OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives entered this election year having outpaced the Liberals in fundraising by more than $8.3 million in 2018, and with extra cash in the bank, the party’s financial returns show.

The Conservatives raised about $24.2 million from 104,000 donors in 2018, more than the $15.9 million the Liberals raised from 66,000 people, leaving the Tories with almost $9.9 million in cash compared to the $2.3 million held by the Liberals. 

The Greens raised $3.1 million last year from 16,700 donors — their best showing in a non-election year — leaving them with about $1.1 million in cash, a small bump from 2017.

It was the fourth consecutive year that the Tories have out-fundraised the Liberals, based on a review of annual returns filed with Elections Canada. The parties must submit their annual numbers by July unless they receive extensions, as the New Democrats did this year.

The figures provide a window on the financial health of the parties as they ramped up fundraising efforts ahead of this fall’s federal election, when donations tend to jump as supporters rush to fill campaign war chests.

And they are also used by the parties to fuel calls for further donations and partisan attacks on their opponents.

The Liberals took aim at the amount the Conservatives spent to raise money, which the Tory documents list as being almost $8.5 million in 2018, up from the almost $7.2 million the party spent in 2017.

The Liberals spent almost $3.4 million to raise money in 2018, up from almost $2.8 million in 2017, which spokesman Parker Lund said shows the party delivers “far more value” for individual donations.

For the Conservatives, the target was the two loans the Liberals took out last year through their lines of credit at two banks, which totalled $1.34 million. The Liberals also got more money sent to central party coffers from local candidates and riding associations, which pads the overall revenue figures.

Conservative spokesman Cory Hann said the Liberals will have to “dip further into their line of credit in order to run a campaign” and go further into debt unless they shed expenses — noting the Liberal government’s budget deficits in his critique.

Now the push is on for more money, with only a summer barbecue circuit standing between the parties and the official start of the fall campaign, expected in early September. Election day is scheduled for Oct. 21.

For 2019, the only data on party fundraising covers the first three months of the year, with the second quarter wrapping up at the end of June. What the figures from Elections Canada show is that between January and March, the Conservatives raised about $8 million, the Liberals almost $3.9 million, the NDP about $1.2 million and the Greens about $783,000.

Lund said the governing party had its best-ever June for fundraising this year. He also noted that the second half of 2018 saw the party’s best fundraising for the final six months of a non-election year and overall the Liberals were “the only major party to see consistent growth” in revenues.

Hann said his Conservatives’ $3.6 million in net revenues — what was left after all expenses were covered — is “to be put completely towards our campaign budget.”

In 2017, the NDP raised about $4.9 million, which was a second straight annual decline. A spokesman for the New Democrats said the party’s 2018 return will be filed in a few weeks. Guillaume Francoueur said in an email that the party plans to “run a full campaign” this year to get its message to voters.

Figures made public by the elections agency as of Wednesday afternoon also show that last year the Christian Heritage party raised $361,557, the Animal Protection party raised almost $260,000, the Marxist-Leninist party raised about $107,000 and the Marijuana Party raised $1,675.

The Canadian Press

The Canadian Press