December 6, 2019

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Tory party war chest overflowing

Manitoba NDP, Liberal candidates at disadvantage

MP Lawrence Toet says finances won�t change  his campaign game plan.


MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files MP Lawrence Toet says finances won�t change his campaign game plan.

EIGHT of the 10 richest riding associations in Manitoba are Conservative, giving the ruling party a cash advantage in several constituencies it hopes to hold.

That includes Winnipeg South, Winnipeg South Centre and Elmwood-Transcona, all ridings where the Liberals or the NDP have been working for months to topple the Tories.

Much has been made nationally of the Conservative Party of Canada's dramatic financial advantage over its opposition rivals. That advantage was seen as a key reason Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided to drop the writ earlier than expected, a move that nearly doubles the national and local spending limits.

In Manitoba, the financial dominance of the Conservatives is equally dramatic. Tallied up, the province's Conservative riding associations are sitting on well over $1 million, according to 2014 financial statements filed with Elections Canada.

Liberal riding associations hold less than half that — roughly $450,000. And the NDP is dwarfed by its rivals with only about $150,000 spread over the 14 riding associations.

The Green party's financial health is more difficult to gauge because many of its annual returns are not yet available online. The total of the eight available was about $50,000.

Elmwood-Transcona Conservative MP Lawrence Toet, who is seeking a second term, said the longer writ period doesn't really alter his campaign spending plans since he's been door-knocking and getting ready for months.

"Everyone will be looking at how they use their resources over this extended period," he said. "Our plan is still our plan."

Toet's riding association finished 2014 with nearly $90,000 in the bank. That would have been enough to pay for a regular 37-day campaign with almost no additional fundraising required in order to reach the spending limit of about $93,000. However, with the typical five-week campaign now stretched to 11 weeks, Toet and his opponents can spend close to $200,000.

But Toet and other candidates said campaigns had already begun dipping into their war chests well before the writ dropped Sunday. Mature campaigns, those that have been underway for months, have already spent thousands on things such as brochures and recycling-bin ads.

The higher spending cap could mean campaigns will hire more contract staff instead of relying solely on volunteers or party loyalists.

In Winnipeg South, Liberal candidate Terry Duguid's riding association is one of the richest in the province with $76,000 in the bank at the end of 2014. But it's still poorer than Duguid's Conservative rival. Before he announced his resignation, outgoing Tory MP Rod Bruinooge bequeathed a war chest worth $114,000 to his successor, Gordon Giesbrecht, who is carrying the Conservative banner in the suburban riding.

In Winnipeg South Centre, expected to be one of the most-watched ridings, Liberal candidates Jim Carr and Conservative MP Joyce Bateman began the race with roughly the same amount of cash on hand. Bateman's riding association ended the year with $105,000 to Carr's $93,000

"We're fine," said Jeff Kovalik-Plouffe, Carr's campaign manager.


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