Is there any logic to national party transfers to candidates?

We know that quality candidates and incumbents (political experienced and those in high profile occupations) raise more money money than non-quality challengers.  But is there any logic in how national parties transfer money to their candidates?

Are quality challengers more likely to receive party transfers than other candidates?

Does money flow primarily to competitive elections?

First, how much money did national parties transfer to candidates over the past three years?

Conservative: $6,120,046
Liberal: $3,460,263
NDP: $2,512,754
BQ:   $2,167,403

Looking at the same data set I used from my Hill Times article this week, and using multivariate regression, I modeled party transfers (dependent variable) with a number of predictors:

  • Candidate political experience (dummy variables)
  • Candidate occupation (dummy variables)
  • Previous margin of victory/defeat
  • Candidate fundraising
  • Election year (dummy variables)
  • Region (dummy variables)

In thinking about the literature on political parties in Canada and the political environment during the three elections, I expected parties to:

  1. Support candidates who cannot or did not raise their own money.
  2. Support candidates in ridings where party support is higher, but not too high (like in safe seats).
  3. Support candidates in regions where party support has traditionally been low but the prospect for growth is good (like Conservative and NDP prospects in Quebec).
  4. Support high-quality candidates.

Today I report the findings for Conservative Party Candidates.

Conservative Party Transfers

The Conservative Party not only transferred the most money to its candidates but were also more likely to do so according to what we may expect.

First, the Conservative Party was more likely to transfer money to candidates who could not raise money on their own (this is different from the Liberal and New Democratic parties).  For every one dollar increase in candidate fundraising, party transfers would decrease by $0.10.  In other words, all else being equal, a candidate who raised $50,000 of their own money received $4,040 less from the national party than a candidate who could only raise $10,000.  The Conservative Party used transfers as a way to support candidates who did not raise their own money.

Note – it is difficult to untangle the relationship.  Some candidates who received money from the party may not have worked hard to raise their own funds.  All we know from the data is that the party transferred funds to candidates with lower fundraising totals.

Second, Conservative candidates running in Quebec were the primary beneficiaries of national transfers.  Quebec candidates received, on average and all else being equal, $11,032 more than Conservative candidates in Ontario over the last three elections.  Clearly, the national party supplemented the weaker Quebec organization with funds to help support its fledgling support in the province.

Third, the Conservative Party was more likely to support candidates running in constituencies with higher Conservative support in the previous election.  For every one percentage point increase in the party’s previous margin of victory/defeat (scale from 100 to -100), party transfers increased by $52.  In other words, a Conservative candidate running in a constituency where the previous Conservative candidate lost by 5 percentage points, received, all else being equal, $780 than a candidate running in a riding where the margin of defeat was 20 percentage points.

Finally, the Conservative Party was more likely to transfer money to candidates with previous political experience.  Candidates with municipal experience received the largest boast, receiving $4,530 more in transfers from the Conservative Party than candidates without political experience or in high-profile occupations, all else being equal.  Former MPs, political aides, and candidates in professional occupations were also more likely to receive national party transfers than non-quality candidates.


The Conservative Party’s transferring behaviour fit the expected model.  Party transfers increased as a candidate’s own fundraising decreased and flowed into constituencies where the party’s candidate had a better chance to win.  Regions where the party had growth potential but weak organization were also more likely to see transfers as were the campaigns of high-quality candidates, all else being equal.

David Coletto is CEO of Abacus Data and leads its Public Affairs research practice. He has a PhD from the University of Calgary and is an adjunct professor at Carleton University.

Contact David Coletto:

T: 613-232-2806 x. 248



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