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Data released by Elections Canada shows that federal Conservative leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis, deemed a “political rookie” in recent media coverage, attracted the most individual donors in P.E.I. during the second quarter of 2020.
P.E.I. has been widely expected to be a safe region for Peter MacKay, who is originally from Nova Scotia. And MacKay has raised the most money in the province, both in the most recent quarter and in total since the leadership race began in January.
But for the quarter ending in June, Lewis drew donations from 37 individual donors in P.E.I., while MacKay drew donations from 35. Erin O’Toole had 20 donors while Derek Sloan had 10.
Across Atlantic Canada, MacKay is more firmly in the lead among leadership candidates, both in terms of total dollar amount raised and total individual donors. Since the race began, MacKay has raised $440,807 in the region, according to figures from Elections Canada.
Lewis has raised $50,111 in Atlantic Canada, more than the $47,785 raised by O’Toole, who was widely seen as the strongest challenger to MacKay at the outset of the leadership race.
Steven Outhouse, campaign manager for the Lewis campaign, said Lewis has made a concerted effort to reach out to Conservative members in P.E.I. She recently held a Zoom meeting with members of the Malpeque Electoral District Association.
Lewis has been very open with her pro-life views, said Outhouse.
“So that certainly would resonate with certain parts of the membership on P.E.I. But honestly we have lots of people supporting her who would not term themselves social conservative or pro-life."
Outhouse said Lewis has advanced a nuanced policy position on pro-life issues and specifically opposes sex-selective abortions, as well as coerced abortions. Lewis has also opposed a Liberal bill that would ban conversion therapy but has also stated she opposes forcing someone to take a therapy against their will.
Outhouse believes Lewis’ appeal goes beyond these issues.
"Social conservatives alone would not be accounting for the full breadth of her support," he said.
Outhouse added that Lewis, a Toronto-based lawyer whose family immigrated from Jamaica, is seen by many to be better placed than other candidates to win seats in the vote-rich GTA region.
A blog post written by Outhouse said Lewis drew the most unique donors of all candidates in B.C., Ontario and Saskatchewan, as well as P.E.I., in the most recent quarter. The sheer number of donors could be a barometer of the grassroots momentum of the Lewis campaign.
*A special note from Campaign Manager, Steve Outhouse*— Dr. Leslyn Lewis (@LeslynLewis) August 3, 2020
"This is the first glimpse we got into regional fundraising breakdowns, and the numbers show the race is shaping up to be far more interesting than what many thought it would be when it began."https://t.co/CjG3xcOHMG#cpcldr pic.twitter.com/tIidcfuG0t
Both the MacKay and O’Toole campaigns have raised more money than Lewis nationally. According to a report in the Globe and Mail, MacKay has raised $2,329,000 since January, while O’Toole has raised $2,101,000. Lewis has raised $1,439,000.
Thank you to the thousands of Canadians who donated to our campaign.— Peter MacKay (@PeterMacKay) August 4, 2020
I'm grateful to all who've given during these challenging times. Canadians are ready to replace Justin Trudeau.
I look forward to building on our support to ensure @CPC_HQ is ready to win the next election. pic.twitter.com/Uf47qaqOii
A statement from the Peter MacKay campaign pointed to his campaign’s advantage in fundraising.
“(MacKay) has raised the most money in the region by far and has the support of the vast majority of members of the federal caucus and candidates of record,” the statement said.
“He also has the support of provincial Conservative leaders, members of the legislatures, and former Members of Parliament and premiers who are all currently working hard to ensure Atlantic Canadians cast their ballots for the next leader of the Conservative Party.”
Former P.E.I. Premier Pat Binns and former Egmont MP Gail Shea have both endorsed Peter MacKay.
The deadline for receiving mail-in ballots in the party's leadership race is Aug. 21, 2020.