Canada

Where money wasn’t everything

IAN URQUHART June 28 1976
Canada

Where money wasn’t everything

IAN URQUHART June 28 1976

Where money wasn’t everything

OTTAWA

For an aspiring politician, the euphoria of victory is presumably a priceless thing. There is a price in terms of cold, hard cash, as the financial statements of candidates in last February’s Conservative leadership race showed. The statements, released this month, should also serve to disabuse diehard cynics of any notion that elections can easily be purchased. In the race for the Tory leadership, winner Joe Clark was outspent by six of his rivals, and took the prize for a campaign outlay of just

$168,353. Clark’s frugal campaign compared favorably with those of other leaders. His predecessor, Robert Stanfield, spent nearly $150,000 to win the Conservative laurels back in 1967 and Pierre Trudeau spent roughly twice that to become Liberal chief in 1968. In terms of preinflation, 1967-68 dollars, Clark spent only about $96,000.

The biggest spender of all in this year’s Tory race was apparently Montreal lawyer Brian Mulroney, who dazzled the media, if not the Conservatives, with a flashy, highprofile campaign. In defiance of party regulations, Mulroney—who has joined the Iron Ore Co. of Canada as executive vice-president and is apparently out of politics—refused to file a financial statement showing what he spent and where he got the money. But knowledgeable sources estimate he spent $343,000, which works out to roughly $1,000 for each of the 357 firstballot votes he received. According to the official statements filed, the next biggest spender was Toronto’s Sinclair Stevens, who shelled out $294,106, followed by Paul Hellyer at $287,788 and Alberta MP Jack Homer, who spent $278,000. Quebec’s Claude Wagner—runner-up to Clark in the balloting—spent $266,538. Among those who spent less than Clark were Flora MacDonald (MP for Kingston and the Is-

lands, $152,704), and British Columbia’s John Fraser ($116,107).

For some, the business of running, and losing, proved expensive. The party offers a subsidy of up to $30,000 to offset campaign costs (which Mulroney forfeited, as may Jack Horner, who violated party rules by declaring his expenses but not his

sources). Even so, Sinclair Stevens, at the time of the May 22 filing deadline, reported a deficit after contributions of $180,041 and Wagner was $102,678 out of pocket. Hardest hit was Hellyer with a $205,829 deficit. And, says Hellyer, it is becoming increasingly difficult for politicians to raise money. “Business, reciprocating the long-held public cynicism toward it,” says Hellyer, “is highly skeptical of post-Watergate era politics. Increasingly, it is adopting a hands-off attitude.” Clark had no such problem. As of May 22, his deficit was only $10,456, lowest of any major candidate. Observed one of Clark’s defeated colleagues: “The winner has no problem meeting his expenses after a convention. People who have never met him before suddenly remember they were going to donate to his campaign and mail cheques. The losers have the opposite problem with people who forget they ever promised any money.”

IAN URQUHART