The latest Conservative attack that taxpayers get to pay for


A correspondent brings to my attention the latest “ten percenter” issued by Conservative MPs.

You may recall that in June, the Tories sent out ten per-centers attacking Liberal Michael Ignatieff, saying that he'd raise the GST and that he liked a carbon tax.

A new version is now being sent out to thousands of Canadian households — at public expense — which takes on the same format but adds a new twist, a kind of soft-sell on the “Just Visiting” idea.

The copy that came to me was sent out by Edmonton MP Laurie Hawn. You can download a two-page PDF here. I've reproduced the bottom half of one of the pages on the left.

The copy in the ad attacks Ignatieff for his time spent outside Canada but, perhaps sensitive to backlash from first-generation Canadians that someone ought not be criticized for spending part of their life outside Canada, the Tories try to soft-pedal the criticism by suggesting there's nothing wrong or illegal with working outside Canada – unless you want to be prime minister. Here's the Conservative wording:

There's nothing extraordinary about Michael Ignatieff working in the United States or the United Kingdom. Many Canadians, at one point or another in their career, leave to pursue other opportunities. The problem is that Mr. Ignatieff was gone for more than three decades before he decided he wanted to come home and try to be Prime Minister. While he was gone, he called two other countries home. By his own admission, he basically paid no real attention to Canada in his absence. That was his choice. There's no Canadian law that said he had to take an interest. But then, he turned up in 2005 with the intention of becoming Prime Minister. Why should Canadians believe he suddenly cares about what happens to Canadians after ignoring them for so long?

A quick refresher on the rules for these things: Under House of Commons rules, every MP can send out a newsletter four times a year to every household in the MP's riding. The cost to produce and distribute these is borne by every taxpayer and comes out of the notoriously opaque House of Commons budget. The partisan sniping in these so-called “Householders” is usually pretty low-key.

But there's another type of mailing MPs get to make — again, at taxpayers' expense. This one is called a “ten percenter” and the partisan sniping in them is generally at a fever pitch. MPs can send out an unlimited number of these things every year, the cost of which has never been published by the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy but is believed to be about $7 million a year. The only restriction on these mailings is that each separate newsletter can only be sent to maximum of the equivalent of 10 per cent of the households in the MP's riding but cannot be sent to households in the MPs riding. So Tories tend to send these to non-Tory ridings, particularly in areas they think they can win in the next election. Liberals do the same thing, sending highly partisan ten percenters into ridings held by opponents.

14 thoughts on “The latest Conservative attack that taxpayers get to pay for”

  1. i sure if the Conservative opposition leader had spend time in the U.S. the Liberals would never ever make it an issue.
    What I can not understand is why the media is trying to talk more about the Conservatives pointing out these facts about Iggy then the media themselves covering these facts about iggy??
    just askin

  2. As Mr. Akin points out, the current Conservative government is doing this and past Liberal governments have done this, so what MP in Parliament is going to stand up and stop this waste? Surprisingly the NDP haven't piped up either.
    I'll answer my own question: the Green Party will. That's where my vote is going.

  3. yeah, the green party, now there is a party that is above politics…..ha ha ha ha.
    There number one priority….environment no: reform of political process: no, improving the economy: no…..Getting their leader elected: YES

  4. I didn't say the Green party was above “politics” – I said we won't play at “partisanship”. There is a difference. All of us are involved in politics everyday (it's party of human nature) – but only recently has Parliament devolved to such naked, obvious and destructive partisanship. That's why voting Green will make a difference: Green MPs will do the work Canadians want: passing good laws, cutting waste and encouraging policies that will ensure Canada's standard of living into the future.

  5. I'm sorry to disillusion you, Mr. O'Donnell.
    Former NDP strategist Jamie Heath said of Elizabeth May in a Maclean’s 2007 profile:
    “She is the poster child for playing Ottawa's inside game. … ”
    Elizabeth May’s main motivation, besides “saving the planet,” seems to be the hatred she harbours for PM Harper;
    «Prime Minister Stephen Harper has brought “shame” on Canada because of his unwillingness to take global warming seriously, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May says.
    “What Mr. Harper has been doing in Australia and Washington this fall constitutes nothing but fraud and the sooner he is removed as prime minister, the sooner we have a prime minister who understands that we are up against … a ticking clock on climate change,” she said yesterday.»
    She very often displays an uncharitable and sanctimonious streak, unworthy of someone studying for the ministry:
    “But as (I think it is safe to assume) the only federal leader who recently finished a course in “The Eucharist,” I thought it would be worth at least explaining why what the Prime Minister did at the funeral was sacrilegious.”
    I wonder if Elizabeth May recanted those words after The Telegraph-Journal’s apology to the PM for publishing a story which was not based on facts. She may be «the only federal leader to have finished a course in “The Eucharist”» but she apparently has not yet studied this biblical injunction: nor learned what calumny means.
    The only person Elizabeth May appears to think highly of is Elizabeth May:
    “She was at the swank Château Laurier hotel in Ottawa, getting ready for an event, when she confessed her troubles to a friend in the NDP.
    “The thing about politics I really can't stand are the people in my party. They are the ones who get me down,” she said.”
    Oh, and she’s a name-dropper:
    “May talked openly about the friction within her party, her personal finances and even her love life. (“I'd like to see Paul McCartney again, now that he's single. He's the only man in the world I'm actually interested in.”)

