Money haul suggests fight for second between Murray and Hall Findlay

OTTAWA – If money talks, then it’s saying Justin Trudeau has a lock on the federal Liberal leadership while Joyce Murray and Martha Hall Findlay are fighting over who’ll finish second.

The first of four weekly financial reports filed with Elections Canada offer a glimpse of the way the race is shaping up as it heads down the home stretch.

Trudeau is the only one of the six contenders left in the race whose report is not yet posted on the election watchdog’s website.

But his team has told The Canadian Press it will show Trudeau has pulled in just over $1 million since launching his campaign last October, with an additional $300,000 still being processed by the party, through which donations must flow to be eligible for a tax receipt.

That’s more than double what the other five contenders combined have raised.

The reports show former Toronto MP Hall Findlay has raised almost $179,000 while Vancouver MP Murray is close behind with $169,000.

However, Murray has shown the most momentum of the two since the end of last year, when a financial report filed by the party showed Hall Findlay had raised about $115,000 and Murray only $57,000.

Moreover, Murray has tapped into more donors — 1,382 of them, to Hall Findlay’s 1,023.

Murray’s improved fundraising numbers reflect the burst of late momentum she’s received from grassroots and online advocacy groups who support her strong stand on the environment and her proposal for one-time electoral co-operation among so-called progressive parties in 2015 to defeat the Harper Conservatives.

Murray’s status as the candidate with the most momentum seemed to be cemented Saturday during the final leadership debate in Montreal. She was attacked by both Trudeau and Hall Findlay over her co-operation plan.

Her idea got a boost just prior to the debate when Green party Leader Elizabeth May announced her party will not field a candidate in the upcoming byelection in Labrador in a bid to help the Liberals regain the riding from Conservative Peter Penashue, who resigned from cabinet over numerous instances of illegal donations and over-spending were revealed from his winning 2011 campaign.

Penashue won by just 79 votes over the Grits in 2011.

The financial reports show former cabinet minister Martin Cauchon has raised $103,000 from just 151 donors — including a maximum donation of $1,200 from France Desmarais, daughter of former prime minister Jean Chretien under whom Cauchon served.

Retired military officer Karen McCrimmon has raised just $26,000 and Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne just $25,000.

The reports show Ottawa lawyer David Bertschi, who pulled out of the race last week, had raised $50,000.

A report for Montreal MP Marc Garneau, who withdrew a week earlier and endorsed Trudeau, is not yet posted on Elections Canada’s web site.

Trudeau’s impressive haul is triple the money Tom Mulcair pulled in during his winning bid for the NDP leadership last year.

The perceived front-runner’s team says Trudeau has 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 team.

The six contenders will get a final chance on April 6 to make their pitch to some 127,000 Liberal members and supporters who’ve registered to vote. The party is staging a “showcase” in Toronto where the candidates will make their final speeches.

A week of voting will commence after the event, with ballots to be cast online or over the phone. The results are to be announced April 14 in Ottawa.