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Increased campaign spending limits put Liberals, NDP at disadvantage

Federal campaign spending limits in the Yukon are more than double what they were during the last election.

Federal campaign spending limits in the Yukon are more than double what they were during the last election. That could create a large gap between what Yukon Conservative MP Ryan Leef and the other candidates can afford to spend on this campaign.

Elections Canada has announced that candidates in the Yukon can spend up to $209,000 in the run-up to the federal election on Oct. 19. That’s up from a limit of just under $86,000 during the 2011 campaign.

The limit has been increased due to the unusual length of this year’s campaign, which will last 78 days instead of the typical 37.

Darren Parsons, Leef’s campaign manager, said his riding association has already raised close to $209,000, and he expects “the Ryan Leef campaign will have its full allotment.”

“We are in a very strong position for where we want to be financially,” he said.

Parsons said all of that money comes from fundraising and donations in the Yukon, not from federal transfers.

“We don’t require that outside assistance,” he said. “We punch well above our weight.”

But the Conservatives may well be the only party to come anywhere close to that limit.

Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell said he expects to spend between $80,000 and $90,000 on this campaign. NDP candidate Melissa Atkinson said her campaign has about $50,000 right now, but is actively fundraising.

Unless those numbers change dramatically, the Liberals and NDP will be at a serious financial disadvantage during this campaign.

In contrast, during the 2011 election, the Liberals and Conservatives both spent about $80,000, while the NDP spent just under $43,000.

Dan Bader, Atkinson’s deputy campaign manager, said the Harper government created a fixed election date to keep a level playing field between parties. But with this longer campaign, he said, “they’ve gamed the rules again.”

“They’ve... put the game back in their favour,” he said. “We’re going to do our best to match them dollar for dollar and count on Yukoners for their support.” Atkinson said her focus is on getting to know people and encouraging them to vote.

“I see that as a bigger issue than how much money I can spend to have flashy signs,” she said.

Bagnell also said he isn’t too concerned about his party’s thinner wallet.

“For us, this campaign is not about money,” he said. “It’s more about ideas and experience.”

Bagnell said he’s already been out to most of the communities, and his smaller budget won’t affect his ability to travel and meet people.

But in areas like campaign advertising, the Conservatives will almost certainly have the upper hand. Parsons said advertising - including lawn signs and radio and newspaper ads - is the “largest single budget item” in Leef’s campaign.

“All of these tools are meant to get our message directly to Yukoners,” he said.

Still, Parsons said the Conservatives don’t have an unfair advantage over the other parties.

“There’s nothing we do that the others could not do,” he said. “We work year in and year out to ensure that we have the resources available to us. If the others aren’t finding the same kind of support, then they’ll have to answer as to why that is.”

Contact Maura Forrest at