Parliament should abolish politiciansâ€™ bulk mailing privileges. Between the serial abuse of the privilege by MPs and the fact we live in an era of ubiquitous digital communication, there is no longer a justifiable reason for taxpayers to be getting flyers and other assorted political epistles at their own expense.
Where even 10 years ago it was reasonable to have taxpayers pay the cost of receiving mailed information about the doings of their elected representative and the latest business of the House of Commons, in the digital age it is a redundant waste of money and resources. Letâ€™s be honest: How many Canadians spend any time at all reading the flyers their MPs, provincial representatives and municipal councillors print up and send to them at taxpayer expense? The vast majority of the flyers end up in the recycling bin in mint condition.
To add insult to injury, MPs in particular have made a sport of abusing their bulk mailing privileges. This week, Conservative Party MPs have been asked by party officials to send their constituents a flyer that is nothing more than an attack ad targeting Liberal leader Justin Trudeau. It is scandalous, but it is only the latest such outrage.
Three years ago, after MPs had begun flooding their opponentsâ€™ ridings with partisan flyers, they agreed to a ceasefire: MPs would only mail flyers to their own constituents. This was quickly undone, however, when MPs began using their so-called â€œfrankingâ€ privilege â€“ the right to send a letter anywhere in Canada at no cost in an envelope bearing the MP’s name â€“ to carpet bomb targeted opponentsâ€™ ridings with yet more partisan attacks, this time on letterhead.
It is an entirely uncomplicated fact that taxpayers should never bear the cost of printing and receiving partisan mailings. Yet MPs continue to spout utter nonsense in their efforts to muddy the crystal-clear waters of common sense. â€œItâ€™s entirely appropriate for Canadians to be informed about those contrasting aspects of leadership they have available,â€ Government House Leader Peter Van Loan argued in defence of the bulk-mailing of the Trudeau attack ads, and thereby missed the point. It is within the current rules, perhaps. But playing up the strengths of a party leader at the expense of a rival is not an appropriate use of public money â€“ especially not in a democratic country that purports to make a distinction between the wellbeing of any one political party and the general wellbeing of the taxpayer.
Just when you thought the Harper Conservatives could stoop no lower with their attack ads against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, they discovered something even more base.
Household mailings, paid for by taxpayers, are supposed to communicate information from MPs to constituents about doings in government. Every MP, of course, puts her or his spin on things because, after all, theyâ€™re politicians. But household mailings often contain straightforward information about which government office a constituent should phone, how to apply for government programs, or what this or that piece of legislation means.
But now the Conservatives have decided to use these mailings â€“ as much as 10 per cent of the voters receive them at any one time â€“ as nothing more than a printed negative ad against Mr. Trudeau. Itâ€™s one thing for the Conservative Party to use its money to buy television airtime to demean Mr. Trudeau; itâ€™s another to use your money for the same base purposes. But as we see, the Harper attack machine does politics this way, always has and always will, because the Prime Minister â€“ who authorizes all this stuff, after all â€“ obviously thinks it works.
It’s never the big things that trip up governments, it is stuff like this. Â Voters aren’t stupid, we know this stuff is being paid for by taxpayers and it starts to add up. Â Bev Oda’s orange juice, these ten percenters, a defence minister taking helicopter rides so he can fishâ€¦ It’s not a partisan thing. Â It’s the transition a government that is going from serving to being entitled. Â