Brandon-Souris Conservative MP Larry Maguire’s razor-thin win in last year’s federal byelection came at a high price.
According to candidate financial reports published by Elections Canada recently, Maguire’s campaign expenses totalled close to $90,000 — more than double the $42,000 previous Conservative incumbent Merv Tweed claimed in the 2011 general election.
November’s byelection campaigns saw the highest spending in the riding’s history. Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale’s campaign, which lost by just 389 votes, spent more than $76,000.
Campaign expenses include such things as advertising, office expenses, wages and salaries. Each campaign had an Elections Canada-imposed spending limit of $94,535.
"It was a byelection and anything can happen in a byelection," Maguire told the Sun. "We just didn’t want to take anything for granted.
"We had budgeted that well before the election even started.
"There were some issues that were being difficult to deal with," he said, later referring to the Senate scandal that hammered the Conservative government late last year.
Maguire said the Tories knew the other parties would ramp up efforts and concentrate money in the four ridings that held byelections. As a result, Maguire’s campaign budgeted extra for communication — more than $50,000 of the contributed money went to advertising alone.
"When it’s not a general election, all of the opposition parties can focus on one target, so to put it bluntly, we made sure we were in a position to counter," Maguire said.
He said he’d be prepared to spend to the same extent in the next general election if need be.
Maguire’s campaign received $27,553 in individual donations and $65,000 from the Conservative Electoral District Association.
Maguire’s campaign paid $29,000 to The Responsive Marketing Group Inc., a telemarketer with close ties to the Conservative party, and was hired for voter identification and not polling, according to Maguire.
Through individual donations, Dinsdale’s Liberal campaign raised close to $7,000 and many of the more-than-$200 donations were from individuals in Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.
The Liberal Party of Canada funneled $15,300 into Dinsdale’s campaign and the local Liberal EDA put forward $20,000.
More than $36,000 is the total of unpaid claims by Dinsdale’s campaign, referring to cash yet to be transferred from the national party to the campaign.
"There’s money that needs to be paid by the Liberal party in Ottawa," said Bernie Rodrigue, the official Liberal agent in Brandon-Souris.
Campaign expenses associated with Cory Szczepanski, the NDP candidate, have not been released yet.
Szczepanski told the Sun the campaign requested a one-month extension due to paperwork issues and have been filed.
Green Party candidate David Neufeld raised $6,700 in individual cash donations, just a few hundred dollars less than Dinsdale’s camp.
These campaign finance numbers don’t include money spent by the candidates’ respective national parties, but the four major political parties had a national limit of $270,775 during the November byelection, which also included the Provencher, Toronto Centre and Bourassa (Quebec) ridings.
If a candidate received more than 10 per cent of the vote — and filed a campaign return — they are entitled to a reimbursement from Elections Canada worth 60 per cent of the total money spent.
Once the election is over, any bank accounts associated with the campaign must be closed out and candidates can either transfer funds back to the EDA or to the party directly.
Meanwhile, the Fair Elections Act, which has been under extreme scrutiny lately, includes a provision that would allow political parties to exempt from their campaign spending limits any money spent to raise funds from people who have donated at least $20 over the previous five years.
Sheila Fraser, the former auditor general, told The Canadian Press earlier this month that the provision amounts to a giant loophole that would allow well-established parties to spend untold millions more during campaigns but would be "unfair" to new parties, which have no history of past donors.
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