Manitoba Tory party president says cancellation of fundraiser won't have big effect

WINNIPEG — Manitoba's Progressive Conservative Party said Thursday the sudden cancellation of a major fundraising dinner was due to scheduling conflicts and won't have a big effect on party finances.

The $200-a-plate dinner, featuring a speech by Premier Heather Stefanson and scheduled for Friday of next week, was called off in recent days without a public announcement. A web page that promoted the event, with an "enchanted forest" theme, was pulled down.

Party president Brent Pooles said the move was due to several competing events, including the Grey Cup in Regina, which Premier Heather Stefanson is scheduled to attend.

The Canadian Football League championship game is on Sunday, but the premier plans to be there early for weekend festivities.

"The premier, if the Bombers are in the Grey Cup, will be attending the Grey Cup," Pooles said. "So it's pretty hard to have a dinner when the premier's not there."

While Stefanson will no longer be required to speak to party members on the Friday evening, she is still scheduled to speak to members of the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association at a breakfast awards ceremony Friday morning. The event is at the same convention centre where the Tory dinner was planned.

Pooles cited other factors in the decision to cancel the dinner, including the ongoing nomination of candidates for the provincial election slated for next October and an imminent byelection campaign in the Kirkfield Park constituency in Winnipeg, a seat that has been vacant since June.

While the Grey Cup has long been scheduled, Pooles said the party only made the decision to cancel the dinner last week.

"I think when we took a look at it ... we could see there were all these competing events," he said.

"I think it was the first time we really sat down and looked at it."

Those who purchased tickets are to receive refunds and the party did not lose any deposit or other money for the cancellation, he said.

The fall dinner is one of two major fundraising events each year for the Tories. Pooles was unable to provide the number of tickets sold, but said, generally, it was tracking close to the roughly 800 sold for last spring's fundraising dinner.

The cancellation comes at time when the Opposition New Democrats have been closing the money-raising gap with the governing Tories.

Last year, the NDP took in $1.1 million in contributions and fundraising. The Tories took in $1.5 million, some of which was due to a membership surge for the leadership race that saw Stefanson succeed former premier Brian Pallister.

Pooles said Tory fundraising won't feel much of an effect from the cancellation of next week's dinner because the party will focus on encouraging more direct donations.

"I don't expect there will be a huge impact at the end of the day," he said. "It frees up people to just make cash donations now."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2022.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press