For the first time, the federal Liberal party is bluntly admitting that it has been outgunned by the Conservatives in adjusting to Canada's tough new political fundraising laws.
In a strongly worded report that calls for massive downsizing of the party structure, a "red-ribbon panel" warns it's crucial that the Liberals confront the reality of an unwieldy, top-heavy organization and over-reliance on now-banned corporate donations.
"Our party's structure has left us disconnected from members and small-donation supporters, thus greatly impeding our ability to raise money," says the report obtained by the Star in advance of its circulation to party rank and file.
The Liberals raised just $1.3 million from about 6,500 contributors in the first quarter of this year. The ruling Conservatives raised almost five times as much from nearly five times as many donors — $5.6 million from 37,000 contributors.
"It's no secret that, for years, we have been hard-wired as a party to rely on large donations from corporate donors," the report says. "We have fallen victim to never asking supporters for money."
Getting Joe Liberal instead of Joe Liberal's employer to pay the bills is going to require an attitude shift in the Liberal Party: namely, that it isn't the natural governing party of Canada and that its grassroots count for more than warm bodies for campaign work.
The Conservative Party's broad donor base is a reflection of the old Reform/Alliance populism. People give money with the expectation of being listened to; whether the party always hears them or not, at least average Tory member has the sense of being a member of a grassroots party.
And curiously enough, it's a reflection of the loyalties of the old Progressive Conservatives after the 1993 debacle to their party. Those who stuck by the PCs in their nadir were those who were more likely to give money as a result of their loyalty.
The Liberals, never having had to face such an existential crisis, have never felt the need for serious change.
Now they're suffering for it, in the pocketbook.
While Tories pass the hat, Grits pass the buck.
Source: Toronto Star