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Federal figures show Fletcher spent $229,105 in losing campaign

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This article was published 13/5/2016 (1162 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA -- Former Conservative MP Steven Fletcher spent more than twice as much as Liberal challenger Doug Eyolfson last fall as he tried to hang on to his seat in the House of Commons.

All but two of the candidates who ran in Manitoba ridings in last year's federal election now have their campaign expenses posted on the Elections Canada website. Candidates had until Feb. 19 to file but it takes Elections Canada staff awhile to wade through the nearly 1,800 returns and post the summaries online.

Fletcher says at the beginning of October it was clear the campaign was taking a sharp turn in favour of the Liberals and even his seat - one many thought was the safest Conservative seat in Winnipeg - was in jeopardy. On Oct. 5, his campaign took out a $50,000 loan to finance "a massive media buy," Fletcher told the Free Press.

"It was something like 30 ads a day on local radio stations," he said.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/5/2016 (1162 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Steven Fletcher, who lost his re-election bid in the 2015 federal election, spent more than twice as much as his Liberal opponent.</p>

DAVID LIPNOWSKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Steven Fletcher, who lost his re-election bid in the 2015 federal election, spent more than twice as much as his Liberal opponent.

OTTAWA — Former Conservative MP Steven Fletcher spent more than twice as much as Liberal challenger Doug Eyolfson last fall as he tried to hang on to his seat in the House of Commons.

All but two of the candidates who ran in Manitoba ridings in last year's federal election now have their campaign expenses posted on the Elections Canada website. Candidates had until Feb. 19 to file but it takes Elections Canada staff awhile to wade through the nearly 1,800 returns and post the summaries online.

Fletcher says at the beginning of October it was clear the campaign was taking a sharp turn in favour of the Liberals and even his seat - one many thought was the safest Conservative seat in Winnipeg - was in jeopardy. On Oct. 5, his campaign took out a $50,000 loan to finance "a massive media buy," Fletcher told the Free Press.

"It was something like 30 ads a day on local radio stations," he said.

Fletcher was elected to represent the provincial Tories last month.

The ad used Fletcher's name but also urged people to vote for their local Conservative candidate so the ad could potentially help more than just him. It didn't. He lost by more than 6,000 votes and the Conservatives were shut out in Winnipeg entirely. The loan was repaid in full, with interest, on Dec. 9. He said he has no regrets about the campaign in any way.

"There's nothing I would have changed that was in my control," he said.

Not including the loan repayment, Fletcher spent the second most of any of the candidates in Manitoba, at $179,105.39. Eyolfson, an emergency room doctor who was trying his hand in politics for the first time, spent less than half that, at $78,018.21. Fletcher spent more than 90 per cent of what he was allowed by Elections Canada, Eyolfson spent 35 per cent of the allowable limit.

Eyolfson said he gives credit to his campaign team for knowing how to spend money efficiently, as well as the benefit of a mood for change and a strong national campaign, for being able to win with so much less money put out.

"It's very gratifying to know we managed to succeed with such a good use of funds," he told the Free Press in an interview. "It's not always about money. You need money but the trick is to spend it wisely."

Only Brandon-Souris Conservative Larry Maguire spent more than Fletcher, both in his total amount ($211, 321) and the percentage of his limit, at 95 per cent. Maguire had come within 400 votes of losing the 2013 byelection so he wasn't taking any chances even in what is typically a safe Conservative seat.

His efforts paid off and he beat Liberal Jody Wyman by 5,328 votes. He outspent her by a margin of 3.5 to one to do it. Maguire also spent the most for every vote he received: $10. Liberal Dan Vandal in Saint Boniface-Saint Vital spent $2.75 per vote, the least of any of the winners.

Fletcher is one of five candidates who ended up spending more than the eventual winner in their riding. Incumbent Conservative Lawrence Toet outspent eventual winner NDP Daniel Blaikie by $14,500 in Elmwood-Transcona. Longtime NDP MP Pat Martin outspent Liberal winner Robert-Falcon Ouellette by more than $20,000 in Winnipeg Centre. As well, Conservative Jim Bell outspent Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk by about $8,000 in Kildonan-St. Paul, but finished second.

Former Manitoba Health Minister turned federal NDP candidate Erin Selby didn't even join the race until the Labour Day weekend, once an entire month of campaigning had already passed. Yet she spent slightly more than Vandal ($80,121 to $78,556).

Saint Boniface-Saint Vital Conservative candidate Francois Catellier is one of two Manitoba candidates who has not yet filed his campaign expenses. Catellier and Green Party candidate Steven Stairs who ran in Kildonan-St. Paul, received extensions but have since failed to file even by the extended deadline they were given.

Four candidates didn't run any kind of campaign, with no money coming in or going out. That includes three of the five candidates who ran in Churchill-Keewatinook Aski (Kyle Mirecki for the Conservatives, August Hastmann for the Greens and Zachary Linnick for the Libertarians), as well as Green candidate Kim Parke in Elmwood-Transcona.

With the longer election period, spending limits were roughly 2.5 times more than in 2011, but most candidates did not take advantage of the extra room. Only nine spent more than half their limit. More than half spent less than a third, including Mihychuk who won the seat. Five of the 14 winners spent more than half the limit.

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Friday, May 13, 2016 at 6:52 PM CDT: Corrects Elections Manitoba to Elections Canada.

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