Just scrap the ten-percenters

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IT is hard to square a political party's claim to be a good steward of taxpayers' money with the millions of public funds spent each year to irritate Canadians with tedious, partisan and sometimes inflammatory propaganda. The Harper Tories are guilty as charged, but they are not the only party to have laid claim to probity in government while abusing public funds under the guise of "communicating" with voters.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/11/2009 (4751 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

IT is hard to square a political party’s claim to be a good steward of taxpayers’ money with the millions of public funds spent each year to irritate Canadians with tedious, partisan and sometimes inflammatory propaganda. The Harper Tories are guilty as charged, but they are not the only party to have laid claim to probity in government while abusing public funds under the guise of “communicating” with voters.

Last year, the Montreal newspaper Le Devoir found, the Conservative Party of Canada spent in excess of $6 million to send “ten-percenters,” as the flyers and brochures are known, to politically strategic ridings. The NDP and the Liberals, combined, spent $4 million on flyers. The entitlement ostensibly is to help MPs communicate with Canadians outside their constituencies.

The rationale for an MP from Ontario speaking to voters in Manitoba has never been well defended, despite Democratic Reform Minister Steven Fletcher’s best efforts. But the spending privilege has been manipulated to high art through a rule that permits a bunch of MPs to pool their spending, tied to a maximum equivalent of 10 per cent of households in their own ridings. This “grouping” ramps up the reach of the allowances.

The Tories’ regular use of groupings has triggered the disingenuous howls of “no fair” from opposition benches as the provocative nature of the flyers has dragged the practice to new lows. The tactic is also of questionable value, with many Canadians deeply offended by material that questioned the patriotism of Liberal Leader Michael “just visiting” Ignatieff and that implied the Liberal party has undermined support for Israel.

In an embarrassing turn, Saskatoon MP Maurice Vellacott publicly apologized Monday for telling New Democrat Peter Stoffer’s constituents their MP supported the long gun registry. He has been an unwavering opponent of the registry. Mr. Vellacott’s disclosure that the material was the party’s responsibility reveals that MPs names merely front party campaigns.

The Conservatives’ deceptive material about the Liberal record on Israel was particularly disconcerting, a divisive ploy that targeted sensitivities in an ethnic community. It underscored the abuse of tax dollars for political interest. Mr. Ignatieff wants to tweak the rules, but there is no merit to this spending privilege. It should be scrapped, forcing parties to pay for the partisan games they play.

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