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August 26, 2013

Money Wasn't Enough

With candidate election financing reports now available on the Elections BC website, there is more bad news for the NDP.

Never before did the NDP raise so much money that it was able to outspend the Liberal's central campaign and also, at a constituency level, outspend the Liberals in 37 of the 85 ridings. Nevertheless, the NDP lost in 14 ridings where it outspent the Liberals, including in North Vancouver-Lonsdale where the combined spending for the 60 day "pre-campaign" period and the April 16 through May 14, 2013 campaign was $65,583 for the Liberals and $96,704 for the NDP. There were 8 ridings where the NDP spent over $90,000 but lost. In 2009, there were only 14 ridings where the NDP outspent the Liberals; it won in all of those except the Comox Valley.

The NDP's Scott Fraser may have the secret to success. His 2013 campaign in Alberni-Pacific Rim spent only $21,930 over the full three month, pre-campaign and campaign, period compared to his Liberal opponent's $39,759. Fraser won with 57.6% of the vote. Fraser and others showed that while money helps, it takes more than money to win election campaigns.

The NDP probably got a boost in campaign contributions because it was perceived to be winning. From that position of strength it campaigned to lower expectations rather than reinforce why voters should want change. In normal campaigns, parties use research to test what arguments move votes and then use the results to design their campaign messages and advertisements. NDP ads sounded more like part of a victory lap than an argument for votes.

The Green's Andrew Weaver in Oak Bay-Gordon Head spent $91,070 compared to the NDP's $91,202 and the Liberal's $86,609. Ten Green candidates filed reports showing they spent nothing; simply having their name on the ballot wasn't enough to win but it was enough to receive between one thousand and two thousand votes in most cases. Apart from Weaver, only five Green candidates spent over $10,000.

The most spent in any Conservative campaign was $79,331 by Paul Redekopp in Abbotsford-West. Only 14 other Conservative candidates spent over $10,000.

In the foreseeable future there is not much hope that less money will be spent on provincial election campaigns. Between February 15 and May 14 the Liberals and NDP each spent just over $3 million on their central media campaigns, mostly TV ads. Relative to 2009 that was a $300,000 increase for the Liberals but more than a $1,000,000 increase for the NDP. The Liberals will have little trouble repeating that spending record, supplemented by millions in government ads, in 2017. For the NDP, it will be a challenge to match 2013 spending.