B.C. NDP lead in political donations, but Conservatives surging

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Polls can be an imperfect science when predicting election outcomes, but money talks. 

That’s why the latest fundraising numbers for the four major B.C. political parties speak volumes about where voters’ loyalties lie, according to political analysts.

With just over three months until the provincial election, the governing B.C. NDP have raked in the most over the last year, with a record $2.2 million raised in the three months between April and June, according to Elections B.C.

That number includes $670,000 brought in on a single day, June 27. 

Marie Della Mattia, the B.C. NDP campaign manager, says it’s the most ever raised outside of an official election campaign and is more than the other three parties combined. 

Meanwhile, the B.C. Conservatives have leapfrogged the Official Opposition B.C. United in terms of donations, with $1.1 million raised in the same three-month period. 

It’s a huge boost to the Conservative war chest, considering the party brought in $383,954 in the three months between January 1 and March 31.

A political scientist says the NDP’s fundraising lead is not surprising, given that many people donate to the party in government in an attempt to buy influence. 

The fundraising numbers also lend credibility to recent polls that show the B.C. Conservatives sitting in second place behind the NDP, leaving B.C. United a distant third.

“Polls are very ephemeral,” said University of the Fraser Valley political scientist Hamish Telford. “But when people are taking the time to go online and pony up money, it really does tell us where the support is lying.

“We had seen for a long time that the B.C. Conservatives were flying high in the polls but their fundraising was lagging,” he added.

“It seems their fundraising is now catching up to their popularity, which suggests the support they were getting in the polls is, in fact, real.”

WATCH | What BC Today callers think of the Conservatives’ rise: 

BC Today callers weigh in on the B.C. Conservative Party

The B.C. Conservative Party announced another candidate on Wednesday with past connections to B.C. United. Callers to BC Today discussed with host Michelle Eliot their views of John Rustad’s party, and how they think it will fare in October’s provincial election.

Conservative Leader John Rustad has been travelling across the province, knocking on doors, attending chamber of commerce meetings and town halls and securing donations in the process. 

“Donations are a really tangible example of how our support has been increasing,” said Aisha Estey, the party’s president. “We’re going to need a huge war chest to go up against the NDP machine.”

Former Greens leader backs Conservatives

Rustad has even caught the attention of former B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who told CBC News he thinks the Conservative leader will be elected the next premier on October 19.

“My prediction is that the B.C. Conservatives will win,” Weaver, the former MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, told CBC News.

“When I know that people who voted for me and people who have historically voted NDP are seriously considering voting Conservative, in this NDP town, that tells me something.”

A man in a flowered shirt stands in front of a stone building
Former B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver predicts the B.C. Conservatives will win the Oct. 19 election. (CBC News)

Weaver, who formed a coalition government with former premier John Horgan in 2017 to give the NDP the balance of power, said Premier David Eby is unwilling to listen to any outside ideas and as a result, has become desensitized to the frustrations of everyday British Columbians.

Weaver also noted that the last three months of donations, coupled with poor polling results, show that support for B.C. United has “collapsed” under leader Kevin Falcon.

A white man wearing a blue tie speaks in a legislature building.
B.C. United party leader Kevin Falcon is pictured earlier this year. A political science professor says that United no longer has the fundraising edge over the Conservatives. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

B.C. United took in $627,000 between April and June, a dip from the previous two quarters when the party raised $830,642 and $1,178,395, respectively.

Telford said while B.C. United still has a running head start ahead of the B.C. Conservatives, they “no longer have that fundraising advantage.”

B.C.’s political donation system has shifted since 2017 when the NDP banned union and corporate donations. Now it relies on individual donations that are capped at $1,300.

Asked whether the B.C. Conservatives’ fundraising bump poses a challenge to the NDP,  Eby said Tuesday that rather than focusing on political donations, he’s focused on what the government can do to address the problems facing British Columbians now — such as the cost of living.

A woman in a red dress with grey shoulder-length hair speaks to a man in a blue suit in front of an audience
B.C. Premier David Eby introduced Randene Neill, right, as the candidate for Powell River-Sunshine Coast during a B.C. NDP campaign event in Vancouver, on Thursday. The premier took a shot at his Conservative rivals when asked about fundraising numbers. (Ethan Cairns/The Canadian Press)

“It’s a confusing time if you’re paying attention to politics because it looks like a bunch of British Columbians trying to save their own skins, rather than be interested in what is best for supporting British Columbians right now,” Eby said.

In making his remark, Eby took a shot at the two B.C. United MLAs who defected from B.C. United to the B.C. Conservatives — Elenore Sturko and Lorne Doerkson.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to show people the costs of bringing back any variety of the former B.C. Liberals that are currently running under different names … and we’ll see what they have to say on election day,” Eby said.

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