PCs lead fundraising in Q1, raising at least $1.3M

By Alan S. Hale and and Allison Smith April 9, 2021

The Progressive Conservative Party continues to blow the other parties at Queen’s Park out of the water when it comes to fundraising.

According to Queen’s Park Today’s analysis of Elections Ontario data, the PCs led the pack in the first quarter of 2021, raking in at least $1.356 million. That puts the party on track to surpass the $3.4 million it raised in 2020.

So far this year, the PCs have received almost 2,400 donations. More than 700 were for $1,000 or more, and 300 were at or near the maximum contribution of $1,650 — a limit that will double should Bill 254, Protecting Ontario Elections Act, pass third reading.

The legislation is retroactive to January 1, so any donor who has already hit their donation cap will be cleared to give the same amount again once the bill is proclaimed (Bill 254 cleared committee stage Thursday with no major amendments).

The PCs have been hosting high-price virtual events featuring Premier Doug Ford and other cabinet ministers almost weekly as the governing party readies its war chest for next spring’s election. Tickets are usually sold for at least $1,000-a-pop.

The average donation to the PCs was $570, although donors who throw less than $100 at a political party aren’t accounted for in Elections Ontario’s contributions database.

That factor has resulted in a large discrepancy between the amount the elections agency pegs the official Opposition’s haul at ($153,422) and what an NDP spokesperson told Queen’s Park Today the party has actually raised when small donations are taken into account.

“Right now our internal numbers show us at $520,336 centrally, and that number climbs to $800,000 if you include donations to ridings,” said Erin Morrison, the NDP’s director of communications.

That marks the Ontario NDP’s highest first-quarter haul in a non-election year, she added.

According to Elections Ontario data, the Green Party of Ontario has a slight edge over the Ontario Liberals.

The Greens have raised $128,717 so far this year, with just under 900 donations, 14 of which were near the contribution limit of $1,650. The average donation size was $143.

The Liberals find themselves in fourth place after raising $124,314 over the past three months. The former ruling party received more than 850 donations, with the average donation being $145. Seventeen donations approached the contribution limit.

Both the Grits and the Greens said their totals would be higher if small donations were included.

“Because it’s so early in 2021, the official reporting figures do not include the many Ontarians chipping in a few dollars, often monthly, to beat Doug Ford,” Will Wuehr, press secretary to Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca, told Queen’s Park Today.

The Green Party’s director of communications Nav Dhaliwal said its party’s internal figures show the Mike Schreiner-led party is breaking its past fundraising records and surpassing its own targets.

“We’re grateful for our generous donors and supporters considering the difficult year everyone has had,” said Dhaliwal.

Lastly, the newly formed New Blue Party has raised $42,282.

The party, which is led by Independent MPP Belinda Karahalios and her husband Jim, was certified by Elections Ontario in early January — about six months after she was booted from the PC caucus for voting against the government’s emergency legislation. Her party has received 173 donations this year, with the average donation being $247. Three people gave the maximum contribution to the New Blues.

Karahalios also says more was raised via small donations, but she noted activity on the party side has slowed over the past month as Jim recovers from surgery and finishes chemotherapy sessions.

Parties have until April 15 to file first-quarter donations with Elections Ontario, per an agency spokesperson, so all of the numbers in this story could go up.