CFN – Yesterday, Stephen Harper defended the Conservative’s use of bulk mail outs or “ten percenters” that attack Justin Trudeau, the new Liberal leader.
“There are House of Commons rules for communications that we do with constituents across the country,” Harper said. “All parties work within those rules, and all parties use those activities and use those rules.”
Based on my own experience, this was a pretty accurate statement. Yes, they all do it. But should they?
These ten percenters are sent out through the House of Commons (IE using taxpayer’s dollars) and they are a mail out that is designed to allow an MP to communicate a few times a year with a mass mailing to 10% of their constituents.
I wonder how many taxpayers who receive these flyers realize that they helped pay the bill for sending them out. I suspect, most if they even bothered to read them, would think it was a mail out from a political party that was paid for by a political party.
Whenever these issues surface, all of the parties get into the blame game and angrily point their fingers at the other parties and highlight examples from their opponent’s abuse of these mail outs. But, none of the parties can adopt a holier than thou attitude.
I have received these propaganda items from all parties at one time or another. The same goes for the abuse of franked mail (the free mailing privileges of an MP), which has been used to dump more propaganda into a riding held by another party. Over time both the 10 percenters and franked mail have become part of a party’s advertising strategy, but unlike TV and newspaper ads, they are paid for by the taxpayer instead of by donors to a party.
But why do taxpayers allow any party to use public funds in this manner? If a party wants to send out propaganda and attack pieces shouldn’t each party have to pay for it?
In this day and age of technology and multimedia communications do we even need ten percenters?
All of the parties stress accountability and transparency and proper management of the public purse. If that is the case, none of the parties should have a problem asking the House of Commons to bring in stricter guidelines that eliminate partisanship from these items. That would be the right thing to do. As it stands now our political parties are getting a free ride at the taxpayers’ expense.
Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails. To sponsor this column please email firstname.lastname@example.org!