Fundraising wells didn’t go dry in Brandon West Progressive Conservative MLA Reg Helwer’s campaign, according to reports filed with Elections Manitoba after the 2011 provincial election.
An independent audit of Helwer’s campaign finances showed $46,455 was contributed by individual donors. That donor list includes 49 contributions greater than $250 during Helwer’s candidacy period, for a total of $27,100. Under Manitoba law, political donations of $250 or more must be made public with the donor’s name and the aggregate value of their donation.
"We had a great amount of local support and we are very humbled by that and are thankful for that support," Helwer said. "We are a very grassroots party, as opposed to what the NDP were able to generate, so our volunteers went out and found a lot of people that were willing to help us."
NDP candidate Jim Murray received only $1,634.40 in individual donations. However, the Murray campaign led the way in money transferred in by the New Democrats’ central campaign and the Brandon West constituency association.
The central campaign transferred $5,148.50, while the local organization transferred $8,876.58 into the campaign.
The largest Helwer donations came from Helwer’s family. Vera Helwer donated $2,500, Gail Helwer chipped in $2,000, while Ron, Aynsley and Reg Helwer each gave $1,000 to the campaign.
Four other $1,000 donations rolled into the campaign from Sonny Dhalla, Lu Anne Kruk, Brad Munn and Grant Wallace, and there were several $500 donations.
"Obviously, I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people," Helwer said.
"We knew it was going to be a tight campaign and we had a great plan for the funds donated for our use and it worked. One of the things people suggested to me was make sure if you think about doing something that you do it and not regret not doing it afterwards, like door-knocking. If you are getting tired, you wouldn’t want to lose the election because you didn’t go to the next block."
Liberal candidate George Buri’s individual campaign contributions reached $4,628.13, the second largest in the Brandon West campaign. However, 2,250 of those contributions were raised through donors whose donations fell under the $250 threshold.
Only four contributors gave more than $250 to the cause, with Buri himself leading the pack with $615.63. Bernard Rodrigue was next in line with $437.50 in donations.
Of Murray’s $1,634.40 in individual donations, his agent, Jonathan Murray, cut the largest cheque with a $334 donation, one of only two contributions over the $250 threshold.
In Brandon East, NDP MLA Drew Caldwell used a similar money strategy as Murray, with no listed financial contributions outside of the cash infusions from the provincial ($8,390.90) and local party ($1,571.30) accounts totalling $9,962.20.
"Brandon East is not a wealthy constituency," Caldwell said.
"We did spend less than any other campaign in Manitoba as far as sitting MLAs go and we have to respect the fact that people in Brandon East are of modest means. No one here is in a position to drop $3,000 on an election campaign in Brandon East."
While Caldwell’s financial statements list no individual donations, Caldwell said he gave more than $250 to his own campaign.
"It must have been outside of the campaign period and will be on my annual report that comes out through the Public Accounts Committee (at the Manitoba legislature)," Caldwell said. "Notwithstanding that, supporters here are of modest means and we pride ourselves of running a community campaign. We engage in the community with our friends and our family, driven by grassroots activism."
Caldwell said money donated to the provincial campaign usually covers expenses such as television ads and other campaign expenses. Some of that money can be reallocated to local campaigns.
"It’s not a strategy," Caldwell said. "We can’t ask of people more than they are able to give. We have always kept our asks within affordability and focus on engaging the public."
Progressive Conservative candidate Mike Waddell’s funding sources were mixed, with $15,689 coming from individual donors, $11,189 from the provincial party and $7,000 from the local constituency account.
Waddell’s top donors were Paul Crane, Richard Golletz, Jim Pallister and Diane Peters, all who gave $500 each. In all, 18 people donated $250 or more, with fellow party candidate Helwer chipping in $250.
Liberal Shawn Cameron relied on party transfers after raising only $300 from individuals. He received $1,004.31 from the provincial party coffers, and $255.42 from the constituency. He had no single individual donation over the $250 limit.
Green Party candidate Vanda Fleury reported she didn’t raise a dime from any source.
Surplus funds generated by local campaigns during an election period are transferred back to the provincial party coffers under Manitoba law.
Tomorrow, election financial reports from candidates in rural Westman ridings will be examined.
See the financial disclosure
Elections Manitoba hosts pdf copies of the audited financial statements submitted by each candidate after the election. Click here to search for a candidate, or go directly to the statement in Brandon East and Brandon West, below: