Hudak trails in PC campaign donations; Elliot tops list
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, May 15, 2009 9:53AM EDT
TORONTO - Leadership hopeful Tim Hudak may be the perceived front-runner in the race to lead the Ontario Progressive Conservatives, but so far he's dead last in reportable campaign donations.
Hudak -- who has more federal MPs, provincial caucus members and riding association presidents endorsing his bid than any other candidate -- is lagging behind all of his rivals in overall contributions and individual donors.
Hudak's campaign collected nearly $20,000 in contributions over $100 from 14 individual donors in April, according to Elections Ontario.
His rival Christine Elliott reported nearly 10 times that amount, coming out on top with a whopping $186,100 in contributions from 23 donors.
However, Hudak's team said the figures don't include more recent donations, which brings his tally to over $200,000.
Many more commitments have been made but not yet collected, said Jeremy Adams, who is working on Hudak's campaign.
"Our focus has been on memberships and recruitment which Tim has been immensely successful with," he said in an email.
"We are very happy with the state of our fundraising and in the support for Tim."
Elliott's donor list included four executives and directors of wealth management company Legacy Private Trust, who contributed $10,000 each. The lawyer and mother of three, who is married to federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and has the support of cabinet ministers Leona Aglukkaq and Bev Oda, has a seat on Legacy's board of directors.
Her campaign also received many donations under $100 -- which candidates don't have to report to Elections Ontario -- as she criss-crossed the province to recruit new party members, said her spokeswoman Catherine Pringle.
"We're getting a lot of smaller donations as well, a lot of donations from individuals that are just 10 bucks, 20 bucks on top of their $10 membership fee," Pringle said.
"We've had a large number of both donations, and we've been really fortunate to get grassroots contributors under a hundred bucks."
All the candidates are racing to sign up new members before Thursday's 10 p.m. cutoff, hoping to line up as many supporters as they can before the one-member, one-vote election at the end of June.
Dark-horse contender Randy Hillier racked up the largest number of individual donations -- 69 in all, including federal MP Scott Reid, who donated $30,000 towards his campaign.
The rebellious rural Conservative, who shares Reid's eastern Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington, kicked in $25,000 of his own money, bringing the total to $91,809.
That figure represents about a quarter of the donations his campaign has received so far, which are mostly made up of smaller donations, said spokesman Tristan Emmanuel.
The number of people flocking to donate money to Hillier -- the "anti-politician politician" -- speaks volumes about his appeal with ordinary Ontarians, and is particularly remarkable given the tough economic times, he added.
"From the get-go, we knew we were the underdog, but that was OK," Emmanuel said.
"Mr. Hillier has a real pull with grassroots people right across rural and actually, surprisingly, urban Ontario."
He noted that donors do not get a tax writeoff for their contributions, which makes their gifts to Hillier's campaign even more generous.
Two-time leadership hopeful Frank Klees collected $62,567 through 24 donations from individuals and several businesses, including a $20,000 contribution from Pace Credit Union.
By law, leadership candidates must report all campaign contributions over $100 to Elections Ontario within 10 business days, which are then disclosed on the agency's website.
Departed leader John Tory's successor is expected to be announced June 27 at a convention in Markham, north of Toronto.