles ahead of the combined fundraising draw of Trudeau’s rivals in the Liberal race.

The six contenders must file the first of four weekly financial reports with Elections Canada by Sunday.

The Trudeau team says the front-runner’s report will show he’s raked in just over $1 million since launching his campaign last October — and that doesn’t include the 10 per cent that the party takes from all donations.

Nor does it include another $300,000 that the Trudeau team says has been raised but has not yet been processed by the party, through which donations must be funnelled in order to be eligible for tax receipts.

Earlier financial reports showed Trudeau had raised $760,000 by the end of last year — six times more than his nearest competitor, Marc Garneau, who has since dropped out and thrown his support to the front-runner.

The latest numbers show Trudeau has almost doubled his haul in less than three months of the new year.

His team is particularly pleased that he’s raised the money largely through small donations from more than 7,500 donors.

The average donation is $155. More than 3,000 donors contributed $20 or less, according to Trudeau’s campaign team.

The eldest son of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau has long been the Liberals’ biggest fundraising draw.

The ability to attract small donations from thousands of contributors is crucial to the party’s financial survival, particularly since the per-vote subsidy for federal political parties is being phased out.

Traditionally most reliant on large donations from wealthy individuals and corporations, the Liberal party has struggled to raise money since political financing reforms went into effect in 2004, severely limiting the amount individuals could contribute and banning all but small corporate contributions to local riding campaigns.

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives further tightened the rules, slashing the individual donation limit to $1,200 and banning corporate contributions entirely. They are in the process of phasing out the per-vote subsidy, implemented in 2004 to compensate parties for the loss of corporate money.

The Tories have thrived under the tighter financing regime, having mastered the art of raising small donations from thousands of supporters.

Last year, the Tories pulled in $17.3 million — more than twice the Liberals’ $8.3 million.

Trudeau has already raised more than the $950,000 spending limit set by the party for the leadership contest, although some expenses are not included in that cap. Trudeau’s team has said he’ll turn any surplus funds over to the party.

By the end of last year, none of his rivals had come close to Trudeau in the amount of money raised and there’s little to suggest that has changed dramatically in the new year.

According to the party’s year-end financial report, former Toronto MP Martha Hall Findlay had raised $150,000. But since about $35,000 of that was devoted to paying off debt from her 2006 leadership bid, that put her just behind Garneau, who had raised $123,000 for the current contest.

Toronto lawyer George Takach, who has since dropped out and endorsed Trudeau, had raised $106,000 while Vancouver MP Joyce Murray had raised $57,000, retired military officer Karen McCrimmon $20,000 and Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne $16,000.

No numbers were included in the year-end party financial report for former cabinet Martin Cauchon or Ottawa lawyer David Bertschi, who dropped out of the race this week. Neither officially registered as candidates until January.