‘(W)e were organized and it was permitted and we did it’

NationalPost.com – Full Comment/Canada
October 29, 2010.   Tasha Kheiriddin

In March of this year, after much wrangling and division among MPs, the federal Parliament’s Board of Internal Economy finally agreed to end the practice of out-of-riding “ten-percenters”.

Previously, Members of Parliament had the right – and the budgets – to send these flyers into opposition MPs’ electoral districts, in a number not exceeding ten percent of their own constituency, to promote their party’s views.

This taxpayer-funded propaganda took various forms over the years, some more repellent than others.  Conservative pamphlets suggested the Liberal party supported anti-Semitic causes. Meanwhile, Liberal flyers accused the Tories of shipping body bags instead of flu vaccine to native reserves.

Now the Board has published spending details for all members of the House of Commons, thereby revealing the cost of last years’ ten-percenters – and who sent them.

Chronicle Herald analysis of the expenses shows that 47 of the top 50 spenders on “ten percenters” in 2009-10 were Conservative MPs….

The biggest spender on ten percenters last year was Conservative Alberta MP Brian Jean, who spent $116,423.43. Overall, MPs from all parties spent $10,182,707.71 on the mailouts.

Chief government whip Gordon O’Connor said the Conservatives did use the program to get their political message out.

“We were organized and what we tried to do was get the government message out into the ridings that we didn’t hold,” he said. “So we were organized and it was permitted and we did it.”

Beyond the dollars spent, it’s the unapologetic nature of Mr. O’Connor’s remarks which strikes me as arrogant.  Does he mean to imply the opposition was disorganized because it didn’t find a way to blow as much public money on anti-government propaganda?

The irony, of course, is that the party in government is often accused of having a leg up on self-promotion, simply by virtue of being in power. Their MPs and Ministers get to dole out the money for government projects, make the announcements, cut the ribbons, and grin alongside other leaders from various levels of governments, foreign ones to boot, thus benefitting from the goodwill ascribed to those individuals.

Yet somehow the Tories still found it necessary to spend millions of dollars pumping propaganda onto the doorsteps of the nation.  Were they circumventing a liberal media bias, by representing their views directly to voters?  Recycling unused election flyers?  Stimulating economic growth in the printing sector?

Er, no.  “(W)e were organized and it was permitted and we did it.”  Which makes it that much more important to scale back the size of the state, if only to permit its elected officials less leeway with our tax dollars.

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