Conservatives who have been through the sponsorship spin cycle before know better than to get too high on the Ipsos-Reid poll showing the party roughly tied with the Liberals both nationally and in (cue harp music) Vote Rich Ontario. Sponsorship revelations have been made before; polls have climbed before; and polls have come down before.
One set of numbers that should give comfort, however, is the third-quarter financial returns of the federal political parties, as posted by Elections Canada today. They show that the Conservative Party continues to out-fundraise the Liberals by more than 2-1.
Third Quarter (July-September 2005) Contributions
Conservative Party: $3,247,131 from 32,714 contributors
Liberal Party: $1,062,332 from 6,943 contributors
2005 Contributions to Date (January-September)
Conservative Party: $10,807,275 from 107,457 contributors
Liberal Party: $4,194,591 from 20,873 contributors
If the sponsorship scandal has effectively scared the Liberals off of attempting to supplement their campaign budgets with misappropriated taxpayer dollars, then in the next election they will be limited to spending only what they raise and what they can convince the banks to lend them.
If I may offer one spin line, however, it is this: Liberals and others have tried to put the money stolen from the sponsorship program in the context of the government’s overall budget, in which it is very small. The proper context, however, is the amount of money parties raise on an ongoing basis and spend during an election. In that context, $1.14 million, $5.4 million, $40 million, or whatever the Liberals stole, is huge – as the results of the 1997 and 2000 elections proved.