  6. I sincerely doubt that any information you provide to me could ever disillusion me. For starters, I am not under any illusions to begin with. The only time I have been disillusioned about politics is when I didn't bother to vote because no party could hold my trust. That's solved, because now I vote Green.
    The quote from Ms. May regarding the “people in my party” is incomplete. Please see this page for the full context.
    And let's reset the basis of this conversation – my statement was that Green MPs will not WASTE $7m/year of taxpayer's money on partisan mailings to constituents. I did not say that Green MPs, candidates, supporters and the leader would not give their opinion on Mr. Harper, or Liberals, or NDP candidates, etc. Stating opinions is the basis of POLITICS. What the Greens will not do is waste everyone's time and money on PARTISANSHIP.
    The Conservatives, Liberals and NDP spend our money in an endless competition between themselves. It's time to put a stop to that and get Green MPs into Parliament and the provincial Legislatures.

  7. As for the 10%ers, I've said this before in a similar context:
    1. Take away ALL perks and expense allowances from ALL MPs.
    2. Raise the MPs' salaries to compensate for the loss of those perks and allowances.
    Most people figure MPs already receive a more than adequate salary ( ? $150,000 minimum ?). Taking into consideration the toll being an MP takes on their private lives and their families, especially on those whose riding is very far from Ottawa, that salary is not an exorbitant one.
    But is an expense allowance really necessary? Are these 10%ers necessary?
    Just let MPs have a more than adequate salary and let them absorb whatever expenses they deem necessary to do their job. Whether they want a limo or to hitchhike, it's their choice. That would eliminate the need for listing a pack of gum as an allowable expense or the argument of being “entitled to my entitlements.”
    If MPs themselves had to pay for whatever “literature” they send out to their constituents, they'd perhaps be more careful about what is included in that “literature.”
    As far as I'm concerned, the topics allowed in such “literature” should be strictly limited to constituency business, not what the other guys are doing or saying. Let partisan bloggers engage in that kind of commentary, not our MPs.

  8. Are these 10%ers necessary?

    I doubt it – sounds like a good question to ask at your next all candidates debate. From the sounds of things, that may be as soon as this fall.

  9. As others have pointed out, all parties send out 10%ers, but for some reason it's only the conservative ones that get discussed in the media.
    I live in Keith Martin's riding, and we get 10%ers from the NDP. The Conservatives send pamphlets with their candidate's name on them, which I think are slightly different, and are funded by the party.
    The recent NDP ones have all been on one topic – a prescription plan for Canadians. Now for those of you who don't live here, BC ALREADY HAS A PRESCRIPTION PLAN, and as far as I'm concerned, it is and should be a provincial responsibility.
    As a taxpayer, I'm really getting very tired of subsidising political parties who are unable to raise enough money on thier own, and to have my tax dollars spent on trying to sell me on a plan that already exists in this province I find both infuriating and condescending. Even if I were remotely interested in the NDP, I would be put off by the fact that they cannot be bothered tailoring their message to the voters in this province.

  10. As a taxpayer, I'm really getting very tired of subsidising political parties who are unable to raise enough money on thier own …

    I understand where you're coming from on the party subsidy issue but personally, I prefer that we provide subsidies on a per-vote basis and ban corporate and union donations, than return to the previous model.
    Right now it's transparent – it used to be all back-room deals where powerful businesses and unions held too much sway.

  11. “What the Greens will not do is waste everyone's time and money on PARTISANSHIP.”
    I don't know how you define partisanship, but in my book, Elizabeth May is just as partisan if not more so than other politicians, using her sweet mother earth facade to bulldoze her way through most interviews.
    I recall an interview she did during the London by-election, when she began by condemning the state of politics, saying she wanted to do politics differently. She then proceeded to launch into personal attacks on the PM and her primary opponent in that election. Although she often complains about the lack of civil discourse in politics, May is often guilty of using virulent language herself.
    Because of her insistence and playing the gender card, she was able to wheedle her way on to the leaders' debates. She's been able to get more air time than is warranted, given the fact she's already lost two elections and no Green MP has ever been elected.
    “I did not say that Green MPs, candidates, supporters and the leader would not give their opinion on Mr. Harper, or Liberals, or NDP candidates, etc. Stating opinions is the basis of POLITICS.”
    I trust you extend that same right to the opponents of the Greens, i.e. that criticism of the Greens coming from other parties will be deemed “giving an opinion” as well.
    As for your statement “Green MPs will not WASTE $7m/year of taxpayer's money on partisan mailings to constituents” once again, once again I wonder how you define “partisan.”
    Any statement made by any party, including the Greens, is “partisan” since it presents a party’s own agenda in contrast to other parties’ agenda.
    As I said in my second comment on this topic, I would favour removing the 10%er privileges at taxpayers’ expense. If individual MPs want to send them out to inform their constituents about certain policies they’re working on, let the individual MPs absorb that expense.

  12. “Liberals do the same thing, sending highly partisan ten percenters into ridings held by opponents.”
    and I live in Vancouver and got Jack Layton's 10%er
    I received at least 5 Harper attack 10%ers over the course of one year in Muskoka…
    point is Harper's thugs invented this and are abusing it beyond belief
    Iggy should promise to kill this program

  13. I've been recieving at least one or two of these each ten percenters month (from the Liberals and Conservatives) and got this one in the mail the other day (I live in Edmonton-Centre). I actually had to google 'Algonquin Park' to find out where and what is it. Seems bizarre that the Conservatives would pitch a quote about an obsure Ontario park to an Alberta audience.

  14. I'd be interested in getting a campaign going where everyone posts pictures of these 10%'s to give everyone an idea of what they are being used for. 🙂 Would you be willing to do that? You can email the picture to me if you like (…

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