Ignatieff proposes restrictions on partisan mail
OTTAWA - The Liberals are proposing new rules to control how much partisan mail MPs can send to their constituents at taxpayers' expense.
In a letter to House of Commons' Speaker Peter Milliken, the Liberals say parties should agree to restrict the use of politicized flyers called ten-percenters.
MPs are now allowed to send these one-page flyers for free to households in their ridings and beyond.
A recent analysis by Montreal's Le Devoir found that Tory MPs issued twice as many of them as other parties, at a cost of $6.3 million last year.
The Liberals want the all-party Board of Internal Economy to agree to restrict the mailings to an MP's riding.
The letter from leader Michael Ignatieff also proposes abolishing the practice of MPs "regrouping" their allotment of ten percenters so that they can blanket an area with party propaganda.
Ignatieff also wants the name of the party leader to be included in any such mailings, with an explicit endorsement of the mail's content.
"The Harper Conservatives have deliberately abused this privilege for some time," Ignatieff said in a news release issued Sunday. "But last week, they went too far with their ten-percenters by falsely accusing political opponents of anti-Semitism. This practice has to stop."
It's up to the Board of Interal Economy to decide whether the Liberals proposals will fly. The all-party board operates on a consensus basis, however, and agreement from the other parties is far from certain.
By requesting that ten percenters not be sent outside an MP's riding, the Liberal proposals would render the main purpose of the pamphlets obsolete.
NDP House Leader Libby Davies has already said she is opposed to doing away with ten percenters completely. Instead, in an interview last week, she said the parties should agree to find a way to curtail the excesses of such mailing.
All parties use ten percenters, but the Liberals say they don't want to try to set an example by acting on their own.
"No party can be expected to unilaterally agree to these principles. It would put them at an extremely unfair disadvantage with the other parties," Ignatieff said in the letter sent Sunday.
As for the Conservatives, they say the Liberals are the guilty ones when it comes to abusing taxpayer-funded partisan mail.
Most recently, Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett sent out a ten percenter with pictures of sick First Nations children and body bags, prompting at least one chief to call the mailing "disturbing," said Conservative spokesman Fred DeLorey.