Pierre Poilievre raked in more donations in one quarter than any other Conservative leadership candidate in recent memory, totalling just over $4 million — a sign the front-runner has tapped into the anger a lot of Canadians are feeling toward the Liberal government, analysts say.
“If you’re an opponent of the Conservatives, you’ve got to be looking at how people in these tough fiscal times are opening their wallets for the Conservative party,” said Conservative strategist Tim Powers, chair of Summa Strategies and managing director or Abacus Data.
“Right now, Canadians seem to be very dissatisfied with the current government … There’s an anger and Conservatives seem to be the beneficiary of that anger.”
Poilievre collected just over $4 million in donations from almost 37,000 contributors in the second quarter ending in June, according to figures released Tuesday.
He’s “one of the few Conservatives we’ve seen in a long time that doesn’t play defence, he’s always on offence,” said Conservative strategist Shakir Chambers, principal at Earnscliffe.
“He says, ‘I’m a strong Conservative and here’s why I’m a strong Conservative.’ I think that really resonates with the red-meat, grassroots Conservative base, and that’s why his numbers are so high. I think there’s a lot of appetite not just in our party, but amongst the general population, for being anti-establishment.”
A former Conservative strategist said Poilievre has tapped into the “sweet spot,” attracting small contributions from large numbers of donors — individuals that tend to be more engaged and more likely to vote in the leadership race.
“Jean Charest has less donors that are giving more money, but any strategist or former strategist would tell you that people who are giving bigger cheques tend to be less engaged,” said Yan Plante, vice-president at the Quebec-based consulting firm TACT.
Charest, the former premier of Quebec who is seen as the party’s more moderate choice for leader, brought in almost $1.4 million from more than 4,000 contributors. Candidate Leslyn Lewis fundraised $709,061, while Roman Baber brought in $504,650 and Scott Aitchison raised $363,922. Patrick Brown, who was disqualified as a candidate last month, raised $541,707.
In a post on TheWrit.ca, polls analyst Éric Grenier said Poilievre was averaging about $110 per donation compared to $328 for Charest.
“When people are giving you $45 and it makes a big difference on their paycheque, those people tend to be way more engaged politically. That’s what you want, especially when looking at votes,” Plante said.
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He said Poilievre’s main challenge now is ensuring that his supporters, many of whom are new to the whole process of a leadership race, actually cast their votes.
“I think that he’s so far ahead that I don’t think he would lose, but I would think that his main challenge is to keep his people motivated to the end,” Plante said.
Polling from Abacus released last week showed Canadians’ disapproval with the federal government was at 51 per cent, the highest ever recorded during the Liberals’ seven years in power.
The percentage of those holding a negative view of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was also at 51 per cent, the highest ever recorded since 2015.
“From an operational perspective, (Poilievre’s) got a number of active social media channels and a number of active appeals that seem to be connecting with different groups that are feeling left out and angry, so I think you have to give him credit for using the operational infrastructure that he has built to get both support and cash,” Powers said.
The large amount of money raised “shows that a lot of people are feeling that he speaks to issues that are real concerns for them, and they probably recognize themselves in what he’s saying,” Plante said.
“It shows that there is a real movement that’s coming. The bulldozer is coming for the leadership and it might also be coming for the next election.”
The next leader of the Conservatives will be announced on Sept. 10.
Leadership race aside, the Conservative party raised more money than the Liberals and NDP combined during the second quarter, having received $4.4 million from about 36,000 donors.
The Liberals raised nearly $2.8 million from almost 28,000 donors, and the New Democrats received almost $1.2 million in contributions from nearly 16,000 people.
With files from The Canadian Press
Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant
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