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Figures show Manitoba Tories had seven-figure liabilities at end of 2023

New figures show the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives finished last year with $1.2 million in debt and other liabilities.

The number, outlined in filings with Elections Manitoba, is roughly five times what was racked up by the New Democrats, who swept to power in the Oct. 3 election.

The Tories spent roughly $1 million more than the NDP last year, with much of the money going to salaries, polling and advertising.

Party president Brent Pooles said much of that money was spent before the election campaign as the party prepared for the contest.

The extra debt means the Tories have a steeper hill to climb to get out of debt and build up a war chest for the next election, slated for 2027, as well as any byelections.

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Pooles says the party’s financial situation is “OK” and will improve, due in part to the province’s 25-per-cent refund on campaign expenses for parties and candidates.

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“A lot of our constituency associations have money in their bank accounts as well,” Pooles said Monday.

“So we’ve got a plan and I expect that a year from now, we’ll be out of the glue.”

The party is also facing the expense of a leadership contest to replace Heather Stefanson, who stepped down from the party helm in January. The contest is scheduled for spring of next year.

A leadership race can bring in new money via party membership sales and candidate entry fees. But the event is break-even “at best” when the cost of organizing and holding the event is factored in, Pooles said.

The Tory debt did not come as a surprise to Christopher Adams, an adjunct professor of political studies at the University of Manitoba. He said the Tories ran a full-scale campaign but saw fewer donations as polls indicated they were set to lose power.

“Then you’re spending a lot of money but you aren’t bringing in the donations as expected,” Adams said.

The documents filed with Elections Manitoba show the difference in fundraising was stark during the election period, as the NDP’s monetary contributions were almost double that of the Tories.

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