OTTAWA – For the first time in years, the federal Liberals are giving the Tories a run for their money when it comes to fundraising.
During the second quarter of 2009, Liberals pulled in $3.878 million – a whisker short of the $3.957 million raked in by the cash-hoovering Conservatives.
Overall this year, Liberals have amassed $5.7 million in donations, more than triple their take during same period last year.
The Conservatives have pulled in $8.3 million so far, down slightly from 2008.
“We still have a lot of work to do but it’s definitely cause for optimism and reason to believe we can do it,” said Rocco Rossi, the Liberal party’s national director.
“We’re clearly learning how to deal with the new rules, finally, and we have a leader that’s exciting enough interest to take advantage of that.”
The Liberals, the party most reliant on big donations from corporations and wealthy individuals in the past, have struggled financially since 2004. That’s when corporate donations were banned and strict limits were imposed on the amounts individuals can donate.
The Conservatives, with a long tradition of raising small amounts from tens of thousands of donors, have thrived under the new regime, which they tightened even further in 2006.
Last year, the Tories raked in $21.2 million, more than triple the Liberals’ $5.9 million.
The Liberals have been closing the gap since Michael Ignatieff took over the helm in December from the unpopular Stephane Dion. He brought in Rossi, a renowned and innovative fundraiser, in January.
Rossi personally raised about $23,000 for the party this week with a kayak expedition up the Rideau canal.
Rossi acknowledged that the latest Liberal results include about $1 million in fees collected from members who attended the party’s Vancouver convention in May. Most of that money went to pay for the cost of the convention.
The second quarter financial results for federal parties were posted late Thursday by Elections Canada.
Other parties pulled in far less money than either the Conservatives or Liberals.
The NDP raised $711,269, the Bloc Quebecois $68,969 and the Greens $192,350.