Poilievre’s Conservatives are crushing Trudeau in the donation game

Pierre Poilievre’s party has raised $2.45 in donations for every $1 the Liberals have raised

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Canada’s corporate giants are helping the country’s Conservative Party build a financial war chest to oust Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as frustration grows among business leaders over the country’s economic performance.

The Conservatives have raised $2.45 in donations for every $1 Trudeau’s Liberal Party has raised since the start of last year. Their support base is broad, but the donor lists include a roll call from executives from the upper echelons of Canadian finance and business – including telecommunications billionaire Edward Rogers, private equity executive Paul Desmarais III and Dan Daviau, head of brokerage firm Canaccord Genuity Group Inc. .

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Political party documents underline how conservative leader Pierre Poilievre has built up a huge financial advantage ahead of the 2025 elections, with polls showing him as the favorite to win.

Poilievre, 44, a minister under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper who spent most of his adult life in politics, became Conservative leader in September 2022. Since then, he has relentlessly attacked Trudeau over taxes, budget deficits and the cost of housing. , which tapped into voter fatigue with the prime minister after more than eight years in power.

That has helped build a double-digit lead for the Conservatives in national polls, which they parlayed into a donation lead. The party raised $46 million ($33.7 million) in the 15-month period ending March 31, compared to less than $19 million for the Liberals.

The influence of wealthy donors in Canadian politics is limited by strict financing rules. Companies and unions are prohibited from donating to political parties; only individual donations are allowed under a strict limit: this year it is $1,725 ​​per person.

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Adam Breslin, a partner at Toronto-based private lender Penfund Management Ltd., said he believes Trudeau’s policies “have been really spectacular disasters across the board.”

Breslin is critical of what he sees as too much government spending, a focus on wealth redistribution rather than growth, and a “reckless” approach to immigration. He said he was deeply offended by Trudeau’s “vague” response to the Israel-Gaza war and related protests in Canada, some of which have sparked security fears among Jewish groups.

Breslin said he has been a longtime Conservative and has become increasingly active in supporting the party: He recently attended a Conservative event in Toronto, and he and his wife now also hold fundraisers.

Canaccord’s Daviau, who donated the maximum amount to the party in February, according to party records, said he believes Canada needs “more accommodative policies that help make Canada a world-class destination for growing businesses.”

Trudeau’s government has the most seats in Canada’s House of Commons, but does not have a majority. That’s why she relies on an alliance with the left-wing New Democratic Party to pass budgets and legislation. The government has announced sweeping measures in recent months to increase housing supply, help renters and create a new program that will cover the costs of insulin and contraceptives.

To help pay for this, the government is raising the effective tax rate on capital gains, a move expected to raise nearly $20 billion in tax revenue over the next five years.

The Prime Minister has presented the tax measure as a matter of fairness, which will only affect the richest. In a video posted Monday On the social media site The current tax rates on those profits are too low compared to the taxes levied on wages, he says, “and it’s not really fair.”

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Mary Throop, founder of Summerhill Capital Management and former director of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, said she supports the Conservatives “because for all Canadians to prosper, we urgently need dramatic change.”

The government’s policies stifle innovation, discourage investment and “leave future generations with a huge unproductive public debt burden to pay for,” she said. Throop contributed nearly the maximum amount in the first quarter, as did Tony Staffieri, CEO of Rogers Communications Inc.

Election expenditure

Somewhat unusually for a Canadian politician, Poilievre’s combative communication style and slick online videos have gone viral, and he recently earned praise from Joe Rogan, Spotify’s most listened to podcaster. By bringing in additional donations – aided by sales of merchandise bearing his slogans – he can further dominate the advertising war.

Although the amounts are minuscule compared to what is raised and spent in American political contests, the fundraising gap will allow the Conservatives to build a larger campaign machine and shape Poilievre’s image through pre-election advertising .

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Canada imposes spending limits on parties during its relatively short election period. For the 2021 election – the third straight victory for Trudeau’s Liberals – the limit was about $30 million per party.

But this far from an official campaign, the Tories will enjoy a spending advantage, says Yaroslav Baran, a former communications strategist for the Harper government who now works at consultancy Pendulum Group.

“Right now we’re a year and a half away from the election – you can run as many ads as you want,” he said. That situation is already playing out, as the Conservatives run TV campaigns centering on Poilievre and his young family in an effort to soften his attack dog image.

A cash-rich party can pay for higher quality public opinion research, including opinion polls that help parties understand key constituencies and target campaigns. And the extra money can also pay for cross-country tours that include not only the leader but other high-profile members. “You often see this kind of thing in the summer, when Parliament is not in session,” Baran said.

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Liberal Party spokesman Parker Lund said the party holds fundraisers in publicly available spaces and is more transparent about who will attend, while Poilievre “holds closed-door fundraisers in private homes that block access to the media.”

“The Liberal Party’s strong fundraising has led us to three consecutive election victories – and we will once again be ready to fight the next election, whenever it arises,” Lund said in an email.

Sarah Fischer, a Conservative spokesperson, said the fundraising shortfall shows Canadians are frustrated with Trudeau’s economic policies. “Canadians across the country and from all walks of life support Pierre Poilievre and his plan to abolish taxes, build homes, fix the budget and stop crime,” she said by email.

Bloomberg.com

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