Parties need funds to both develop and promote their platforms, and then convince the electorate to vote for them. Where does the money come from?
The Political Process Financing Act (PPFA) provides for the partial funding (from tax revenues) of registered political parties in New Brunswick and also specifies how individuals, corporations and unions may also contribute funds to political parties. Provincial financing of political parties was originally based on a $1 per vote formula (indexed to inflation; e.g. the amount per vote allotted in 1981 was $1.30). However, in 1991, the formula was changed and currently allocations are capped according to amounts set in the provincial budget. A revised formula is used to calculate funds for each party (based both on the proportion of votes received in the previous election and the available budgetary allocations). These amounts are paid out in quarterly installments, but note that, while allocations are determined by fiscal year, parties report their financial information by calendar year. The Act also regulates how parties may raise other funds, from individuals, corporations, or unions. A contributor may not donate more than $6000 per year.
Charts below show trends in funding sources over a four-year period, 2009-2012. Data were obtained from annual and semi-annual financial returns (filed by parties as required under the Act) provided by Elections New Brunswick. Reimbursements for auditing costs and ‘in-kind’ contributions are not included in the charts. It is unfortunate that Elections NB does not simply place these returns on their website, preferably in a searchable format. The reports also contain lists of individuals, corporations, and unions donations to a particular party. Contributions greater than $100 are subject to public disclosure. Although the data can be obtained simply by sending an email request to Elections NB, I am not sure that the non-searchable (electronically) PDFs they supply really meet the spirit of that ‘public disclosure’ criterion.
Parties have the option of filing audited returns on an annual or semi-annual schedule (calendar year basis). Most parties file annual audited returns, but the NBLA files audited semi-annual returns. NBLA totals shown below are the annual totals of the two semi-annual reports for each calendar year.
Annual allowances from provincial revenues under the PPFA totalled $506,506 in calendar year 2009 (divided among the three parties eligible) and $654,052 in 2012 (five parties eligible).
Charts contain the following acronyms:
PCNB – Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick; NBLA – New Brunswick Liberal Association; NBNDP – New Brunswick New Democratic Party; GPNB – Green Party of New Brunswick; PANB – Peoples’ Alliance of New Brunswick
PPFA – Political Process Financing Act – Election Financing Manual (funds received from government budget allocations in a given calendar year via the PPFA formula); IND – Individual donors (sum of donations of <$100 and >$100); CORP – Corporate donors; UNION – Union donors
The charts show contributions from each source category by calendar year and party. By hovering your mouse over each section of the bar, you can see the dollar amount (rounded to nearest dollar) for each source for that party and year.
The Liberals were in office in 2009, having replaced a Progressive Conservative administration in 2006. It is not surprising then that they were able to out-perform the other parties with respect to fund-raising. This year (2009) was the first year in which the Green Party submitted a report for the full calendar year; as they did not offer candidates in at least 10 ridings in the previous 2006 election they were not eligible for financing under the PPFA. The PANB did not become a registered political party until 2010.
The year 2010 was an election year, and the governing Liberals were trailing badly in the polls in the months leading up to the election in late 2010. The Progressive Conservative party was the main beneficiary of voter dissatisfaction. Note especially the gains in corporate fundraising by the Conservatives.
The Progressive Conservatives continued to hold significant leads in fundraising throughout 2011 and 2012. Unaudited financial returns for the PCNB and audited returns for the NBLA for the first half of 2013 do not show much change in fortunes. On the other hand, recent public opinion polls suggest that the Liberals should be seeing an uptick in fundraising success and that may not yet be showing up in these numbers. PANB contributions in 2011 and 2012 were too small to show up on the charts, but they received about $4000 and $8000 in each year, respectively, from PPFA allocations (i.e. government funding) plus small amounts from contributors, resulting in totals of about $5000 in 2011 and about $10,000 in 2012.
In the last chart, we can see the proportion of total funding contributed by each source (where, e.g. 0.8 = 80%). Non-PPFA refers to the total of all funds from individual, corporate, and union sources. These are the averages for the four years 2009-2012, except for the Green Party and PANB where only 2011 and 2012 data are shown. Note that both these two latter parties are very reliant upon PPFA funding, having been unable as of yet to obtain much in the way of contributions from individuals or organizations. The Green Party, however, is raising significantly more non-PPFA funds than the PANB, and had about 54 individuals donating more than $100 listed in the 2012 PPFA return. That is a sizable increase from 2011, when 14 individuals donated more than $100 each to the Green Party. The PANB, by contrast, had only five individuals donating more than $100 listed in the 2012 return; the 2011 return listed just four such individuals. The PANB appears to be treading water.
Over the four-year period, the NDP appears to rely more upon individual donors (62% of non-PPFA funds) than either the PCNB (42% of non-PPFA from individuals) or the NBLA (37% of non-PPFA from individuals). That may be why the NDP has suggested banning corporate and union contributions – having obtained just 6 and 12% of non-PPFA funds from corporate and union sectors, respectively, they have the least to lose compared to the other major parties. It is also interesting that over this four-year period, the Liberals relied somewhat more on PPFA funding as a proportion of their total than either the PCs or the NDP.