November 27, 2015


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Capital Chronicles

The $10 million question

It will be interesting to see what happens now that the House of Commons voted in favour of the motion to get rid of 10 percenters.

There are few topics which generate more e-mails to me than this one, and for the last several years I have received many unsolicited calls and letters from Manitobans who hate the political junk-mail machine.

Ten percenters are flyers sent by MPs to voters in other ridings. Parliamentary rules allow any MP to send a flyer to another riding as long as the number of each particular mailing is no greater than 10 per cent of the households within an MPs riding.

It was designed to allow MPs to communicate with voters in ridings they do not hold. However all political parties have corrupted their use so badly taxpayers last year spent $10 million sending the equivalent of partisan attack ads to themselves.

Ironically, while there are no limits on how many 10 percenters an MP can send to people who are not his or her constituents, Parliament limits mailings within their own riding to four per year.

Regardless, the opposition parties voted en masse in favour of the motion to eliminate 10 per centers (140 Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs) and the Conservatives voted en masse against (137).

Much of the debate about the motion was a back-and-forth across the floor of MPs spewing examples of the other sides’ 10 per centers. All the debate really did was prove two things:

  1. Every party sends them.
  2. Most of them are extremely partisan.

The big question really is whether there is a legitimate argument for them to be funded by the taxpayer.

Liberal MP Wayne Easter, who introduced the motion, said the flyers are "little more than propaganda pieces for partisan purposes by all parties" and therefore shouldn’t be funded by government.

Manitoba MP James Bezan called the motion hypocritical, because the Liberals were so against the idea of eliminating per-vote subsidies to political parties. (Yes, the issue that created the coalition and resulted in parliament being prorogued in December 2008).

"I just want to comment briefly on the hypocrisy of the motion, which talks about cutting money going to the ten percenter program when all the parties in the opposition also want to continue to keep getting their voter subsidies they voted so strongly against a couple of years ago. So if it is all right to use voter money to fund the political operations of the parties, then why is not all right to use contrast pieces and uphold democracy so that all Canadians can see what we are doing in the House of Commons in contrasting the policies of our parties?"

So what happens now? Is the Liberal motion binding? Will the Conservatives figure out a way to not make it stick?

For the record, in 2008-09, this is what Manitoba’s current 14 MPs spent on mailings. One must note there were four MPs who were not in office for a full year due to the 2008 election; their totals are for about five months rather than 12. Their names are noted with an asterisk.

  1. Vic Toews, Conservative: $85,940
  2. Steven Fletcher, Conservative: $72,934
  3. Joy Smith, Conservative: $66,838
  4. James Bezan, Conservative: $61,379
  5. Inky Mark, Conservative: $53,056
  6. Rod Bruinooge, Conservative: $50,289
  7. Anita Neville, Liberal: $26,177
  8. Pat Martin, NDP: $25,241
  9. Judy Wasylycia-Leis, NDP: $24,862
  10. Merv Tweed, Conservative: $24,653
  11. *Shelly Glover, Conservative: $23,193
  12. *Candice Hoeppner, Conservative: $11,793
  13. *Jim Maloway, NDP: $7,264
  14. *Niki Ashton, NDP: $6,630

    Total: $567,402

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