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The Liberal Party goes on fundraising blitz in early anticipation of 2019 federal election

By Tim Naumetz      

'The challenge for the Liberals is complacency,' said Nik Nanos, president of Nanos Research. 'If people think the Conservatives and NDP are weak, then it is harder to raise funds and motivate the Liberal tribe.'

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is one of several Liberals encouraging donors to hand over their dollars this week, so the party can begin to prepare for the 2019 federal election. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
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A Liberal fundraising blitz this week warned the party isn’t feeling overly confident about the 2019 election, and that government accomplishments could “disappear on election night” unless supporters pitch in to begin a campaign war chest now.

The unusual appeal from a governing political party with an election still so far in the distance went out on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to Liberal Party donors under the name of Canadian Heritage Minister Melanie Joly.

The email pitch stated that “our values are more than just words, they inform our decisions, decisions we get to make because we gave everything we could, and more, to win in 2015.”

The message signed by Mélanie Joly (Ahuntsic-Cartierville, Que.) went on to assert: “But in 2019, it could all disappear on election night – if we let it,” adding, “that’s why we need to get serious about building our next campaign now.”

A similar post, signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Papineau, Que.), was posted on the Liberal Party’s website on Dec. 5. The page lists what the Liberal government refers to as achievements, and then states: “But in 2019, it could all disappear on election night—if we take anything at all for granted. Our opponents are already hard at work preparing to take us on in 2019. Whoever they rally behind, with enough money and resources, we know that anything can happen on election night.”

The call to action reads, “That’s why I’m calling on all Canadians who believe in our movement to become champions for real change by raising $1-million dollars together by midnight, December 15, so we can start 2017 strong.”

The post says the Liberal Party is now getting serious in terms of campaigning for the next election, and asks, “Can you chip in $5, or any amount you can, right now to help?” It then details “gifts” that supporters will receive, depending on the amount they donate. A Liberal-branded toque if the donation is more than $99; a scarf if the wallet-opening results in more than $199; and the full set if the contribution exceeds $299 or more.

Veteran Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner expressed surprise at the approach in a brief interview Friday, and did not want to comment or react to it until seeing the details.

Speaking specifically about the email from Ms. Joly, Mr. Cuzner (Cape Breton-Canso, N.S.) said, “I’ve got to see the context, or whatever. I’m not aware of it at all.” Mr. Cuzner was first elected to the commons under Jean Chrétien’s leadership in 2000.

Earlier in the week, Liberal communications director Braeden Caley struck a similar chord, as the fundraising arms for all parties increased their tempo with an eye on Dec. 31—the end of the final fundraising quarter for 2016. Results must be submitted to Elections Canada by Jan. 31, for posting later on the electoral agency’s website.

On the eve of the Conservative Party leadership debate in Moncton, N.B., which took place on Tuesday, Dec. 6, Mr. Caley sent out an email to donors which summed up policies espoused by several opposition party leadership candidates, including calls for an end to CBC, abortion restrictions, and rolling back same-sex marriage laws, as well as Conservative MP Kellie Leitch’s support for Canadian values screening for visitors at Canada’s borders.

“But on election night 2019, one of them could become prime minister if you don’t chip in tonight so we can start 2017 strong,” read the message from Mr. Caley.

On the surface, no single issue seems to have nudged the Liberals downward in public opinion, despite a simmering controversy over fundraising events attended by Cabinet ministers—including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—with Canadian business leaders as well as Chinese investors.

Currently, Mr. Trudeau and his party remain well-ahead of the Conservatives and the NDP on the Nanos Party Power index, at 65.4 points compared to 44.8 for the NDP, and 44.5 for the Conservatives, which is in the midst of a leadership contest, with interim leader Rona Ambrose (Sturgeon River-Parkland, Alta.) at the helm.

Nanos Research president Nik Nanos said the Liberal Party is attempting to stir up members and supporters a year after their election win, while taking advantage of the unrest and sometimes party-polarizing policies emerging from the Conservative leadership candidates.

“This is about the Liberals motivating their core and using the Conservatives as political bogeymen,” Mr. Nanos said in an email response to questions from The Hill Times. “The challenge for the Liberals is complacency,” he added. “If people think the Conservatives and NDP are weak, then it is harder to raise funds and motivate the Liberal tribe.”

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