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Six things we learned from the latest Conservative leadership fundraising data

By Chelsea Nash      

While not officially supporting anyone, Caroline Mulroney Lapham made a substantial donation to one candidate.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney with his daughter Caroline Mulroney Lapham, right, then-Conservative nominee Paul Smith, and three of his grandchildren, Lewis, Pierce and Elizabeth Theodora Lapham in 2014 in Cobourg, Ont. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
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1. Caroline Mulroney Lapham donated to Lisa Raitt

Caroline Mulroney Lapham, daughter of former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, at one time had her name bandied about as a possible contender for the leadership of the Conservative Party. She quickly announced she was flattered but not interested. 

But that doesn’t mean she’s not paying attention to the race. The vice-president of investment counselling firm BloombergSen made a hefty contribution to Lisa Raitt’s (Milton, Ont.) campaign the day before she announced she was running. On Nov. 1, Ms. Mulroney Lapham donated $1,525 to Ms. Raitt, the maximum contribution allowed, according to fundraising data from the leadership contenders released by Elections Canada last week. The Conservative MP announced her bid for the party leadership on Nov. 2.

Ms. Mulroney Lapham told The Hill Times she donated to Ms. Raitt because they are friends. She is not formally supporting anyone, she said.

In December 2015, columnist Christina Blizzard floated the idea of Ms. Mulroney Lapham running, in a column for The Toronto Sun, describing the former prime minister’s daughter as “Justin Trudeau’s worst nightmare.”

When she was transport minister in 2014 under the Conservatives, Ms. Raitt recommended the appointment of Ms. Mulroney Lapham to be a director on the Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority.

2. Some social conservatives cover their bases

Candidates who openly support socially conservative issues in this race include MP Brad Trost (Saskatoon-University, Sask.), whose tagline is “100 per cent Conservative,” and who was recently the only MP in a vote in the House of Commons to oppose Bill C-309, a private member’s bill that would establish a gender equality week. The bill passed second reading on Feb. 1 and headed to committee for further study, by a vote of 287-1.

Former MP Pierre Lemieux has also been branded as a social conservative in this race. Mr. Lemieux opposes same-sex marriage, and is considered anti-abortion as per his voting record in the House.

In September, the National Post reported that the anti-abortion advocacy group Campaign Life Coalition was calling on Conservatives to support Mr. Lemieux and Mr. Trost in their efforts to become party leader. The group said at the time it would also support MP Andrew Scheer (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) if he were to enter the race, but it has since re-evaluated its support for the former Speaker, given his assertion that he would not re-open debates on abortion or same-sex marriage, but would allow his MPs to speak their minds.

Candidate Brad Trost, in his opposition to same-sex marriage and his anti-abortion position, appeals to social conservatives. Here, an advertisement he used in his campaign.

Mr. Scheer’s voting record has previously been lauded by the group for being anti-abortion.

The Hill Times found that seven per cent of those who gave financial support to at least one of the socially conservative candidates, also gave to at least one other candidate identified here. One hundred forty-nine donors gave to at least two of the three social conservatives, though some gave to all three.

Of this group, Mr. Trost seemed to be the common denominator, with only 15 people donating only to Mr. Scheer and Mr. Lemieux. Mr. Scheer and Mr. Trost was the most popular combination of donations.

3. Dragon drama  

Someone by the name of Brett Wilson donated $1,000 to Michael Chong’s (Wellington-Halton Hills, Ont.) campaign in May, which prompted The Hill Times to reach out to the Dragons’ Den star who shares the same name.

Though Mr. Wilson initially said he hadn’t made the donation, he later clarified that his records were wrong and he in fact had donated through a fundraising barbecue a friend of his hosted for Mr. Chong last spring.

“[A]nd yes—I will still support him further,” he wrote in an email.

The Canadian business tycoon made a point to publicly comment on the Conservative leadership race when he defended his former reality TV co-star and now contender for the top job, Kevin O’Leary, against attacks from another former Dragon, Arlene Dickinson.

Ms. Dickinson characterized Mr. O’Leary as having a “total lack of empathy,” and asserted that the arrogant, cold-shouldered persona he demonstrated on TV was in fact genuine.

Mr. Wilson tweeted that he appreciated Mr. O’Leary’s “candid albeit sometimes politically incorrect approach,” and identified him as “one of two candidates I am supporting in this race.”

4. Fundraising dinners accounted for some multiple donations

While some Conservative donors do indeed contribute to the campaigns of more than one candidate (particularly in a race with 14 of them), it doesn’t necessarily mean that they support any of these candidates.

For instance, The Hill Times learned that several high-profile donors who appeared to give $100 donations to multiple candidates did not have specific intentions of doing so.

In October, two fundraising dinners were hosted that featured five of the candidates: Mr. Trost, Mr. Scheer, Kellie Leitch (Simcoe Grey, Ont.), Maxime Bernier (Beauce, Que.), and Mr. Chong.

