Jason Kenney (left) Canada's Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism stands on stage with a Chinese opera performer as they pose for a photo opportunity at the Mon Sheong long term care centre in Richmond Hill, Ont. during a Chinese New Year celebration on Sunday February 17, 2013. Chris Young/Canadian Press
Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney's Calgary riding association has raked in almost $145,000 from Ontario since 2007, a CBC News analysis reveals.
It's no secret that Kenney has spent the last few years courting Toronto-area ethnic communities on behalf of the Conservative Party, first as the minister of multiculturalism and then as immigration minister.
His outreach efforts have been credited as a key factor behind the big blue wave that swept away many of those former Liberal fortresses in 2011.
The CBC News analysis of Elections Canada records reveals that more than $93,000 — more than 60 per cent — of those donations came from Chinese-Canadians in Toronto. Most of the donations came in clusters around a single date, suggesting they were contributed through fundraising events.
The files show similar, if more modest, batch donations from Toronto-area South Asian communities.
According to riding association president Patrick Donnelly, it's "not uncommon" for riding associations to accept contributions from any and all eligible donors, "whether they are local or from other parts of the country," provided that they comply with Elections Canada financing rules.
"We've received such donations since Mr. Kenney was first elected."
Annual reports filed by the riding association between 2004 and 2006, however — the earliest years for which such information is available — show a donor base nearly exclusively located within the Calgary area.
These days, Kenney's reach within Toronto's ethnic communities appears to go deeper than virtually any other Conservative MP, including the prime minister.
In 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Calgary Southwest riding association raised just over $100,000 from 404 contributors, with just two Toronto-based donations of more than $200.
Kenney's Calgary Southeast riding association pulled in nearly double that amount from double the number of donors across Canada — $195,000 from 951 contributors, including more than $50,000 in donations over $200 from 78 supporters in the Toronto area.
By all indications, Kenney has managed to parlay his personal popularity into a steady stream of financial support from the same southern Ontario hotbed of voters that propelled his party to majority victory, which may make him a force to be reckoned with in any future leadership campaign, regardless of whether he ultimately decides to throw his hat in the ring.
Even if he were to decide not to join the race, with that kind of support, Kenney could easily play king (or queen) maker.
Contributors to Kenney's riding association, 2007-12 (Source: Elections Canada)
Note: This spreadsheet allows viewers to sort and filter data.
Can draw $20,000 in a single day
In May 2007, just four months after he was first appointed to what was then a junior ministerial multicultural post, Kenney's riding association took in $20,000 in a single day, thanks to a flurry of $1,000 cheques from Toronto-area supporters of Chinese and South Asian descent.
According to proactive disclosure filings for that quarter, on the same day, Kenney flew to Istanbul to represent Canada at the annual Bilderberg conference.
Almost exactly two years later, on May 5, 2009, another $12,000 found its way to Calgary Southeast, with the bulk of the money once again coming from members of the Greater Toronto Area's Chinese-Canadian community.
In some instances, the dates of those donations seem to overlap with Kenney's ministerial travel schedule.
On March 6, 2011, he was in Toronto for a full day of official business, including "meetings with Canadian traditional Chinese medicine stakeholders."
That same day, Elections Canada records show that his riding received nearly $20,000 from contributors whose surnames indicate a common Chinese heritage.
(Coincidentally, just days before that visit, Kenney was fending off opposition calls for his resignation following the leak of a letter sent out by his office to raise funds for an ad campaign targeting Greater Toronto Area South Asian and Chinese communities.)
During a weekend trip through Toronto last fall, Kenney managed to raise more than $40,000 in just two days.
As reported by the Ottawa Citizen, on Sept. 13, 2012, Toronto mortgage broker Felix Egbert hosted a "private party" for Kenney at which 20 guests — all of whom had Sri Lankan surnames — handed over cheques for $1,000 or more.
The next night, another $23,000 rolled in, mostly from Chinese-Canadian contributors.
(According to his Twitter feed, Kenney spent the evening at a fundraiser hosted by Richmond Hill MP Costas Menegaski, whose riding association reported no donations over $200 on that date.)
Fundraising rules strict
Any Conservative considering an eventual run for the top job knows all too well that there's no point in launching a campaign without a dependable and sustainable cash supply.
Under the stringent post-2006 political financing rules, that means a dependable, sustainable pool of potential contributors — ideally, the sort that would be willing to give right up to the $1,300 legal limit (that limit is adjusted regularly for inflation).
In 2012, Kenney's riding association received donations of $200 or more from 230 donors, 78 of whom were from the Greater Toronto Area.
Another 721 contributors gave smaller donations of less than $200, but since Elections Canada doesn't require those names to be disclosed, it's impossible to know if the geographic breakdown was the same.
Having 951 contributors may not sound like a lot, but it still puts Calgary Southeast ahead of every other Conservative riding association for 2012.
If there is, in fact, a Team Kenney in waiting, they're almost certainly hoping to convert those contributors into eventual leadership supporters — particularly those in the Greater Toronto Area.
Not only did the Toronto-area supporters give an average of $665 per person last year — nearly $200 more than the total donor base — but their apparent eagerness to send money to a riding association three provinces away suggests that it's Kenney — or, in this case, Kenney's riding association — that they're so keen to support.
Donations between election campaigns can go to a party or a riding association, but not to a specific person, since there's no candidate between elections.
Little crossover with party donors
A quick check of party and riding donor lists suggests little crossover between those batch donations to Calgary Southeast and similarly clustered donations to the party.
Of course, all of the above is contingent on Kenney continuing to cultivate those cultural and ethnic communities, which may explain why he hung onto the multiculturalism file even after being shuffled out of Citizenship and Immigration.
He'll also have to ensure that his Toronto-area caucus colleagues don't start grumbling over all that money flowing to Calgary Southeast, particularly in quantities large enough to push the donor to the legal limit. After all, every $1,300 collected by Kenney on his riding's behalf removes a donor from the local fundraising pool.
As yet, none of them seem to mind sharing their turf with Kenney, Then again, since most of them were carried to the Commons by that big blue wave in 2011, perhaps they figure they owe him.
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