Campaign Finance

Current Project

“Show Me the Money: Investigating Campaign Finance in Canada”

Although money is required in politics to mobilize and educate voters about important issues, it may become a problem if the sources and recipients of money are not representative. Campaign donations may serve as an important source of leverage for interest groups and give wealthy donors access to those in government. Candidates and parties risk becoming beholden to their donors, rather than serving the interests of the public. Additionally, the uneven allocation of money among parties and candidates may create an uneven ‘playing field’. Parties and candidates with full coffers may be better able to get their message out, and entice citizens to vote for them through well-organized and flashy campaigns. The views of smaller parties and candidates with fewer donors may not be heard, threatening the breadth of democratic representation. For these reasons, the challenge of regulating the role of money in politics remains a critical issue to the health of elections around the globe.

This project seeks to cast light on the role of money in Canadian democracy, and its differential effects for under-represented population groups. It asks three sets of questions:

  • What are the characteristics and motivations of citizens who donate to political campaigns? What are the patterns of individual political donations?
  • Which candidates receive campaign financing? How is money used in local campaigns?
  • What is the impact of money for electoral success in local races?

To answer these questions, this project will take a primarily quantitative approach, employing the under-utilized Elections Canada expense reports and campaign contribution database from 2004-2015, combined with census and survey data. It will use empirical evidence to tackle the major questions about money in politics in Canada.

Conference Presentations

  • “Who Gives? Campaign Donations in Canadian Federal Elections,” Canadian Political Science Association, Regina, SK (2018)