The tickets for the events were $500 a piece, and the money raised was split between the five candidates who attended.

The dinners were hosted on Oct. 1 and Oct. 11. Conservative Senator Linda Frum co-hosted the dinner on Oct. 1. She and her spouse, Howard Sokolowski, are both listed as having made $100 donations to each of the five candidates on that day. Sen. Frum’s office confirmed this was the reason for her multiple donations, but said it could not speak for Mr. Sokolowski, former co-owner of the Toronto Argonauts football team.

Sen. Frum was unavailable for comment, but she later donated $1,000 to Ms. Raitt’s campaign, on Nov. 9.

Aaron W. Regent is also listed as having made the same donations on the same day. The former CEO of Barrick Gold and current board member of Scotiabank did not respond when asked to confirm it was indeed him who attended the event.

Similarly, Postmedia CEO Paul V. Godfrey is listed as having donated the $100 sum to those five candidates.

On Oct. 11, former MP John Carmichael gave a donation of $100 to each Mr. Trost, Mr. Scheer, Ms. Leitch, Mr. Bernier, and Mr. Chong.

On Nov. 11, he donated $1,000 to Ms. Raitt’s campaign, whom he is supporting for the leadership.

Former MP John Carmichael is supporting Lisa Raitt in her campaign. Prior to her entry to the race, he attended a fundraising dinner for the five official candidates. The Hill Times file photo

Mr. Carmichael said the $100 donations were for a fundraiser hosted at The York Club in Toronto for candidates who were registered at the time.

“There were a number of people at that event, so that would have happened to a number of people who were undecided or just wanted to go and hear all the candidates,” he said in an interview.

5. The ‘Prince of Pot’ donated to Maxime Bernier

Marijuana activist Marc Emery has made several contributions to Mr. Bernier’s campaign. He gave three instalments of $350, one each on Nov. 9, Nov. 18, and Dec. 5. In the third quarter, he was recorded as having donated $60 to “Mad Max” on Sept. 6 and $360 on Sept. 14. In total, he donated $1,470 in 2016.

“I love that guy. I love every one of his policies. I even love the way he speaks,” Mr. Emery said, when asked why he has repeatedly supported Mr. Bernier.

Mr. Emery said while he has not discussed the issue of marijuana legalization with Mr. Bernier, he’s “sure he’d prefer an open market for cannabis.” Mr. Bernier is known as the libertarian candidate in this race, through, among other things, his vocal opposition to supply management.

“I’m sure he’d prefer it to be legalized. I’m sure he would not appreciate the government monopolizing it, which is what I fear the Liberals will do,” he said.

Initially, he was cynical about Mr. Bernier, he said, but after looking closely at his policies, and meeting him, “I said I love this guy, so I gave 60 bucks.”

“I think Maxime is rooted by some iron-clad principles,” he said.

Mr. Bernier told The Huffington Post in July: “In principle, I’m in favour of the legalization of marijuana but that being said I will comment on the Liberal plan once it will be tabled in the House.”

A Cannabis Culture storefront in Montreal, one of many such stores owned by pot activist Marc Emery. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

6. Advocates for parliamentary reform donated to Chong

Former Liberal MP and two-time Liberal leadership contestant Martha Hall Findlay donated $199 back in July to Mr. Chong.

In an email exchange, Ms. Hall Findlay clarified that in her current role as president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation, she has to be non-partisan, and currently does not belong to a political party.

However, she said her contribution to Mr. Chong’s campaign in July “was made because I have in the past supported Michael’s efforts at, for example, reforming Question Period…and I appreciated times that he stood up for things he believed in even if it wasn’t easy to do.”

In 2006, Mr. Chong resigned from Stephen Harper’s cabinet as intergovernmental affairs minister over a government motion to identify the Québécois as a nation within Canada.

More recently, he was also responsible for making waves in the Conservative Party when he introduced the Reform Act in 2013, which allows a party’s MPs to review and remove party leaders. The intention was to ensure a more balanced power dynamic between party leaders and their MPs. In a government where Mr. Harper was criticized for his hard line on toeing the party line, the private member’s bill, which eventually became law, was seen by some as a response to this.

Alison Loat, co-founder of Samara Canada, donated $200 to Mr. Chong’s campaign in June. A large portion of Samara Canada’s work revolves around improving Parliament, as demonstrated by its “50 ways to redesign Parliament” webpage. Ms. Loat is not formally involved with Samara anymore, and is currently working in Boston.

Ms. Loat, who has personally researched democratic reform, and also authored the book Tragedy in the Commons, confirmed she did make the donation, but did not wish to comment further.

—With files from Kristen Shane

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that Brett Wilson in fact did donate to Michael Chong’s campaign.



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